updated 8/21/2009 1:20:42 PM ET 2009-08-21T17:20:42

Guests: Maxine Waters, Joan Walsh, Bob Baer, Rep. Adam Schiff, Stephanie

Miller, John Feehery, E.J. Dionne, Roy Sekoff

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

Good evening, Americans.  Live from 30 Rock in New York, it‘s THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.  Whoa, Democrats are starting to get it.  They‘re finally figuring out they can do this thing alone on health care reform.  They need to cut ties with these bipartisan phonies and pretenders and get this thing done.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters, she‘ll give us some straight talk tonight.  She‘s on that page.

Mr. President, don‘t mean to be rude, but buddy, you need to snap out of it and stop allowing the political terrorists to hijack the debate and reform.  I think the president knows he‘s on thin ice with the grass roots.  That‘s why he made a plea to the base today.  The founder of “The Huffington Post” will join me at the bottom of the hour. 

Hammering the hammer.  Now, get this.  Tom DeLay, the doctor of divide, has joined the crazy birther movement, says he wants to see Obama‘s birth certificate.  Hey, Tom, I want to see your get out of jail free card.  I‘ll set him straight in “Psycho Talk.” 

Plus, Turd Blossom is at it again.  He wants an apology.  Karl rove was upset with, let‘s see, “The New York Times,” the Judiciary Committee.  We‘ll talk to Congressman Adam Schiff because he‘s the one that questioned Rove about the U.S. attorney firings, and we‘ll see if he‘s ready to give him an apology tonight. 

All that, plus Tom Ridge now claims the Bush administration pressured him to raise the threat level just before the ‘04 election.  We‘ll have reaction to that. 

But first, tonight‘s “Op-Ed.” 

Well, it looks like the White House is finally starting to get it.  The Republicans are not interested in an honest debate.  I‘ve said it all along.  You know, this death panel thing, you know what that was?  That was an intellectual car bomb driven into the market place of ideas.  It wasn‘t about debate. 

The Republican Party is practicing intellectual, political terrorism on all Americans.  They‘re only interested in destruction.  They want to destroy Obama and his agenda.  They want to kill any intelligent, reasoned debate on this issue. 

You know, grandma‘s going to die, death panels, the president‘s a fascist, socialist, Nazi, he‘s like Hitler.  Give me a break. 

You know, this just isn‘t coming from the town hall kooks.  It‘s elected Republicans who are fueling this fire. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We should not have a government program that determines you‘re going to pull the plug on grandma. 

REP. PAUL BROUN, ® GEORGIA:  A lot of people are going to die.  This program of government option is being touted as being this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price is going to kill people. 

REP. TED POE, ® TEXAS:  Government run health care lets bureaucrats decide who receives rationed care and who doesn‘t, who lives and who just dies. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Can I signature this?  You know what that is?  It‘s political terrorism is what it is.  The Republicans are raising the political terror threat right through the roof. 

They are acting like a mob mentality.  You know it‘s all about fear, it‘s all about lies, it‘s all about conjecture and speculation.  It certainly isn‘t about the truth. 

The rank and file showing up at rallies with guns.  Those are the smart guys, by the way. 

I think Republican lawmakers, I think they like this kind of intimidation.  They certainly haven‘t distanced themselves from it.  They certainly aren‘t condemning it in any way or any shape or form. 

All right, now, the president invited everyone to the table.  We know that.  Let‘s negotiate.  What did their side do?  They came to rallies with guns.  That‘s what they did.  That‘s how they want to talk to the American people.  Hey, you pass this legislation, we‘re the ones with the guns. 

So the time for talk is over.  We don‘t negotiate with political terrorists, do we?  I mean, that‘s what the Bush administration said all the time. 

The White House has been making the right moves for the last 24 hours.  They signaled today that they are willing to go it alone on the health care bill.  President Obama is going back to the people, the very people who got him in office, the progressive base. 

The left of the left mobilized for an unprecedented fundraising effort, get out the vote effort campaign in 2008.  He rallied the base at the DNC headquarters today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  We cannot be intimidated by some of these scare tactics.  We have to understand that there are a lot of people who are invested in the status quo and make a lot of money out of it.  We‘ve got to also understand that people are understandably nervous. 

If you are presenting the facts clearly and fairly, I‘m absolutely confident that we‘re going to win this debate.  But we‘re going to have a lot of work to do.  I‘m grateful that you‘re willing to do it.  Let‘s go get them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s go get them.  OK, I like that locker room talk.  The best thing the president can do is get the Democrats together and make them understand their political future is at stake. 

The Republican playbook is to kill reform, period.  Tag the president a failure and shake the base. 

Let me make one more point on this.  I do find it rather insulting when anonymous White House aides come out and tell the press only the left of the left is backing a public option. 

