updated 7/29/2009 10:20:33 AM ET 2009-07-29T14:20:33

Guests: Jack Reed, Earl Blumenauer, Maggie Mahar, Patti Higgins, Stephen A. Smith, Ron Christie, Sam Stein, Michael McGraw, Jamal Simmons, Roy Sekoff

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

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SCHULTZ:  Good evening, Americans. 

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

Well, the Senate Finance Committee is hijacking health care reform.  How about that?  They killed the public option and they expect everybody else just to follow suit in the Congress.

I‘ll ask Senator Jack Reed of the Health Committee and House Democrat Earl Blumenauer if they plan to bow to the Baucuses and the Grassleys of the world.

Well, it seems that Sarah Palin has some unfinished business in Alaska that could change her political future.  The chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Alaska will join me with all the details tonight.  You‘re going to want to see this. 

And the health industry, by George, they are just lining their pockets.  And they are lining the pockets of the Blue Dog Democrats.  Sam Stein of “The Huffington Post” has all the numbers.  He‘ll be joining me in my “Playbook” tonight. 

Plus “Psycho Talk.”  All that and a great panel coming up. 

And the Michael Vick story, folks, is hot talk across America.  It‘s not just a football story, it‘s about social justice, it‘s about redemption, rehabilitation.  Can it happen, fairness?  In the NFL, it‘s about business. 

Now, I‘m going to debate that with someone from PETA tonight.  Stephen A.

Smith also has a lot to say about all this. 

All of that‘s going to be coming up at the bottom of the hour.  But I want to know what you think about this story.  Does Michael Vick deserve a second chance in the National Football League?  Text “A” for yes, “B” for no to 622639. 

Stay tuned for more on this at the bottom of the hour. 

But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.”

You know, I was afraid of the content that was going to be in this program tonight because I knew this was coming for a long time.  I‘ve put my heart and soul into this, and I think a lot of Americans have as well. 

The Senate Finance Committee—let‘s all bow and genuflect—they‘re ready to deep-six health care reform as you and I want it.  Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley have a plan with no mandate—that means not everybody‘s going to get covered—no public option—that means there‘s a real good chance that rates won‘t come down—all in the name of bipartisanship. 

Listen to Baucus today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA:  It‘s very important to spend a lot of time with them, with all colleagues who really do want health care reform.  That‘s all Democrats and it‘s most Republicans. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Most Republicans want health care reform? 

Folks, I think we could almost put that in “Psycho Talk” tonight. 

Senator, the Democrats have 60 votes.  You‘ve got it right there for the taking, but the Republicans are still telling you what to do, how high to jump, when to jump, and everything else.  There are several Democrats on the Finance Committee, though, who do support a public option. 

Here‘s what they had to say today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  My first choice is to have a public plan and to have a public option.  But we all understand that there‘s going to be some compromise in this effort.  That‘s the only way you can put a complicated bill like this together.  So we‘ll see what happens. 

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON:  I continue to be open to various ways in which you could pursue a public option. 

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  No comment. 

QUESTION:  Do you feel...

ROCKEFELLER:  That means that I don‘t have anything to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Jay Rockefeller, that man, along with Ted Kennedy, they have spent their careers working on health care reform.  And when he comes out and says no comment, after all of this, it just tells me that we got a long way to go as progressives. 

Now, if that‘s the best they can do, I think we‘re in trouble.  They should be fighting tooth and nail against the Republicans on this, who have offered nothing. 

President Obama campaigned on a government-run plan that would give the private sector some competition.  It‘s called a public option.  He took that to the critics today with a form of a town hall meeting at an AARP town hall. 

Here‘s what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I get a little frustrated, because this is one of those situations where it‘s so obvious that the system we have isn‘t working well for too many people. 

This is controversial, and I understand some people are worry about this.  We do think that it makes sense to have a public option alongside the private option. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Mr. President, respectfully, this is not controversial.  You have the people with you.  The right is running an all-out smear campaign against health care reform and you. 

And now the president, I‘m nervous he‘s starting to buy into some of these right wing talking points. 

The only controversy is that we are the richest country on the face of the Earth; right?  That has 47 million Americans that don‘t have health care insurance.  People get sick, they don‘t have coverage.  They‘re getting put out of their house.  Bankruptcy is a big play here. 

Where‘s the controversy? 

The controversy is within the confines of the caucus of the Democratic Party that I think is not listening to the people out there.  One thing is for sure—we‘re going to find out how unacceptable this is.  You see, the other side says, well, everything‘s going to be just fine.  I want the passion in this. 

Last week, the president went out on the road, and he just struck a different tone in all of this.  Tell me if that last piece of tape you just saw and this piece of tape that you‘re going to see right now, if there‘s really any difference. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We have talked and talked and talked about fixing health care for decades, and we have finally reached a point where inaction is no longer an option, where the choice to defer reform is nothing more than a decision to defend the status quo.  And I will not defend the status quo.  We are going to change health care reform. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Now, if that‘s the way those committee hearing meetings were behind closed doors, when they all get together and say they worked so hard on this, then I‘d feel pretty comfortable about all of that. 

Joining me now is Senator Jack Reed, with us tonight, who is on the HELP Committee. 

