updated 7/23/2009 10:08:29 AM ET 2009-07-23T14:08:29

The Ed Show

July 22, 2009 - 11 PM

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Robert Reich, Ron Wyden, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, John Feehery, Bill Press, Mike Allen, Michael Graham, Steve McMahon

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Americans. Thanks for joining us on this late edition of THE ED SHOW tonight, coming from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

President Obama wrapped up his prime-time news conference just a few hours ago. I was there in the front row and somewhat dismayed. I will tell you about that. We'll have complete coverage.

The president clobbered the insurance companies tonight, highlighting the numbers that we showed you earlier today in the program. The president did address the Republican critics, and he was a little soft when it came to the conservative Democrats.

Nancy Pelosi is the one making the news. The speaker says that she has the votes to pass a progressive option. She's willing to work through August, but Dick Durbin in the Senate says he won't take it up until after August.

The president says he's in a hurry to get it done for the American people.

I'm all about that.

Plus, the moment that may steal the health care headlines. President Obama took a hard line when asked about a high-profile case of alleged racial profiling.

And the Lion of the Senate makes his voice heard, what Ted Kennedy said after the president's news conference.

And get your phones ready, folks. I want to know what you think about the president's primetime speech tonight.

Great guests coming up.

But first tonight's "Op-Ed:" I'm such a fan of this president. This is the man who with so much tenacity, so much energy, campaigned for the presidency of the United States.

But he was almost a different guy at the podium tonight. I give the president an absolute ten when it comes to sincerity about wanting to get this thing and health care done. Tonight the president failed to guarantee to the American people what I think they really wanted to hear. And that's all about a public option.

At times he seemed a bit disheartened about the political wrangling going on overall in Washington. He seemed borderline low key at times. It was like the president was back in college, in front of a classroom, explaining exactly where he is when it comes to health care.

And I was somewhat disappointed at times tonight because this was billed as a major primetime press conference on health care. It was primetime press conference number four. Got to commend the president for that; good communicator with the American people.

But I thought tonight that the president was going to come out and call out the conservative Democrats that have been giving him a bunch of smoke. He turned that up as being this is your average conversation between Democrats when they disagree with stuff-that's basically what he said. But I really thought the president would be more aggressive tonight.

He was very clear on where he stands and he is very cerebral on the issue. But when it comes to really going out and grabbing somebody and saying, "Look, we've got to get this done," I didn't sense that.

And I want you to watch the entire show because we're going to have full analysis. But I have to be totally honest with you. If you're looking for major breaking news out of this press conference tonight, folks, it just wasn't there. And that's the analysis we have to give early on tonight.

I just came away from a town hall meeting of screaming people in Madison, Wisconsin. The place was packed. They want to go after Dick Cheney and the House Intelligence Committee. They want a full vetting but they really want this health care thing passed.

Is the president going to hold a press conference next week? Is he going to hold one when he comes back after Labor Day? He never addressed tonight about keeping the Congress in session to get this thing done.

And I just feel like we are at DefCon four when it comes to health care in this country. But at times tonight, it just didn't come across like that. Actually, he complimented the Republicans quite a bit.

For the style, maybe that's it. Maybe I'm expecting too much. Maybe I'm too emotionally wrapped up in this because I have done the town hall meetings and I hear it out there with the American people.

Those are some of my thoughts. And we're going to get analysis from a lot of other people tonight.

I want to know what you think. Did the president convince you that he would get health care reform passed this year? Text A for yes, B for no to 622639; and we will bring you the results later on this the show.

Our first guest tonight worked in the Clinton administration. Robert Reich, he was the secretary of labor. And he, of course, was back there when the Clintons tried to get health care reform passed. He is, of course, author of the book "Super Capitalism" and a professor at UC Berkeley.

Mr. Reich, good to have you with us tonight.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: Good evening, Ed.

And you know what, Ed? I share some of your disappointment. I thought that that news conference, the president did not come out swinging and he also didn't seem to have all of that much conviction. I expected much more.

But I will tell you something, the issues are certainly important. The clock is running. He's got to just give it a little bit more juice.

SCHULTZ: When it comes to being forceful, you would score the president on a scale of one to ten as where?

REICH: Probably about four on forcefulness. Look, in fairness, the president, one of the great attributes he has is he is so articulate; he is so dignified as a president. I think people trust him enormously because he doesn't let passion completely take over.

But I think that with regard to health care, people are so concerned and it is so critical that he start banging heads and twisting arms that I expected just a little bit more not only-not only conviction and passion, but just a little bit more illustration that people could understand.

Very simply put about why the public option is important. Why if we don't do anything, the health care is going to be absolutely unaffordable to everybody. Why the insurance companies and drug companies and the hospitals and the doctors are, you know, just not doing the job they should be doing and why we are paying as a result. What we need to do as a result.

