updated 10/7/2009 11:27:08 AM ET 2009-10-07T15:27:08

Guests: Anthony Weiner, Wendell Potter, Robert Greenwald, Roger Simon, Karen Hanretty, Todd Webster, Katrina Vanden Heuvel

ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  Good evening, Americans.  Welcome to THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

Big news today.  Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said today that he expects to get the CBO score tomorrow.  You know what?  Does it matter to you or to me or any other Americans out there? 

Hey, we got that health care thing down below $900 billion.  Let‘s go to dinner, honey.  We got Iraq down to $2 trillion. 

These numbers mean nothing.  This isn‘t an auction.  This isn‘t what we should be concerned about. 

We should be concerned about what the heck they‘re actually doing. 

This is another stall tactic, I think. 

By the way, since when are Congressional Budget Office projections correct?  Heck, they couldn‘t get the Cash for Clunkers thing gig going correctly.  They need to throw more money into that. 

This is a Max Baucus stall tactic is what this is.  And this shouldn‘t be any concern to anybody.  Get the damn bill written correctly and let‘s get it on. 

What they should be concerned with is Democrats who don‘t have their heads screwed on right like Max Baucus in Montana.  But what about Ben Nelson in Nebraska? 

Now, I‘m not picking on Ben, but I am commending the Democrats in that state.  You see, in Nebraska, Senator Ben Nelson, “I Won‘t Vote for a Public Option Nelson,” he‘s been put on notice. 

And this is what has to happen.  The Nebraska Democratic Party voted over the weekend to make support for a public option part of its party platform. 

Gosh, that sounds familiar.  I thought the national party did that. 

The added language reads something like this: “Whereas, public polls show that a majority of Americans want health care reform to offer the choice of a robust public option, be it resolved that the Nebraska Democratic Party urge our members of Congress to vote for such health care reform proposals that contain robust public options at all stages of the legislative process, including conference and reconciliation, and encourage legislators to pass such reform.”

Wake up to that one, Ben. 

Now, you know, that‘s what I call a productive town hall meeting without all the crazies. 

The reconciliation reference is a direct shot at Senator Nelson, who recently and inexplicably claimed that a Senate bill needs at least 65 votes to be legitimate.  Ben Nelson has not said—he has not said he would block a Republican filibuster. 

This is the kind of pressure we‘ve been talking about, it‘s the kind of pressure Michael Moore was talking about the other night on this program.  Democrats are not going to support traitors. 

Democrats, don‘t go against your base on this.  Don‘t do it.  It‘s not worth it. 

It‘s not worth the fight.  It would be like just saying, I don‘t know why you sent me to Washington. 

We know exactly what the last election was all about.  Conservative Democrats trying to kill the president‘s reform plan, if they do that they‘re going to be punished at the polls.  There‘s no way around it. 

The base will not pack them because, hey, they‘ve got “D” behind their name.  It isn‘t going to work that way. 

This is about the issue.  This is about the issue of saving America‘s middle class.  It‘s called holding our elected leaders accountable.  Progressives aren‘t stopping at Democrats. 

Let‘s go to the state of Maine.  There‘s a new ad up there right now targeting Senator Olympia Snowe. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY RANDOLPH:  Before he died, my first husband and I thought we had great health insurance.  But when he got cancer, the insurance companies refused to pay thousands of dollars of bills.  That forced us into bankruptcy. 

Senator Snowe, I voted for you because I thought you were independent.  Maine families like mine need you to stand with us and not with insurance companies and national Republican politicians. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Don‘t stand with national Republican politicians.  That‘s pretty good advice for, let‘s see, a number of them—Olympia Snowe, Ben Nelson, Max Baucus, and Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota. 

You know, in my former state of North Dakota, there hasn‘t been any polling on the public option.  And I could tell you that there are some political forces working within that state.  They don‘t want to do it because they‘re afraid of what the numbers are going to be. 

No matter what President Obama does, the Republicans are just going to do the opposite.  Whatever he is for, they‘re going to be against. 

In last night‘s text survey, 78 percent of you said that President Obama‘s not doing enough to close the deal.  But I‘ve been telling you and I‘m going to keep on telling you that I think the president, I think he‘s going to be there.  He‘s keeping his powder dry until the bill goes into conference.  That‘s when Baucus is going to have to put up with a room of folks like Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd, Nancy Pelosi, all of those who have been really strong backers of a public plan. 

Nancy Pelosi talked about the president‘s involvement on Charlie Rose.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLIE ROSE, HOST:  So, what happens—and this is the big question

·         if the Senate passes a bill that does not have a public option and you pass a bill that does have a public option, and you go to conference? 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  Well, let‘s not go too fast on the Senate side.  The Senate has two bills on the table. 

ROSE:  Right, exactly.