And what we have here is we‘ve got the Senate Finance Committee coming out with one thing, we‘ve got the Senate HELP Committee coming out with something else.  We‘ve got these titans in the Democratic Party that are going to clash on this. 

Senator Reed, good to have you with us. 

SEN. JACK REED (D), HELP COMMITTEE:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  How‘s this going to come out?  How‘s this going to come out tonight? 

REED:  Well, it‘s going to take a while.  This is a very complicated, substantive issue.  And also, it‘s fraught with politics, as many thing is are around here.  But this is a long process. 

Not only the Senate will weigh in, but the House will weigh in.  And the issue of public option, the issue of insurance reform, of ensuring that people can maintain their coverage, stability, all those things I think we‘re going to be accomplished.  But it‘s going to take a long, long time.  And it‘s a convoluted process also. 

SCHULTZ:  So, do you think that this recess coming up is going to be a good thing or a bad thing for the entire process, missing the deadline? 

REED:  It really depends on what we all do.  You talked about listening to the American public.  We have to communicate with the American public. 

We have to show everyone that this is a better path, that the future is unsustainable in terms of both the social conditions of a lack of health care for 44 million Americans, and also the economic conditions facing families, facing state governments, facing the federal government.  And then we have to show in a very particular way that they‘re going to be better off.  And that‘s our challenge this August. 

SCHULTZ:  But Senator, how can one committee, the Finance Committee, come out with something almost totally different from the HELP Committee, when the Democrats are on obviously both committees?  They‘re in the majority. 

Have you ever seen the minority party in Washington be so strong as the Republicans are right now on such a big issue? 

REED:  Well, in the Senate, the key threshold is 60 votes, and that gives the minority leverage.

SCHULTZ:  But I‘m not talking about the committee, Senator.  I‘m talking about it seems there are some Democrats that are caving over there in the Finance Committee.  That they just will not embrace the idea of a government-run insurance company that will guarantee competition that hopefully will bring down rates.  They‘re just distancing themselves from that.  But then on the other side you‘ve got the HELP Committee saying, yes, we want public option. 

How can it be so different? 

REED:  Well, because we are committed to the same goals but we‘ve chosen different paths.  And I think the Finance Committee members are working very hard. 

We all want to accomplish reform on the Democratic side, because we know the consequences are unacceptable.  And the president said that very eloquently.  But they are trying to reach a different approach. 

We have certain different jurisdictions.  That might make a difference. 

But we have to bring together a bill to come to the floor.  That will be the merger of the HELP Committee and the Finance Committee.  And then we have to...

SCHULTZ:  And finally, Senator, do you think President Obama has changed his thinking on public option now that he‘s not getting a victory out of the Senate Finance Committee? 

REED:  No, I don‘t think he‘s changed.  I think what he is doing is understanding—he served with us for several years—this process.  And I think he‘s committed to improving health care for all Americans, and he‘s going to stay at it. 

I must say, Ed, I was—participated in ‘93 and ‘94 in this health care debate, and we‘re about a year ahead of where we were in ‘93 and ‘94 because of the president‘s leadership. 

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

REED:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Senator Jack Reed with us here on THE ED SHOW.

I just want to point out quickly that back in ‘93 and ‘94, when the Democrats didn‘t get it done, they got smoked in the midterms.  And I think the American people are expecting something to happen here. 

Now, Politico is reporting tonight that there‘s not going to be any vote before the recess over on the House side. 

For more on that, let‘s bring in Congressman Earl Blumenauer. 

Earl, good to have you with us tonight. 

You‘re on the House Ways and Means Committee.  This is not good news over on the House side tonight.  Or am I overstating that? 

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE:  Well, it‘s a little frustrating that there seems to be such—sort of a Jell-O approach on the Senate side.  We just had a long meeting this morning with Speaker Pelosi, who remains committed to having a viable public option so that there will finally be realistic competition for so many of the states where there are really no realistic choices.

SCHULTZ:  But this is deadline number two that‘s missed.  They missed it over in the Senate, and now they‘re going to miss it in the House. 

BLUMENAUER:  Well, in fairness, there‘s—there has been a lot of progress.  As you know, I‘m one of the people that wants a public option.  But this has been difficult to be able to put the things together.  I think we will have a bill that will be available for people to understand what the broad sweep is that we‘re talking about, that people will have a chance to work with. 

SCHULTZ:  But it seems to me, Congressman, that the Republican sound machine and the negativity that‘s coming from the minority party is starting to get some teeth and dig in a little bit here.  And having—they‘ve knocked off the vote in the Senate.  They‘ve knocked off the deadline in the House.  And now you‘ve got these conservative Democrats over on the House side, the Blue Dogs, who are taking money from the medical—and we‘ll have that story a little bit later on in the program. 

They‘re winning.  The minority is winning.  Are you willing to say that tonight? 

BLUMENAUER:  I think that what we‘re doing in the House is much broader than that.  We‘re trying to integrate three different committees.  And it‘s not just the Blue Dogs that we‘re working with. 

