updated 10/13/2009 11:45:26 AM ET 2009-10-13T15:45:26

THE ED SHOW

October 12, 2009

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Wendell Potter, Mike Allen, Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Lange, Kelly Lange, Bill Press, Michael Medved, Al Sharpton

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

Look at this beautiful baby. Look at this beautiful baby. If you've got six kids and seven grandkids, you will know just how beautiful this baby is.

This baby has a pre-existing condition. That's right. Couldn't get insurance. But after they were called out, the insurance company did a reversal.

That story coming up at the bottom of the hour tonight. You'll want to see and listen to the parents.

All right. Don't believe a word that's in this report. You know, the industry's got this report out on the Senate Finance Committee bill. It's going to result in massive premium hikes. You heard that, right?

They've got this report that's out. Basically, they're saying if Congress tries to cut their profits, they're going to gouge you even more.

It's not a study, folk. It's a threat. It's everything we've been talking about.

The report was commissioned by the all-powerful lobby America's Health Insurance Plans, headed by this woman, Karen Ignagni.

Now, just hang on a second. Don't get confused here, because, you see, when I saw the story, I thought, now, wait a minute. I thought the White House cut a deal with the insurance companies, and the deal was simple. The president wouldn't attack them for preying on American families and the insurance industry wouldn't launch a public campaign against health reform in this country.

Remember that? That was back in March, when the president brought all of the industry leaders to the White House and the industry lobby said they wanted to work with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know people are afraid we'll draw the same old lines in the sand and give into the same entrenched interests and arrive back at the same stalemate that we've been stuck in for decades, but I'm here today and I believe you are here today because this time is different.

KAREN IGNAGNI, AHIP PRESIDENT: We want to work with you. We want to work with the members of Congress on a bipartisan basis here. You have our commitment.

We hear the American people about what's not working. We've taken that very seriously. You have our commitment to play, to contribute, and to help pass health care reform this year.

OBAMA: Good. Thank you, Karen. That's good news. That's America's Health Insurance Plans.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: And that was back in March. Things have changed since now that we're close to getting down to the details, the devil in the details; right?

See, the White House was caught completely off guard by that today.

At least that's what they're saying.

The Finance Committee vote just happens to be tomorrow. Here's the statement from the Democrats on the Finance Committee. "This report is untrue, disingenuous, and bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long. These health insurers are breaking out the same tired playbook of deception and prevent millions of Americans from getting the affordable, acceptable care they need. It's a health insurance company hatchet job," plain and simple.

Are the Democrats getting a little teeth here? What's happening?

This report, in my opinion, is complete garbage and it's very predictable. It was produced by and for the insurance industry. They're, of course, trying to protect their 428 percent profit increase over the last decade.

Now, I'm no fan of the Baucus bill. Don't get me wrong. But I'm happy the insurance industry is showing its true colors, as we predicted all along. You can't trust them. They're not interested in anything except jacking their prices and fixing their bottom line.

Now, the industry, as I said at the top of the show, denied this baby coverage because they said he had a pre-existing condition-obesity. He doesn't even have teeth. Can you believe that?

The parents will be on at the bottom of the hour.

But, you see, folks, this is no coincidence that the industry has put it out on the eve of the Senate Finance Committee vote to try to intimidate lawmakers on the fence. We can't let this happen.

Now, this report has been knocked down by all of the experts. You'll hear more tonight on this program. And if I hear any lawmaker bringing out the bullet points of these numbers of this report, we're just going to have to get after them and we're just going to have to list out, well, gosh, how much did they take from the insurance industry? That's the big key.

All right. I want to know what you think on all this, folks. Get your cell phones out tonight.

Will the insurance industry reports scare Democrats into voting against health care reform? Text "A" for yes and "B" for no to 622639. And we'll bring you the results later on in the show.

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

Mr. Potter, great to have you with us.

I think you were one of the first skeptics to come out back in March, saying don't trust them. And now are you being vindicated by saying that back then based on this survey that's out right away? What do you think?

WENDELL POTTER, INSURANCE WHISTLEBLOWER: Well, you know, I've been saying this all along, since the very beginning of the summer, that you can't trust these guys. What they were engaging in is a charm offensive, and that's what they've been doing.

They're saying their true colors, you're exactly right. And what we're seeing now is their greed and how much they are driven by Wall Street's expectations.

