updated 8/25/2009 10:29:43 AM ET 2009-08-25T14:29:43

Guests: Courtney Hazlett, Jan Schakowsky, Jack Rice, John Nichols, Steve McMahon, Jeanne Cummings, Bill Press, Michael Graham, Wendell Potter


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


SCHULTZ:  Good evening, Americans.

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

Tonight, the pursuit of justice.  Attorney General Eric Holder has just named a special prosecutor to investigate Bush-era detainee torture.  This probe shouldn‘t stop with low-level CIA officers. 

I want to see “Shooter.”  I want to see Tenet.  I want to see “Rummy.” 

All of them stand up with their right hand and finally tell the truth.

The House Intelligence Committee‘s Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and the former CIA officer, Jack Rice, will join me in just a moment.

Also, “The Three Amigos,” is what I‘m calling them now, on health care reform.  Let‘s see, Joe Lieberman, Max Baucus and Kent Conrad.  You won‘t believe what “Turncoat Joe” is saying. 

John Nichols is in the house of “The Nation.” 

Why are these guys so far out of touch?  Got to find out. 

And a shocking announcement today about Michael Jackson.  The L.A.  coroner says that the King of Pop‘s death was homicide.  What does that mean and What‘s up next? 

All that, a great panel, and “Psycho Talk.” 

And we want to hear what you think, so get your cell phones ready to give us a text tonight. 

But first, breaking news. 

The L.A. Coroner‘s Office has ruled Michael Jackson‘s death a homicide.  And NBC News has learned that Jackson‘s doctor, Conrad Murray, is being investigated for manslaughter.  This opens up a whole new front on the story. 

Joining me now is MSNBC.com‘s Courtney Hazlett. 

Courtney, good to have you with us tonight. 


SCHULTZ:  This is a big development, obviously.  But what does it really mean? 

HAZLETT:  What it really means is we‘ve narrowed down the manner of death to a homicide.  It‘s something we‘ve been speculating about all along.  Now that is for certain. 

And in terms of the manslaughter investigation, yes, it is focused to Dr. Conrad Murray.  What does all of that mean?  It‘s difficult to say until there are actual charges filed against Dr. Conrad Murray, if and when that happens. 

Right now he‘s still innocent.  He has a lot of statements that‘s in this affidavit that are very—that they‘re explosive.  They‘re confounding on many levels in terms of the resuscitation and the drugs that he was giving Michael. 

However, once it comes time to hearing this in front of a court of law, Dr. Murray can say things like, oh, well, they misinterpreted what I said.  So, there‘s still wiggle room here, is what I‘m saying. 

SCHULTZ:  But the Jackson family, especially Michael Jackson‘s father, Joe, thought all along that this was what it was going to come to. 

HAZLETT:  Absolutely right about that, Ed.  In fact, people I‘ve been speaking with inside the family and very close to the family said there‘s a lot of anger inside the family.  Not among all family members.  Let‘s be very clear about that. 

Some of them willing to just say, I want to move forward.  But others are very angry.  They think Michael was worked to death.  And we might be seeing wrongful death suits filed later on. 

SCHULTZ:  And what about the drug he was consistently taking? 

HAZLETT:  He was consistently taking Propofol for—now, get ready for this—six weeks, Dr. Murray said in this affidavit. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, this is used for surgical purposes normally, isn‘t it? 

HAZLETT:  Correct.  To say that this is a sleep aid isn‘t even close to accurate. 

It puts you out.  It basically puts you in a coma.  It‘s used during surgery.  It‘s not used to help you get a restful night‘s sleep. 

He was having it administered almost every night for six weeks, according to this affidavit. 

SCHULTZ:  So, we have a doctor who had some financial problems, correct? 

HAZLETT:  Right. 

SCHULTZ:  We have a doctor who was kind of on the rebound, if that‘s fair to say.  And maybe he just couldn‘t say no to Michael Jackson.  Could that be the case? 

HAZLETT:  Well, he was being given a large, large sum of money to be Michael Jackson‘s personal physician, to be on call, to literally sit there all night long while he attempted to sleep, or slept with the aid of an intravenous drip of Propofol, essentially.  Yes, it sounds like it was a tempting offer, one that was difficult.  When you look at the big picture, it would have been difficult to refuse. 

SCHULTZ:  Courtney Hazlett, thanks for being here tonight. 

HAZLETT:  Of course.

SCHULTZ:  I think we‘ll be covering this story quite a bit.  A very, very interesting development. 

All right.  NBC‘s Dan Abrams will take us inside what‘s next from a legal standpoint.  That‘s coming up at the half-hour. 

And now tonight‘s “OpEd.” 

Another big story.  It‘s a big news day on a Monday, folks. 

Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate possible illegal treatment of terrorism detainees by CIA officers during the Bush years.  The Justice Department prosecutor, John Durham, is Holder‘s pick to decide if a full-scale criminal investigation is warranted. 

The White House said today President Obama will not weigh in on it as to whether to go forward with prosecutions.  The president has said all along he doesn‘t want to dwell on the past, only the future. 