Hold it right there.  National Farmers Union Organization supports a public plan.  Heck, they‘re for single payer.  You know the farmers?  The heartland?  Not the San Francisco liberals out west.  You know the guys with the plaid shirts and dirty hands that work on engines?  Farmers Union in 33 states, they‘re for single payer. 

And as the president has said many times, if you like getting gouged by your insurance company, we‘re going to let you do it.  You can keep getting gouged.  You can keep the insurance that you have if you like it. 

But wanting to change that is not an extremist view. 

Now, let me make one more point before we get to our first guest tonight, before we get to our cell phone text poll tonight.  This idea that the blue dog Democrats put President Obama in office is an absolute fallacy.  That is not the truth. 

The blue dogs didn‘t go out and recruit new people.  The blue dogs didn‘t fund the way the unions did.  All of this came from the left of the left.  If it wasn‘t for the left of the left, who wants a public option, Barack Obama would not be the president of the United States. 

Get your cell phones out, folks.  I want to know what you think. 

Should the president continue to work for a bipartisan agreement?  Got it?  Should the president continue to work for a bipartisan agreement?  Text “a” for yes or “b” for no to 622639.  We‘ll bring you the results later on in the show. 

All right, joining me now is Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, a member of the progressive caucus.  Congresswoman, great to have you on. 

REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D) CALIFORNIA:  Thank you, Ed.  I‘m just enjoying listening to you so much.  You‘re a man after my own heart.  You tell it like it is. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I do believe that it was the left of the left that went out and recruited, you know, new people to the process. 

And how did they do that?  They did it with health care.  They went out and said how‘s your health care bill working for you?  How do you like working with no insurance?  You know Johnny down the street?  He‘s financially crippled because his mom got sick. 

This is what put Barack Obama in the White House. 

WATERS:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, I want to ask you—it wasn‘t the blue dogs.  You see the blue dogs, you know what they did?  They came along for the ride is what they did. 

WATERS:  That‘s right. 

SCHULTZ:  They came along for the ride because they couldn‘t connect themselves to the Republicans in the Bush years anymore, so they took the best available option to get to the White House. 

Now that‘s where it was.  OK, Congresswoman, I don‘t mean to take your time.  I‘m fired up on this.  Where is the left of the left?  Do they still have confidence in President Obama? 

WATERS:  Well, I am so pleased that the president and the White House is taking this time now to clearly define where they stand and what they‘re going to work for. 

There was a little confusion there, and people were wondering, well, is this very important or is this a sliver?  And I think what you got from the progressives is this—no, this is not a sliver.  This is a big honk.  The health care reform cannot be health care reform unless we have a public option. 

And so the White House has become very clear on it.  Not only is he talking with all of the organized groups and his group organized in America, he had all of the progressive ministers and the faith-based community on the line in a huge conference call.

And he said we need your help.  Come on and step up to the plate.  I‘m willing to fight.  I‘m ready to go.  Let‘s get this done. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, congresswoman, do you think that the Obama White House is just totally smarter than everybody else and this was nothing but a trial balloon to float this thing up to rile the base, to really bring the people out.  Could this be just a great card play by the president himself? 

WATERS:  It could be.  I‘ve had this discussion with a number of my very close advisors, and we have come to the conclusion that if it was a trial balloon, that the pushback and the response was so great that they couldn‘t make any mistake, that the left was going to be organized around this issue, and it was going to be big time. 

It would be the first time in the six months that the White House has been there, that President Obama has been there, that they will find that they truly do have an activist base that they recruited, that they worked with, that is now ready to go into action. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So after this dustup, where does this leave the blue dogs, and will they be obstructionists in the House, because it‘s now very clear that the American people, the majority, want reform, reform in the form of a public option, a government run option for people to buy into.  What about the blue dogs? 

WATERS:  Well, I think they‘re going to have to reassess the position that they took originally.  Originally, they were in there trying to change the public option, actually made some changes in the public option. 

Originally the public option part of it was Medicare plus 5 percent to pay providers, and they changed it to negotiating, allowing the providers to negotiate. 

Now, what‘s interesting is this.  After they‘ve been behind closed doors, after they have been pushing the president up against the wall, after the president has extended himself in negotiating with them, some of them went back, and even that right wing base of theirs didn‘t know what was going on, and they turned on them.

SCHULTZ:  Yes, that‘s right.

WATERS:  So I saw some of that on television. 

So they better get in step.  If they want to be real players and participants in the Democratic Party, they have to stop playing these games. 

SCHULTZ:  No doubt.  Congresswoman Waters, thank you for your time. 

WATERS:  You‘re welcome.

SCHULTZ:  And you give me confidence because you like what I‘m saying, and I speak from the heart. 

WATERS:  I love it. 

SCHULTZ:  I speak for a lot of folks. 

WATERS:  You do. 

SCHULTZ:  Those $25 donors out there, I‘m not going to let them be left behind.  I get e-mail from them every day. 