SCHULTZ: What if the report is correct? I mean, what's going to stop the insurance industry from jacking up the rates? They say that if this health care reform bill goes through, that the rates are going to go through the roof.

Who's going to stop them from doing that?

POTTER: You know, they would do that anyway. What they're upset about is the committee has, so far, decided that the penalties that they were going to charge all of us for not buying their overpriced products was too high. So, they've lowered those penalties.

The insurance companies have been counting those dollars, net revenue, and now they're upset that they're not going to get every penny that they had expected. So, yes, they'll jack their rates up. You can take that to the bank.

SCHULTZ: How should the White House respond to this report? I mean, how can they trust the insurance industry after they've gone out and told the American people, hey, we've got a deal with them and they're going to be honest brokers here?

POTTER: Well, clearly the White House needs to take the gloves off, and so does Congress. I think that maybe Congress will finally see that these people had no intention of working in good faith with them.

And I warned early December not to believe them. These are not honorable people when they are dealing with their masters on Wall Street.

This is really coming from Wall Street. Wall Street analysts were disappointed at some of the recent actions by the Senate Finance Committee. So this comes as a result of Wall Street telling the big CEOs, look, this is not quite as good as what we thought it was going to be. You'd better see what you can do.

SCHULTZ: So, this report is phony? It's phony baloney is what it is?

POTTER: It's bogus.

SCHULTZ: It's bogus. OK.

POTTER: It's bogus.

SCHULTZ: Here's an excerpt from the report about universal coverage. "Market reform enacted in the absence of universal coverage will increase costs dramatically for many who are currently insured by creating a powerful incentive for people to wait until they are sick to purchase coverage."

What do you make of that?

POTTER: You know, what we need to do here is, the Democrats really need to realize that if we don't have a public option to keep these guys honest, they'll do whatever they want to do. That is what is behind this.

If they don't get all that they want, they're going to do what they're doing right now. And one of the things that we'll be able to see in the coming weeks-coming days, actually-is if any member of Congress starts to talk about this report, then we'll know exactly who their shills are on Capitol Hill. This report should be radioactive.

SCHULTZ: All right. Radioactive it should be, and it is with one congressman. This is Congressman Weiner from New York calling it out. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: The health insurance lobby today fired the most important salvo in weeks for the public option, because they have said as clear as day, left to their own devices, according to their own number crunchers, they're going to raise rates 111 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: All right. Let's talk about where this report came from, if we can, Mr. Potter-PricewaterhouseCoopers. Are they an arm of Wall Street? Are they bought and paid for as well? Did they gin up the numbers on this deal?

POTTER: They're very close to the industry. They are auditors for a lot of the big companies. They've done lots and lots of reports for the insurance industry over the years.

Whenever the industry needs to have some talking points or some kind of analysis, they'll turn to some of their arms like this and get the reports generated. And we see that a lot-or I saw that a lot over the last few years.

And one of the things that PricewaterhouseCoopers did do, though, that I don't think the industry talks about is demonstrate or show that the medical loss ratio which I've talked about over the last three months has dropped from 95 percent to about 80 percent now. You won't hear the industry talking about that report from PWC.

SCHULTZ: OK. So, encapsulating all of this, the White House has made a mistake here by thinking they're going to get a bunch of help from the insurance industry. Plain and simple. They've misjudged and have been misguided on this, in your opinion?

POTTER: Absolutely. And, you know, their charm offensive does work.

We've seen that.

But, you know, it's like the cartoon Peanuts when Lucy pulls the football out just before Charlie Brown tries to kick the football. Th is what we're seeing. It's football season.

SCHULTZ: Mr. Potter, good to have you with us tonight. I appreciate your time here. Thanks so much.

POTTER: Thank you.

SCHULTZ: Mike Allen is chief political correspondent for Politico.

He joins us tonight.

Mike, good to have you on.

MIKE ALLEN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Likewise, Ed.

SCHULTZ: You bet.

Is the White House-were they taken by this? What do you think?

ALLEN: They're delighted by this. This is a great gift to them.

It allows them to have a good foil as they go into a crucial day, into crucial hours on the health care bill. Except for maybe Wall Street, there's nobody they'd rather pick a fight with than the insurance companies. They've been building up with that for months and months.

To carry on the analogy, the insurance industry put the football right there. They're happy to kick it.

SCHULTZ: OK, but this kind of contradicts what the White House was saying back in March. If this report has any validity whatsoever, who's wrong here?