The attorney general‘s decision comes the same day the Obama administration released a previously classified report about prisoner abuses.  It says interrogations used mock executions and threatened to kill suspect family members to try to get information out of them. 

CIA Director Leon Panetta was quick to defend the agency in a message to employees today.  “The CIA was aggressive over the years in seeking new opinions from the Department of Justice as the legal landscape changed.  The agency sought and received multiple written assurances that its methods were lawful.  The CIA has a strong record in terms of following legal guidance and informing the Department of Justice of potentially illegal conduct.”

Intelligence officials have said Panetta has threatened to quit if a criminal investigation takes place.  But liberals, very hungry for this end resolution in this country on this issue, and they don‘t want to just stop at just lower-tier CIA officers.  Not to say they‘re lower tier, but you know what we‘re talking about. 

We‘re talking about, let‘s see, president, vice president, on down the line.  Where did this start?  How far did it go?  Who was all involved? 

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

Should CIA interrogators who followed Bush administration orders be prosecuted for torture? 

Text “A” for yes and “B” for no to 622639.  We‘ll bring you the results later on in the show. 

Joining me now is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. 

Congresswoman, good to have you with us tonight. 


SCHULTZ:  Does the country have an appetite for this at this point?  We‘ve got the economy.  We‘ve got health care reform.  We‘ve got the Obama administration trying to get some things done.  And now a five-year-old story is jumping out in front of the American people tonight.

Is this the right path for the country to take? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, it‘s not really a question of appetite, it‘s a question of, what was really done and was it legal?  And did it violate our own moral standing, as well as laws of the land? 

I think it‘s very important to do this investigation.  That doesn‘t mean that we can‘t do health care and every other thing as well, but we need to look into this. 

SCHULTZ:  Is it dangerous for the CIA?  Could this do potential danger to the CIA?  Because Leon Panetta has said if this goes too far, that he‘s going to resign. 

What do you make of that? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, look, we‘re not after necessarily—we understand that individual CIA employees do a fine job.  The question is, did some people—for example, when you soak someone‘s hand in alcohol and light it on fire, is that an appropriate interrogation technique?  Forcing a detainee to eat a baseball? 

These are all reported by the Red Cross of things that actually happened.  It‘s important to look into it. 

But, you know, you made the point that, should we just go after the lower-level people?  I think this investigation, even of those individuals, is important.  It‘s not an either/or.  But when they are defended, what are they going to say?  I think what they‘ll say is that there was an atmosphere created by the highest level people at the Bush administration that said, those kinds of things are OK because anything goes. 

I think that‘s the kind of environment in which these individuals were working, and it‘s important to hear that kind of testimony and get at that. 

SCHULTZ:  So, Congresswoman, how far do you want Eric Holder to go?  Do you want him to go after Rumsfeld and Cheney?  I mean, the whole lot of these guys?  Is that what you want to see happen? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  What I want to see, that even as they—I think this is an important first step, because even as they go after these particular individuals—and by the way, I don‘t think that this was a matter of just a few individual rogue actors that were doing the wrong thing.  I think what we will find is that there was this environment that said, look, you know, we‘re talking about terrorists here.  Do whatever you have to do.  Never mind that...


SCHULTZ:  So, Congresswoman, do you think that these agents that did this were encouraged to break the law?    

SCHAKOWSKY:  I think what we might hear from them is that there was an attitude that, you know, do what you have to do.  And I think that it is possible that it will implicate people higher up, as well as those individually. 

But look, Ed, the question—go ahead. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, as you understand it, what‘s the next step? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, this is going to be a preliminary investigation to decide whether or not the Justice Department will do a full-scale investigation of these people.  But the question that you asked your viewers, should they prosecute these lower-level individuals?  I really don‘t think it‘s an either/or situation. 

If there were people on the ground who went beyond the letter of the law, even though there was some sort of a whisper in the air, I think that‘s important to note.  But who was doing the whispering?  Was there a feeling that, you know, nothing would happen to them? 


SCHAKOWSKY:  That‘s what we need to know.  Who did that? 

SCHULTZ:  Congresswoman Schakowsky, thanks for your time tonight.  I appreciate it. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Former administration officials have told us for years that their tactics stopped attacks on the United States.  We‘ve debunked those claims, but it‘s like they were always trying to plant that seed in our mind that, gosh, this stuff and whatever—when it comes out someday, we were going to find out exactly what they were doing to keep us safe, that they knew they were going to eventually get caught. 

Joining me now is former CIA officer Jack Rice. 

Jack, this puts some pretty doggoned dedicated Americans, some real talented professionals, in an untenable position if they were told to go this far, does it not? 

JACK RICE, FMR. CIA OFFICER:  Yes, it sure does.  But you know what?  The real question is—I‘m actually very impressed with what Eric Holder is doing right now.

If there are CIA officers who committed crimes, they should be prosecuted.  But, by the way, let‘s take it one step further.