PELOSI:  One has a public option in it, the first bill that passed out of committee.  Senator Kennedy led the way, bless his soul.  The president knows at the end of the day he will weigh in, House and Senate conference, and we are—he has set forth principles, and I think both houses are honoring his principles.  Now he has to establish priorities among them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Now, I think the president will be there with the American people on this.  You know, he‘s seeing the same numbers you and I are seeing -- 51 percent of business leaders, they want it; 65 percent of voters; 75 percent of doctors all want some type of public competition.

But when it is this all going to unfold?  When are we finally going to get the word that, hey, Max, you‘re wrong on this thing?  Ain‘t going to be any co-op, buddy, we‘re going public option.  That‘s what I want to hear from the White House. 

Joining me now is Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. 

Congressman, some new developments.  We have got centrist Democrats now who want to hold this thing up for 72 hours so it can be out on the Internet, so everybody can do the reading, so there‘s no excuses once they vote on this thing. 

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  No, I‘m fine with giving this a few more days, even a couple more weeks.  Look, I‘m in the same place you are.  I think we need to put pressure not only on the Republicans—they might be a lost cause—but some of the moderates in our party. 

You know, today I launched a Web site, countdowntohealthcare.com, to allow people in states like yours to weigh in and say, you know what?  Let‘s get this moving. 

You know, John Boehner says, well, I don‘t think anyone wants a public option.  We know what his view is.  But we have to make sure that Max Baucus and the Finance Committee and these other so-called moderates understand the truly fiscal conservative thing here to do is choice and competition through the public option.  And we need to pressure them.  That‘s what countdowntohealthcare.com is supposed to be achieving. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Now, you have been in the forefront of this fight all along, Congressman.  You‘ve gone so far as to say that when the Baucus bill came out of the Senate Finance Committee and it didn‘t have a public option, it went from the emergency room to the morgue. 

WEINER:  Well, you know, I‘m hearing through back channels that, indeed, the White House is starting to do some calisthenics to maybe put their finger on the scale for the public option.  We need to strengthen their spine a little bit.  There‘s no doubt about it. 

I think too often at the White House, not only this administration, every administration, they say we just want to get a win up on the board.  It won‘t be a win if we pass a bill that doesn‘t contain costs, that doesn‘t have choice. 

That‘s why the public option has become so important.  Although it‘s not this all-powerful force, it is one sliver of competition that is going to be mean cost containment. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So, when is this going to unfold?  I mean, how long is this going to go on? 

I mean, am I going to be back in Minnesota eating turkey dinner for Thanksgiving saying, gosh, I‘ve got to go back on Monday and talk about the public option again?  The American people are losing their patience on this deal, and I‘m starting to think that the White House is disconnected. 

They‘re afraid to go over there and tell the Grassleys and the Baucuses and the Conrads this is what‘s happening, boys.  And I think the American people are feeling the same thing.  It‘s time to move forward. 

WEINER:  Well, I think you‘re right.  And not to overdo the plug, but the reason we call it countdowntohealthcare.com is we think by Thanksgiving this thing has to be over and done with.  I think when the American people are saying thanks, they‘re saying thanks that, finally, a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, with a Democratic president has finally done what we did 44 years ago with Medicare, and that has truly put some competition, some choice back in the health care for all Americans. 

I think that‘s our day. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think that everybody in the Congress is going to read the bill?  Or do you think a few people are going to wing it like they did the Patriot Act? 

WEINER:  Well, you know, I mean, I‘ve read the bill.  And, frankly, right now another bill is being written that‘s putting in the best elements and hopefully leaving the Finance Committee of the Senate aside, where they probably should be at this point. 

But I think that it‘s important for the American people to understand, don‘t let this notion about who read what to distract from the basic elements.  This isn‘t rocket science. 

What we‘re saying is, if we‘re going to give people the opportunity to go buy their own insurance, it‘s going to be useless unless we have true choice and true competition for them.  That‘s the element of this that‘s in controversy, that‘s the element of this that has to be pushed.  But I‘m on the committee, so I‘m going to have to read the thing.  So I‘ll let you know what it says. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman Weiner, good to have you with us tonight. 

Thanks so much.

SCHULTZ:  I‘ll tell you what, you can say it real slow to make sure you get it out there, and let‘s get after it.  Here it is.  

WEINER:  Great.  It‘s countdowntohealthcare.com.  That‘s where you can tell John Boehner that we support a public option, and all my Democratic friends, too. 

SCHULTZ:  And that‘s important, because he said the other day he hadn‘t met anybody that was for the public option. 

WEINER:  Right.

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, good to have you on.  Thank you. 

WEINER:  You‘re the man.  Thanks.

SCHULTZ:  You bet.

Folks, if you want to know why we need this in the bill, look no further than Olympia Snowe‘s home state of Maine, where there‘s Anthem, an arm of the insurance giant WellPoint, which is suing the state. 

Listen up, folks.  They‘re suing the state to hike premiums more than 18 percent in order to maintain their three percent profit margin.  Yes, I get it.