But I think we‘ve made progress.  I think you‘re going to see a bill.  The other side is making—having some traction, in part because they‘re just lying through their teeth.  I had to put up with that today in the chair for two hours, listening to people talking about a government program that‘s threatening to put senior citizens to death? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, this is crazy, yes. 

BLUMENAUER:  I mean, these people are off the edge. 

SCHULTZ:  They are off the edge.  In fact, today, at the White House press briefing, this is Robert Gibbs.  He addressed that situation.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think there are people that have knowingly spread information, inaccurate information, to hold up progress on health reform.  I think that‘s about as obvious as the sun having come up this morning in the East. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  So, Congressman, let‘s be straight with our viewers tonight. 

Republicans are lying about health care reform. 

BLUMENAUER:  There is no question in my mind.  All anybody has to do is look at what they said on the floor today.  Outrageous claims, things that are completely beyond the pale.  Misrepresenting. 

That‘s their tactic.  We can‘t let them get away with it. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Well, I hope everybody goes home and has a wonderful August and tells everybody how the Republicans are lying, and maybe the grassroots effect will take place. 

Congressman Earl Blumenauer, good to have you with us tonight here on THE ED SHOW.

BLUMENAUER:  My pleasure.

SCHULTZ:  For more, I want to bring in Maggie Mayhar.  She‘s a health care fellow at the Century Foundation.  She authored a book in 2006, “Money-Driven Medicine,” which is exactly what we‘re seeing right now.  And also, her book has turned into a documentary over the last few years. 

Maggie, good to have you with us tonight. 

MAGGIE MAHAR, AUTHOR, “MONEY-DRIVEN MEDICINE”:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Was this predictable, what we‘re seeing? 

MAHAR:  I‘m very disappointed that more Democrats haven‘t stood up.  I‘m not surprised about Max Baucus. 

Max Baucus has repeatedly checked his values at the door when he voted with the Bush administration on the managed care bill that provides a windfall for for-profit insurers and for pharma, when he voted for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at a time when we couldn‘t afford that.  So I‘m not surprised about Max Baucus. 

And I think we have to remember that Senate Finance is not the whole game. 

First of all, there are two chambers on the Hill—the House, which has a pretty good bill.  It‘s still a work in progress, but it‘s a pretty good bill.  And you‘ve got the other Senate committee and Chris Dodd, and of course Kennedy behind him. 

So, I don‘t think, or at least I hope, that Max Baucus is not as powerful as he seems to think he is. 

SCHULTZ:  What about confusing the American people?  Did you think this has worked?  Because I think there‘s a lot of people out there that say, what‘s public option?  Well, it‘s a government-run health insurance program that you can buy into to give the privates some competition.  That‘s the quick 10-second definition.  But I think there‘s a great deal of confusion out there right now. 

MAHAR:  That‘s right.  People don‘t understand, first of all, that the public option would be, one hopes, modeled on a reformed Medicare program. 

Right now, there are many plans in the House bill to reform Medicare so that it provides higher quality care at a lower price, so that it pays primary care docs five to 10 percent more, plus bonuses on top of that.  Many good things there. 

And the public sector option, when it rolls out in 2013, would incorporate many of those excellent reforms.  And that‘s what we need. 

SCHULTZ:  Maggie Mahar, we‘ve got to have you back...

MAHAR:  OK. 

SCHULTZ:  ... because you‘ve got a lot of information on costs and how we can keep it down.  The president addressed that today, and we‘ll have you back to talk more about that. 

Thanks for joining us tonight.

MAHAR:  Thank you very much.

SCHULTZ:  Thank you.

All right.  Coming up, Sarah Palin‘s got some unfinished business in Alaska involving her e-mail.  She‘s not going to be able to escape this. 

I‘ll talk to the chair of the Alaska Democratic Party when we come back. 

New information here on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Sarah Palin still has some unresolved business in Alaska.  The Alaska Democratic Party, they want her e-mails. 

They say Palin‘s administration is obligated to release the e-mails under the Freedom of Information Act.  The release has already been delayed, folks, more than six months. 

Joining me now to explain what the heck is going on with these e-mails in Alaska is Democratic Party chair Patti higgins.  She joins us on the phone from a remote area in Alaska. 

Ms. Higgins, thanks for your time tonight. 

Explain to our listeners, why is it taking so long to get the release of the Palin administration e-mails?  What‘s happening here? 

PATTI HIGGINS, ALASKA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR:  Well, hi, Ed Schultz.  Good to talk to you again. 

Alaskans sure wish you would come visit us, even if it is a remote location.  Some island way out.  I‘m up on Bernoff (ph) Island, actually, in southeast. 

But, you know, the problem with the e-mails, I don‘t know.  It seems to me if it takes this long, they must be trying to hide something. 

We‘ve actually requested these under the Alaska state law, the Public Records Act.  And that provides that they will give us these e-mails within 10 working days of the request. 

SCHULTZ:  So, is it your idea that maybe there is a deal that‘s been cooked here?  How forthcoming do they have to be under the Freedom of Information Act, as opposed to state law in Alaska?  Ten days?  Heck, it‘s been over six months. 

HIGGINS:  Oh, it‘s way over six months.  It was eight months in April. 

So, you know, Sarah Palin ran on a platform of no scandals, no corruption. 