SCHULTZ: You know, Mr. Reich, I was really-not to be too critical of my colleagues-but we have been talking about a public option and a government option to slow down the rate of increases and the way the insurance companies have been working us over. And no one asked him a question about the public option tonight...

REICH: No.

SCHULTZ: And the president never-the president disappointed me tonight because I wanted to hear him say, "I'm not going to sign anything unless it has a public option." I think personally that's what the American people want to hear right now. I didn't hear that tonight.

REICH: I think you're right, Ed. I think that a lot of Americans are being just a little bit spooked by the right wing, a lot of conservative talk shows. A lot of people are saying the public option means a government takeover.

They are not listening carefully and I think the president could have used this opportunity to say the public option is an option. That's the whole point of it. It's an option.

It doesn't take away anything. But if you don't have it there, the insurance companies really don't have a measuring rod in terms of making sure they are providing good value and providing low cost. That's the whole point of the public option.

The president could have emphasized that cost containment is linked to the public option in a way that I just don't think he did.

SCHULTZ: How do you think he fared-I thought it was more than complimentary of his counterparts on the Republican side-he named quite a few Republicans and some of these have flat out said, for instance, Chuck Grassley, it's not going to be a bipartisan bill if it has a public option in it.

They have drawn the line in the sand several weeks ago on that and I was kind of surprised that the president was really-I mean, he had an olive branch out big time tonight. It was the size of a redwood tree.

REICH: I continue to wait for the president to basically give up on bipartisanship. Especially when the Republicans have made it so clear, not just with the stimulus package and the budget but also now with health care that they're not going to cooperate.

But the president really does believe, I think in his heart of hearts, he believes in bipartisanship. He wants to get the Republicans on board. He doesn't want health care-even though he can get it with 51 votes. He doesn't need the Republicans in the senate.

I think he just doesn't want to do it without at least a few Republican votes. And that could be a weakness. That could spell real compromise down the road.

SCHULTZ: You know, there was a story that broke today that United Health Care out of Minnesota-they are one of the biggest health care providers in this country-they had a second quarter profit of 155 percent greater than a year ago. And indirectly the president addressed that tonight during his press conference. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now, you know, there have been reports just over the last couple of days about insurance companies making record profits right now. At a time when everybody's getting hammered they are making record profits and premiums are going up. What's the constraint on that? How can you ensure that those costs aren't being passed onto employers or passed onto employees, the American people, ordinary, middle class families, in a way that over time is going to make them broke? Part of the way is to make sure there's some competition out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Well, I guess you could say indirectly that's the public option answer but the president in his answer, Mr. Reich, asked the question how do you reel in the insurance companies when they are making this kind of money? What's your response to that?

REICH: Well, obviously, Ed, he could have said they're making outlandish profits, they're making profits off of you and off of me and off of every taxpayer and we have to rein in these profits. And the way we do it is with a public option.

But I got the impression, Ed-I don't know if you shared this-I got the impression that the president is very cognizant of the fact the insurance companies are now supporting several of the bills coming out of Congress. He doesn't want to antagonize them. He doesn't want them to run away. He needs their support. So he's kind playing both sides of the street.

He wants to appeal to the public and appeal to the anger and kind of sense that the public has that they're getting badly treated by the insurance companies and the drug companies. But at the same time he wants to keep the insurance companies and drug companies behind the bill.

SCHULTZ: I think you're onto something there, Mr. Reich because I don't think he alienated anybody tonight. If that was his mission, I think he certainly accomplished it.

Thanks so much, Mr. Reich. I appreciate your time tonight here on this late edition of THE ED SHOW.

REICH: Ok, Ed.

SCHULTZ: You bet.

Joining me now is Senator Ron Wyden, member of the Senate Finance Committee who has his own bill out there and has been in this health care mix for a long time. What did you think of the president tonight?

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR), FINANCE COMMITTEE: Ed, first of all, people need to understand that the reason we're in a position to get this done is because the president is spending his political capital. He's putting in the killer hours. He's using his office as a bully pulpit to fight for real reform. That's why we have a good shot of getting it done and getting it done quickly.

SCHULTZ: Did you sense that tonight? I mean, like Robert Reich said, I expected the president to come out tonight. I thought this was an arm-twisting moment, at least that's kind of how it was billed. It had some moments of real passive attitude.

WYDEN: I think the president connected with people with respect to this being a personal issue. People are sitting around the kitchen table, or sitting around in their computers in their office. They want to say how does this work for me?

In particular, they want to see specifically how this is going to lower their premiums, how they're going to get more choices? Frankly, with some of these bills on Capitol Hill, a lot of folks aren't getting any choices, they don't even get the public option.

The president made it personal tonight and that's how we're going to get it done.

