Guests: Kelly O‘Donnell, Chris Dodd, Froma Harrop, Roger Simon, Todd Webster, Tim Griffin, Jack Rice, Rep. John Dingell, Robert Reich
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: I‘m Ed Schultz. This is THE ED SHOW.
SCHULTZ: Good evening, Americans.
Welcome to THE ED SHOW tonight. I‘m Ed Schultz.
At this hour, doors of the John F. Kennedy Library are about to open, open where “The Lion” will lie in repose. Thousands will file through to pay their respects to the family of Senator Ted Kennedy.
Democrats, we need to keep fighting for health care, the battle in his honor.
One man that Senator Kennedy really relied upon is Senator Chris Dodd, and he‘ll join me in just a moment.
And we must not forget that Ted was a hero to the working folk of America. The former secretary of labor, Robert Reich, will talk about the future of the middle class, minus Ted Kennedy‘s work. That will be in my “Playbook” tonight.
Plus, we‘re going to hear a personal story tonight of a woman‘s crusade to change the insurance industry. She lost her husband to cancer, and in the end, he said fighting UnitedHealthcare was tougher than fighting his disease.
I‘ll have my “OpEd” in just a moment.
But first, Senator Chris Dodd called Ted Kennedy his best friend. They served together in the Senate for nearly three decades. Senator Dodd was the man Ted Kennedy chose to take the reins of his committee when he could no longer work in Washington.
And Senator Dodd, by phone, joins us tonight to start off THE ED SHOW.
Senator, thank you for your time tonight. I know this has been really a couple of rough days for you.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Ed, well, not at all. I‘m delighted to be with you. And you‘ve been a great friend and a great advocate of the causes that Teddy cared so deeply about.
So, I‘m pleased to join you.
And a sad couple of days, no question about it. We all knew it was going to happen. Certainly he did as well. But he was never maudlin, he was never depressed about it all. He was optimistic about the future.
And I talked to him a couple of weeks ago the last time. In fact, I had cancer surgery two weeks ago, and Teddy was that tireless good friend. Never, never wavered, and the kind of person you would like to have in your life when you need him the most.
SCHULTZ: This is now really, in reverence, a real celebration of a man who gave his heart and soul to this country and was such a great leader. And there‘s been a lot of conversation about how he just can‘t be replaced. But who picks up the reins?
Senator, how do you personally feel about the job ahead to get this thing done? And I‘m talking about health care. It‘s so important to the country and it was so important to your best friend Ted Kennedy.
DODD: Well, no question about it. Teddy introduced the first universal health care bill 40 years ago. He was no “Johnny Come Lately” to this issue, and cared deeply about it, was responsible for some of the major achievements in health care reform. Certainly the Children‘s Health Care Program, the health of women.
I mean, just countless examples I can think of where he made a huge—he was my partner when we did the Family Medical Leave Act years ago. And so this was the cause of his life, and no one was more ecstatic and excited.
In fact, I remember, Ed, on the morning of July 16th, about 6:30 in the morning, my phone rang, and a booming, bellowing voice of sheer joy and ecstasy. It was Ted Kennedy on the phone. The day before, we had passed out of his committee his bill on health care reform, just a month ago, a month and a half ago. And so, he would hope to be around to watch the conclusion of that debate, and I‘m convinced we‘re going to get there.
Now, look, it‘s been a blistering month in August, with obviously these very emotional and heartfelt, in many cases, town hall meeting. The people have expressed their concerns about health care, the costs of it, how we‘re going to do it. But I‘m confident we come back in the cooler days of September, that the tradition of the Senate that Teddy was so successful with, and that is sitting down with each other, moving ahead, and getting the kind of health care that Americans wants.
And that is accessible, affordable, quality care with a public option that‘s going to reduce costs for people and provide the quality of care that Americans ought to have in the greatest and wealthiest nation on the face of this earth. And I‘m going to do everything in my power, Ed—I don‘t even claim anything remotely close to the abilities that Ted Kennedy had, but I know I‘m going to be joined by many others in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, who I think care about this issue and want to see us get beyond the ranting and the raving that‘s been going over the last number of months, and to sit down and get this job done.
SCHULTZ: Senator, I spoke with Pat Leahy today, I spoke with Barbara Boxer. I feel the intensity and the passion with all of you really coming together to see this thing through. God bless you for the work you‘re doing.