She promised open and transparent government. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, where‘s the law?  Where‘s the law, Patti? 

HIGGINS:  That‘s right.  And she—you know, we would have thought, hey, Sarah Palin, she‘s somebody who would just print out those e-mails, maybe it would take her tech crew a week to figure out how to do that. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you think they‘ll reveal? 

HIGGINS:  Well, you know, there‘s a guy in California who‘s actually had a few of the e-mails released, and he says that they‘re heavily redacted.  They are edited.  And some of them were even completely revised. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think that this will play into the ethics issues that she‘s having and she‘s really trying to cover something up? 

HIGGINS:  Well, in my opinion, yes.  That‘s why I‘m continuing to pursue these e-mails, even though the attorney general has told us the cost is $450,000 and climbing. 

SCHULTZ:  Why is it costing so much? 

HIGGINS:  Well, they‘ve had their legal team on it for all this time.  They say they‘ve had four attorneys working full time. 

SCHULTZ:  To make sure that they don‘t get released? 

HIGGINS:  Well, I suppose it takes—I mean, I‘ve—back in April, I figured they were spending five hours per e-mail.  And these are from Sarah Palin‘s official state correspondence e-mails.  This is before we knew she was running the state from her personal BlackBerry, and thereby possibly avoiding the type of scrutiny that we‘re asking for here. 

SCHULTZ:  Where there‘s smoke, there‘s fire. 

Patti Higgins, good to have you with us tonight. 

Chairwoman of the Alaska Democratic Party. 

And stay on that story and we will as well.  I think that these e-mails will be the key that opens up the lock to a lot of things. 

Thanks, Patti.  Appreciate your time. 

Next on THE ED SHOW, “Psycho Talk.”  This is a new level of crazy.  The latest righty talking point is that Democrats want to euthanize seniors.

It‘s next in “Psycho Talk.”  

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Oh, yes, time for “Psycho Talk.” 

We‘ve got a live one for you tonight.  Actually, two of them—Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina.  They‘re following the GOP playbook on health care.  And actually, folks, they‘ve really turned it up a notch to “Psycho Talk”—President Obama‘s health care plan is going to kill senior citizens. 

Let‘s start with Gohmert.  Gohmert went on Alex Jones‘ radio show to push his own anti-Obama conspiracy theories. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS:  We‘ve been battling this socialist health care, the nationalization of health care, that is going to absolutely kill senior citizens.  They‘ll put them on a list and force them to die early because they won‘t get the treatment as quickly...

ALEX JONES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  They‘re not even letting you do mailers now. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  We thought that was bad until we heard Congresswoman Foxx on the House floor today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  It‘s Republicans that have a better solution that won‘t put the government in charge of people‘s health care, that will make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans, and that ensures affordable access for all Americans, and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Put to death by their government?  To say the legislation encourages euthanasia, that is absolutely outrageous, it‘s outright false, and it is total “Psycho Talk.”  

Coming up, I think Michael Vick could be even better this season than he was before. 

Tell me what you think.  Does Michael Vick deserve a second chance in the NFL?  Text “A” for yes, “B” for no, to 622639. 

I‘m debating it with a team when we come back.  A gentleman from PETA is here tonight on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  I want to talk about Michael Vick tonight.  I‘m a football guy.  All that aside, it‘s so much bigger than a football story.  I think it‘s about social justice, redemption, rehabilitation, and second chances in America. 

Now, this guy could take a team to the Super Bowl from the business standpoint.  If I‘m an NFL owner, I‘m making that deal tonight.  From a business standpoint, Vick could still win a lot of games. 

Personally, the guy‘s lost everything.  So he‘s hungry.  From a business standpoint, he‘s the perfect guy to be bringing in to the team, if it‘s just about playing. 

But it‘s a lot more than that.  In my opinion, all the controversy surrounding Michael Vick disappears as soon as he throws his first touchdown pass, because fans are going to be mopping that stuff up.  Now, Americans love a comeback story, and they love a winner.  In the eyes of a lot of Americans, he‘ll always be a loser. 

Now, joining me now is Stephen A. Smith, journalist and commentator.  This is a tightrope story for people out there.  The football lovers, they want him to play again.  Those who were—some people are just never going to forgive the guy.  How does this play? 

STEPHEN A. SMITH, JOURNALIST:  Well, it plays that he‘ll end up back in the NFL playing football, probably not making the money—most definitely not making the money he once made.  The reality is he deserves the opportunity to do so.  This is not something that is in conflict with anything, as far as I‘m concerned, in terms of being an American citizen. 

The man was incarcerated.  He was put in the federal penitentiary.  He paid his debt to society.  You think about prisons, you think of Attica, you think Super Max in Colorado, and you think Leavenworth.  He was in Leavenworth.  OK, He spent 18 months there.  He paid his debt to society.  He lost over 100 million dollars. 

It gets to a point right now where it‘s not about anything else but compassion.  Where‘s your compassion?  He‘s done his time. 

SCHULTZ:  But Stephen, what do you say to those folks who will say, look, he didn‘t stay there long enough; he got off easy; he got a lighter sentence? 

SMITH:  Get over it. 