WATERS:  We love you, and keep on speaking truth to power. 

SCHULTZ:  I appreciate your time. 

WATERS:  You‘re welcome. 

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s talk about the Senate if we can.  Let‘s go to Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com.  Joan, good to have you on tonight. 

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SALON.COM:  Hi, Ed.  Glad to be here. 

SCHULTZ:  What play would you like to see the Democrats do in the Senate to draw this out?  What should they do politically with the Republicans in the Senate?  What do you think?

WALSH:  I think it‘s time to stop playing games with them.  I‘m sure you saw it today, Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, two leading, sober, moderate Republicans, they came out and said their idea of a bipartisan bill would be that it would have to get 75 to 80 senators to sign on, or else they won‘t go for it. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you think of that? 

WALSH:  That‘s garbage.  That is garbage.  That is antidemocratic.  Barack Obama won with a mandate.  And now it‘s like he‘s giving it away by negotiating with these people. 

I do agree that the president got religion in the last few days.  I‘m not going to be one to sit here and say he‘s smarter than we are and it was a trial balloon.  I don‘t believe that. 

But whatever happened, I agree with Representative Waters—we saw the beginning of a really active, activist, grass roots base rising up and saying the public option is not a sliver.  And I‘m really excited about that, honestly. 

SCHULTZ:  So the president‘s back on message in your opinion, correct? 

WALSH:  He sounds like he‘s back on message.  He‘s remembering who elected him, and he knows he‘s been the most articulate defender of the public option from the campaign trail through last week. 

SCHULTZ:  So what do you make of, you know, speaking in terms of anonymity, a White House aide to the president says, “We don‘t know why the left of the left is judging everything in a measurement of success on health care reform on the public option.”  Do you take offense to that term “left of the left”? 

WALSH:  I do take offense to that term.  I‘m a working class Irish Catholic woman.  I am a San Francisco liberal.  You‘ve got me there.  But I didn‘t grow up here. 

And, you know, it‘s not just the left of the left.  People who care about affordability, people who care about bringing down costs support the public option, because it‘s the only way to force some kind of accountability on the insurance companies. 

You and I would prefer single payer.  We all agree, I guess we agree, you know, we can‘t get that.  But the public option is the way to drive costs down.

And if Democrats can‘t convince Republicans, who are supposed to be the people of fiscal accountability but aren‘t, that that‘s what they‘re trying to do, we‘re going to lose this thing. 

If President Obama signs a bill that doesn‘t include the public option, that includes maybe co-ops, which won‘t do anything, he will be left holding the bag for a set of reforms that do not bring costs down and the taxpayers on the hook. 

SCHULTZ:  Joan Walsh, Salon.com, editor-in-chief, always a pleasure. 

Thanks for joining us on “The Ed Show” tonight. 

WALSH:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

Coming up, the candidate who revolutionized grass roots support is now having a tough time connecting with the people who put him in the Oval Office.  Has he turned that around?  We‘ll find out what he did today to try to win back those supporters and assure them that everything‘s OK. 

The founder of “The Huffington Post” will be joining us.  Does he have buyer‘s remorse?  That‘s next of “The Ed Show.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to “The Ed Show.”

The people of Afghanistan headed to the polls today in a supposed sign of progress.  The U.S. military involvement over there is far from over.  Our troop levels are set to hit a 68,000 mark by the end of the year, even though Americans think the fighting is pointless. 

A new poll found that 51 percent of Americans don‘t think the war in Afghanistan is worth it.  And according to the latest installment of a documentary series called “Rethink Afghanistan,” they‘re right.  In fact, it seems the war is making us less safe. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA FIELD OPERATIVE:  Our invasion of Afghanistan, what it‘s doing is causing us greater danger, no question about it, because what‘s happening is the more we fight in Afghanistan, the more the conflict is pushed across the border into Pakistan.

The more we de-stable Pakistan, the more likely it is that a fundamentalist government will take over the army, will be in charge, or at least a couple offices, and we‘ll have Al Qaeda-like groups with nuclear weapons. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining me now former CIA field operative in the Middle East, Bob Baer.  He is also the author of “The Devil we Know, Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower.”  Mr. Baer, good to have you on “The Ed Show” tonight. 

What are we doing wrong in Afghanistan?  What should we be doing? 

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE:  You know, Ed, we‘ve got to be frank about this.  This president was dealt a very, very bad hand.  What we have now, we‘re in the middle of a civil war.  It‘s an ethnic civil war, the Pashtuns against the Tajiks. 

We‘ve gone from hunting Al Qaeda to nation building, and Afghanistan is the last place in the world you want to build a nation, especially a foreigner. 

SCHULTZ:  We‘ll no one‘s ever won there.  We could go ask the Russians how it worked for them for ten years, did nothing but deplete their resources. 