We‘re looking at pictures right now just outside the John F. Kennedy Library. There is an outpouring of affection.
And one final thing, Senator, if I could. You referred to Ted Kennedy as your brother, and we know how close you guys were. When he made that phone call to you and asked you to take the reins of this committee, what was that like?
DODD: Well, a tremendous honor. Look, I mean, we sat next to each other for a long time, and so the friendship went beyond just the personal relationship we have had with each other, and he‘s been a terrific friend.
I mentioned, when my daughter was born, the first call I get is from Teddy. Coming out of recovery two weeks ago from prostate surgery, the first call I get from Teddy saying, by the way, “Welcome to the club.”
And so the fact that he asked me to fill in for him here—and I hoped it
would only be temporarily, until he got back, he could take over that
committee that he‘s run so well and beautifully and well through the years
it was a tremendous honor. I‘m sorry—we got a bill done, it was the longest markup of a bill in the history of that committee, I‘m told. And while there were some partisan disagrees, every member got a chance to offer -- 161, 162 amendments offered by the Republican members of the committee were accepted and agreed to.
Most of them technical agreements, but many of them were substantive. And I see that as a good sign.
Now, while they didn‘t vote for the bill in the end, a good part of that bill that came out of Ted Kennedy‘s committee had the strong imprint of Republicans on that committee, including Orrin Hatch and John McCain and Mike Enzi and others. So, I‘m confident we can go back and remind each other what Teddy would do, how he would sit down and look at each other in the eye, and try to come to some common ground.
We owe the American people no less. That‘s what he would want more than anything.
SCHULTZ: There‘s no question about it.
And, of course, Senator, the health bill had his name on it, but the final bill, do you want Ted Kennedy‘s name on this bill?
DODD: You bet I do. Listen, 40 years, almost 50 years of fighting for the average American.
You said it well, Ed, when you started this program. This was a fighter for the average working class American out there, people who break a sweat every day and wonder if they‘re going to have a job in the morning, their retirement. And they‘re counting on people like Ted Kennedy and have over the years to stand up for them.
And that‘s our charge. I don‘t care what your political label is, our job is to see to it that the American dream is not exclusive to only the affluent and the rich, but to people who work hard, try hard, and play by the rules. That‘s the people he cared about, I care about, and that‘s what our job is when we go back into session in a week.
SCHULTZ: Senator, you‘re a great leader. I appreciate your time on THE ED SHOW tonight. The best to you and your family.
I know these times aren‘t easy. And our prayers are with the Kennedy family and with all of you wonderful Democrats who are going to rally to get this thing done. God bless you.
DODD: Thanks, Ed. Bless you as well.
SCHULTZ: You bet.
SCHULTZ: Senator Chris Dodd with us, a great friend of the program and mine. And I appreciate him being with us tonight.
We want to go live to JFK Library in Boston, where people are arriving to pay tribute to Ted Kennedy.
NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell is live at the library tonight.
Kelly, there‘s no question that there is a real outpouring of affection going on there tonight.
KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt, Ed. There are people who simply want to come to be a part of an opportunity to say thank you to Ted Kennedy and his family, and to honor his memory, and to take part in this event, which is so important to the people of Massachusetts.
What we saw today, Ed, was that journey from his home in Hyannis Port, going through Boston to places that were really corners of Kennedy‘s life, neighborhoods that were important to him, landmarks that were important to his mother. And then, of course, coming here to the library.
He was so involved in trying to make this place a living remembrance to his brother, the late President Kennedy. And now he is here. It‘s really a coming full circle.
What will be interesting to watch will be, the doors will be opened late into the evening, and those who come to pay their respects will have an opportunity to see members of the family, members of Kennedy‘s staff, volunteer who took part in organizations near and dear to his heart, families of service members who died in Iraq, who were working with Kennedy to try to create changes like having more body armor, for example. And also families from 9/11.
As you well remember, a couple of those flights on that terrible day came from Boston, and so Kennedy always had a very personal relationship with the Massachusetts victims of 9/11, having ongoing conversations and personal contact with them in the years since. So, they will be represented here as well—Ed.
SCHULTZ: Kelly O‘Donnell, NBC News.
Thanks so much for joining us, Kelly.
In memory of Senator Kennedy, the fight goes on.