SCHULTZ:  He shouldn‘t be able to come out and do—

SMITH:  Get over it.  The reason I say get over it is because you and I didn‘t make that decision.  Neither did they.  The system made that decision.  He went to court.  You understand he got convicted of this crime.  A judge sentenced him to this crime.  Last time I checked, we honor it.  We honor it with murderers.  We honor it with rapists.  We honor it with child molesters.  The list goes on and on and on.  We‘ve got to honor it with him too. 

SCHULTZ:  Why do you think NFL teams aren‘t knocking his door down right now? 

SMITH:  Because they‘re scared of PETA and other animal rights activists, because in the court of public opinion, the bottom line is that‘s different than the court of law.  That could ultimately affect your bottom line.  Especially in this economic recession, you‘ve got a lot of people who are on guard.  They don‘t want to do something that will be detrimental to their bottom line. 

SCHULTZ:  I think the NFL is milking this for everything it‘s worth.  First, you get the PR of the guy coming back, going to training camp.  He plays a couple of games.  Then he has to sit out.  Then you‘ve got this big anticipation of Michael Vick‘s first game.  Oh, gosh, could you see the TV ratings if he‘s going up against an undefeated team or a team that‘s off to a three or a four and one start? 

SMITH:  Ed, that‘s going to be there whether he comes back in September, first week of September, or the third week in October.  It‘s going to be there anyway. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think he is fans are really going to be adamant about him coming back? 

SMITH:  Yes.  I don‘t think there‘s any question about it. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think there will be protests outside the stadium? 

SMITH:  I don‘t think there will be any question about that either.  But I think that you‘ll see the fans, his fans, speaking very—being very, very outspoken in their support for him.  Because again, they‘re saying, there are a lot of heinous things going on in this world, where a lot of people are getting second chances.  The man paid his debt to society. 

SCHULTZ:  Does race play into this, in your opinion? 

SMITH:  I don‘t think so.  I think it would be inappropriate to say that.  You‘ve got a lot of animal rights activists out there and a lot of animal lovers that feel the way they feel because he contributed to the deaths—the torture of animals.  It‘s not because of race. 

SCHULTZ:  Tony Dungy being involved as a mentor on this? 

SMITH:  I think that‘s a beautiful thing.  Tony Dungy, when you talk about somebody with an impeccable reputation, a stellar human being, that‘s recognized throughout NFL circles and throughout anybody in the sports world—you know about Tony Dungy.  You know that‘s a good man to have as your support base. 

SCHULTZ:  Stephen A., stay with us.  Thanks so much.  I want to bring in Michael McGraw of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  Good to have you with us tonight. 

MICHAEL MCGRAW, PETA:  Thanks for having me. 

SCHULTZ:  Thanks for joining us.  Now, your organization has weighed in to this.  Do you want Michael Vick to have the opportunity to play again, and to go out and make a living at what he was doing before? 

MCGRAW:  PETA thinks it‘s premature for Michael Vick to be reinstated and to have an opportunity to play again, absolutely.  It‘s great that Goodell has said that he has submitted to some type of exam.  But, to our knowledge, he still hasn‘t been examined by a neurologist.  We‘re not convinced that the remorse that he‘s expressing is really genuine. 

SMITH:  A neurologist? 

SCHULTZ:  What does that do?  In the legal system, he wasn‘t required to take any of these tests at all.  He‘s on probation.  He‘s done his time.  Why would you make it doubly tough on him? 

MCGRAW:  You know, he‘s done his time.  He‘s free to walk the streets like everybody else.  That doesn‘t mean he should be rewarded with a multi-million dollar contract. 

SCHULTZ:  Is it the money?  What if he was a truck driver? 

MCGRAW:  To your point at the start of the segment, first game.  You said his fans are going to just instantly forget.  I think the public, you know—they don‘t have a short-term memory.  We‘re talking about a man who was involved—and you know, had personal involvement in—

SCHULTZ:  He‘ll stay pay a price? 

MCGRAW:  The electrocution, drowning, beating, hanging deaths of several dogs.  We‘re talking about major, major psychological problems that can‘t be just—that can‘t be just wiped away by saying you‘re sorry. 

SCHULTZ:  So he‘s not rehabilitated, in your point? 

MCGRAW:  No. 

SCHULTZ:  And rehabilitation for someone who‘s got a problem goes on every day the rest of your life. 

MCGRAW:  I think he needs serious psychological evaluation. 

SCHULTZ:  When will he be able to play? 

MCGRAW:  After he undergoes a brain scan to see if he‘s capable—

SMITH:  That‘s ridiculous. 

(CROSS TALK)

SMITH:  Give me a break.  The reality is this is—first of all, I want to go on record saying that anybody with sense would respect what PETA does and what they stand for, in terms of protecting the rights of animals.  We all know that.  We don‘t want to dispute that. 

But the reality is that if Michael Vick were a construction worker working 9:00 to 5:00, PETA wouldn‘t be out there protesting his return. 

SCHULTZ:  What does the money have to do with it? 