The company is claiming hardship due to the recession?  Filmmaker Robert Greenwald took on the WellPoint case in his series “Sick for Profit.”  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SICK FOR PROFIT”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The rate increase would be an average of 18 percent for their health choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Anthem requested that the state guarantee that they make three percent profit off of just 12,000 people.  The state said no and Anthem decided to sue the state over that decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Anthem is wholly owned by WellPoint.  I don‘t know how much Anthem is shelling out, but, you know, lots of money is being spent in legal fees, which is obviously that is not going to provide benefits to policyholders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Part of their lawsuit is crying hardship, that in a recession they need more money, too.  That‘s clearly not true.  They exceed every possible measure of financial health for a company.  And so, really, the only justification for this lawsuit is just pure greed. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They have audacity to go after the taxpayers of Maine who are all struggling.  So that they can make a guaranteed three percent profit just seems absurd. 

(END VIDEO CLIP, “SICK FOR PROFIT”)

Joining me now is Wendell Potter, a senior fellow on health care for the Center for Media and Democracy.  He‘s a former vice president at insurance giant Cigna. 

Well, Mr. Potter, good to have you back with us tonight. 

Gosh, three percent profit.  That‘s all they‘re doing over there at WellPoint, huh? 

WENDELL POTTER, SR. FELLOW, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY:  Yes, it‘s kind of pitiful isn‘t it, just three percent?  Last year, WellPoint made $2.5 billion.  So they‘re not hurting too bad. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Here‘s where they‘re spending their money.  They‘re lining the pockets of politicians and they‘re suing the state so they can raise the rates.  This is standard operating procedure.  They‘re just bullying their way to a higher rate increase.

POTTER:  That‘s exactly what‘s going on. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  WellPoint stats—their profit, $2.5 billion; their CEO salary, $9.8 million; and their lobbying effort in 2009 has totaled so far just over $9 million.  Now they‘re saying that they are going to cut back the health care benefits of their own employees. 

Is this window dressing or is it really that tough over there, Mr.

Potter? 

POTTER:  You know, they must be having hard times.  Earlier this summer, Anthem, the same parent company of WellPoint, but Anthem in Virginia actually arrested one of its customers when one of its customers came to question why its rates were being raised 14.1 percent when they only paid out 65 percent of their claims in medical claims, of premiums.  So, I guess things are really kind of tough there. 

SCHULTZ:  So, this reeks for and screams for regulation, and there‘s a talk now in the Congress about antitrust exemption. 

How much would they fight that?  I mean, would it—I mean, would they go to the firewall?  What would they do to fight the antitrust issue? 

POTTER:  Well, they‘ll do whatever they can to fight any kind of additional regulations or laws that would hinder their profitability.  Most of these plans, by the way, are protected not only by the antitrust laws, or not subject to them, but also through a law called ERISA.  They‘ve got enormous protections that other companies would love to have. 

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Potter, why are you the only highly visible whistleblower?  Why aren‘t there other executives that have got a conscience?  Why haven‘t more people come out, or have they just decided not to be as visible as you?  Because it would seem to me that now that they‘re taking this point, going to the point where they‘re going to take away benefits from their employees because they say they can‘t make it, it would seem to me this would open the door for more folks to “leave the ship.” 

POTTER:  You know, it‘s too scary.  The industry—really, I think, the tactics that is used over the past several years to get what it wants, to conduct PR campaigns that are based on lies and disinformation, it‘s frightening to take on this industry. 

SCHULTZ:  See, this is a story, Mr. Potter, that I just can‘t understand why the White House can‘t step out and go after something like this.  These numbers, this issue, in that state of Maine, where they are suing so they can gouge consumers, and the White House is silent about it, doesn‘t that bother you?  Aren‘t you mystified by that? 

POTTER:  I‘m very mystified and I‘m really concerned.  I know that the White House has invited an executive from one of the big health care companies into the White House six times, at least six times.  And I don‘t know—I don‘t really know what‘s going on or why they‘re doing it.  It does mystify me. 

SCHULTZ:  Have you ever been invited over to the White House to tell them what the inside baseball deal is? 

POTTER:  No, I have not.  Congress has, but the White House has not. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So, you‘re the most visible, the most vocal, and a man with experience, and the White House has not said, Mr. Potter, why don‘t you come on over and sit down, let‘s have a conversation about what‘s really going on in the insurance industry?  The only way the White House sees you is on cable.  Because that‘s where we‘re all seeing you.  You‘re on this show quite a bit and other shows. 

But this is the only place the White House is seeing you. 

POTTER:  I think that‘s right.  The president did quote from my testimony when he addressed the joint session of Congress, but I haven‘t met in person with any of the staff members. 

SCHULTZ:  And would you like to meet with Rahm Emanuel?  Would you like to meet with David Axelrod?  Would you like to meet with the vice president if he‘s going to get into this?  Of course, we can‘t get to Obama. 