ALLEN: Well, this provides an opportunity for Republicans because Republicans have been trying to push the idea of a health care tax, you'll be paying more taxes, which is true (ph), by the way. And now they can also say that you'll be paying higher premiums. So, they'll say, higher premiums, higher taxes, more big government. Is that the kind of reform you want?

So, this gives something for both sides to work with.

SCHULTZ: Mike, do you think the Democrats are wordsmithing public option? It seems like they're floating all over the place, that they're not being direct here. They're open to so many things, and now they're saying, well, it's a matter of definition. And then there's the trigger and then there's the states. They're all over the place on this.

What do you think?

ALLEN: Well, of course. And that way you can't lose.

The president is going to sign something probably Christmas Eve. And he's going to have something in there that you can call a public option broadly defined. Now, I think the chances that it's what you would call a public option are very, very, very, very low.

SCHULTZ: Well, what about the people? What about the people? The people want everybody covered, they want reduced costs. And they don't want anybody excluded from coverage. And 61 percent of the American people now say they want it.

ALLEN: Yes. "Daily Kos" did a great poll. You know, the House Republican leader, John Boehner, of Ohio has said he couldn't find a single person who was for the public option. And "Daily Kos" said, really?

So, they went and did a poll in his district. They found out 38 percent of people in the House Republican's district were for the public option as they defined it. So, there are at least some people out there who want it.

SCHULTZ: All right.

And what about Chris Dodd? He, of course, is going to be representing the Senate HELP Committee. He put out a very strong statement on the Internet on Friday. He's going to be on this program tomorrow.

Does this politically help him, to be a staunch supporter and going after it with the kind of language that he has? Is he going to be the key player in all of this, in your opinion?

ALLEN: Well, of course he's a top player. And I think that you're right that the position that he took is an indication of its popularity in his state, which is by no means a representative state, but it's the most important state for him.

So, we're going to see Senator Dodd, Chairman Dodd as a key player in all the big issues coming up, including financial regulatory reform, which will be the next big issue, sort of moving in the House and parallel with health care. Maybe complete the House this year. Senate, not so sure, but you never know.

SCHULTZ: All right. Mike Allen, Politico, good to have you with us tonight. Thanks so much.

ALLEN: Thanks, Ed. Have a good week.

SCHULTZ: Coming up-you bet.

Coming up, President Obama promised to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars gays from the military, but some activists say he's full of highfalutin BS? One of the first openly gay people to serve in Congress will give us her take in just a moment.

Plus, this 4-month-old baby was denied health insurance because he's too big? Apparently, baby fat is a pre-existing condition. Well, baby Alex and his parents will join me at the bottom of the hour to explain, how's life treating him?

We're right back on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We are moving ahead on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve his country.

We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight any more than we can afford for our military's integrity to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie.

I will end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." That's why commitment to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: President Obama reiterated his promise to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy at a human rights campaign gala Saturday night, but his speech lacked a plan to get it done, further fueling an already passionate gay rights rally the following day. Around 200,000 people showed up in Washington, D.C., on Sunday to push the Obama administration to live up to campaign promises and advance civil rights for the gay community.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Congresswoman, appreciate your time tonight.

The president clearly seems to be slow to react. Where do you think this is going? Is he letting the gay community down on a promise?

REP. TAMMY BALDWIN (D), WISCONSIN: Well, certainly when he speaks out it is of consequence, and people on Capitol Hill take note. But I do have to underscore that the 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law is just that. It's a law. And it takes an active Congress to repeal it.

And so, his speaking out on the bully pulpit sends a message to those of us in the House. We are moving forward in the House on a bill, and we hope to have consideration of that measure in a matter of months.

SCHULTZ: Now, what do you think the attitude of the Congress is? I mean, the president is saying all the right things to the gay community, but let's face it, it's not the number one thing on his plate right now.

Does that jive with where the Congress is? Are they going to repeal this?

BALDWIN: Well, first of all, on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," we have urged the president to see whether there is any legal discretion that can be exercised at the Department of Defense to ease the onerous nature of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." But we know in the end, really the only solution to this is repeal.

We have a bill in the House side with 176 cosponsors. That's very much creeping up on a majority of the House. That's very significant. There's momentum there.

Just last week, I joined the author of the bill, Patrick Murphy, for an hour-long discussion of the need to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And we've also seen some other encouraging movement on this.