SMITH:  The fact that he‘s in the public eye, make the money—you‘re the one that brought up the millions of dollars that he‘s scheduled to earn, that you believe he‘s going to earn, because I can assure you, it‘s not going to be anything compared to what he was once earning before.  But the reality is that, at the end of the day, you consider the fact that he‘s in the public eye, he could do a lot of good.  And you need to take that into consideration. 

And, more importantly, don‘t insult people by talking about a brain scan.  That‘s going a little bit too far, sir. 

MCGRAW:  What it comes down to is that PETA, along with everybody else, hopes that Vick is a vastly different man than the one who committed these violent crimes.  Until he undergoes a thorough psychological evaluation to determine whether he is truly remorseful, to determine whether he truly understands the gravity what he did—

SCHULTZ:  That‘s somewhat subjective, isn‘t it?  How do you determine whether someone is remorseful or not?  He could get up an do a sales pitch. 

MCGRAW:  It‘s a very specific part of your brain.  In some people, it‘s underdeveloped. 

SMITH:  What? 

MCGRAW:  It‘s a very specific part of your brain that determines whether you can—

SCHULTZ:  We ought to give to it politicians, then. 

(CROSS TALK)

SMITH:  I do believe it is fair to say that if somebody has been incarcerated in a federal penitentiary for 18 months, and they‘ve lost about 130 million dollars, I think they‘ve learned their lesson.  I think that‘s not something they would do again. 

MCGRAW:  I just have to bring it back again quickly to the animals.  We‘re talking about—do you know anybody who would be capable of electrocuting, drowning, beating—

SCHULTZ:  No one is here to condone what Michael Vick did. 

MCGRAW:  Who‘s to say he‘s been rehabilitated? 

SCHULTZ:  As far as the legal system is concerned, he‘s now going to be given the next step of being on parole, to be able to go out in society and prove he has been rehabilitated, to prove—there‘s still some testing ground out there.  But the fact is that he has to be given an opportunity to make a living.  Why would you deprive him just because he as chance to be in a profession where they make a lot of money? 

What if he was a brain surgeon?  What if he was a heart surgeon? 

MCGRAW:  The same would apply.  I think it‘s a very big risk that we‘re taking by allowing him—he served a reduced sentence.  He‘s free to walk the streets now.  But I think he still has to prove himself. 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t agree with that. 

SMITH:  Isn‘t the risk bigger for Michael Vick than it is for anyone else. 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t disagree with the fact that he‘s got to prove himself. 

SMITH:  Exactly. 

SCHULTZ:  But you want to deny him the opportunity.  I mean, you want to be judge, jury and executioner on this on the guy‘s career, when he‘s already gone through the legal system. 

MCGRAW:  We want psychologists and neurologists to be the one—

SMITH:  I hope you don‘t feel the same way about President Obama for swatting a fly, by the way. 

SCHULTZ:  Stephen A. Smith and Michael McGraw, appreciate your time tonight.  Thanks for coming in. 

All right, Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist, is with us tonight on our panel.  Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the “Huffington Post,” and Ron Christie, a Republican strategist with us tonight. 

This is a as much a social question about us as a country, I think.  When do we reach the level of acceptance?  And it crosses I think a lot of social mores lines.  Jamal, what do you think about this? 

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I‘m finding it hard to get worked up about this.  I think that there‘s a real issue here about Michael Vick.  Michael Vick committed a crime.  It is a serious crime.  He was punished for that crime.  He‘s now trying to come back and get back into his game, literally, and earn a living. 

I think we ought to give him a chance to do that.  He ought to have the opportunity.  I can‘t help but remember a story that ran in the Detroit newspapers a few years ago about a homeless man who lived in the train station, and he had a dog.  And they did a three-part series about how this guy ended up being homeless.  The paper ended up having to run a fourth story, because so many people wrote in asking, how can they help the dog who was living with this homeless man in the train station? 

People had to ask the question, what about the homeless guy?  So I think the animal aspect is important here.  But there‘s a lot of other things that are also important.  I don‘t know what that story had to do with this story.  But it probably had as much to do with it as brain scans did. 

SCHULTZ:  Ron Christie, do you ever think that this will ever leave Michael Vick in any way, shape or form?  Is this just something he‘s going to have to live with the rest of his life? 

RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think the stigma of the crime he committed and the heinous nature of the crime he committed will stick with him.  Ed, as you pointed out in the previous segment, he was tried, he was convicted, he was penalized, he served 18 months in prison.  I just took great offense listening to that person from PETA say he has to get a neurological scan. 

I mean, we‘ve heard some people saying African-Americans should have scans on their brains and what not.  I took great offense to that.  The man has sat down with the commissioner of the NFL.  Michael Vick has also sat down with the Humane Society.  I believe he‘s regretful.  For goodness sakes, he‘s lost over 100 million dollars.  If a team in the NFL decides to reinstate him and let him play, that‘s one thing.  But the man should be allowed to regain his livelihood, whether it‘s football, construction work, driving a truck, whatever it is. 

But for people to go out there and say he needs to have a brain scan I find patently offensive. 

SCHULTZ:  The story definitely hits the sensibilities of all of us in this country, especially pet owners.  We think about our pets possibly having to go through something like that.  Roy, is the NFL possibly making a big mistake by even entertaining the idea of bringing him back? 