If we‘re thinking about a chain of command, if there were chiefs of station, if there was the DDO, the deputy director of operations, if it was the head of the CIA, if it was Donald Rumsfeld, if it was Dick Cheney, if it was George Bush, I don‘t care who was involved.  It‘s not just the guys on the ground.  It‘s also the architects of this.

You go after everybody who committed crimes.  It‘s just that simple, a nice bright line.

SCHULTZ:  So, if what they did—and it‘s been listed out, holding a gun to their head, threatening their family, and all these things that are illegal by the Geneva Convention, wouldn‘t these interrogators know that they were breaking the law?

RICE:  Of course they would.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So...

RICE:  This is not something you guess.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So, they know what the parameters are.  So, does that lead you to believe that they were told, have at it, go do what you‘ve got to do, this game is wide open right now?

RICE:  You know, that‘s exactly what I think.  I don‘t think they would do this by themselves.  I think they were told to do this. 

You could look back at a lot of things, Iran-Contra and elsewhere, where they realized that they may be hung out to dry if they just go out on their own.  They‘re going to do this with the support of the organization itself.  So, yes, you follow the chain. 

SCHULTZ:  And what do you make of CIA Director Leon Panetta saying, if it goes so far with prosecutions, that he‘ll resign/  What do you make of that as a former employee of the agency? 

RICE:  So, let me get this right.  If we find that there were crimes committed, he‘s going to resign?  Based upon what? 

He‘s going to resign because they‘re going to prosecute people because they committed crimes?  Come on, he‘s not going to do that. 

If they did something outside of what they were supposed to do, let‘s figure out what it is.  Let‘s see how far this goes. 

I mean, if they were simply following orders and it was minimal, fine.  Then, as a former prosecutor, my response is, what you can do is you can testify against those above you. 

Let‘s work this way up that chain.  Let‘s find out exactly where this comes from and take it where it‘s supposed to go.  I don‘t think he‘s going to resign for that. 

SCHULTZ:  And what do you make of the Obama White House ready to wash their hands of this, saying, oh, this is as far as we‘re going to go, it‘s up to the attorney general right now?  How do you think that‘s going to politically play, Jack? 

RICE:  Look, he‘s trying to balance and play both sides of the aisle at the same time, unfortunately.  I‘m pleased that Eric Holder is doing this.  The president needs to step up and say, you know what?  If a crime was committed, we‘re going to find out why. 

If there‘s a special prosecutor, I like that, because it becomes apolitical.  You get a good prosecutor in there, they make the call.  That way the president doesn‘t have to. 

But he‘s better than this.  He can stand up and he can say, if a crime was committed, let‘s figure out by whom and then go after them. 

SCHULTZ:  Jack Rice, former CIA officer, thanks for joining us tonight on THE ED SHOW.

RICE:  Of course.

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, it turns out Senator Kent Conrad, “Co-op Conrad,” has taken a boatload of money from special interest groups.  I‘ll show you the numbers and issue him a challenge next, right here on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us. 


SCHULTZ:  The nut jobs just aren‘t at the town halls.  They‘re also in the halls of Congress, in many respects, and the Democratic Caucus even. 

Case in point, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, the turncoat from Connecticut, is whining that the Democrats are just moving too fast on health care. 


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT:  I‘m afraid we‘ve got to think about putting a lot of that off until the economy is out of recession.  There‘s no reason we have to do it all now. 

I think it‘s a real mistake to try to jam through the total health insurance reform, health care reform plan that the public is either opposed to or are very, very passionate mixed minds about it. 


SCHULTZ:  Oh, Joe, you‘re such a compassionate guy. 

You know, I think you ought to give up your health care until this whole thing gets done.  What do you think about that, Joe? 

It will take a few months or a few years, or it could fail entirely thanks to the Republicans and their enablers like Joe.  He can hope this—he doesn‘t get sick.  That‘s basically what he‘s telling the American people—don‘t worry about it, you won‘t get sick until we get this thing done. 

Come on.  Lieberman is completely out of touch with this issue. 

Another Democrat who‘s out of touch, Max Baucus, the Senate‘s number one taker of health industry money.  He‘s the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee working on the so-called bipartisan bill, without a public option, I might add. 

New poll shows that this is not sitting too good with the folks up there in Montana.  Forty-seven percent of the people in Montana want a public health insurance plan, 43 percent oppose it.  That‘s according to a new Research 2000 poll. 

This proves health care reform is not just a liberal issue.  It‘s harder to find a redder state than Montana.  A lot of guns up there. 

Plus, Baucus has got problems with the Democratic base.  Fifty-five percent of Montana Democrats disapprove of his handling of health care. 

Baucus is feeling the heat from lefties.  He was getting hammered on a conference call with Democrats last Monday night and wound up saying, “I want a public option too.”

Very interesting. 

Now we know Baucus likes the public option because he put it out at his health care playbook back in November after the election.  He did that. 

So that‘s a position, a flip, and a flip.  OK. 

So, what‘s changed?  The town hall nuts are making their knees shaky? 

Is that what‘s going on?  Or is it all the industry money in the pockets? 