POTTER:  You know, I think they need to have a perspective from someone who has worked inside the industry for 20 years other than someone who still is collecting stock options. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

So, yesterday on this program, I just can‘t get the lead spokesperson on health care to say something about their own party not getting tough enough.  We document out tonight that you‘ve never been asked and you‘re the most vocal insider there is out there that‘s been “in the belly of the beast.” 

And I have to tell our audience, tonight, what the—I‘m losing my confidence.  My tackle box is a little thin right now and I want to catch some fish. 

I don‘t think lefties are believing this White House anymore.  I think we are at a critical time. 

We‘ve got enough information, President Obama.  You need to engage, my man.  You need to tell Max Baucus he‘s wrong.  You need to tell Grassley we‘re going to pull the plug on you. 

We don‘t need any CBO numbers.  You‘re not correct on anything with the CBO anyway.  Let‘s get it on. 

Mr. Potter, great to have you with us tonight.  And we are personally, on this show, THE ED SHOW, going to communicate with the White House and suggest that they sit down and have—have a coffee with you.  OK? 

POTTER:  I appreciate it.  I‘ll report back to you. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Thank you. 

POTTER:  Thank you.

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, John McCain‘s trying to make the case for war in Afghanistan about al Qaeda.  Gee, where have we heard that one before?  Award winning filmmaker Robert Greenwald will blow his cover in just a minute. 

Plus, look out, St. Louis.  “The Drugster” wants a piece of the action.  He says he wants to buy the Rams.  I‘ll tell you exactly what that football team will look like. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Tomorrow parks the beginning of ninth year of the war in Afghanistan.  Gosh, I wonder what the CBO score was on that.  There goes your health care, right? 

And President Obama is still weighing his strategy options.  He met with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle this afternoon, which is something new for the White House because the Bush White House never did that.  And tomorrow he‘ll hold his third Afghanistan strategy session with his national security team. 

A lot of folks think that time is running out.  Sunday was the deadliest day for our troops in Afghanistan in more than a year.  We need a decision. 

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

Is President Obama taking too long to make a decision about troops in Afghanistan?  Is he taking too long to make this decision? 

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

Joining me now is filmmaker and political activist Robert Greenwald. 

Robert is also the director of Brave New Films.

Mr. Greenwald, good to have you on tonight. 

Where the country on this, in your opinion?  You‘ve been around the country, you‘ve done a lot of public speaking, you‘ve interviewed a lot of people.  Where‘s the country on this? 

ROBERT GREENWALD, FILMMAKER:  Well, the country has moved pretty radically and significantly, Ed, in the last few months.  When we started our work on rethinking Afghanistan in January, the country pretty much was with the president, maybe it was the right war, but they weren‘t really focussed on it.  Now, my experience, as we have hundreds of screenings of “Rethink Afghanistan...”

SCHULTZ:  Six hundred, I might add. 

GREENWALD:  Six hundred.  Thank you.  Got the right number. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, you weren‘t expecting that many.  I didn‘t mean to interrupt you.  You weren‘t expecting that many.  I mean, the interest is peaking on this, and you think the country is not with the troop increase. 

GREENWALD:  No.  They‘re definitely not with the troop increase.  The polls are showing that, the incidence of people e-mailing and writing and calling.  But also, Ed, it‘s solid common sense. 

I mean, the country is so ahead of the elected officials.  What is sending more troops going to do to solve a problem that is not a military problem?  People don‘t have jobs. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

Today, the president—today, the president met with leaders from both sides of the aisle, and they came out and said there‘s four concerns here: security, governance, reconstruction, and diplomacy.  Well, violence is up 60 percent from last year as far as security goes.  Governance, we don‘t know where Karzai and the election is.  Reconstruction, is that another term for nation building?  And diplomacy. 

Now, where do we stand based on your experiences as a journalist covering all this? 

GREENWALD:  Well, where we stand is pretty sad right now.  And almost tragic. 

We‘re trying to solve it with more and more troops.  We‘re not sending over teachers.  We‘re not sending over doctors. 

And Ed, when you go to Afghanistan, the third poorest country in the world, they don‘t have jobs.  People are not eating.  And the thought that we‘re occupying that country makes no sense. 

It‘s also not helping our security.  And that‘s the justification.  The CIA and ex-CIA and others have made it very clear that occupying that country is going to hurt our security. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

And you draw a comparison.  I said in the lead here, there goes your money for health care reform.  You do that in “Rethink Afghanistan.”  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “RETHINK AFGHANISTAN”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... in Alabama.  That state will pay through fiscal year 2009 $1,695,000,000 for the U.S. war in Afghanistan.  All of these people in Alabama, plus 200,000 more, could have full health care coverage for one year for what Alabama will pay for the U.S. war in Afghanistan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP, “RETHINK AFGHANISTAN”)

SCHULTZ:  That is very profound.  Is that what‘s connecting with Americans right now, you think, Robert? 