Tonight‘s “OpEd,” as we watch Americans pay their respects to the great Senator, I want to ask, what is it about a legacy? I don‘t think it‘s all about storytelling.
Senator Kennedy was a man of convictions. He was the gladiator for the people, the causes that he cared about.
Lawmakers, I hope, would honor that in doing his work if he were here still with us. I don‘t think that‘s political, I think that‘s fitting.
However, accusations are coming fast and furious from the other side about how the senator‘s death will be exploited to pass health care reform. Great.
You know, how Republicans should fear themselves having to be part of a Ted Kennedy memorial health care bill, what could be more fitting? The bill that Ted Kennedy wrote passed the HELP Committee in July, ecstatically, for those who care about health care reform. It passed with a strong public option and without a single Republican vote.
The Republicans claim that they were shut out of the negotiations. Even though the bill contained 160 Republican amendments, the Republicans voted against the bill. I think that‘s hypocrisy.
Now, we are not going to get Republican votes on health care. You can say we‘re politicizing it, I‘m politicizing it. The fact is, this is what Senator Kennedy wanted, this is what he worked for, this was his passion, the cause of his life.
If you had any questions about whether the Republican members of the Gang of 6 are working in good faith, take a look at what Senator Mike Enzi said at a town hall on Monday.
The quote, “If I hadn‘t been involved in the process as long as I have, and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care. It‘s not where I can get them to compromise, it‘s what I can get them to leave out.”
That‘s one of the Gang of 6 that is supposed to bring the bipartisan part of this together so we can get some health care reform? Enzi admitted he‘s not there to negotiate, he‘s there to kill reform. He‘s an obstructionist.
This is the challenge for the Democrats, to navigate in this environment.
This is where Ted Kennedy will be sorely missed.
Kennedy was always with and for the people. He wrote a health care bill with a strong public option. That is what the American people want.
Call it whatever you want, just get it done for the American people.
Coming up, one woman‘s fight against what she calls the real death panels in America, private insurance company. She says their game is to break you down, but she didn‘t give up, and neither should we.
This on a day that America continues to pay tribute to the life of Senator Ted Kennedy. He now lies in repose at John F. Kennedy Library.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
Death panels are not a part of any of the health care reform bills that in Congress that are being considered. Keep that in mind. But I think they already exist in the private insurance industries.
Insurers routinely deny coverage to policyholders, which effectively kills patients who can‘t afford treatment. The liberal group Americans United for Change highlights this atrocity in a new ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Their lies about phony death panels have all been proving false.
Unfortunately, there are real death panels in America.
DR. LINDA PEENO: In the spring of 1987, as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation that would have saved his life, and thus caused his death. And I‘m haunted by the thousands of pieces of paper on which I have written that deadly word, “denied.”
NARRATOR: We need health insurance reform now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: My next guest has first-hand experience with this, syndicated columnist Froma Harrop, who normally doesn‘t write about her personal life. But on this issue, in the heat of the battle, did write a column several weeks ago about this.
And you‘re so brave for doing it. I appreciate you sharing your story with us tonight, Froma.
FROMA HARROP, “PROVIDENCE JOURNAL”: That‘s kind of you. Thanks.
SCHULTZ: Well, what happened? Your husband got liver cancer, and you had insurance. What happened?
HARROP: Right. Well, the HMO policy said that we had to go to a doctor within the network, but that if we needed care outside of the network, it would cover it.
Well, we went to the liver expert in the network and he said, there‘s only one place for you to go, and that‘s Deaconess Hospital in Boston. And we thought, well, hey, that‘s good news, it‘s only 40 minutes up the road from us. But the insurance company wouldn‘t let us go to Deaconess. They wanted us to go to a small local hospital that was totally unequipped to deal with this kind of cancer.
SCHULTZ: So, they denied the claim, not paying the coverage, and kept sending you letters to the point where you always had the possibility of hope that maybe they would cover it.
HARROP: Well, they had a very phony appeals process, and you—we kept on getting these one-sentence letters saying that they‘re turning us down, but if you call this number, we‘ll reconsider. And we would call and we could talk to some insurance company handler, and he would always tell us, well, yes, you know, we have new information here, let‘s see what we can do for you.
And then we would get another letter. And it just went around and around. And after a while, I began thinking that he was trying to run out the clock on my husband‘s life.
SCHULTZ: And is that what happened?