Speaking of industry money, Kent Conrad, North Dakota senator, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and one of the gang of six, or musketeers of six that‘s working on this thing in the Finance Committee, he‘s out there pushing these crazy co-ops, OK, and saying that Democrats don‘t have the votes for a public option. 

New numbers show just how much he‘s taking.  The Center for Responsive Politics shows that Conrad has taken more than $800,000 over the course of his career from insurance companies alone.  He‘s taken $1.7 million overall from industry interests. 

Kent, a friend of mine, I think the world of him.  He is of the utmost highest integrity, an honest guy.  But what‘s it look like? 

And, of course, he‘s not in any electoral trouble at all.  He doesn‘t need the money.  The guy wins by 70 percent of the vote every time. 

So Kent, Mr. Conrad, I am asking you tonight to give that money back. 

Kent, you don‘t need that money.  What‘s it look like? 

The people are out there trying to get complete transparency.  This doesn‘t look good.  Give it back, and give it back to the folks that gave it to you so you can turn to the American people and say, I haven‘t taken a dime from these people, but I really think the co-ops will work.  You do a closer investigation, you‘ll see that the co-op thing works out real good for the insurance industry. 

Joining me now is John Nichols, Washington correspondent of “The Nation.”

Good to see you, buddy.  Good to have you in New York. 


SCHULTZ:  How can these senators be honest brokers when they‘re taking the money from the very people who want no reform whatsoever? 

NICHOLS:  Well, I mean, you go to the core question, Ed, which is campaign finance reform.  You realize that if we had a publicly-financed system of elections in this country, probably would have had single payer health care 40 years ago. 

SCHULTZ:  But we don‘t. 

NICHOLS:  We don‘t.

SCHULTZ:  We don‘t.  So, how can these senators be an honest broker when they‘re taking money from the very people who are fighting reform and telling employees, UnitedHealthcare, to go out and fight this stuff at the town hall meetings? 

NICHOLS:  At this point, they can‘t be honest brokers, Ed.  Your call to the key members to give this money back makes a lot of sense.  But I‘ve got to be honest with you, I haven‘t seen a politician part with that kind of money in a long time. 

So, I think the real question you get to is, how are we going to make them be honest brokers?  And Saul Alinsky, a guy whose name sometimes gets beaten on, always said that the only way to beat consolidated money, powerful money, is with consolidated and powerful people.  If we don‘t get out there and start beating on these senators—metaphorically—to get them to change their positions... 

SCHULTZ:  Campaigning against their position. 

NICHOLS:  Yes.  We‘ve got to get them to say no to the money. 

SCHULTZ:  But where‘s the liberal base on this?  If there is no public option, if there isn‘t any mechanism in place that brings down prices in competition, where are the liberals going to go?  And I mean the liberals that put Obama in office. 

NICHOLS:  Right.  The liberals have already—they‘re already not present in this debate.  This has been too confusing, too vague.  Liberals have stepped back.  They have not been battling as hard as they would or should. 

If we come down to a core question, are we going to have real health care reform, or are we not?  And the clarity is there, especially if Barack Obama puts it on the table, you will see progressives step forward and really push this issue. 

But it falls to the president to an extent.  He has to do what you just did.  He needs to call some of these Democratic senators out and say, hold it.  I need you with me for health care reform. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you make of Tom Daschle over at the White House on Friday admitting that they were talking about reconciliation?  Obviously, the president is asking the right questions about it. 

What‘s the upside and the downside if that‘s where they go in the Senate? 

NICHOLS:  Well, the upside is we might get health care reform.  That‘s pretty damn attractive.  The downside, of course, is that it will be portrayed as a false or a forced reform. 

SCHULTZ:  Republicans did it before. 

NICHOLS:  Well, there‘s something else, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Judd Gregg loved it, in fact. 

NICHOLS:  I just want to say one thing, Ed.  I had civics class.  It was a long time ago.  I‘m not quite as old as you, but in my civics class we had something called majority rule.  It said that when you have the majority of votes, you‘ve got to act upon it. 

SCHULTZ:  Do liberals want reconciliation in the Senate to get health care, just get her done? 

NICHOLS:  I think that there‘s—look, it‘s not just liberals.  Let‘s take this to the core reality.  The American people want health care reform.  Every poll shows it. 

So, yes, they want Congress to act.  And they don‘t understand why you need 60 votes to do it. 

SCHULTZ:  John Nichols, of “ The Nation,” good to have you in New York. 

NICHOLS:  A pleasure, brother.

SCHULTZ:  You bet.

Coming up, Republicans are ripping off Nancy Reagan.  They‘ve hijacked her best do-gooder one liner—“Just say no.”  And they‘re using it in shameful ways. 

That‘s next in “Psycho Talk.”  Stay with us. 


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Time for some “Psycho Talk” from the right again, card-carrying member of the “Party of No,” Illinois Congressman John Shimkus. 

Now the “Just say no” line is real familiar to all the Republicans.  But actually, they sometimes try to pretend like they really do have their own ideas. 

Not so with our friend from Illinois. 