SCHULTZ: Congresswoman, it sounds like you're OK with all of this. Yet, this rally yesterday in Washington, D.C., of some 200,000 people, they're not real happy with the speed of how this is taking place. That they're frustrated with the president. They think this is just a bunch on campaign speak and this isn't going to get repealed.

BALDWIN: Well, I agree, Ed. As a lesbian, I will tell you that I share that frustration and I share that sense of impatience.

When you are not treated equal, there's no sense of wanting to wait around to get your rights. And I understand that and share it.

And I've met with many of the service members who are right now going through the process of being discharged. These are people who have risked their lives, who have sacrificed for their nation.

However, I also am a member of Congress, and I know this process sometimes or often takes time. We're moving forward, and I think especially with a rally like the one we had yesterday, and with the president's word, it's given some needed boost and momentum. And I hope that-I'll share a word with my colleagues. But we want to move on this promptly.

SCHULTZ: All right. Move on it promptly, but you're willing to give the president a pass and operate at his schedule. That's pretty much what it sounds like here tonight.

BALDWIN: Well, I wouldn't agree with that. The president doesn't pass laws. And we have to...

SCHULTZ: Well, he doesn't pass laws, but...

BALDWIN: The pressure has to be on Congress.

SCHULTZ: He doesn't pass laws, that's true, Congresswoman. But the fact is, is that if this is one of his priorities, there are a lot of people in the gay community who think that he is not pushing fast enough and quickly enough on this, especially if the Congress is set to do something about it.

BALDWIN: Well, we certainly welcome his using the bully pulpit, as he did this weekend. We'd like him to do it more because we do know that helps in the legislative process get things moving more quickly.

SCHULTZ: OK.

Congresswoman, good to have you with us. I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

SCHULTZ: Coming up, Liz Cheney is coming out from behind "Shooter's" shadow one more time. She calls the president's Nobel Prize a farce?

No, Liz, a farce would be, let's see, anyone taking you seriously.

We'll get you straight into "Psycho Talk" when we come back here on

THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: And in "Psycho Talk" tonight, she's becoming a regular. Kind of a team player on this one. Liz Cheney, she's not too happy about President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIZ CHENEY, DICK CHENEY'S DAUGHTER: I think the president, himself, understands he didn't earn this prize. And I think, therefore, the notion that the White House said he would go to Oslo to accept the prize would just sort of add to the farce.

If you look at the language of the citation, you can see that they talk about, you know, President Obama ruling in a way that makes sense to the majority of the people of the world. You know, Americans don't elect a president to do that. We elect a president to defend our national interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: No jealousy there, is there, Liz?

Ruling, she says? Let's look at what the Nobel Committee actually said.

"Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics, multilateral diplomacy, has regained a central position. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

It seems to me that's a pretty good way to defend our national interest, is to work with other countries and avoid conflicts by not ticking them off all the time in the first place.

And Liz talking about Obama ruling America, she must be getting confused with what her dad really wanted to do.

President Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize because he understands that diplomacy matters now more than ever. All Liz Cheney seems to understand is the GOP talking points. And we already know that's "Psycho Talk."

Up next, an outrageous story. It really tells you all you need to know about the broken health care system we have in this country.

This perfectly healthy baby was denied coverage because the insurance bureaucrats got involved and thought he was too fat. Baby Alex, his mom and dad, will join me in just a moment. Quite a story.

Plus, warmonger John McCain says it would be an era of historic proportions if the president puts less than 40,000 more troops into Afghanistan. I think it's an error of historic proportions to listen to John McCain.

Well, that's coming up in my "Playbook," and so much more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. This is the face of a preexisting condition. Right there. Right there. Baby Alex Lange, cute little kid, only four months old, and his doctor says he's actually in perfect health. So what's the problem here?

His parent's insurance company refused to cover him because he's above average in weight and height. He's a big one, 99th percentile. According to the Rocky Mountain Health Plan, Alex is obese, even though he can't even eat solid food yet.

Late today, Rocky Mountain sent out a press release saying, quote, it will cover Alex and other heavy babies. It chalked this up to denial in a, quote, it's a flaw in the system.

Baby Alex is going to get health care coverage. That's great news.

Don't lose sight of the bigger picture, and the bigger problem here, folks. That an insurance bureaucrat is always between you and your doctor. And their job is to take care of their profits, not you and your family.

Joining me now tonight, the Langes. Dad, Bernie, mom, Kelly, and baby, Alex. We'll save the interview for Alex later, when he signs with the University of Colorado Buffalos. I think he has real potential here.