SCHULTZ: Let's talk about timing. The president tonight did talk about being rushed quite a bit. And he says he has his schedule and he wants the Congress to meet it. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I'm rushed because I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs. The second thing is the fact that if you don't set deadlines in this town, things don't happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: What do you make of that?

WYDEN: Got to have a deadline. In fact, I told Nancy and we're planning to take the twins-they're almost 2 now-into Cannon Beach (ph). I told them as far as I'm concerned we have to give up August. This is a priority issue. You cannot fix the economy unless you fix health care.

SCHULTZ: Why didn't the president ask Congress to stay until we get it done?

WYDEN: Well, some of us are going to keep pushing on that. I think it's clear for example on the issue you're talking about. It is hard to be harsh enough on these insurance company abuses.

These insurance companies are cherry picking. They're going out and picking healthy people; sending sick people over to government programs more fragile than theirs. One of the reasons I want everybody to have choices in our country, is I think that's how you play hardball with the insurance industry.

If you don't like the policy you have got now, give people a chance for some alternatives. That's competition.

SCHULTZ: But Senator Wyden, that's exactly what the Republicans won't do. They will not play hardball with the profit centers when it comes to health care reform in this country. They are going-they want to go through this and they don't want to touch the insurance industry at all.

In fact, they are quiet tonight on the profits that United Health Care posted today for the second quarter -- 155 percent over a year ago this time for the second quarter that ended in June.

I'm guaranteeing-you know this-you're from Oregon. You know how passionate your constituents are. You take that number out in the heartland across the country, anywhere in the country, that defies common sense.

If you have Republicans that don't want to reform the insurance industry and don't want to give the insurance industry any kind of competition at all, how do we get the victory as Democrats?

WYDEN: You cannot get this done without fundamental insurance reform but there is a message that resonates with people all across the political spectrum. We have it in our bill. And that is, every American, not some people, not just some select people, everybody ought to have choices like members of Congress.

Members of Congress, my family, Ed, we go into a big group. We have bargaining power and low administrative costs. You can't discriminate against somebody who's got a pre-existing illness.

Once you go to the American people with that message, you bring the country together and you win on health reform.

SCHULTZ: Did the president score well tonight getting his point across that health care reform is connected to the recovery of the economy?

WYDEN: He did. And clearly we can still do more on this issue.

One of the points I bring up at every town hall meeting is the reason people's take home pay doesn't go up is because it all goes to medical care.

SCHULTZ: Senator Wyden, I was surprised tonight that the president just can't pull the trigger on how to pay for this. He said there's two-thirds of the money that being used on health care in this country right now that we could rearrange or redirect that would pay for it. The other third's going to come from where?

Why can't the administration or the Democrats for that matter flat out say, look, there's going to be a tax increase to get this thing done? When does that moment come?

WYDEN: Ed, I don't share that view. We're going to spend this year $2.5 trillion; there are 305 million of us. You divide 305 million into $2.5 trillion; you could go out and hire a doctor literally for every seven families. I'm just using this as a metaphor, but when I bring it up to the doctors, they say, "Ron where would I go to get my seven families."

We're spending enough money. We don't spend it in the right places. We talked about the insurance abuses. One of the other areas we have support for in the senate is let's go out and strangle these administrative costs. You ought to sign up once, for example, and then you ought to go into a big group.

You shouldn't be in a position where you have discrimination and you ought to have portability so that if you lose your job, you don't have to go out and do the physicals again. That's how you hold costs down.

SCHULTZ: I will make a prediction. I don't even think the Republicans are going to with the pre-existing clause. I think they will fight that when it comes down at the 11th hour. Well see.

Senator, great to have you with us.

WYDEN: Let's do it again.

SCHULTZ: Thanks for coming.

WYDEN: Thanks Ed.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

Coming up-the Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate; they don't need the Republicans for health care reform. The president had an interesting response when he was asked about that.

I'll get reaction from Katrina Vanden Heuvel and John Feehery, next on THE ED SHOW. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESONDENT: You have 60 Democratic seats, healthy majority in the house. If you don't get this, isn't this a fight inside the Democratic Party?

OBAMA: The fact of the matter is that because this is a big issue, I think that a lot of Democrats have a lot of different ideas. Some of them had to do with regional disparities. This is just part of just the normal give and take of the legislative process. I'm confident at the end we're going to have a bill that Democrats and some Republicans support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: The president calls political conflict between the Democrats that it's normal give and take. I'm not convinced that plays too well across the country. That was a moment I wasn't really sure about, folks.

The American people are demanding more than that. They want a public option. They want everybody covered and they want this president to seriously take the lead on it but not to guarantee a public option tonight I think falls short.

Joining me now is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who is the editor of "The Nation" -- she is with us tonight-and also Republican strategist John Feehery, who is the founder and chief executive officer of the Feehery Group.