ROY SEKOFF, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  Not at all.  Let‘s keep it in perspective here for a second.  Remember, Lynndie England, who was the sort of poster girl for the torture of humans at Abu Ghraib?  She served the same amount of time as Michael Vick.  OK? 

He has paid a very serious price.  The main thing about the NFL that you‘re asking is, if you really can‘t get over it, don‘t go to the games.  Don‘t turn on the TV.  Go to the games and boo him.  You have the right to do that.  But you don‘t have the right to deny him the right to try to make a living.  I don‘t think the NFL‘s making a mistake at all. 

SCHULTZ:  Gentlemen, stay with us.  So much more coming up.  I appreciate your take on all of this tonight. 

A new report shows that lawmakers who voted against health care reform are taking the bulk of the money from the industry.  How interesting is that?  I want to know how much the Blue Dogs are pocketing.  Sam Stein, “Huffington Post,” he‘s crunching the numbers.  He‘s with us in our playbook next, right her on THE ED SHOW, on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, Blue Dogs in Congress are still not playing ball with the rest of the Democrats on health care.  Seven—seven blue dog Democrats on the House Energy/Commerce committee are holding up the health care reform legislation.  It turns out they‘re also lining their pockets for the next election with money from the health industry.  Of course. 

The Public Campaign Action Fund found out that those seven guys have raked in an average of 712,000 dollars from the health care industries.  Now, that‘s close to 100,000 dollars more than any of the other Democrats on the committee.  Now these guys are letting the health industry just flat-out buy them off. 

“Huffington Post” political reporter Sam Stein has been looking into the story and he joins me tonight.  Sam, good to have you with us.  How blatant is this?  Are they holding fund-raisers while all of this rancoring stuff is going on Capitol Hill?  Is this recent, this fund-raising? 

SAM STEIN, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  The fund-raising is omnipresent.  It happens all the time.  Last night, my colleague, Arthur Delaney and I went to a fund-raiser, not for Blue Dogs, but for—featuring three Republican senators, all of whom hold influential sway over health care.  They were raising funds and having a health care discussion.  It was 2,000 dollars a pop, 5,000 dollars just to have dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak House. 

This is the type of stuff that goes on in Washington, D.C. every single day.  It involves the Blue Dogs.  They they happen to be taking in more money because they sit in critical positions on these committees. 

SCHULTZ:  What do they say when they‘re asked about taking in this kind of money?  What about conflict of interest?  What about their conscience?  Do they have one at this point? 

STEIN:  Well, you‘d have to ask them.  I would say the response tends to be, well, this isn‘t affecting my vote.  We‘re in this for philosophical reasons.  You know, our opposition has nothing to do with the money that we‘re taking in from those donors. 

But you kind of find that to be a bit disingenuous, in some respects, because their stances happen to be in opposition to the vast majority of public opinion.  I mean, they—not all of them.  But many of them do not support a public plans for insurance coverage.  You look at any public polls—we did this thing with the RNC internal polls.  They had a public support for a public option at 60 percent, in the RNC internal polls.

Everyone knows it‘s popular.  For some reason, the Blue Dogs seem to object to it.  So clearly there has to be something more nefarious going on there.  They say it‘s principled opposition. 

SCHULTZ:  Sam Stein, does it affect how they voted in the past?  What about that? 

STEIN:  Well, you know, it‘s more tactical, I think, than anything else.  The Blue Dogs obviously are in unsafe districts traditionally for Democrats.  What they can do is they can hold out their support for legislation, and get more favors from party leadership.  They get to go to the White House and appear with the president.  They get to stand outside the White House and hold a news conference.  They end up being the courted votes. 

In the end, they might come back to the camp.  I talked to one plugged in Democratic strategist, who says they will come back into the camp.  They are going to vote for health care, it‘s just a matter of time.  But they get all this attention and all this money in the form of campaign donations in the interim from people who are courting their support. 

SCHULTZ:  One of the reasons why I‘m a hawk on this story—and Sam, you‘ve gone some great work on this—is this they‘re going home.  And I want their constituents to go up to them and ask them, why are you taking this money when you know you‘ve got a critical vote and you‘re on a critical committee that affects every American? 

STEIN:  Yes. 

SCHULTZ:  There‘s something wrong with this picture. 

STEIN:  Sure. 

SCHULTZ:  You talk about changing Washington.  And they‘re having dinners last night, were they not? 

STEIN:  Well, I mean, that‘s the thing.  There‘s two aspects to this story which I find fascinating.  The first was pointed out by Congresswoman Maxine Waters today, which is that the House Democrats recruited these Blue Dogs under the leadership of Rahm Emanuel, now the chief of staff in the White House, in order to bolster the majorities in the house. 

No Democratic caucusing in the House doesn‘t want to have big majorities.  But you reap what you sow, in a way.  What she said were the chickens are coming home to roost. 

One other thing, There is a number.  I mentioned it on your show earlier; 140,000 people are going to lose their health insurance coverage in the next three weeks.  That‘s about the time that people will be on recess in Congress.  So while these people are waiting to see what the final legislative constructs will be, holding out for more goodies, maybe for some pork to bring home to the district, 140,000 people are going to lose their health insurance coverage.  Someone should ask about that. 