But the election today, the turnout was light.  What does that signal? 

Are people just frightful over there or are they just not buying into this? 

BAER:  What we‘re seeing is the Pashtun didn‘t vote.  They were either too scared to go to the polls or they supported the Taliban.  This is mainly in the south where the Pashtun live along the Pakistani border. 

What we saw are the Uzbeks and other ethnic groups supporting the president, but they‘re not really at the center of power of Afghanistan. 

It‘s a pointless election.  We are treading. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, and this is going to have a big price tag to it. 

Do you think that the dynamics of the situation in Afghanistan have changed greatly since inauguration day for the Obama administration? 

BAER:  No.  They‘ve gotten worse.  We‘ve put more troops on the ground.  These are very xenophobic people.  They will react by attacking our troops. 

General McChrystal is truly a brilliant tactical field officer, but he cannot beat what‘s going on in Afghanistan.  There‘s just no way.  This is not Iraq. 

SCHULTZ:  There‘s one other subject I want to bring up with you tonight, Mr. Baer, and that is the CIA‘s secret assassination program that involved Blackwater.  How much of a red flag should that be to the American people? 

BAER:  Ed, these are mercenaries.  You don‘t send mercenaries out to go to assassinate people.  We learned this from Machiavelli.  And this contracting thing is an enormous, enormous scandal, and the military is using—it‘s a scandal.  It has to be investigated. 

We cannot sweep this under the rug.  We have to find out who got paid, what they did, and what happened. 

SCHULTZ:  Bob Baer, good to have you on “The Ed Show” tonight.  Thanks so much. 

BAER:  Thanks. 

SCHULTZ:  That is a straight talker, my friends. 

All right, up next on “The Ed Show,” it‘s hammer time.  The former dirt bag majority leader Tom DeLay is now saying that he wants to see the president‘s birth certificate.  Hey, hey.  Twinkle toes, why don‘t you shut your trap and tap dance into the sunset?  That‘s coming up next on “Psycho Talk.” Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Tonight in “Psycho Talk,” ooh, the monster himself, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.  “The Hammer” is back in the news because of his new gig “Dancing with the Stars” and he‘s using the moment back in the spotlight to kind of fan the flames of our country‘s wacko population. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DELAY, (R-TX) FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER:  I would like the president to produce his birth certificate. 

(LAUGHTER)

I can.  Most illegal aliens here in America can.  Why can‘t the president of the United States produce his birth certificate? 

Chris, will do you me a favor?  Will you ask the president to show me his gift certificate—I mean his birth certificate? 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  No, I‘m not going to ask him. 

DELAY:  Oh, please.  Come on. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Tom, proof of the president‘s birth certificate is online for anyone to look up, and you know that.  You‘re just riling up the righties because that‘s all you‘ve ever done. 

And let‘s remember this kind of tactic is nothing new for DeLay.  He is the doctor of divide.  Not a bipartisan bone in his Texas body.  He‘s been spewing garbage about Democrats for years. 

Let‘s see, he‘s written that liberals have joined the ranks of scoundrels like Hitler.  He‘s called the Environmental Protection Agency the Gestapo of the government. 

In fact, in 2004 he said that the Democrats had surrendered in the war on terror and that they wanted to, quote, “win the White House more than they wanted to win the war on terror.” 

Hey, big guy, break a leg on “Dancing with the Stars.” Actually, Tom, I think you should be slow dancing behind bars with Jack Abramoff.  You‘ve always been a manipulative, dishonest, political operative, feeding conspiracy theory nuts with a constant stream of “Psycho Talk.”

Coming up, attack where you‘re weak.  That‘s been the Turd Blossom‘s M.O. from day one.  He is now whining at “The Wall Street Journal” and asking for an apology from folks.  He‘s not going to get it. 

And Congressman Adam Schiff is going to be here to offer an apology—yeah, right. 

Plus, President Obama has tried to reach out to those grass roots folks who got him in office.  We‘ll do a report card on just how well it‘s scored. 

That‘s coming up next on “The Ed Show.”  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Karl Rove is at it again, twisting the facts to suit himself.  Even after Turd Blossom‘s testimony and thousands of pages of e-mails showed that he played a big role in the firing of the U.S. attorneys back in 2006, he is still hoping he can weasel his way out of this situation.  In a “Wall Street Journal” op-ed, Rove claims the evidence showed that he had little to do with the firings and he actually thinks he deserves an apology from the “New York Times,” the “Washington Post” and the House Judiciary Committee. 

Chairman John Conyers says that he was responsible.  All right.  Now, let me bring in Congressman Adam Schiff of California.  The Congressman sits on the House judiciary Committee, and led the questioning of Karl Rove earlier this summer.  Well, Congressman, good to have you on.  Are you ready to apologize to Karl Rove? 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA:  It‘s great to be with you, Ed.  And I think rove does deserve something, but an apology is not what I have in mind.  Maybe a kick in the pants instead.