Katrina, am I being too critical? Your analysis of-I know what the American people want to hear. I know what they want in the end result but I just didn't sense the president was going to put the throttle down on that tonight. Your thoughts on that.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": All right, with all due respect, Ed. First of all, I never know what all of the American people want or think. Also, this show is called Post Game.

I thought Barack Obama tonight was very eloquent in saying for millions of Americans; this is not a game, this health care debate. You know that.

SCHULTZ: Sure.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Your show has been all about that.

I do that I what we saw tonight, we're not looking just at a defining moment for Barack Obama, which is what so much of the media coverage has been about. This is a defining moment for our country's history. Will we pass a health care plan that gives affordable health care to millions of Americans, something other industrialized countries have, or will we fail?

If we fail, what does that say about the system? Is it dysfunctional-chronically dysfunctional? We are in the cusp of possibly the greatest change in our lifetime which has eluded three Democratic presidents. And I think what we are seeing is a prison who's trying to frame it.

He was more an educator in chief tonight, Ed. You've nodded to that. He didn't seize-what he said the stars are aligned, he said, but he didn't and seize it.

SCHULTZ: I agree with that. It was almost college professor schooling folks up tonight to make sure...

VANDEN HEUVEL: Very smart.

SCHULTZ: Very cerebral. Look, he has tremendous command of this issue. There's no doubt about that. But I'm waiting for that moment, Katrina, where he is going to turn to these, you know, blue cross Democrats, if I may, and ask them haven't you gotten the message from the American people, the same message my administration has gotten? What are we waiting for?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I agree. There comes a moment when the president has to show that he is a leader and step up and say, you're with me on this or the Democratic Party will lose its possibility to improve the conditions of people's lives and show that government can make a difference.

He spoke tonight about how millions are so cynical about government. If you want to change that in people's lifetime, this is the opportunity.

And you know one other thing, Ed, people call these blue dog Democrats, centrists or moderates. They are not. They are conservative or corporate Democrats and we have to call them that. Because Barack Obama has the wind at his back; the support of the majority of Americans as you have spoken about on your show for this public plan.

Tonight he might have done better to speak to the American people directly as opposed to what Bob Reich suggested which he was kind of here and there and speaking to Washington. The town, he said, which requires a deadline to get anything done. Speak to the people. That is your mandate. You're in the White House because you spoke to them and you managed to build a campaign of change from below.

SCHULTZ: Sure. All right John Feehery, how did the president do tonight? I mean, I guess I kind of felt this was billed as a big press conference on health care. I was expecting some big news or some declarative statements. I didn't hear them.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It was pretty dull. I thought it was very boring. And I don't he needed to be boring right now.

I mean, Katrina obviously speaks to a part of the Democratic coalition that really the big change. And then she's talking about these corporate blue dog Democrats, who I would like to some day call Republicans, so I would like to get back so we can get them back in the majority.

I don't think the president-I think it was risky for the president to do this press conference. I think he failed in whatever...

SCHULTZ: Risky, why?

FEEHERY: Well, because you're never quite sure what the reaction from you or from others on the left would be. I think that they were somewhat underwhelmed by it.

And I would also say that from this president's standpoint, he didn't need to hit it home. What he needs-he's over-exposed to television and under exposed when cutting deals with Democrats. And that's where the big problem is.

He's not really in the room with the Democrats right now.

SCHULTZ: The president did a great job tonight of reminding the American people what he inherited, but I don't think he did a good job of reminding the Democrats, who got him in the White House and got him a bunch of seats in the house. I think he was short on that.

FEEHERY: Well, I think that's definitely your perspective. I also think he didn't achieve whatever objective he wanted out of this press conference. I don't think he made you happy, which I think he really ought to do.

SCHULTZ: Well-making me happy-I'm a radio and television talk show host. But these are my genuine feelings on this because I have a sense-

I talk to people everyday-I have a sense of the passion for this. I thought this was going to be that moment.

Katrina, let me ask you one final-what's his next play? What's the next press conference on health care going to be, a settlement? What do you think?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Let me just add one thing, the other thing we forget, Ed, is that you saw tonight the media, most of the question follow a GOP narrative. Where was the question about a public plan? It's all costs. These are deficit hawks.

These are people who are not asking central questions on millions of Americans' lives and I think that narrows the framework for the president.

Now, Obama is very deft. He could have moved it and he didn't. But I think his next play is to go out to the people. I would like as Senator Wyden said...

SCHULTZ: He's going to Cleveland tomorrow.

VANDEN HEUVEL: He should keep the Congress in Washington until you get this signature piece of legislation.

SCHULTZ: Hold on a second, John. And I want to ask you about that Katrina because you had in your newspaper, "The Nation," had an interview with Nancy Pelosi and she said today we have to stay through this. Tell us about that.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, a Washington editor, Chris Hayes met with Majority Leader Pelosi and she's saying this is the biggest thing in our lifetime. And we will get a public plan through the house. She's talking about the crisis moment that we can't leave.