Bernie, good to have you here.

BERNIE LANGE, FATHER OF BABY ALEX: The Buffalos need all the help they can get.

SCHULTZ: That's right. Bernie-Mr. And Mrs. Lange, your baby is perfectly healthy. How did this unfold? How did you take this news? Where do you stand right now? What's happening here?

B. LANGE: Well, what happened, Ed, is I was looking for a better insurance plan because the rates that I currently have after we had Alex last June went through the roof, as it so often does. We had another member of the family come into the house. So I started looking around for some other plans. I liked the one that Rocky Mountain Health Plan offered. It was much more affordable with good coverage.

I started going through the paperwork. I filled out the application, sent in the wellness checks and the immunizations. Just last Thursday, I got a call from the broker that we work through. They said, Bernie, we can cover you and we can cover your two-year-old son, Vincent. But we can't cover Alex because-don't take offense-he's too fat.

I was just left scratching my head. And the health care debate hasn't really touched me as much as it has Kelly. But when this happened, to a four-month-old baby-we can't insure you because you're too healthy, in essence, is what they're saying-my jaw hit the floor. I didn't know what to do.

So as a news anchor, myself, in a small market-I work for KKCO 11 News in Grand Junction-I had to pitch this story to my own news staff because it was so outrageous. As a result, we got some media coverage to help the debate a little more. Then the "Denver Post" picked up the story, and then you picked up the story.

And fortunately, Rocky Mountain Health has been very helpful. My gripe was never, ever with Rocky Mountain Health Plans. It's with the system. They have graciously come forward and offered to change their policy for Alex and for others.

But you are absolutely right, Ed. The issue is far greater than this one issue. And I think to say there's a need for reform is an understatement. This is a glaring example.

SCHULTZ: I find this one of the most unbelievable stories in this entire health care conversation we're having in this country. Kelly, can you tell us about your child? Healthy baby, happy baby. Tell us. And how did you feel when you found out that your baby had a preexisting condition and couldn't be covered?

KELLY LANGE, MOTHER OF BABY ALEX: I was shocked, almost speechless to the point, you know? Because our first son was sick, and we've had problems with weight issues, as far as keeping him up to healthy weight. When we had Alex and his heavy appetite and breast-feeding so well, and then to hear this news that he's overweight and not insurable was just devastating.

It's very helpless because at this age, what do you do to bring that weight down? He's breast-feeding. I can't let him just sit and cry while he's hungry.

SCHULTZ: Yes, no doubt about it. The baby's going to take what he needs. Bernie, I want to ask you, the president of the company, today, I understand, got involved and we've got a successful conclusion here. Tell us what unfolded. And I understand, you know, they put out a press release today saying your child is going to get covered. I think this might set a standard and draw light for other insurance companies in this country not to get caught in this. What happened today?

B. LANGE: Well, I hope it does. In the midst of this media fire storm that kind of swirled up unexpectedly today, I did get a phone call from the president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Health saying, we'd really like to help you out, so we changed the policy and the CDC guidelines. And we want to cover your baby and we want to cover other children like that.

I was grateful for Steve to come forward and help out. And, again, he runs a fine operation. It's a non-profit company. And they're based right here in Grand Junction, as a matter of fact.

But it seemed like it was just simple conversation, a concern, an issue, and the problem was solved. Wouldn't it be refreshing if lawmakers and health companies and insurance companies on the left and the right could come together and come to a solution? Because you know what the result would be, Ed, would be a happy result for somebody like our Alex, who is perfectly healthy and happy and fortunately covered now.

But there's millions of people out there, obviously, that aren't so lucky. And they're probably not going to get coverage because the debate is going to continue to rage on. It's about politics before people. Let's just cut to the chase, like Rocky Mountain Health care and the Langes did here today.

SCHULTZ: No doubt. Bernie, Kelly, thank you so much. Appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for speaking up, because I'm sure there's other families across the country that have been denied as well. This shows how information is power. All the best to you. Thanks so much.

For more, let's bring in our panel tonight. Bill Press, nationally syndicated radio talk show host, and Michael Medved, nationally syndicated radio talk show host and author of "The Ten Big Lies of America."

Bill Press, what's wrong with-what's wrong with this story here tonight? Wouldn't some kind of legislation make sure that the insurance companies wouldn't be gouging and denying people like this? What do you think?