GREENWALD:  It‘s definitely starting to.  They‘re realizing more and more how expensive this will be.  Hundreds of billions of dollars that aren‘t providing jobs, aren‘t providing homes, and aren‘t helping keep us safer, Ed. 

Again, that‘s an important point.  People will pay for security.  This is not a policy that‘s going to make us more secure.  Every time we kill an innocent person, every time we occupy a village, it‘s actually recruiting terrorists. 

And as the Carnegie report said, the single biggest reason for the resurgence of the Taliban?  Foreign troops.  Think about that. 

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Greenwald, great to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much. 

GREENWALD:  My pleasure. 

SCHULTZ:  Appreciate your time. 

Coming up, Senator Chris Dodd is making a comeback in the polls, and it‘s got his Republican opponents nervous.  Just wait until you hear the outrageous things Peter Schiff has said about why he got into this race. 

Oh, yes, it lands him right into the zone, next on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Oh, we‘ve got another dandy here on “Psycho Talk” tonight.  Never had this guy in, but I‘ve got to watch him after what I heard, the man who wants Chris Dodd‘s Senate seat, Peter Schiff, president of the brokerage firm Euro Pacific Capital.

OK.  Before we get to his latest offense, let me play a clip from “MORNING Joe.”  This was back in August.  Listen to him paint himself in the corner while talking about the scary government takeover of health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF:  Health care is another example where the government interfered with the free market to drive up health their costs. 

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You want to abolish Medicare?  That would be getting out of it.

SCHIFF:  I think Medicare has done a lot of harm.  It‘s helped drive up health care costs.

O‘DONNELL:  Are your parents on Medicare? 

SCHIFF:  Well, my father. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Since then, he‘s decided to run for the Republican Senate domination in Connecticut.  He‘s not leaving his crazy talk at home, either, folks.  Here‘s what he told “Washington Post” about his upcoming campaign: “I‘m interrupting my career.  It‘s not like I want my new career in politics, but I‘m willing to interrupt it the same way that somebody interrupted their career and joined World War II and went off to fight the Nazis.”

How long are we going to put up with these ridiculous comparisons of Democrats to Nazis?  Peggy Noonan, why don‘t you write about that? 

Worse than that, Schiff saying that leaving a lucrative firm to run for the Senate is the same kind of sacrifice our troops made in World War II?  That is offensive psycho talk.

Coming up, he did it.  OK, I‘m not going to call him a geezer anymore, just because he‘s going to turn 40.  But there ain‘t many quarterbacks that have played this well at this age in the NFL.  Last night, it was awesome.  Brett Favre, he got her done.  He‘s running.  He‘s throwing.  He‘s jumping.

The guy played like he was 25 years old.  I love it.  He‘s in the right uniform. 

Plus, my next guest says when the White House dithers a little, Congress dithers a lot.  He‘s right.  Mr. President, we‘re asking you to step up boldly now for a public option.  Roger Simon joins me in a moment here on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  The righties cheered when Chicago lost its Olympic bid.  The Republicans see this as a, I guess, sign of weakness by the president.  Well, a sign that Democrats are losing power?  Forget that.  They‘ve already laid out their Waterloo strategy on health care, the righties have.  Now they‘re circling on the president on Afghanistan. 

How should the president respond to all of this?  Joining me now is Roger Simon, chief political columnist for “Politico.”  Roger, good to have you with us. 

ROGER SIMON, “POLITICO”:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t think the last election was about war escalation and more spending.  Maybe I missed something.  Is this going to be an easier decision for the president than it might seem?  What do you think? 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

SIMON:  No, I think it‘s a tough one.  You know, it is very hard to say no to generals when generals go public and say, we need the troops.  That‘s not what a commander in chief or any politician wants to hear, because basically you‘re over-ruling a general, and some people in America have an automatic negative reaction to that. 

The problem is, however, the real question for Obama, the real standard should be, is it making America safer?  The standard should not be, is it making Afghanistan better?  I wish we could make Afghanistan better.  I wish we could make every place better.  But the standard has got to be, does sending more troops make America a safer place or, as Joe Biden has suggested, surgical strikes into Pakistan, would that accomplish our goal more effectively and at less risk to the U.S.? 

SCHULTZ:  So, Roger, you have called for the president to be bold.  Be bold on health care.  Be bold on Afghanistan.  Would it be a bold move if he were to say, you know what?  We‘re going into year number nine, OK?  We have billions of dollars here.  The CBO never scored this.  We‘re not any safer.  Maybe it‘s time for us to really do a different strategy.  And this is where I‘m going and this is what my base wants me to. 

SIMON:  I think it would be bold.  I think it would be correct.  We argue over every dollar of health care. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

SIMON:  But by low estimates, we have spent one trillion fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That‘s health care for the next ten years.  We‘ve already spent that.  That‘s a low estimate. 