Because you know what's going to happen, Ed? Even though citizens, the people, have to dog their legislators during the recess if there is one; the forces are against this. The lobbyists, spending $1.4 million a day, these blue dog Democrats, the Republicans who want to kill this-they know the potency it-will use this delay and kill strategy.

FEEHERY: Katrina...

SCHULTZ: You respond to that.

FEEHERY: I think the Republicans want a plan that works. I think they do want to go after the insurance industry but they don't want government-run health care. I think that that's the big thing. If you can get...

SCHULTZ: It's not government-run health care. You can keep what you have.

You can do that.

FEEHERY: But a lot of people think and most analysts think that what will happen is we have a government-run option and people will be forced out of their plan. And that's a big problem.

And Katrina, cost is a thing that people really care about here. They care about costs and they also care how you pay for it.

When the president's answer...

VANDEN HEUVEL: I thought he was pretty clear about how a public plan will discipline insurance companies and keep the costs down. And he put it into context of recovery.

SCHULTZ: I'm willing to roll that dice. And I think the American people are willing to roll that dice. Katrina and John, thanks for being on here.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.

SCHULTZ: You bet.

Coming up-the president's most forceful answer tonight came in response to a question that wasn't about health care. It was about race. We'll get it next on THE ED SHOW. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

President Obama may have stepped on his own headline tonight.

Right at the end of the news conference, the president was asked about an arrest of a prominent black scholar, Henry Louis Gates. The Harvard professor was arrested last week. Police thought he was breaking into a home. Turns out it was him home.

Obama got big laughs putting himself in Gates' shoes but he went on to say the incident was handled poorly. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I mean, if I was trying to jigger in my-well, this is my house now-so it probably wouldn't happen. Let's say my old house in Chicago. Here I would get shot.

The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.

What I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that-there is a long history in this country for African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: That's the president tonight at his press conference. Let's go back to Katrina Vanden Heuvel and John Feehery.

Katrina, I thought that was the strongest response tonight. How do you think he handled it?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": Very well. It showed how far we have come and how far we have to go. He spoke from the heart. He spoke, probably thinking of many friends' experiences. I'm sure he knows Professor Gates. I believe he called Professor Gates.

There is much structural inequality in this country that needs to be remembered and I think President Obama spoke eloquently about that at the NAACP's 100 annual convention last week in this town in New York.

So that needs to be remembered even though we have an African-American president in the White House. There is racism in this country, structural disparities in health, in unemployment, in many parts of our society.

And he used-I have to say he used humor effectively while showing some anger. But it was that mix which was very powerful.

SCHULTZ: But he also talked about, you know, how he was referring to-he owned a home in Chicago and he could imagine putting himself in this position, in this person's position.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Absolutely, in those steps...

SCHULTZ: He really was masterful in the way he humanized this tonight.

John, I got a sense sitting in the room tonight; he really wanted to talk about this.

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think he answered the question very well. I would say tactically, that this is the flaw in him doing a press conference because this is the only news he made all night.

He's not going to get much coverage or much bang out of the buck when it comes to talking about health care, which was the purpose of the press conference.

This is the only news he made all night. And I guarantee you that is what everyone's going to be talking about tomorrow. They're not going to talk about any of his health care comments?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Why is that news? I mean, it is just human that an African-American president speaking about perhaps one of the most prominent American scholars who's African-American, to say what he said.

FEEHERY: Katrina, you're missing my point. My point is this. He should have given a press statement and not a press conference.

VANDEN HEUVEL: On this?

FEEHERY: No, not on this. On the whole evening. I think the evening itself was misplayed by the president. He shouldn't have-he should have only been talking about health care and only done a statement. And this is the danger of him doing a press conference.

SCHULTZ: So no press conference of this...

(CROSS TALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL: To be honest, he also talked about-I mean, he did try to talk about six months marker, which we reached. I do think he did this little set piece on the debt and deficit.

SCHULTZ: He did.

VANDEN HEUVEL: It may have been too much the educator-in-chief but it is crucial because that is framing this entire health care discussion.

SCHULTZ: It is.

He reminded the American people tonight exactly what he inherited. No doubt about that.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel...

VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.

SCHULTZ: John Feehery...

FEEHERY: Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Great to have you on tonight. Thanks so much.

Coming up-the president had one moment where he really took on his Republican critics. I will play that for you next on THE ED SHOW. And our text poll, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I've heard that one Republican strategist told his party even though they may want to compromise, it's better politics to go for the kill; another Republican senator that defeating health care reform is about breaking me.

So let me be clear, this isn't about me. I have great health insurance and so does every member of Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: That was about the toughest President Obama ever got on his Republican critics tonight who have really been out there hammering away at him. And he barely touched the conservative Democrats who are really working against his own party platform to provide universal health care coverage for every American.