HARROP: Well, you know, these cancer treatments, they help some people and not others. We eventually said the heck with it and we just took ourselves to Deaconess Hospital and he got the treatment. And I always wonder whether that delay in fighting with the insurance company made the outcome less—you know, less positive.
SCHULTZ: And did a doctor say that maybe you should mortgage your home?
HARROP: Yes. In fact, the insurance company wouldn‘t talk to the doctor. And this was a doctor, the liver expert within their own network, and he was a very good man. And one time when we were leaving his office, he whispered to us, “Mortgage your house.”
SCHULTZ: So, there was insurance, it wasn‘t enough, it didn‘t cover what you thought it would. There was a delay process, there was poor communication between the doctor and the patient and the insurance company.
SCHULTZ: And they ran the clock out on your husband and he passed away.
HARROP: Well, we went, we got the treatment, but it was after a delay.
And this time is precious when you‘re dealing with a cancer like this.
SCHULTZ: How big of an issue is this with you? I mean, it took courage to write this.
HARROP: Well, it‘s enormous. When it happened is when I began writing about health care. And it was a revelation.
I never thought twice about—you know, I never thought much about health care. And, in fact, I always thought my coverage was good, because if we had to go to get a checkup or get a flu shot, the insurer paid for it. But the proof of the pudding in insurance is whether they‘re going to come out and pay for an expensive chemo treatment.
And I wrote this column after reading the crazy commentary about government-run death panels are going to deny you life-saving chemotherapy. And I was thinking, you know, to quote Barney Frank, what planet are they spending most of their time on?
Froma Harrop, thank you for coming in tonight.
HARROP: Thanks for having me, Ed.
SCHULTZ: I‘ve had a lot of listeners on my radio show say you‘ve got to get Froma on to tell this story, and to tell more stories. There‘s thousands, millions of them out there across America. We‘ve got to fix this.
Thanks for coming in.
HARROP: OK. Thanks for having me.
SCHULTZ: We are just getting our first shot of Senate Ted Kennedy‘s casket at the JFK Library in Boston, and thousands of people are filing in to honor him. A huge line outside the library.
We‘ll be right back here on THE ED SHOW.
Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: And welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
“Psycho Talk” tonight.
Hate-spewing radio talker and Twitterer Neal Boortz.
Boortzy, what‘s wrong with you?
We‘re coming up on the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans is still in shambles. President Obama recently reaffirmed his commitment to rebuilding the area in an interview, in “The New Orleans Times-Picayune.”
In response, Boortz tweeted this: “Obama wants to rebuild New Orleans? Why? Build it and they will come? They? The debris that Katrina chased out?”
Wow, that kind of talk is inexcusable, but it‘s nothing new for “The Nealster.” That‘s right, he has spewed this despicable racist garbage for years.
Here‘s what he said in 2006, less than a year after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NEAL BOORTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I love talking to you about these Katrina refugees. I mean, so many of them have turned out to be complete bums, just debris, debris that Hurricane Katrina washed across the country.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: And here he is just a couple of months ago.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BOORTZ: Katrina cleansed New Orleans. It just washed out a lot of debris, including human debris.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: That kind of hate is appalling, attacking the victims of one of our country‘s most devastating natural disasters in recent years in such a hateful way, and it is disgusting. And it‘s very serious “Psycho Talk.”
You‘re looking live at a picture of the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, where Senator Ted Kennedy will lie in repose tonight and tomorrow.
Liberals, we need to fight. We need to pass this health care bill in honor of him. This is our calling, to see this fight for health care for every American to a successful finish.
Roger Simon shares his thoughts on this in just a moment on THE ED SHOW.
Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
You‘re looking live at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston where people are filing through to pay their respects to Senator Ted Kennedy. Thousands are waiting to get in. The line stretches all the way down the street.
Earlier today, the people of Boston lined the streets and applauded as the motorcade made its way to the library. Family members, friends and staff members are keeping vigil with Senator Kennedy‘s body tonight, following the Kennedy family tradition.
Ted Kennedy‘s colleagues in the Congress will rightly spend the next few days remembering and honoring him. That‘s what they should do. The country has lost a giant, a gladiator for the people. But as he said, the work goes on and the causes endures.
Now, the Senate will return to work in September. Health care is the number one issue.
Ted Kennedy has a bill right now in the Senate that calls for a strong public option. If Democrats really want to honor his legacy, they should really rally and finish the work he started.