SCHULTZ:  What do you make of this strategy of his?  It just struck me that he‘s always been a political operative who always attacks where he‘s weak.  What do you think?

SCHIFF:  Absolutely.  The op-ed that he wrote had a real kind of “Alice in Wonderland” quality about it.  Up is down, right is left.  Or in the Rove case, wrong is right.  He seems to try to make a virtue out of the fact that years before he would acknowledge this, he was actively trying to get rid of certain U.S. attorneys, like David Iglesias, who was rated as a star performer by the justice department. 

And why?  Well, as his testimony and the documents reveal, because Iglesias wouldn‘t bring partisan oriented prosecutions right before the election, designed to influence the election, among other things.  He calls Harriet Miers in an agitated state from New Mexico, after meeting with Republican operatives there, and basically says he wants Iglesias gone. 

In fact, they make the decision in the White House, years before it becomes public, that he is toast.  And, in fact, he ends up getting the boot. 

SCHULTZ:  So is Karl Rove lying when he says he had a minimal role?  Because this is what he wrote in the “Wall Street Journal,” “judging from the evidence released, it uncovered facts that show my role in the U.S.  attorneys issue was minimal and entirely proper.  No fair-minded person can review the thousands of pages of documents and testimony and conclude that I drove the process.”  Is he lying? 

SCHIFF:  Unfortunately, he is.  This is I think a great illustration of fantasy land.  Unless you consider minimal involvement being basically spreading the word this guy needs to be gone; he‘s not doing a partisan job on the Democratic candidate for Congress in New Mexico in this contested election; he‘s not bringing spurious voter fraud cases to help our candidate, our Republican incumbent.  If you think those are legitimate basis to push a U.S. attorney out, then I guess everything he did was just hunky dory. 

But if you consider what he did, as I do and many others, the worst politicization of the Justice Department in a generation, then I think you reach a very different conclusion. 

SCHULTZ:  And, Congressman, there‘s one other story that‘s floating big time tonight, and that is former Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge is saying that he was pressured by the Bush administration to raise the terror level threat after that Osama bin Laden tape came out a few days before the ‘04 election.  How does that news strike you tonight? 

SCHIFF:  Well, it‘s deeply disappointing, but not that surprising when you consider the track record of the administration, not only the politicization of the Justice Department -- 

SCHULTZ:  But is he just trying to sell a book, or do you think this is pretty serious? 

SCHIFF:  I think it‘s very serious.  And again, it‘s part of the pattern.  You remember, he had—there were people in the Education Department paying consultants to write puff pieces.  There were doctored press conferences with the Department of Health and Human Services.  So you have a whole history of politicizing each and every department and agency in the Bush administration.  This being just one of the newest allegations and one of the most egregious, in my view. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, thanks for your time tonight.  Appreciate it very much on THE ED SHOW.

SCHIFF:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  For more, let‘s bring in our panel tonight, radio talk show host, nationally syndicated, Stephanie Miller.  Also, “Washington Post” columnist E.J. Dionne and Republican strategist John Feehery back with us tonight. 

Stephanie, nice to see you here in the Big Apple. 

STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Good to see you. 

SCHULTZ:  Karl Rove back in the news, giving us some entertainment. 

Now don‘t lefties really want the Democrats to go after him on this? 

MILLER: I think one thing every time I see him on TV, Ed.  That is he‘s not in prison why?  The same thing I think when I see Tom Delay on television, asking for the president‘s gift certificate, which was my favorite moment yesterday. 

SCHULTZ:  So as we look at what Rove is involved in right now, what do you make of his tactic?  What do you make—I mean, the Congressman just said he‘s lying about it.  He, of course, is writing in defense that any fair-minded person would know he‘s innocent. 

MILLER:  Yes. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you make of all that? 

MILLER:  Well, Karl Rove lying strikes me as that‘s news from the department of no blank, Sherlock.  I‘m not sure what he‘s ever said that‘s true.  So, you know, this is what they‘re doing on health care, Ed.  It‘s just—if they say it, they think that it must be true.  It‘s just one lie after another. 

SCHULTZ:  E.J. Dionne, is Karl Rove—what do you make of this?  And does this heighten the intensity for the Democrats to do something about it?  He‘s basically throwing down the gauntlet, isn‘t he? 

E.J. DIONNE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, I think it depends—as another president might have put it, it depends on what the meaning of the words fair minded is.  And I think it is very—you know, it‘s the kind of politics Karl Rove is good at, which is you do go on the offensive.  You don‘t play defense if you can possibly help it. 