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: First of all, Ed, let me just say, little Alex is lucky his father is a TV anchor, because he knew what to do. He knew how to bring attention to this. Imagine the millions of Americans out there-and you're right, there is not just one guy. There's an army of people in every insurance company that are looking for ways to deny people coverage. You met them. I met them. I met with one of them Saturday night in Madison, Wisconsin, who told me that's all he does all day long.

But this family, because of Bernie, knew how to bring attention to it. To me, this is the strongest argument I have heard for a public plan-it's single payer, number one, and then certainly a public plan option, so everybody has a choice to get out from under these insurance companies and get-everybody.

I mean, Ron Wyden is right. Not just people who don't have health insurance at work can get a public plan option, get away from these rapacious insurance companies.

SCHULTZ: Now, Michael Medved, the Republicans have been short on effort when it comes to reform. And there's got to be other stories across this country that are just like that one. If you're going to-not going to be the curious to the story, which I think 40 Republican senators are not, something like this could have slipped through the cracks. What are your thoughts when you hear something like this?

MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW: My thoughts are what you and I know, and Bill knows, and we all acknowledge, which is our health care system right now is a mess. The question is, how do you reform it and how do you fix it?

I think the think some of the ideas that have been put on the table by Republicans have a lot to offer. There is no perfect plan right now. I mean, I think one of the things that's striking today is that the insurance industry, which had been supporting the general concept of Obama care, has now said the Baucus bill, if it's put into context, if it's put into play, is going to cause the average-

SCHULTZ: Do you believe that study, Michael? Do you believe those numbers?

MEDVED: I'm not sure the numbers are accurate, but I'm sure there will be a great increase in rates. Obviously, what you have with the Baucus bill is all kinds of new obligations on the insurance companies. And yet, they're not going to get all of these 46 million people who aren't insured or even 30 million-

SCHULTZ: Go ahead, Bill.

PRESS: Let me just say, this is unbelievable, that anybody would believe the insurance companies about anything. These are the people that have been jacking up the rates 25 to 30 percent a year. They just announced a 29 percent increase in New York State for this year, and then they turn around and accuse Obama of raising rates?

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ: They've also got a mechanism in place to deny a four-month-old baby that is perfectly healthy.

MEDVED: OK. The answer-the answer is that if you want the taxpayer to pay for all of these insurance rates, and all of these increases, I think you can't pretend that you're not going to add to the national debt.

SCHULTZ: Michael, they said the baby is perfectly healthy. There's nothing wrong with the child. This guy wants to pay a premium. He's being denied. This is a case where there's probably millions of people across the country that would be able to get in and wouldn't be excluded and would be presenting, you know, revenue to the pool.

MEDVED: Which is, by the way, why the Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee and across the Senate, and across the House, support new regulations to provide some guaranteed issue and to provide community rating.

PRESS: Michael, if I may, you have to do more than that. First of all, let me correct you on one thing. There is no Republican plan. The Republicans have put nothing on the table in the House. Nothing on the table in-

MEDVED: That's simply not true. Tom Price has a detailed plan.

MEDVED: There are ideas-Michael, you're wrong. You're wrong.

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ: Wait a minute, hold on, fellows. Before we get going, I do want a quick comment from both of you. Was the White House naive saying they have this deal cut with the insurance industry, and now, in the 11th hour, before the Senate Finance Committee vote tomorrow, they come out with this dandy? What about that, Michael?

MEDVED: Yes. I do think the White House was naive, but the insurance companies-in every plan that is on the table, all the Democratic plans, we're still going to be heavily reliant on the insurance companies. They are not the enemy.

SCHULTZ: What about that, Bill?

PRESS: We won't if we have a public plan option. Ed, I don't think the White House was naive. I think they were stabbed in the back by an insurance company that has been stabbing millions of Americans in the back for too many years.

SCHULTZ: Gentlemen, good to have you with us tonight. Bill Press, Michael Medved, here on THE ED SHOW, talk about the issues.

Up next, the NFL is under heavy pressure to block Rush Limbaugh's play to buy the Rams. Reverend Al Sharpton will tackle that one next in my playbook. Stay with us. We're right back on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: In my playbook tonight, the Drugster wants to buy the St. Louis Rams. But the NFL players are making it known that they don't want Rush or his racist attitude in the league. The head of the NFL Players Union sent a note to the union's executive committee over the weekend saying, quote, "I understand that this ownership consideration is in the early stages. But sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer, and when it transcends our sports, exactly that. When it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred. We also know that there's an ugly part of history, and we will not risk going backwards, giving up, giving in, or lying down to it all."