For more let me bring in another panel tonight: Bill Press, national syndicated talk show radio host, who is getting up early tomorrow morning;

Mike Allen is the chief political correspondent for Politico; and Michael Graham, radio talk show host on WTKK in Boston.

Bill, let's start with you. I'm like a Wall Street banker. I want the whole enchilada. I want the whole thing.

But the president tonight, he talks about his critics and then he stops short of going back at them. What's the strategy?

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: First, look, I want to try to be positive, to begin with, Ed. After eight years of saying nothing about health care, we have got a president who's made it his top priority.

SCHULTZ: True.

PRESS: That's great. You said this earlier, this guy's not only passionate about health care he know this subject better than anybody else. But-here's the but-I wanted the fire. I wanted him to be as mad as you and I are.

Listen, I was listening to the conservative talk radio today, this is war for them.

SCHULTZ: It is.

PRESS: This is really war and I said this to you on the way out of the White House tonight, "I'm afraid these guys are playing hall ball and he's playing t-ball." And he has got to really get angry and go after these guys.

SCHULTZ: Well, it's a political war...

PRESS: At the Democrats and Republicans.

SCHULTZ: If it's a political war when it comes to health care, you can make the case that the president shot a dud tonight.

Mike, it was part of the party platform-the stated party platform of the Democrats to deliver universal health care to every American. He didn't even call for a public option tonight-he said he'd like to have it.

I was looking for the veto moment. I was looking for-when you bring that to my desk, it better have public option on it. Why didn't he do that?

MIKE ALLEN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Ed, great coverage tonight you've been en fuego. Last night on your show, you had that big graphic, you said, "Give them hell."

SCHULTZ: The president came out and gave them heck; gave them heck.

ALLEN: I think people were surprised that the president wasn't a little more aggressive, a little more interventionist, cracking some heads.

PRESS: Where was his fuego, right?

SCHULTZ: Mike Graham, do you have...

ALLEN: I just wanted to point out-something very important to point out, Ed, is that the audience was not Bill Press or Ed Schultz or Michael Graham. The audience was people at home flipping the channel.

MICHAEL GRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: They want to know what's in it for them. And they want to know what the president's going to deliver.

SCHULTZ: Go ahead, all right, Michael. You have the call on this one.

What do you think?

GRAHAM: The audience was asleep halfway through the second question. I talk about this stuff all day long, I couldn't follow it.

SCHULTZ: His first answer was ten minutes.

GRAHAM: It may be long for the clear rhetoric and inspiration we used to get from George W. Bush when he was drinking. This was terrible. It was awful. He accomplished nothing tonight except for him to confuse people any more. And he really left a typical person who is doing the dishes and folding the laundry with a clue that he doesn't seem to really know specifically A, how his plan will actually make things better. And, B, what he wants.

He kept saying that sounds like a good idea. That sounds like a bad idea.

Mr. President, lead. What is your idea?

SCHULTZ: Well, he does believe that a public option is going to competition to the insurance industry-he stated that tonight.

He also said if we do nothing, we're not going to have an economic recovery and I think that was the real sounding bell right there.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: And he also said this is not going to cost any more money and this is going to help the average American. I thought explained that pretty well.

GRAHAM: No way.

PRESS: Here's something else that didn't come up today. I wanted him to say nobody's leaving Washington until you get this done.

SCHULTZ: Nancy Pelosi did. Nancy Pelosi said it.

ALLEN: She said it?

PRESS: Yes, she's cut out for it.

ALLEN: That made a little news by signing on to the Pelosi plan, saying that this surcharge, they don't want to call it a surtax, the surcharge on the high-income earners like Ed right here...

SCHULTZ: Who?

ALLEN: $280,000 for individuals, $350,000 for families. The president wants to move that up to a million, he said tonight, for families. So it's a clear millionaire's tax.

SCHULTZ: Well, Michael Graham, that's an interesting point. The president has yet to come out and directly say-he's thrown out a few ideas but tonight didn't he couldn't come out and say, "Look, we're going to tax some Americans to get this done." And I was expecting that. What do you think?

GRAHAM: And also when he was asked are you prepared to tell people that they're going to have to sacrifice something? He said, "Yes, you get to sacrifice the health care that doesn't work."

Oh, that's a real sacrifice. This guy, the idea that the typical person at home believes that the government is going to take it over and make it work better and cost less? There's nothing the government works this way. You don't have to be a right wing ideologue and (INAUDIBLE) to believe that.

Typical people encountered at registry of motor vehicles and local post offices do not find efficiency. I'm sorry.

SCHULTZ: Michael, do not go to the DMV, I've heard that one.

By the way, Social Security works just fine until the Congress started borrowing against it.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: I think this is a losing argument, Michael. Stop calling it socialized medicine and stop saying it's a government-run program because it's not.

GRAHAM: I've seen the polls.