And what he was trying to do—it was a very interesting document, that piece, because what he was trying to do is take the things that people have said it did to politicize the Justice Department, and he really just went after David Iglesias.  He kind of twisted it around to say, not that Iglesias wouldn‘t bring lawsuits—you know, bring cases Republicans wanted him to bring, but that he was too afraid to bring those suits, because he might run for office and might offend Democrats. 

That‘s actually saying the same things his critics have said he did, but spinning it around the other way. 

SCHULTZ:  John Feehery, what‘s the strategy about for Karl Rove? 

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, I think Karl is—has a right to get his side of the story out there.  I like Karl Rove.  I don‘t know him well, but I like him.  And I disagree with everything everyone else has said.  I think Karl Rove is a very straight forward guy.

And I don‘t believe that he was trying to railroad Don Siegelman.  I don‘t believe that.  So I think that there is a disagreement here.  And I think that there are always two ways to look at a set of facts.  And Karl Rove has his point of view.  And he‘s perfectly willing and has a right to give his side of the story out there. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, White House Counsel Harriet Miers, this was her comment in testimony to the Judiciary Committee: “my best recollection is that Rove was very agitated about the U.S. attorney in New Mexico.  It was clear to me that he felt like he had a serious problem and that he wanted something done about it.  He was just upset.  I remember him being very upset.”  John, what about that? 

FEEHERY:  Well, you know, I mean—

SCHULTZ:  I mean that shows that he was involved, doesn‘t it? 

FEEHERY:  I would look at this from a different perspective than you all.  I think Rove has a perfectly valid right to put out his side of the story, and that‘s what he‘s doing.  I think it‘s a good strategy on his part. 

DIONNE:  You know what, Ed?  I just want to make a quick point.  What‘s interesting about the Rove piece, not on the Siegelman point, but on the Iglesias thing; he is really acknowledging that he did play a role in that, and he‘s not denying what the Democrats were saying.  He‘s just putting an entirely different spin on it, to say, I thought I was doing the right thing.  But it‘s right there in the piece that he really was caring a lot about what Iglesias was doing. 

SCHULTZ:  Stephanie, do you think it‘s just coming out to the point, he‘s just trying to make sure he‘s got Joe the Plumber on his side at this point? 

MILLER:  That‘s all he‘s got left.  Once again, the facts have a well known liberal bias, Ed.  You know how that is. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s right.  All right, stay with us, panel.  A lot more coming up.  Coming up, I had the leader of the biggest union in the country today tell me the success of President Obama‘s presidency is at stake over the public option.  The founder of the “Huffington Post” will talk about that and so much more coming up in my playbook, next on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my playback tonight, President Obama is going back to the base.  Today, he went to the DNC headquarters to rally the grass roots activists to help him sell the health care plan.  OK?  One supporter wanted to know what‘s the most important point about reform? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  It‘s going to gobble up a higher and higher percentage of your income, in terms of premiums and out of pocket costs.  More and more employers are going to say, we just can‘t afford to provide you health insurance, or if we do, we‘re going to push more and more costs onto you.  You‘re going to lose more and more of your paycheck, even if you don‘t know it. 

The status quo is unsustainable.  You‘ve got to make sure that you explain that to folks.  It‘s not as if we just stand still, everything is going to be OK. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining me now is Roy Sekoff, the founding editor of the “Huffington Post.”  Roy, good to see you tonight. 

ROY SEKOFF, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  How you doing, Ed? 

SCHULTZ:  What was the president doing today?  Was this a makeup day or what? 

SEKOFF:  He was trying to rally the base again there, Ed.  You know, he‘s really fabulous and wonderful in these kind of settings, right?  He‘s a born teacher.  But he‘s still missing the key element, which is the fire, the steely resolve.  I mean, he explained things very easily and at ease and jokingly.  But where was the fire? 

I mean, back in the ‘30s when Roosevelt was trying to pass the New Deal, he said that the forces, the entrenched forces against him hated him unanimously.  And he said, and I welcome that hatred.  We don‘t see the same fire from Obama. 

SCHULTZ:  I viewed his move today, over talking to the grass roots, as mending some fences and securing the base, so to speak, because the very people that put him in office—there was a tremendous union effort—they‘re a little nervous about this.  They‘re calling the markers in on it.  I asked Andy Stern today on my radio show this question—he, of course, is the president of the largest union in the country, the Service Employees International Union.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  You believe that this is connected to the success of his presidency? 

ANDY STERN, PRESIDENT OF SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION: 

Absolutely.  I mean, you know, you see people toting guns, which has one set of issues that they want to bring forward.  We have people talking about the stimulus.  We have people talking about Obama‘s Hitler even.  But I think what people are saying is we are going to draw the line on Barack Obama‘s presidency, and health care is Waterloo, and we‘re going to win the battle.  And that cannot happen. 

In some ways, the Republicans have done us a favor.  It‘s kind of like Cortez.  They burned the ship.  The only way out for progressives here is to pass a decent health care bill.  And the only way out for Democrats alive is to do the same. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  And, Roy, do you think the president thinks the same thing at this point, after what we‘ve been through the last four days? 