Joining me now is Roger Simon, chief political columnist for “Politico.” Roger, thanks for your time tonight.
Is the death of Ted Kennedy going to have an impact from here on out when it comes to getting this job done for the American people? What do you think?
ROGER SIMON, “POLITICO”: Optimistically, I think the most we could hope for is that a number of Democrats will have some steel put in their spine. And they were absolutely panicked by the town hall frenzy and the death panel frenzy. And now maybe they say, look, you need to stand for something in politics. Ted Kennedy stood for something. I need to stand for something. And I need to have a legacy greater than just getting re-elected. And health care is that legacy.
That‘s the optimistic view.
SCHULTZ: And Roger, health care is for the people, for all Americans. Do you think this kind of conversation, or any conversation that would talk about what the senator would want goes into the arena of politicizing his death? I feel comfortable with it, because I knew the senator. I knew how he cared about people. He knew how critical this issue was. Your thoughts?
SIMON: I don‘t think it politicizes it. I think it‘s an honest statement of fact. But I would not overestimate the power it will have with the Republicans. You know, the Senate is a place where you get IOUs and debts and due bills, but they‘re personal. Ted Kennedy had nearly five decades of IOUs and debts. I‘m sure many times he went to his Republican colleagues and said Orrin, I will vote for your bill if you vote for my bill.
Well now those debts are wiped clean. Those IOUs are gone. And you could haven‘t a better guy than Chris Dodd fighting on Kennedy‘s behalf. But I think it‘s going to be very difficult for Chris Dodd to say to his Republican colleagues, you owe this to Ted Kennedy, and you have to cast your vote this way.
The Senate is a highly partisan place. And I don‘t think that is going to get much of a response.
SCHULTZ: The climate of the Senate is just so much different today than what it was. It‘s a different Senate. It will probably be a different Senate without Ted Kennedy. So going across and making that deal and embracing one another in a very tough time is something the American people are just going to pay close attention to.
The character of the Senate is to come to compromise. Are we in a totally new era of operation in the Senate, where that possibly might not happen, even with this issue, as important as it is to the country?
SIMON: In fairness to Republicans—I don‘t want to demonize them. Ted Kennedy was a lion of the Senate and that meant he knew how to compromise. You don‘t get to be an effective senator if you don‘t compromise. So now part of the gamesmanship that‘s going to go on right now is Republicans are going to say, you know, Ted Kennedy would have compromised on this point—take a point, the public option—in order to get all this other good stuff, portability, no cancellations, no preexisting conditions.
And quickly I think this bill is going to get down to the easy part and the tough part. Republicans are going to be all there for the easy part, the parts I just named. And on the tough part, how universal it‘s going to be, are we going to have a public option, who‘s going to get taxed to pay for it, that‘s going to be separated out, I have a feeling, into a separate bill that‘s going to be put off, perhaps for a long time.
SCHULTZ: I had a visit today with Senator Barbara Boxer and I asked her about reconciliation. And she that she wanted to use any legal terms, any legal avenues possible to get this done for the American people. And if that is going to be the attitude moving forward with the Senate, I think that reconciliation is on the way. And some others have told me the same thing as well.
Roger, good to have you with us tonight. I appreciate your time.
For more, let‘s turn to our panel tonight, Democratic strategist Todd Webster, radio talk show host Jack Rice, and Republican strategist Tim Griffin.
You are looking at the pictures at the JFK Library tonight. Vicki Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, other Kennedy family members are there paying respects. Todd Webster, you worked on Capitol Hill for a long time. You, of course, worked with Senate leader on the Democratic side, Tom Daschle. You knew the force. You saw the force that Ted Kennedy brought to people‘s lives and to action to get things done.
How much of a force was he when it came to the 11th hour, Todd?
TODD WEBSTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He was remarkable. One of the great ironies in the last 48 hours, hearing the tributes to Ted Kennedy coming pouring out—after spending decades raising money by demonizing Ted Kennedy as the great liberal, Irish Catholic embodiment of all that‘s wrong in Washington, Republicans are actually coming out and being very gracious and making very kind and supportive statements. They loved Ted Kennedy. They knew that they could get a deal done with Ted Kennedy.
If you look at President Bush, his two biggest domestic accomplishments, arguably his only two domestic accomplishments, the prescription drug bill—the prescription drug bill and another piece of legislation were only made possible because he had Ted Kennedy‘s support.