SCHULTZ:  This is so gross, I don‘t even know if they want to go home.  Sam Stein, “Huffington Post,” always a pleasure, good to have you with us tonight. 

STEIN:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, a retiring senator is taking parting shots at his fellow Republicans.  He says the party‘s becoming too southern.  We‘ll talk about it with our panel next on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Senator George Voinovich says the Republican party has been taken over by southerners.  The senator from Ohio told the “Columbus Dispatch,” quote, “we‘ve got too many Jim Demints and Tom Coburns.  It‘s the southerners.  They get on TV and go errr, errr.  People hear them and say, these people, they‘re southerners.  The party‘s being taken over by southerners.  What the hell they got to do with Ohio?”

I wonder if he wasn‘t having a couple of cool ones when he did that interview.  Anyway, let‘s bring back our panel tonight, Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist, Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the “Huffington Post,” and Ron Christie, Republican strategist. 

Ron, we‘ll start with you.  This is a very unusual comment by a senator, to talk about his party like that.  Does the Republican party have regional issues?  What do you think? 

CHRISTIE:  I don‘t think we have regional issues.  I‘ve known Senator Voinovich for 17 years, and he‘s a very blunt and outspoken individual.  I think the word he should have substituted was the Republican party is now being dominated by conservatives, which I think is a good thing.  We‘re in a very good position in Connecticut to knock off Chris Dodd.  We‘re going to obviously be in a very good position to hold his seat in Ohio, with my good friend Rob Portman. 

The Republican party is becoming a lot more conservative, a lot more fiscally responsible, and looking at social issues.  To suggest that we‘re somehow a southern party, I think the senator perhaps is a little bit off base there. 

SCHULTZ:  Jamal, is this good news to Democrats, to hear somebody talk like that on the other side? 

SIMMONS:  I‘m just happy that a Democrat didn‘t say it, because we‘d be in the middle of some kind of holy war right now between the parties, if Democrats ever were to utter such a thing. 

The thing that Senator Voinovich is missing is that the Republican party was taken over by southerners over the course of the last 40 years.  This isn‘t something that‘s very new.  I have to say, as somebody who grew up in Michigan, I don‘t know that it‘s so much the southerners aren‘t as smart or the southerners aren‘t as capable.  I think southerners are just as capable as everybody else.  I‘ve done a lot of work in Georgia.  I lived in Michigan.  There are a lot of people in Michigan who have a lot in common with a lot of people in Georgia and Alabama. 

So before we get too carried away with the southern aspect of this, I think the real problem with the Republican base—their electoral population is shrinking down to their core base.  That‘s really what‘s getting them in trouble. 

SCHULTZ:  Roy, the quote is that when they get on TV, they go errr, errr.  I mean, how can southerners not feel like they‘re being slammed by one of their own? 

SEKOFF:  Absolutely.  Ed, the problem with the GOP is not the accent of its leaders, it‘s their tired ideas.  Just look, we‘ve got Michelle Bachmann.  She‘s from Minnesota.  We have Sarah Palin.  She‘s from Alaska.  I mean, stupid doesn‘t have any boundaries, OK? 

So, yes, there is a real problem.  I think the problem is just the opposite, is that they have become too conservative.  They have shifted to the right.  And that‘s the real problem, because that‘s not where the country is. 

If you want to blame a southerner, you should blame Karl Rove, who—his pandering to the base policies is what has made the Republicans a minority party right now. 

SCHULTZ:  Ron Christie, would you call on Senator Voinovich to take that comment back, and give him a chance to recalibrate it? 

CHRISTIE:  I won‘t use that term.  I‘m sure if the senator were given the opportunity, he might choose his words differently.  Going back to what Roy said a second ago, if we want to talk about stupid, if we look at the Democrats who are running a lot of these seats, Michigan, where Jamal is from, has an unemployment rate that‘s over 15 percent.  The state‘s unemployment rate continues to soar under Democratic leadership—

SCHULTZ:  Ron, does that have something to do with somebody‘s intelligence?

CHRISTIE:  The comment was made that Republicans are stupid.  I think it‘s interesting that we let the Republicans are stupid comment go with Sarah Palin and some of the Republicans, but it‘s OK not to make those comments about the Democrats.  Let‘s be fair about this. 

SEKOFF:  I think you can put that one at the doorstep of a guy who had a fake southern accent, George Bush. 

CHRISTIE:  George Bush, we‘ve got to bring up George Bush.  George Bush was actually a elected—

SEKOFF:  If you‘re going to bring up the 15 percent unemployment, you got bring up the guy who helped bring that to bear. 

CHRISTIE:  I‘m bringing up the governor from Michigan who‘s running that state, continuing to raise taxes, and make it more difficult for people to work. 

SCHULTZ:  Gentlemen, we‘ll pick it up at a later date.  Thanks for joining us tonight, guys.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  We‘ll be in Portland, Oregon for a town hall meeting this Friday night at the Baghdad Theater.  For more information, go to my website at WeGotEd.com.  We‘ll be back tomorrow night with another edition of THE ED SHOW.

“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now on MSNBC. 

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

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