REP. JOHN SHIMKUS ®, ILLINOIS:  You know, there‘s a chant going on in America right now.  And as Congress (INAUDIBLE) in these town hall meetings, what is the public saying to them?  They are saying, “Just say no.  Just say no.  Just say no.”

Now, Republicans, that‘s going to be our chant from now until Election Day because we‘ve been saying no for a long time. 


SCHULTZ:  He admits it.  They‘ve been saying no for a long time. 

Here‘s what you‘re saying no to, Congressman, a stimulus package that may actually be bringing us out of a recession, an energy bill that would help save the planet for our children and grandchildren, and a health care bill that would improve the lives of tens of millions of Americans. 

This is why the Republicans lost control last November, and it‘s why last week, an NBC poll showed that Republicans in Congress have a 20 percent lower approval rating on health care than President Obama does.  They have no ideas, and the public‘s figured it out. 

The only strategy is to oppose everything the Democratic Party wants to do, tries to do for the American people.  And the American people are noticing this is what‘s happening. 

Well, we have noticed as well here on THE ED SHOW.  Saying no for just the heck of saying no, it‘s obstructionist, it‘s lazy, it‘s hurting the country.  In fact, it‘s “Psycho Talk.” 

Coming up on THE ED SHOW, the Democrats are starting to do some math. 

You don‘t need 60, if you‘ve got 51, boys.  It‘s time to fish or cut bait. 

The righties just ain‘t biting on health care reform, are they?  A veteran Democratic strategist pulls on his waders and joins me next on the program. 

Plus, as if they need any more money, the health insurance industry is on the brink of a billion-dollar bonanza.  A former insurance-executive-turned-whistleblower will join me to explain how they‘ve got the upper hand in a war over a public option and what we can do to beat it back.

Stay with us.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  You know, you can‘t negotiate with folks who just want to say no all the time.  The Democrats have seemed to have finally figure this thing out.  Here‘s a release from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee that‘s going around today: “Democratic leadership has made it clear that they would prefer to work cooperatively.  Should Republicans choose not to cooperate, the inclusion of reconciliation instructions provides a backup to address urgent national needs.” 

Not surprisingly, the Republicans never hesitated to use reconciliation to further their own goals when they were in the majority.  President Obama extended the Olive Branch to the Republicans.  He invited them to be part of the solution.  Instead, elected Republicans are ginning up the angry mobs with the talk of socialism and fascism. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ll remind you, a little history lesson, the Nazis did not—the Nazis were the National Socialist Policy.  They were leftist.  They took over the finances.  They took over the car industry.  They took over health care in that country.  If Nancy Pelosi wants to find a Swastika, maybe the first place she should look is the sleeve of her own arm. 


SCHULTZ:  They took over the car industry, dog gone it.  That Cash for Clunkers thing was terrible.  It is amazing to me at some of the stuff that comes up at these town hall meetings.  At the point where the other side is comparing you to Hitler, it‘s time to end the discussion, I think.

For more, let‘s bring in Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.  Steve, when do you fish and cut bait?  What‘s the name of the boat anyway?  That‘s what I want to know. 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I‘ll tell you what, watching that clip, which is both deplorable and despicable, it‘s no wonder there are Democrats talking about reconciliation.  Of course, reconciliation has a whole series of issues associated with it as well, which we can get into if you want. 

But I think what‘s going on here is there are people in Washington who are now saying, it‘s time for the Republicans to put up or shut up.  They can either join us and try to put together some health care reform that can get more than 51 votes or 55 votes in the Senate, or they can watch us get 51 or 55 votes. 

SCHULTZ:  No doubt.  There‘s a history to this.  As I said in the lead there, when the Republicans had the majority, they didn‘t hesitate.  Let‘s listen to Senator Gregg here.  We don‘t have the sound on tape.  But he did say “the fact is all it does is allow a majority of the Senate to take a position and pass a piece of legislation.  Is there something wrong with majority rules?  I don‘t think so.” 

That was back in 2005.  So that comment alone, I think, will help a lot of Americans realize exactly what this is all about.  It‘s been done before.  But do you think the Democrats realize that this is a big enough issue that the people would be behind them on this? 

MCMAHON:  Well, here‘s the challenge, Ed—first of all, the president wants a bipartisan bill.  If you can somehow get a bipartisan bill that gets 60 votes, I think everybody would agree that‘s better.  But let‘s assume for a second that that‘s not possible.  The question then becomes in reconciliation—and I hate to get all lawyered up.  But reconciliation exists primarily for budget and tax things, which is what the Republicans usually use it for, because they‘re always trying to cut taxes and make the deficits bigger. 

It‘s more difficult to do the kind of market-based reforms that this health care reform anticipates through reconciliation, because it‘s not a budget or a tax issue.  For instance, I don‘t know how in reconciliation you can require that everybody have health insurance.  That would be a difficult thing to do in reconciliation. 

One of the reasons Democrats would prefer not to have to use reconciliation is because, first, they‘d prefer a bipartisan bill.  But second, there are some questions procedurally about how much health care reform they could get done through reconciliation. 