SCHULTZ:  Finally, Roger, what about his move on health care?  The president—you know, I‘m surprised that he hasn‘t met with Wendell Potter.  Maybe they will.  Maybe they‘re holding that for last.  I think he‘s a key player in this national debate.  He has a lot of people paying attention to what he‘s saying, number one.

Secondly, the president, sooner or later, is going to have to throw Max Baucus under the bus if he wants a public option.  When is that going to happen?  Would that be bold? 

SIMON:  He has to do it this week, I think, and tell Harry Reid that he wants a Senate bill that includes a public option.  Then he has to do something very important, procedural, but very important, which is to demand that the 60 Democrats in the Senate vote to block a Republican filibuster. 

After they do so, they‘re free to vote their conscience.  They can vote against the health care bill.  That‘s fine.  Maybe their constituents don‘t want it.  Maybe they don‘t want health care.  On the procedural matter of a filibuster, they should not let a minority of the Senate block a vote on the bill. 

He‘s got to get tough on that and that‘s what he has a right to demand from members of his own party. 

SCHULTZ:  What about Arnold Schwarzenegger?  Governor of California coming out in favor of reform at this point.  Is that going to swing any Republicans at all? 

SIMON:  I doubt it.  I think it‘s a good idea.  You have the two post-partisan so-called Republicans, Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York, who is a nominal Republican, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is basically a nominal Republican, saying they want health care.  Part of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s campaign speeches—I‘ve heard a lot of them—was, look, when it comes to the health care or the environment or the education, there‘s no Republican bill; there‘s no Democratic bill.  There‘s a bill that helps the public.  So let‘s vote for that. 

SCHULTZ:  Roger, good to have you with us.  Thank you so much. 

SIMON:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  For more, let‘s bring in our panel tonight.  Democratic strategist Todd Webster and also Republican strategy Karen Hanretty.

Let‘s talk Afghanistan.  Karen, what‘s the comment if Barack Obama, the president, comes out tomorrow and says, we‘re not putting 40,000 troops into Afghanistan?  What‘s the conservative response? 

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think you know what the conservative response will be.  There will be a lot of howling from the right.  I think what‘s more important if—look, if the president decides not to increase—go in with a surge in Afghanistan, I think the messaging to that will be very important coming from Secretary Gates and also General McChrystal.  Those are two men that the right really do respect and have lot of admiration for. 

So I think, you know, this is not just messaging from President Obama.  This has got to be messaging from his commanders, who are really leading this force. 

SCHULTZ:  Todd, I find the conversation rather interesting over on the Republican side.  They‘re uses the same terminology, surge, that they used in Iraq.  Is this a surge?  I mean, after nine years, we‘re going to have a surge, and everything‘s going to work and everything‘s going to be fine.  Are the American people going to buy that? 

TODD WEBSTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, what a relief that we have a president who actually is thoughtful and reflective and is trying to hear all viewpoints before sending more troops into harm‘s way.  You know, there are 150,000 troops who are now sitting in the desert in Iraq, trying to pacify that country, that, if not for the previous administration, would have been available for Afghanistan. 

I think, you know, we do need to drain the swamp there.  There is the possibility that al Qaeda could come back.  So I think that he needs to get the best information, get the public support, which he did today from members of Congress—he had Republicans and Democrats up to build some consensus.  This is an intellectually curious man, who actually had written down the questions that he wanted to ask McChrystal when he met with him last week. 

So I think we need to wait and see, and see what he comes up with. 

It‘s a very serious matter. 

SCHULTZ:  Go ahead, Karen. 

HANRETTY:  Wait.  Right, so what?  So he wrote down questions for McChrystal?  This is a man—he‘s had one 25-minute conversation with.  Obama‘s position on Afghanistan, just as John Kerry‘s position on Afghanistan in the 2004 election, has been pretty clear.  They think this is a war of necessity. 

They thought Iraq was wrong.  They think Afghanistan is the war of necessity.  So—and it was, by the way, just a month ago, 30 days ago—

(CROSS TALK)

WEBSTER:  The question of whether we double down and add 40,000 more or whether we—

HANRETTY:  So I guess the question is—

WEBSTER:  -- is a legitimate question nine years in. 

HANRETTY:  General McChrystal is Obama‘s general.  He got rid of McKiernan.  He hand selected McChrystal.  He put him in there.  McChrystal and Joe Biden are at odds with each other over what they think the strategy should be.  Why are we listening to what Joe Biden thinks the strategy should be?  I‘m not sure—you know, I almost wondered if when Secretary Gates went out yesterday—on Monday morning and gave his speech and said, these—advice to the president ought to be private, I thought, boy, I sure hope Joe Biden is listening now. 

SCHULTZ:  Todd, I want you to responds do this: did McChrystal put the president in an untenable position after he went public on what he thought the strategy ought to be? 

WEBSTER:  I think so.  I think a Democrat or Republican president, doesn‘t matter, he needs to be able to get advice and get counsel from his top generals.  And look at Douglas MacArthur.  The generals need to recognize and respect the chain of command.  That‘s the government this country has.  It is a civilian leadership.  And that needs to be respected. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, this would be a flip-flop.  We‘ve gone from war of necessity to possibly not sending more troops.  How would that be received, Todd? 