SEKOFF:  Well, I‘m not ready to start playing taps on his presidency yet, Ed.  But I think obviously there‘s more than just the politics of it.  This is a key milestone issue for America, for making us a more just and moral society.  And I‘m afraid to say that he is still wavering, even today.  If you noticed in that interview he gave with Michael Smerconish, he said that he was still negotiating, still open to negotiating with the Republicans. 

You know who he named?  He named Charles Grassley, who said that we should be worried about pulling the plug on grandma, and he named Mike Enzi, who wants to break health care up into tiny little pieces and do it over a long period of time. 

SCHULTZ:  Why is he doing that?  I mean, these folks have got half of the American people believing that there are death panels, that it‘s a government takeover, that Medicare is going to be wiped out.  It‘s been all smear and fear and lies and deception.  And the president still wants to talk to these people. 

SEKOFF:  Ed, here is the thing; Obama is a student of history.  He talked today about how Roosevelt had been called the socialist when he was trying to pass Social Security.  But he‘s failed to learn the key lesson, which is sometimes you got to fight.  You got to fight hard.  And you got to fight to the bitter end.  And the opposition be damned.  That‘s something that happened with Roosevelt. 

You know, if you study what happened with Social Security, he was being battered from the Republicans and from within his own party.  And he said, I‘m drawing a line.  I will not sign legislation that does not have the core values of what this is all about.  And at the end of the day, Social Security didn‘t pass because Congress wanted it.  It‘s because Roosevelt forced it and demanded it. 

That‘s what Obama has to do.

SCHULTZ:  And we should point out that there may be a new fire lit under the base in this country, because all of the protests are not anti-reform.  For instance, Robert Wexler down in Florida. 

SEKOFF:  Right. 

SCHULTZ:  Supporters, including a marching band, showed up at Congressman Robert Wexler‘s town hall in Florida.  So are the positive forces—have they been reignited and are we headed for a march on Washington?  What do you think? 

SEKOFF:  You can never underrate the appearance of the tuba, Ed.  When the tuba comes in, you know you‘re talking serious business.  Here is the thing.  At the end of the day, the public option has to be on the table, and it has to be pushed through, because without it, there is no real reform. 

SCHULTZ:  And Obama, the president, sooner or later, is going to have to say, that‘s non-negotiable.  This is where we‘re going. 

SEKOFF:  Right. 

SCHULTZ:  If you guys aren‘t on board, forget it.  Roy, good to have you on. 

SEKOFF:  Good to see you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, Democrats are starting to see the health care fight for what it is.  Intellectual, political terrorism has gripped this country.  We‘ll put that to our panel, next on THE ED SHOW, right here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  The Republicans are practicing what I call intellectual political terrorism.  That‘s fear, lies, deception, all that staff, saying that health care reform would lead to death panels.  But now it seems like the White House is ready to go it alone, which I love. 

Our own Chuck Todd reports today, Democrats are very serious about using reconciliation in the Senate to get it done.  That means they would need only need 51 votes to get a bill passed in the Senate.  Let‘s bring our panel back tonight, Stephanie Miller, E.J. Dionne and John Feehery.  

Stephanie, are we into the critical stage now?  The president is going to have to fish or cut bait on public option.  Eventually, isn‘t he going to have to tell the Republicans, this is where we‘re going? 

MILLER:  I think so, too, Ed.  I‘m hoping that it‘s like that thing we‘ve seen, everybody chill out, I‘ve got this.  I‘m hoping that‘s where the president is on this.  And Chuck Grassley, I think it will end kind of like the Somali pirate crisis.  In a political sense for him, he‘ll think things are going well; we‘re negotiating with him; and then it really won‘t end well for him. 

SCHULTZ:  I hope that‘s the way it turns out.  The president goes to the DNC today to talk to the grassroots, the very people that got him in office.  And it‘s interesting that the president that has been so strong, the candidate in contemporary time that‘s been so strong, brought in new ways to campaign, the social networking, seems to, in the last several weeks, shaked (sic) the base.  They really weren‘t sure where he stood on things.

So I think today‘s move over to the DNC was very strategic.  Here is one of the things he had to say to the group. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  There are whole bunch of folks in this town who were just waiting for this debate to take place, because the storyline they want to write about is all of the naive, idealistic folks, change we can believe in, yes, we can—that all their hopes were dashed.  From the day we announced this race, we were fighting against that.  And they‘ve been trying to write that story again and again and again. 

We are not going to give up now.  We are not going to give up now.  We‘re going to get this done and show the American people that the government can work for them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  E.J., Dionne, every Democrat in this country wants to know, is that the way he talks to Charles Grassley behind closed doors? 