SCHULTZ:  Also, isn‘t it true that in reconciliation that it obviously has budgetary guidelines, when it‘s got to be paid for.  This would force Democrats to raise taxes to pay for it, if they‘re going to stick with the president when he says it‘s going to be—not going to add to the deficit.  So whereas it gives them an opportunity to get it done, it also makes it very tough from a budgetary standpoint.  They would almost have to repeal the Bush tax cuts to pay for it. 

MCMAHON:  Well, the Bush tax cuts are going to go away pretty soon anyway.  But it creates a political challenge for them beyond the Bush tax cuts because more money will be required.  The real—the fact of the matter is that there are—the difference between having 60 votes and having 46 votes are Democrats who won in red states.  That‘s true in the Senate.  It‘s also true in the House of Representatives. 

Everybody up there is well aware of this.  There‘s this balancing act going on, where the guys who represent districts or states that used to be Republican represented don‘t want to lose those seats and lose the Democratic majority.  But Democrats and Americans want health care reform.  So I think that using the carrot and the stick to try to get health care reform that gets 60 is a much better way too go if it‘s possible. 

I think this is a stick, frankly.  But I think it‘s probably needed right now. 

SCHULTZ:  Steve McMahon, great to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much.  For more, let‘s bring in our panel: Bill Press, nationally syndicated talk show host, Jeanne Cummings, assistant managing editor for “Politico,” and Michael Graham, radio talk show host at WTKK.  Bill Press, are the Democrats really ready to pull the trigger on reconciliation?  If they did, are there 51 votes hanging around?  Biden would have to throw in there to break the tie and everything. 

Do the Democrats have 50 at this point? 

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Ed, let me just say, you and I have been saying this for a long time.  We‘re not the only ones.  You know it.  I know it.  The Republicans are never going to give Barack Obama one vote on health care, just like they didn‘t vote for Cash for Clunkers.  They didn‘t vote for the stimulus.  They didn‘t vote for Sotomayor. 

We know it.  My question is, I‘m not sure Barack Obama knows it yet. 

I don‘t know whether Harry Reid knows it yet.  The American people know it.  Forget the Republicans.  It‘s the only way to get it done.  It‘s going to have to be a Democratic bill.  It will have to be through reconciliation.  I believe, if Obama puts the hammer to the Democrats, sure, there are 50 votes there. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael Graham, if reconciliation was OK when the Republicans had the majority, why isn‘t it OK now that the Democrats have the majority? 

MICHAEL GRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think Steve did a good job explaining things that have been used in the past.  I hope every Democrat listens to my buddy Bill Press.  Do this all by yourself.  You‘re absolutely right.  Do it like you did with the Screw-ulous package, which has a whopping 33 percent approval rating, as of last week‘s polls.  Go for it.  You‘re right.  You don‘t need Republicans.  Jam it down America‘s throat. 

PRESS:  We‘ll be happy to take credit for fixing the economy and delivering health care without one Republican vote.  And we‘ll take that to the voters in 2010, and the party of no will lose again. 

SCHULTZ:  Jeanne Cummings, let me ask you: is there a political downside if the Democrats go down this road of reconciliation in the Senate?  They obviously don‘t have 60 votes.  But they could get it done if Nancy Pelosi can get it done over at the House.  And you get a public option.  What‘s the political downside for Obama if they go reconciliation? 

JEANNE CUMMINGS, “POLITICO”:  Well, there are political downsides.  First of all, if you look historically at creation of Medicare and Social Security and other large social service type programs, they were passed with bipartisan support and a broad consensus that they were the right things to do.  And what you could end up doing is if this were to pass with just Democratic votes, and really just 51 Democratic votes, then the legislation itself would be game for changes if Congress were to change again, and flip its partisan control because the lack of the consensus. 

I think that there is, though, a step in between that they may not have fully explored yet.  And that is to take the negotiations to Ben Nelson and to the conservative Democrats who have concerns about the public option.  Negotiate with them, trying to get the full 60 Democrats on board.  It may not change the final form of the Senate bill significantly, but all the White House needs is a Senate bill. 

They‘ve got to get it to conference, and then the House will put the public option on the table for the conference committee. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘m glad that we‘ve given this story a lot of attention over the last several months, because for the Democrats to go back to Kent Conrad and negotiate with him, when he has said repeatedly at town hall meetings that he would not vote for or support anything that‘s got a government plan in it, is going to make it awfully tough.  I don‘t think there‘s any doubt.  Quickly, Michael Graham. 

GRAHAM:  I think there is another way.  The way is to have the debate. 

Instead of trying to rush and cram something through—


GRAHAM:  Let‘s talk about what we support and what we don‘t.  That‘s a great way to build consensus. 

PRESS:  Come on, we‘ve given them enough time, Ed.  We know they‘re not going to vote for this thing. 

SCHULTZ:  Panel, stay with us.  We‘re coming back.  Coming up, the insurance giants have assembled an army that‘s 50,000 strong in order to crush the public option.  This is war that we‘re winning right now.  Or are they winning?  Where‘s our confidence on all of this?  Former industry insider will talk about what they‘re doing behind enemy lines.  Stay with us, next in the playbook. 