WEBSTER:  It depends what the strategy is.  If we‘re going to go from

·         you know, it depends on the strategy.  That‘s what we need to have, is a clear strategy before we throw more bodies at this.  That‘s a legitimate way that we ought to be planning all of our wars. 

SCHULTZ:  Another subject, quickly, Karen—I got to hear from you.  Why so much negativity from the Republicans when it came to Chicago losing the Olympic bid?  Why were some Republican leaders out there cheering?  Why were conservative think tanks out there high-fiving one another? 

HANRETTY:  Look, half of Chicago was high-fiving one another.  Half of Chicagoans didn‘t want the Olympics in Chicago.  You know—

SCHULTZ:  You know, that—I got to call you on that.  That‘s not true.  This would have been 350,000 jobs and billions of dollars of economic development.  Is your party against that? 

HANRETTY:  The polling, the most recent polling, had Chicagoans split. 

It was like 47-48, a pretty even split on who wanted it and—

SCHULTZ:  Karen, that‘s like me telling you the job numbers just turned around last night.  We just haven‘t released them yet. 

HANRETTY:  You don‘t have to like the poll numbers, Ed.  The poll numbers are—you don‘t like the poll numbers on a public option, the government-run health care.  They are what they are. 

SCHULTZ:  Anti-American is what it is.  It would have been great to have the Olympics on American soil. 

HANRETTY:  I‘d rather have them in Brazil, personally.  I‘d rather go to Brazil than Chicago.

SCHULTZ:  Not every American does.  Good to have you with us, Karen and Todd.  Thanks so much.

Next up in my playbook, Rush Limbaugh thinks that he can ram his way into the NFL.  I hope St. Louis folks know exactly what‘s going on here.  You‘re watching “THE ED SHOW.  I got a playbook coming up, and on Favre as well.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, heck of a game last night.  First of all, Brett Favre still has it.  I mean, 30-23?  Win over the Packers?  Who‘s not going to take that in Minnesota?  Especially after they lost four Super Bowls. 

Favre has still got a great arm.  I tell you why he‘s good.  As an old quarterback, look, his arm is going to be this good for years to come.  OK?  I mean, he can play next year, too.  When he loses his mobility, that‘s when it‘s time to get out. 

Last night, he proved he has plenty of mobility.  One of the reasons why he‘s playing so well in the first four games.  If he can do that, he‘s going to be OK. 

Think about this: I can‘t remember the last time a quarterback of that age played that well. 

There‘s also some comical football news out there.  The Drugster is talking about buying the St. Louis Rams.  That‘s right, the leader of the Republican party is bidding for ownership of a team that‘s been giving more money to Democrats than any other team has over the last ten year.  At least that‘s what the survey says.  He‘ll have to do something about that, I‘m sure. 

Also, remember that Rush once got kicked off the club of ESPN because he said some very surprising racially-charged comments about a quarterback.  Now he wants to be back in the game.  Now, how‘s he going to do?  Well, you know, he‘s got plenty of money.  Maybe he could do the games.  I do know what his team is going to look like: very white and very underpaid. 

One last thing.  Let‘s go to baseball.  Let‘s go back to Minnesota for sports there.  The Twins, they are playing the Detroit Tigers right now in a tie breaker for the American League Central title.  They‘re playing for a chance to move on and play the Yankees here in New York in the playoffs.  If Minnesota takes it, they‘ll be the first team to win a division title coming back from three down with four to play. 

This is the second year in a row that the Twins have played 163rd regular-season game.  Last year, they lost that game to the White Sox.  This year, they‘ll be playing at home at the Metrodome, as they are.  But right, now the Tigers are leading that game.  I believe it‘s three to one.  It hurts to say that. 

Coming up, Nebraska Democrats are putting Ben Nelson on the spot and -

·         for not stepping up to support a public option.  We‘ll see what Katrina Vanden Heuvel has to say about that next in the main event.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  I hope the September stall is giving way to October action.  The Senate Finance Committee expects to have a vote this week.  Of course, we have to get the CBO to score it.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last night that she hopes a strong health care bill—reform bill is going to be signed by thanksgiving.  Joining me now to talk more about all that is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor “The Nation.”

Katrina, nice to have you with us. 

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, “THE NATION”:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  I think it‘s a big story in the heartland that the Nebraska Democrats have put it on paper, Ben, this is where we are. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  It‘s good. 

SCHULTZ:  Will it have an impact, do you think?  Or will he still be the stubborn Democrat that he‘s always been? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  It should have an impact.  This is testing time across the board.  We‘re going to see who stands with the people, who stands with the insurance company.  We‘ve seen too much mugging of the common good, these insurance drug companies spending two million dollars a day.  Is Ben Nelson senator for his constituents or senator from the insurance companies?  It can send a message. 