PRESS: I think Obama has won that point.

GRAHAM: Have you seen the polls? He's not winning the point.

Majority of Americans have turned against him. He's specifically losing because nobody understands the math. You're going to take more of my money for what?

SCHULTZ: Just the top 2 percent when it comes to it.

GRAHAM: And you think the typical person believes that.

ALLEN: Job 1 for the president's job was to convince everyday working

people that this will not hurt them. The Republican argument is getting

traction is that if you're a normal American, you only have downside risk -

that you can pay more or get less coverage.

PRESS: I thought he did a good job on that tonight, Michael.

SCHULTZ: All right.

Stay with us, fellas. We have a lot more coming up with our panel, coming up in our next block.

But first, I want to know what you think, did the president convince you he'd get health care reform passed? Text A for yes; B for no to 622639 -- we'll bring you the results coming up.

You're watching our special post game edition of THE ED SHOW. It continues right after this on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to the late night edition of THE ED SHOW. Our panel with us tonight: Bill Press, Mike Allen and also Michael Graham joins us.

Gentlemen, I was somewhat taken tonight because it's well-documented the lobbying effort is at DefCon four on Capitol Hill-big medical, across the board, insurance farmer, you name it.

And the president never touched it tonight. If he's out there appealing to the American people to give him a landscape of what's going on and how heavy a lift this is, Bill, I'm surprised he didn't bring it up.

PRESS: I want to come back to declaring war. I think he should have declared war on the Republicans that they're out just to (INAUDIBLE). They don't have any plan at all. They just want to kill whatever he's got.

He should have declared war on the blue dog Democrats and he should have declared war on the insurance companies and got the American people behind him. Ed, he did not do so.

We have seen the professor-I love the professor. Now I want to see the battalion commander, right. The Commando take this Hill.

ALLEN: And Ed, Speaker Pelosi gave him the opening. She said in an interview with us on Friday and again yesterday an interview with "USA Today," that she believes more money could be drained out of the industry; the drug makers, the insurance companies, the hospitals can and should pay more.

She told me they can do much more. I asked her if she was going to push for it and she said yes. But it doesn't seem to be a clear plan to do so and the president didn't pick up on that.

SCHULTZ: Michael Graham, I want to ask you, what is to be gained by Republicans in this country, on Capitol Hill, elected officials who are saying that this is the president's Waterloo? We want to do anything we can to kill this legislation.

After all we have been through in this country when it comes to health care reform and what the American people want, why in the world would the Republicans have that kind of an attitude when you've actually have a president that's willing to work across party lines to get something done?

GRAHAM: I have seen all of those partisan outreaches he does. Just ask the inspector general's office or the head of a CBO who is a Democrat and still got invited to the White House to get roughed up.

The win for the Republicans is that they can read polls. I went back today and went to the Gallup poll through to today. Every year, Americans say the same thing: 75 percent to 85 percent say I like my health care. If the Republicans stopped they'll be shifted on to Medicare, they win because Americans don't want to be on Medicare which by the way...

SCHULTZ: Actually, Michael, 85 percent of the American people want health care reform.

GRAHAM: And 85 percent...

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ: Besides that, we just had an election less than a year ago and it was on the mandate to change health care in this country and do something about it.

ALLEN: And Michael knows this is true. Republican lawmakers will tell you they're dying to vote for something called health reform.

ANCHOR: Michael, what's more important, a poll or an election? Now come on. You got to be honest about this. We've had an election. The man won non-blue states and he brought new people in the process.

What advantage do the Republicans have using the word "kill" when it comes to reform?

GRAHAM: He won the White House, lost the stimulus package; screwed it up.

Lost the car bail out...

SCHULTZ: Screwed it up?

(CROSS TALK)

GRAHAM: And now he's got health care in front of him-people don't trust him. You saw it on TV tonight. The people just don't know.

They can't even explain how it's supposed to work much less make people trust that it's going to work.

PRESS: This is why the Republican Party is falling apart, Ed. I mean, they just don't get it. We have never seen a president do more outreach to the other party than Obama has with Republicans. He not only brought them down to the White House and he went up to Capitol Hill to their caucus to talk about health care.

And what did they do? They stabbed him in the back and they're doing it again.

SCHULTZ: Mike, final point tonight. How does the president play the blue dogs? He's just going to keep caving to them and giving them anything they want or what?

ALLEN: No, they are very squeamish about taking another tough vote after climate. And they're very concerned that they're going to take these votes and that the Senate is not going to follow-through.

If they're going to jump off this cliff, they want to be holding hands with someone. So they need reassurance. They don't want to vote for big tax increases.

SCHULTZ: You know what these Democrats are short on? They're short on loyalty is what they're short on.

PRESS: Right. You know what I'll tell them, Ed? You want to go that way? In 2010 you can ask Newt Gingrich to help you in your district because I'm not going to be there to help you.