Now with the health care bill, you know, you have got other Republicans, Orrin Hatch, who‘s on the Finance Committee, who was a supporter and a co-sponsor with Ted Kennedy of the Ryan/White AIDS Act, of the S-CHIP bill, the Children‘s Health Insurance Program at the state level. Here‘s his opportunity to rise to the level, to pay his enduring respects to Ted Kennedy, and to support a strong health care bill.
SCHULTZ: Tim Griffin, there‘s been a lot of conversation about the friendship and the workmanlike effort that Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Kennedy had from time to time. They came together on legislation to do things for the good of the people. Would there be some expectations, in your opinion, placed on Orrin Hatch to carry on that legacy? Maybe he is the one on the conservative side that would push forward to get some compromise and to get a health care reform bill in this country? Your thoughts on that.
TIM GRIFFIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I am not overly optimistic that something like that could be put together. Certainly, there will be senators, including Senator Hatch in the Senate, who pursue compromise. But I think the issue here is there is an audience within the Senate, but that‘s an entirely different audience than what we have been seeing out in the public.
And I think ultimately the problem is not one of inability to compromise on a personal level between senators. I think the problem for a lot of these senators is that people out in the heartland and in Arkansas and the south and different places have real concerns about the public option, and about different aspects of this health care reform legislation. And until those questions are asked, I think the problem is going to persist, despite the fact that they may attach Senator Kennedy‘s name to the legislation, and there may be these attempts to leverage this emotional time for the country.
I just—I am not convinced that that plays here. I see what‘s going on on the major networks. I see what‘s going on on the East Coast. But I just don‘t think a lot of this plays where I live.
SCHULTZ: Jack Rice, what Democrat do you expect to step up and really lead on this? Is it Chris Dodd? Is it Dick Durbin? Is it Tom Harkin? What do you think?
JACK RICE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think it‘s probably going to be Chris Dodd. I look at a conversation I had with him back in Iowa, during that first caucus, and he‘s always been one of those right next to Ted Kennedy. You know what? The real problem is I don‘t think the Republicans have any interest at all in compromising. We can start with the stimulus package. Not one member of the House on the Republican side voted for this. And yet, a bunch of them turned around and have used that stimulus money.
At the same time, let‘s take a look at the health care question. I don‘t think they have an interest in compromising. I don‘t think they‘ve ever had an interest in compromising. We can look at what McCain has been talking about. You mentioned specifically Orrin Hatch. Yes, they did compromise on S-CHIP.
But you know what? If we look at who‘s driving this for the Republicans now, it‘s sort of the wing nuts and the tea baggers that we have seen from the past. It‘s not those who are looking to compromise. So to expect them to come to the table now I think is probably naive. The Democrats need to step up and acknowledge that themselves.
SCHULTZ: Gentlemen, stay with us. We have more conversation coming up. We now see the John F. Kennedy library, where Senator Ted Kennedy lies in repose. People began lining up early this morning, waiting hours to pay their financial respects. We know he‘ll never be replaced.
Next up, Congressman John Dingell will join me in the conversation, and talk to me, where does the liberal leadership in this country go from here?
SCHULTZ: Welcome back. You are looking live at the JFK Library, where Senator Ted Kennedy‘s body is laying in repose. Thousands lined up. Caroline Kennedy is outside greeting visitors. Senator Kennedy‘s widow is inside, Vicki. As Americans pay tribute to Ted Kennedy, many progressives are wondering who‘s going to pick up the mantle now?
Joining me now is Congressman John Dingell of Michigan, the dean of the House, who has been a longtime friend of Senator Ted Kennedy. Congressman, the task at hand, give us a call. Where do we stand?
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: The task at hand is to continue the programs that Senator Kennedy was fighting for and to do so effectively, beginning with health care. But after we finish that, we have a number of matters relative to the environment, such as climate change. And then there will be other legislation that we‘ll have to do in the area of education, to see to it our kids are able to get the education they need.
And we‘ll have to do more on the economy to see to it that we recover this country from the economic calamity that struck us last fall.
SCHULTZ: Congressman Dingell, the Senate has lost the premier deal-maker and compromiser and advocator for liberal causes. Are you concerned that that chemistry is now gone and won‘t be there on these crucial issues, which might even affect how some people are thinking over on the House side? What is the dichotomy of all that?