DIONNE:  Also, everybody wants to know—I was talking to a health care activist who asked if we need an intervention in this almost abusive relationship between Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley.  I mean, that‘s been a very weird negotiation.

But that looked like the old Obama.  I think they made a terrible couple of mistakes this week, where I think people are genuinely confused about where they are, and also confused about what‘s in this bill.  You know, on Sunday, they seemed to signal that they‘re willing to drop the public plan.  Then the next day, they said no, no, no, we didn‘t mean that.  The “New York Times” story, which they seem to be behind, saying we‘re going to drop the Republicans, going to do it all Democrat.  Next day say, no, no, no; we‘re going to be bipartisan. 

I think this has been an administration known for message discipline and all that.  And just I don‘t think you‘ve seen it on this issue.  And I think the one good thing that‘s been happening is the conservative side mobilized earlier on this.  They did—I don‘t like people disrupting speakers, but they were showing up at those town meetings.  And it wasn‘t until the last week that you really started seeing progressives get out there and start showing up in strength.  So you‘re finally having a mobilization on the other side that‘s visible. 

SCHULTZ:  John, how are independents supposed to view this, when the president is solidifying his base on a public option, and Grassley and some other Republicans, Orrin Hatch are saying, well, it will not be real reform unless we have 70 or 80 votes in the Senate.  And that‘s the only way we can get this done.  But it just seems that the Republicans right now are stuck in the mud and they won‘t move.  Is this a strategy that they‘re going to play out to the very end? 

FEEHERY:  I do agree with E.J.  I think E.J. is right about the communications failures of the White House.  They‘ve been all over the place.  And it‘s been very confusing for people out in the country. 

(CROSS TALK)

FEEHERY:  Let me say about independent voters, if you look at the polls, they‘re turning against this plan.  It‘s really not just about health care, either.  It‘s about a wide variety of things, especially spending.  And they‘re concerned about really the country going into big debt. 

And that‘s one of the things that‘s driving independents against this plan, which would behoove the president, and why Rahm Emanuel and other White House officials want to cut a bipartisan deal, because vulnerable Democrats are the ones that are driving this process, not the liberal base, and not really Republicans.  It‘s moderate Democrats that are driving it.  And that‘s a big problem for the White House. 

SCHULTZ:  The president needs to know the liberals are still driving the bus here.  He‘s going to ride to the midterm.  He‘s got to get a public option.  But I want you to respond; the president has olive branches pouring out of the windows of the White House, and you have Grassley and Orrin Hatch drawing a new line in the sand.  They say no public option.  What are you supposed to do with those guys?

FEEHERY:  Ed, let me ask you a question.  If Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch both supported a public option, they‘d have primary opponents against them, and they‘d lose. 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t think they would. 

FEEHERY:  They would. 

(CROSS TALK)

FEEHERY:  I know the Republican primary voters better than you do. 

SCHULTZ:  I know people without health insurance in those states that they represent.

FEEHERY:  They don‘t vote in a Republican primary.

SCHULTZ:  And I guarantee you, if they go home and tell your constituents, you are not going to have a pre-existing condition, those veteran senators would absolutely walk right to re-election.  Stephanie, your thoughts? 

MILLER:  Absolutely.  You look at the polls, the problem is—and you‘ve said this many times—Americans largely want health care reform.  Originally, they wanted exactly what the president‘s plan is.  The problem we‘ve had is they‘re starting to believe the right-wing lies.  We still have time to take this debate back.  And “Politico” reported today that the White House is also swayed—they call them their powerful talk show allies.  And you know who we‘re talking about, Ed, you and me.  You and me.

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely.  We‘re the allies. E.J., you and I have touched on this months ago, but I think the intensity of it is really there now.  If the president doesn‘t deliver public option to Ohio, to Indiana and to Michigan, what‘s it going to look like in the midterm, where unemployment is starting to go up.  What do you think? 

DIONNE:  I just want to pick up on something our Republican friend said, when he said that the people in our primaries aren‘t the ones who don‘t have health insurance.  And that really does tell you a lot about why this debate has shaken down the way it has.  There are an awful lot of Republican senators and House members who just don‘t have any particular interest, politically, in extending health insurance.  And that‘s why this has become—one of the reasons why this has become a very partisan point. 

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely. 

DIONNE:  On the public option.  Go ahead. 

SCHULTZ:  We‘re out of time here.  We‘ll have you back talking more about it.  I appreciate all of you being here tonight. 

Earlier in the show, I asked you what you thought; should the president continue to work for a bipartisan agreement?  Eight percent of you said yes; 92 percent of you said no. 

Jon Stewart, I want coverage on that one, too.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com or check out WeGotEd.com. 

Chris Matthews coming up next, right here on MSNBC, with “HARDBALL.”  We‘re back tomorrow night, 6:00 p.m, right here on THE ED SHOW.  Have a great one.

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