SCHULTZ:  In tonight‘s playbook, the health insurance companies have mobilized 50,000 of their employees to help defeat reform.  These guys going to town hall meetings and flooding Congressional offices with letters and phone calls.  And they‘re doing it because their bosses are telling them to.  United Health Group sent a letter to its employees encouraging them to be part of the health care debate, and giving them a phone number for an advocacy specialist.  That specialist directed employees to attend tea parties and other protests. 

Let me bring in Wendell Potter, senior fellow on health care for the Center for Media and Democracy.  Until earlier this year, I guess you could say, as we look at this, Mr. Potter—how despicable is this, that they would take their profits and really almost threaten their employees to go do something like this?  What‘s your take on this? 

WENDELL POTTER, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY:  It‘s been going on for many years.  When I was in the industry—this is called mobilizing the grass roots.  Whenever there‘s a significant issue that comes before Congress that might threaten the profitability of the insurance industry, that‘s when they mobilize the employees.

And the employees get the message.  They know they should be doing this.  They keep the names of the employees who participate in these kinds of functions. 

SCHULTZ:  So if employees don‘t do this, do they lose their job?  Are these companies keeping track of what their employees are doing?  Are they taking one for the team on the weekend, if you know what I mean? 

POTTER:  It‘s done very electronically.  You know, through the workplace, you can sign up to send a letter to your member of Congress, to your senator.  They know who‘s participating and who‘s not.  I don‘t think you would go so far to say you would lose your job if you don‘t.  But it‘s certainly encouraged for you to participate. 

SCHULTZ:  Are they winning the war in this fight on public option?  Right now, if you had to score it, are the big giants beating back the people? 

POTTER:  I would think at this point they‘re ahead.  I think—although we‘re seeing a lot of this as being reported by the media and you don‘t really know exactly what really is going on behind the scenes.  But I think that they—see, they‘ve been planning for this for more than three or four years.  And when you were talking earlier about Senator Conrad‘s contributions, they‘ve been building up for this for a long time. 

And the idea of the co-ops is something I suspect came from the industry as well.  I think that they have the advantage right now.  It doesn‘t mean the ball game‘s over.  But I think that they really have the ball right now. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Mr. Potter.  I appreciate your time tonight on the program. 

POTTER:  Thank you very much. 

SCHULTZ:  We‘re following the breaking news tonight.  The L.A.  Coroner‘s Office has ruled Michael Jackson‘s death a homicide.  Joining me now is NBC chief legal correspondent Dan Abrams.  Dan, thanks for your time tonight.  What does this mean? 

DAN ABRAMS, NBC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT:  It means that there are a lot of people who could be in some big trouble.  In particular, look at the search warrant affidavit.  First of all, you‘ve got an alleged admission from Dr. Murray, his own doctor, saying that he was administering Propofol to Michael Jackson over a period of six weeks.  Six weeks.  I mean, this is a drug that‘s supposed to be administered during anesthesia in hospital. 

And you look at this search warrant application—and this is one of the things people aren‘t really talking about a lot, which is unbelievable.  You look at what was happening the night before Michael Jackson died.  At 1:30, the doctor says that he gave Michael Jackson 10 milligrams of Valium, couldn‘t sleep; 2:00 a.m., injects him with Ativan; 3:00 a.m., injects him with Midazolam; 5:00 a.m., administers more Ativan. 

He says Michael Jackson stays awake.  He keeps administering him more drugs.  7:30, something else; 10:40, finally administers Propofol, along with something else, because Michael Jackson was demanding it. 

So this is a doctor who is claiming he‘s trying to wean Michael Jackson off of the Propofol, so he‘s giving him these other drugs.  But it‘s a full night.  A full night, as the doctor is supposedly sitting there administering all these drugs just so Michael Jackson could sleep. 

SCHULTZ:  Could he just not say no to Michael Jackson?  Was he making so much money with Michael Jackson that he was going to give him whatever he wanted? 

ABRAMS:  That‘s going to be the question.  It‘s going to be interesting to see what kind of defense, if he‘s charged, the doctor would wage.  Part of it sounds like it‘s going to be there were a lot of other doctors who were giving him Propofol.  You might see something where he says, look, my job at that point was to try to wean him off of it.  So, yes, I was giving it to him for six weeks.  He might make an argument that there were all these other doctors who had been giving it to him.  He was already addicted to it. 

We‘ll have to see.  We‘ll to see if he challenges that he made any of these statements.

SCHULTZ:  What‘s the next step?  Grand Jury for sure? 

ABRAMS:  Not for sure, but I think likely.  In California, prosecutors could just move forward without a Grand Jury. 

SCHULTZ:  High profile.

ABRAMS:  High profile, they want the protection.  They want to be able to say, hey, look, we gave it to a Grand Jury.  You want to criticize, criticize the Grand Jury.  They‘re the ones who decided there was enough evidence to move forward. 