DINGELL: Well, the loss of Ted Kennedy is a great tragedy. A personal tragedy, human tragedy, and loss to the country of very serious dimensions. But the hard fact of the matter is the business of the nation has to be done. And we must go forward and we will do so. There are a lot of other members of the House and Senate who, in large part in memory of Ted Kennedy, will be moving forward on legislation that‘s important, health care as I mentioned, education.
There is too little time left for us to address these kinds of problems, for us to dawdle around. I don‘t think my good friend Ted would like to see us spend time mourning, but rather he would like to see us go forward on this to make some of the thing that he believed in happen in his unfortunate absence.
SCHULTZ: Congressman, how will you personally remember Senator Ted Kennedy?
DINGELL: Well, he was a great friend. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He came back to campaign for me on several occasions. He was a great guy to work with. As mentioned, he was a good compromiser.
But he was also a man who stood on principle. And he was a man who could work across the aisle, something which is very, very important, and something which too few people in the Congress know how to do today.
SCHULTZ: There‘s no question about that. As you see this outpouring of emotion, Congressman Dingell, what effect do you think it will have, if any, on the conversations? Will they be more respectful now that the lion of the Senate has passed on? We have had some pretty tough dialogue in this country. Sometimes an event like this wakes people up, and we get a better grip on our senses, and we tend to move forward as human beings in a much more collective manner.
Do you anticipate that this won‘t be so political, that there will be some folks that might be in the arena of give and take much more than what they might have been before?
DINGELL: Well, I would hope so. And I would expect at least for a brief period that will happen. But remember, this is an issue, health care, and these other issues, are issues about which people feel very strongly. And when people feel strongly, emotions take over. And regrettably, emotions lead us to do and say things that are not really in the best interests of us or of the country or of good legislation.
So we hope it will have a benefitious effect. But I would say, don‘t hold your breath.
SCHULTZ: Congressman John Dingell, appreciate your time tonight.
Thank you, John.
DINGELL: Thank you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: You bet. Our panel is still with us, Todd Webster, Jack Rice and Tim Griffin. A very interesting piece written in “Politico.” And it reads, “a handful of well known and ambitious progressives in the upper chamber are eager to carry on Kennedy‘s legacy: John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin and Russ Feingold. But none possesses the alchemical mixture of celebrity, seniority, personal charm, legislative savvy and ideological zeal that made Kennedy the most effective senator in a generation.”
Todd Webster, looking at those qualities that are listed in that powerful paragraph, what senator, if any, would closest fit that description and fill that bill?
WEBSTER: It‘s going to be hard to fill those shoes. Obviously, it will take years and decades. But I think a couple of people come to mind. One is Sherrod Brown of Ohio. On the health committee, a fire brand, a real progressive, unabashed progressive fighter for labor and education and health care. Sherrod Brown is one to watch. He does represent a tough state, the state of Ohio. That may mean that it‘s harder to get re-elected. But he is certainly one to watch.
Another is often overlooked, not only because she‘s only about five and a half feet tall. But Senator Patty Murray of Washington State. She‘s number four in the Senate leadership. She‘s on the Health Committee. She‘s the first woman on the Veteran‘s Affairs Committee, on the Appropriations Committee, meaning that she makes a lot of deals, and can work both sides of the aisle. But is a very—you know, a very effective legislator, very hard working legislator, and I think is another one who is still on the rise.
SCHULTZ: Tim Griffin, why did conservatives throughout his career just love to attack Ted Kennedy on so many different levels. And I think we have to admit tonight that he was a guy that stood tall to all criticism, was strong in his beliefs. But for years, there was—he just seemed to be the best guy for the conservatives to go after and pin, you know, the label liberal and then vilify him. Why was that?
GRIFFIN: Well, I think, at the end of the day, a lot of conservatives and a lot of Republicans, but conservatives in particular, just simply disagreed very, very strongly with him, as they do with Senator Kerry and others. But clearly, clearly, a lot of people, a lot of conservatives and a lot of Republicans would put him at the top of their list, in terms of someone that they could raise money off of, and someone that really got conservatives angry.