But I think it‘s important to note that Obama reportedly is now lobbying behind the scenes to get public option into the final bill.  That is a measure, Ed, of what we talked about on the show, that pressure, organizing—organized people versus organized money can make a difference. 

SCHULTZ:  You know, I‘ve heard that, that the Obama folks are doing this.  When do they tell the base?  When do they tell the base, OK, this is what you need to do: you need to put your people on notice.  Why aren‘t they playing tough on this? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  We need to tell them.  That‘s the inside/outside.  It was good to see Wendell Potter, the whistle blower from the drug company.  Obama should have him to the White House.  What‘s important is that Obama quoted him in that speech he gave September 9th.  They‘re listening.  They‘re paying attention.  They know that a majority of Americans support a public option.  Ed, here‘s what‘s being exposed: the public option isn‘t some left wing wackiness.  It‘s mainstream.  It‘s all American.  It‘s pragmatic and the polls are reflecting that. 

SCHULTZ:  OK, so the polls are reflecting that.  We‘ve gotten past the town hall crazies.  And now we‘re down into decision time.  OK.  I‘m anxious to see if there are other Democratic state organizations that are going to put pressure.  They could do this in North Dakota.  They could do it in Arkansas. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Absolutely.  Groups are going to.  They‘re trying to expose Max Baucus‘ connection, Blanche Lincoln‘s.  All of that is important, because that‘s how change in this country has come about. 

SCHULTZ:  I want to get into the teeth of the bill.  That is about a preexisting condition.  The devil‘s in the details.  This is Nancy Pelosi talking about a preexisting condition and how important it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER:  Having had a pregnancy was a preexisting medical condition.  I found out that myself.  I had five children.  They told me I was a poor risk.  I said, I thought I had proved my strength. 

If you have ever had a C-Section, preexisting medical condition.  Or being a victim of domestic violence.  Think of this, you‘ve survived domestic violence and now you are discriminated in the insurance market because you have a preexisting medical condition.  That will all be gone under this legislation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I hate to interrupt the speaker.  What‘s interesting politically is that Nancy Pelosi‘s addressing women in this country, who are a very fertile constituency for this bill.  They see what‘s happening in their families.  They see, by the way, what the nonpartisan commonwealth fund reported just the other day—nonpartisan—that despite spending 2.4 trillion dollars, Ed, this country is way behind other countries in treating preventable illnesses. 

So this is an important outreach on her part. 

SCHULTZ:  Politically, it‘s also important I think, because no Republicans are going to go along with preexisting language in any bill. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  I think it‘s time now to move on.  The fight‘s now within the Democratic party.  I think that Roger Simon, who you had on, is so right, that procedurally—and it‘s important for people outside the halls of the Senate to know—the president is either going to be feared or loved.  I think he needs to be feared now.  He needs to summon 60 Democratic votes and push them to not allow Republicans to filibuster and get Democrats on record. 

They don‘t have to vote for the final bill, but you have to get through the filibuster. 

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s talk Afghanistan.  Is this a tough decision for the president?  I don‘t think the last election was about war escalation and more funding. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Well, President Obama wasn‘t voted to escalate another war.  Where‘s the base?  Not just the base, also independents, Ed, opposed to another war.  You‘ve got joblessness at record heights.  You have war fatigue as well.  I think you have a growing constituency of people who recognize that you need a political solution and you need smart counter-terrorism. 

The president prides himself on being a pragmatic.  He can say, this is not a war of necessity anymore.  This is a war where there are viable alternatives to escalation. 

SCHULTZ:  I like the Republican verbiage.  They‘re calling it a surge. 

After nine years, a surge is going to fix this? 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Listen, in history, in our history, war has killed reform movements and agendas.  The president had a group of smart historians to the White House in July.  He knows the experience of LBJ, what it did to killing LBJ‘s Great Society.  Obama can be a great reform president or he can end up being defined by this war. 

SCHULTZ:  Finally, the cheering that was done by some Americans when we lost the Olympics.  We‘ve never seen that before. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Paul Krugman I think had it pretty nice.  He said, the Republican party, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, they‘re people, they have all the political maturity of a bratty 13-year-old.  It was pretty ugly, very ugly to root against America.  I have to say that I have a contrarian view.  I think if Obama had gotten the Olympics, so to speak, every scandal, every over-run, every piece of corruption out of Chicago for the next eight years would have provided fodder for his political enemies. 

I‘m glad Brazil got it.  I think the Republicans who cheered on how Obama lost it are—

SCHULTZ:  Katrina, thank you so much. 

VANDEN HEUVEL:  OK.

SCHULTZ:  Earlier in the show I asked, is the president taking too long to make a decision on the troops in Afghanistan?  Twenty six percent of you say yes; 74 percent of you say no. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  “HARDBALL” is next, right here on the place for politics with Chris Matthews, MSNBC.

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