Reverend Al Sharpton is also out against this move for Rush Limbaugh to go get the L.A. Rams. He has written to letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressing his opposition. The Reverend Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, joins me now tonight here on THE ED SHOW. Good to have you with us.

AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Nice to see you, Ed.

SCHULTZ: What's wrong with Rush Limbaugh owning an NFL team?

SHARPTON: I think that the question is whether the NFL has standards. Rush Limbaugh has said, and I quote, that "the NFL looks like the Crypts against the Bloods without the weapons." He has attacked Donovan McNabb, one of the quarterbacks that brought his team to the Super Bowl, saying, well, he's really not that good; it's because he's black that they gave him a boost.

To have this person that disparaged NFL players now in an ownership position, particularly when the owner is going to vote on whether there's a walkout next year, and a lot of contracts, is just to me beneath the standards the NFL should have. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with he's disparaging the people that he wants now to make him wealthier.

If he's bidding, I think it has to be considered against other bidders. And I think the NFL has to ask the question-when Marge Schott (ph) owned the team, Major League Baseball said no. They took the team. Here's somebody applying. Does the NFL have standards like Major League Baseball? This is what we want to know.

SCHULTZ: Here's one of the former Rams player reacting to the news and weighing in on the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D'MARCO FARR, FMR. ST. LOUIS RAMS PLAYER: I think it's scary. I really do. I'm not sure you want to bring that brand of humor-because that's what I assume it is. I never listen, never met the guy. All I know is about what I read about Rush Limbaugh. But I do know what he talks about and the line that he tries to play. It's an easy line to play. It's a race line.

I don't know if you want to bring that into the NFL. The NFL is all about bringing guys together, playing together, teamwork. Why would you want to bring that type of divisiveness, outward divisiveness into the NFL?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: Do you think the players will stand strong against this?

SHARPTON: I think so. I think when you see the Players Association head come out-I spoke to him today. I think he's right. Again, you're being called a thug and a gang member. Many of them entrepreneurs, involved in very positive things. To think that this guy is going to be voting on industry-wide contracts and decisions. How do I think he's going to give me a share shot, not only on his team, but if he's part of the 32 owners?

SCHULTZ: Al, how adamant is the Players Union for this not to happen?

SHARPTON: I mean, they'd have to speak for themselves. I believe they will be very adamant. I think what they say means something, which is why community groups like mine, National Action Network, are going to support them. He can't have it both ways.

SCHULTZ: Is it discrimination, though? He speaks his mind. It's a free country.

SHARPTON: Not at all. No one is saying he shouldn't have his radio show. No one is fighting for his right to go on the lecture circuit. We're talking about, if you have a standing-you have the right to apply to own anything. But if you're bidding against people, the league has the right to say, based on these things, we don't think you meet our standard and someone else does.

SCHULTZ: Do you think NFL owners would accept him into the fraternity? That's exactly what it is.

SHARPTON: It is a fraternity. I would hope that they would say that some of his behavior would bespeak of castigating the people that earn our profits, which are the players. That's not a race question. That's a question of respecting the guys that go on the field and generate the ticket sales.

SCHULTZ: Is there a chance he would be good for the NFL? He's on so many stations. He has more listeners than anybody else. Why would he not be good, with all the promotional stuff he might be able to do and bring to the city of St. Louis?

SHARPTON: Are we then going to suggest that he, as the part owner of one team, is going to be promoting other teams and competitors? I don't think so. I think that's the most naive thing in the world. Why would he be-

SCHULTZ: He would be talking about the league.

SHARPTON: He'd also be talking about his team. I think that-

SCHULTZ: Wouldn't St. Louis like that?

SHARPTON: Well, I mean, maybe, maybe not. The problem with that is when it comes to hard decisions that affect not only the 2,000 players, but effect 100,000 workers in stadiums and all these businesses-do you want a guy like that sitting at the table, that thinks people are gangsters and thinks people like McNabb are just getting a pass on race?

SCHULTZ: Do you think Rush Limbaugh is racist?

SHARPTON: It doesn't matter. I think he sells racial kind of statements. Whether in his heart he means it or not is really immaterial. You cannot sell that in the daytime and then go to the conference table later and go against what you sold as your personality. He has to be the same person.