And I think it‘s because a number of factors. First of all, his celebrity was huge. He had some significant personal problems that bug a lot of—that bugged a lot of conservatives and stuck in their craw, that they didn‘t think were answered. But also, at the end of the day, I think he was the most consistently liberal, not just on health care, but on labor issues, on taxes, you name it. When there was an issue that conservatives felt strongly about, you could almost always count on him to be on the direct—
SCHULTZ: Jack Rice, I got to ask you—Tim brings up a good point, if Ted Kennedy was on your team, he was on your team and you could count on him. Who in the Senate carries that torch now?
RICE: There are so many that are out there. The problem is it‘s going to have to be a combination of people. When I think back to Ted Kennedy—contemplate from my perspective. My brother and I are the first in our entire extended family to ever go to college. We‘re the first to ever go to law school. I went to public high school, public college, public law school. Ted Kennedy was the kind of people who fought for people just like me.
I have paid a lot of taxes since that time. I have invested back in this country a long time. This is a man who stood up for people like me. Professional, yes. Blue collar, yes. People at the bottom, people at the top. Most importantly, this guy was a fighter, and I what I hope really happens is his legacy is spread across the Democratic party, that they realize this isn‘t just about getting elected, getting re-elected. It‘s about actually standing for something while you‘re in office.
If they can do that—if they can understand that legacy, then really this will far outlast what the lion has done.
SCHULTZ: Jack Rice, Tim Griffin and Todd Webster, thanks for your time tonight.
Tonight, we pay tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy as his body lies in repose at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. My next guest says working with Kennedy was one of the greatest privileges in his life. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich joins me in a moment. Who picks up the torch for the middle class and labor in this country?
SCHULTZ: And in our final notes tonight, what Senator Kennedy‘s death means for the working folk of America? Teddy was a staunch defender of unions. His absence leaves a huge void for Democrats to fill.
Let me bring in former Secretary of Labor and professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley, Robert Reich. He‘s also the author of the book “Supercapitalism,” available now in paperback.
Robert, describe what it was like to work with Ted Kennedy on labor. I have had a number of labor leaders tell me this week, Ed, we have lost our best friend. No one in the history of this country did more for labor than Ted Kennedy.
ROBERT REICH, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY: Ed, undoubtedly, nobody in the history of this country did more for labor, for average working people, for people who needed help with education and health care and a higher minimum wage and pension protection. Ted Kennedy was in the center of all of that.
I remember sitting down with him many times when I was labor secretary. We would be talking about one of these issues, Family Medical Leave Act. I would say senator, do you think it‘s possible, can we actually get it done? And I remember his sparkling blue eyes and his smile. And he would say, yes, at least we should try. It‘s going to be a heavy lift, but we should try.
He was a fighter. He was a fighter. He reached across the aisle. He knew that he could do it. And Ed, he was also a brilliant legislative tactician. I don‘t think anybody knows—in fact, most Americans have no idea how much good he did for them, how many bad things he prevented from happening, how hard he fought for over 45 years for average working people.
SCHULTZ: Where did that passion come from, because he came from privilege? He could have done so many different things with his life and gone in so many different directions. Where do you think that—he just grew up with it? He grew up with that innate ability to care about people? What was it?
REICH: Well, his brothers—don‘t forget, John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy had the same kind of passion, all three of them—really came to government and they were determined to fight for the little guy. Bobby Kennedy probably had the biggest influence on Teddy, in terms of setting the stage for equal opportunity, for civil rights, for all of the things that average working people need.
And Ted Kennedy—in fact, I worked in Bobby Kennedy‘s office briefly in the late ‘60s. I remember Ted Kennedy‘s office and Bobby Kennedy‘s office, both of them coming up with new ideas to help average working people. Unfortunately, as we know, Bobby Kennedy and the older brother, John F. Kennedy, they never got to do as much as they wanted. But it was Teddy who took the legacy.
SCHULTZ: Robert Reich, great to have you on tonight. Thank you for your insight of the Kennedys.
REICH: By, Ed.
SCHULTZ: That‘s THE ED SHOW. I‘m Ed Schultz. We‘ll have a special edition of THE ED SHOW tomorrow night, followed by MSNBC‘s special prime time coverage of the wake for Senator Ted Kennedy.
Up next, a “HARDBALL” documentary with Chris Matthews, “The Kennedy Brothers.” That starts right now on the place for politics, MSNBC.
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Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research.
User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s
personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed,
nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion
that may infringe upon NBC and CQ Transcriptions, LLC‘s copyright or other
proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal
transcript for purposes of litigation.>