But I think there‘s no question that there will be some sort of charges, now that we‘ve read the search warrant, now that apparently the coroner has ruled it‘s a homicide.  Again, coroner doesn‘t make decisions for the DA.  But it certainly can help. 

SCHULTZ:  Hey, I‘m not a legal guy.  I‘m a news guy. 

ABRAMS:  You‘re just Ed.  You‘re just a guy.  You‘re just an average guy. 

SCHULTZ:  But the day it happened, they towed the doctor‘s car away. 

Why didn‘t the doctor just leave in his car? 

ABRAMS:  I mean, why didn‘t the doctor try and escape justice, I mean?  Yes, well, that‘s certainly not the legal advice.  But, look, the bottom line is that this doctor‘s known he‘s been investigated from moment one.  It‘s pretty clear that he knows that he‘s the one who‘s been administering Michael Jackson drugs all night.  He tries to resuscitate Michael Jackson.  He‘s there when the authorities arrive.  That‘s not the position you want to be in. 


ABRAMS:  If you‘re the doctor.  So we‘re going to have to see what the DA decides to do.  Remember, no charges have been filed yet in this case. 

SCHULTZ:  Dan Abrams, thanks. 

ABRAMS:  Ed, good to see you.

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  Coming up, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says it‘s not enough for a special prosecutor just to go after low level CIA staffers who tortured detainees.  He wants the policy makers to be held accountable.  I want to see Shooter, George Tenet, Rummy, the whole crowd, even Condi under oath.  We‘ll put that to the panel next.  Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  The ball is rolling on investigating the possible use of torture during the Bush era.  Today, Attorney General Eric Holder appointed as special prosecutor.  Let‘s bring back the panel, Bill Press, Jeanne Cummings, and Michael Graham. 

Jeanne, I want to ask you, what‘s the political downside for the Obama administration if they just go after those who did the interrogation and let the higher-ups slip away Scott-free? 

CUMMINGS:  Certainly, there will be some political fallout within their own ranks, because there‘s a very strong contingent in the Democratic party that believes there should be aggressive investigation and accountability on this front. 

I‘ll be honest with you, Ed.  This is a pretty thin line they‘re trying to draw.  I doubt it will hold.  These special prosecutors in the past have always followed the evidence where it takes them.  If it takes them over that line, in all likelihood, this investigation will expand. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael Graham, your take on this move by Eric Holder today. 

GRAHAM:  Any day you have a profanity laced tirade by Leon Panetta is a good day.  I don‘t see how this is a winning issue for the left.  I really don‘t.  First of all, the first thing in the CIA report that came out today is that, in fact, enhanced interrogation did uncover plots and did uncover terrorists.  It‘s right in the report that came out today.

But secondly, most Americans don‘t see what these guys did.  A drill motor near the guy.  They waved a gun at him.  This is the guy who blew up the USS Cole.  The typical listener to my show would take his arm and shove it in a Cuisinart. 

SCHULTZ:  Your typical listener also shows up at tea parties and does some goofy stuff carrying signs.  I just want to make a point here.  Are you saying it‘s OK to break the law because they threatened KSM‘s family, his kids and everything?  That‘s breaking the law. 

GRAHAM:  I‘m never going to say it‘s OK to break the law.  But is it OK to kill Americans?  No.  Nobody kills cares what happens to Al Nashiri.  Nobody cares. 

SCHULTZ:  Bill Press, your response on this. 

PRESS:  First of all, I‘ve got to say, I love it when Republicans hate the idea that government bureaucrats might be involved in health care, but they defend government bureaucrats who torture prisoners.  I don‘t get it. 

Look, Ed, what the prosecutor has got to do is follow the evidence.  If there were people in the field who broke the law, they‘ve got to be prosecuted.  The chain of command, as high as it goes, they‘ve got to follow the evidence and prosecute those as well. 

SCHULTZ:  Bill, that‘s the issue with the Obama White House.  It doesn‘t sound like they want to go after Rumsfeld. 

PRESS:  Ed, they left it up to the attorney general.  I got to tell you, I find it refreshing that we‘ve got a White House and an attorney general, and the attorney general believes it‘s his job to enforce the law and not cover up for the White House.  I trust Eric Holder to make the right decision. 

SCHULTZ:  Jeanne, your thoughts on that? 

CUMMINGS:  I agree, in that I think these things take on a life of their own. 

SCHULTZ:  They do. 

CUMMINGS:  As much as the White House may try to contain it, it‘s a very aggressive prosecutor they are looking at to put in charge of all of this.  I think this thing will probably expand. 

SCHULTZ:  This will go on for a long time.  Panel, appreciate your time tonight.  Thanks so much.  Earlier in the show, I ask you what you thought, should CIA interrogators who followed Bush administration orders be prosecuted for torture?  Sixty four percent of you say yes; 36 percent of you say no. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com, or check out my radio website at WeGotEd.com.  Got a town hall meeting, University of Colorado in Boulder, on Sunday night.  It should be a great one.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now on the place for politics, MSNBC.  We‘re back tomorrow night.  Have a great one.



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