That's what I would tell them.

SCHULTZ: All right.

ALLEN: And his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel-back in those conversations, he and the president are the ones that can do this. People were surprised at what's been done in public.

But I can tell you it will be done in private in coming weeks.

SCHULTZ: Mike Allen, Bill Press, Michael Graham-good to have you with us tonight.

Coming up, Senator Ted Kennedy just put out a statement responding to the president's news conference tonight. A phone call from Senator Kennedy could be the thing that gets some of the shaky Dems off the fence.

I will talk with Steve McMahon about that. That's next in our special edition of THE ED SHOW right here on MSNBC.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to the special edition of THE ED SHOW here on MSNBC.

Tonight's speech, press conference-maybe not a rousing success. So say you're Rahm Emanuel or David Axelrod, what are you are going to do tomorrow to make this a win? Let's ask a top Democratic strategist. Joining me tonight is Steve McMahon who's been around this racket for a long time.

First of all, your analysis of the performance tonight with the president?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I'm going to cool things down a little bit, Ed. Because I actually think if you think about what he had to do tonight which is to explain to 85 percent of Americans who have health insurance why this is a good idea for them, he did a pretty good job of that by being professorial.

His job really wasn't to go out and declare war on the Republicans. I think that may be coming. His job was to make sure that the Democrats who are a little concerned about this get some political cover. That their constituents here, why this is a good idea for them. And that they have the political cover they need to vote for this.

Because remember, the blue dogs that everybody is being critical of tonight are the very people who we owe the majority in the House of Representatives to. And they're people who occupy districts that used to be held by Republicans. They're in districts that can get wiped out in 2010.

Their concerns are legitimate. And I think President Obama is trying to at least acknowledge them even if he has to make a different speech.

SCHULTZ: I don't think he alienated anybody tonight. I think he re-educated...

MCMAHON: Except for you and some of the other...

ANCHOR: Well, you know me. I'm ready to go. I don't like it when they use the word "kill" and "Waterloo" and all this stuff. I know, at least in my heart I don't believe that the American people have an appetite for that anymore. This is too big of a generational issue.

But if you're in the White House tomorrow, Steve, what is the next play?

How do you make sure this is a win?

MCMAHON: Here's what I think they're doing. The first thing that they did was they let Congress be Congress. And they decided they're going to let Congress write these bills. And you have two or three bills that have emerged in the House side. You have one in the Senate. You have one you're waiting for, the Senate Finance Committee bill which is a Senator Baucus bill.

SCHULTZ: sure.

MCMAHON: They want to see what's in that bill before they get too far out there. They're going to start to shape this health care reform and they're going to start to say here's what's important to the White House. And they're going to start taking some stands on these things to help move this thing along.

But they want Congress to get its job done first. And right now it's not done on the Senate side. Tonight was an effort to keep the momentum going, to generate some new momentum. I think he did that.

SCHULTZ: But not one demand tonight by the president. Not one demand.

MCMAHON: Not one demand. But there were a lot of principles that he laid out about health care reform and what it has to contain. There's going to be time for demand.

But, you know, the Senate isn't done with its work yet. The House doesn't want to go first because they want to see what's in the Baucus bill, too.

This is a very complicated chess game. And it's easy for armchair quarterbacks to be critical. But it's very difficult to get a piece of legislation like this passed.

SCHULTZ: You don't have to take a shot at my college career for that, you know?

MCMAHON: No, no, no.

But you mentioned Senator Kennedy.

SCHULTZ: I know. Exactly. Senator Kennedy, I want to bring this up. He spoke-he made a statement tonight.

"President Obama spoke for millions of Americans who worry they won't be able to obtain health care when they need it or fear they're one illness away from financial ruin. Tonight President Obama emphasized that decades of inaction have to end. We will not rest until the full promise of quality, affordable health insurance for every American is achieved."

Now, Steve, we all know that Ted Kennedy swings a big stick. His voice not being up there daily, how much does that handicap the reform effort?

MCMAHON: It makes a huge difference. Ted Kennedy is one of the most respected senators on both sides of the aisle.

I'll tell you a great Senator Kennedy story. I used to work for him a long time ago. He, as you know, has been passing health insurance his whole life in getting everybody covered.

In 1979, Jimmy Carter offered him a deal, catastrophic health insurance coverage for every American. He turned it down because it didn't go far enough. And he's regretted it since because there are a lot of people who would have benefited from taking that step and then trying to go further later.

SCHULTZ: Steve McMahon, good to have you with us tonight.

Earlier to night on the show I asked you what you thought, did President Obama convince you that he would get health care passed this year? 69 percent said yes. 31 percent of you said no.

That does it for our special Post-game edition of THE ED SHOW. I'm Ed Shultz. We'll see you back here tomorrow night 6:00 Eastern time.

We'll see you.

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

END

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