Are we going to say that Rush is going to say, that's really my thinking and here I'm somebody else? Of course not. He'd put himself out of business.

SCHULTZ: Reverend Al Sharpton, a pleasure.

SHARPTON: Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Good to have you with us. Thanks so much. .

One last page tonight in my playbook. Senator John McCain went on TV this weekend and threw out some classic Republican fear mongering about the war in Afghanistan. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think the United States can win in Afghanistan with fewer than 40,000 more troops?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I do not. And I think the great danger now is not an American pullout. I think the great danger now is a half measure, sort of a-you know, try to please all ends of the political spectrum. I think to disregard the requirements that has been laid out and agreed to by General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen I think would be an error of historic proportions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ: You supported abandoning Afghanistan when Bush decided to invade Iraq instead. And just two years after 9/11, McCain said that we could just, quote, muddle through in Afghanistan in the long term. But now he has the gall to pretend like he has the right to all the answers and the correct answers? I doubt it.

Obama needs to ignore fear mongers, especially Senator John McCain, and make the smart strategy decision when it comes to Afghanistan.

Coming up, over the past three years, Democrats have picked up 15 seats in the Senate. But their majority leader, Harry Reid, is in serious trouble for 2010. I'll put that to my panel in just a moment. You're watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. We are less than a year away from the 2010 election. Well, actually it's November of 2010. OK? A little bit more than a year. All right. Now, Harry Reid is, I think, the one to watch. But looking at the totality of it all, folks, 2006, 2008, the Democrats have picked up 15 Senate seats. Where's their guts? Why are they short on intestinal fortitude to ram it through, to get health care legislation with, what, 61 percent of the American people want?

Let's bring in our panel again, Bill Press and Michael Medved tonight. I'll throw it to you first, Michael. Is Harry Reid in trouble if he doesn't get health care reform? And why aren't they playing tough when clearly they have the momentum in the last two elections? What am I missing here?

MEDVED: I think Harry Reid is in trouble either way. He's not a blazing pillar of charisma. He's in trouble because the American people, beyond health care reform, are worried about government spending. They're worried about the fact that, as the "Wall Street Journal" reported today, 40 percent of all the tax revenues that are coming to the government every year are used just for the interest on the national debt.

This, by the way, is bipartisan. People are disgusted with Republicans. They're disgusted with Democrats. They want the spending under control.

SCHULTZ: What about that, Bill Press? Bill, put your California head of the party hat on for just a minute. Is Harry Reid in trouble?

PRESS: Yes.

SCHULTZ: If he gets health care reform, would he be in trouble?

PRESS: That's the answer. First of all, I think what the problem here is a lack of backbone. We haven't seen it. Ed, if he wants to save himself in Nevada, my suggestion would be, get tough, Harry, right now. Now's the time. Stop playing with these Republicans. They're not going to be for you any how. Stop playing with Max Baucus.

Put a public plan option in the bill and go to the floor and fight like hell for it and take credit for it. We need to see a real fighter. He used to be a boxer. Where the hell is his fight?

SCHULTZ: Bill, the Democrats as a whole, how many seats do you have to win in two election cycles to realize, hey, maybe the people really want us to do this and the poll says 61 percent?

PRESS: No, no, no. Ed, it's pathetic. Look, I'm sorry. We got the White House. We got the House. We got 60 votes in the Senate and an 85 majority in the House of Representatives. The Democrats cannot push their agenda.

Imagine if the Republicans had that kind of a majority, what they'd be pushing through, all kinds of bad stuff.

SCHULTZ: Address that, Michael Medved. If the Republicans had a majority, we wouldn't be talking about reform.

MEDVED: The Republicans did have the majority and they largely wasted it after the first couple of years, where actually some things were accomplished. Look, the problem is institutional in Washington, D.C. It truly is. Bill knows this. And Ed, you know this. It's very, very difficult to push through substantive change. This is something that Republicans encountered when they had the majority.

PRESS: They had time to do it, though, Michael. Come on.

SCHULTZ: Michael Medved, Bill Press, good to have you on tonight.

Thanks so much.

Earlier I asked you, will this insurance industry report scare Democrats into voting against health care reform? Twenty nine percent of you said yes; 71 percent of you said no.

That's THE ED SHOW. I'm Ed Schultz. Back tomorrow night 6:00 eastern. For more information go to Ed.MSNBC.com or check out my radio website at WeGotEd.com. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is next.

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

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