updated 12/14/2009 11:01:23 AM ET 2009-12-14T16:01:23

Guests: Arlen Specter, Robert Reich, John Harwood, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Dr. Jack Lewin, Joe Madison, Michael Graham, Jeremy Scahill, Stephanie Miller

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

The Senate will hold a rare Saturday session tomorrow.  Here‘s what I think they ought to do.  They ought to leave town.  They ought to get out of Washington and go to a free health care clinic like the one we visited yesterday in Kansas City, Missouri.  They‘ll see a lot. 

There have been few days, folks, in my 30-year broadcasting career that has moved me as much as this experience did yesterday.  This is the real America. 

Two thousand miles away from the beltway, I saw middle class Americans standing in line for hours waiting to see a doctor.  Now, these folks have jobs.  Eighty-three percent of them that came through the door had jobs.  But they can‘t afford the cost of insurance. 

They are basically—I guess you could say on the GOP plan, pray you don‘t get sick. 

I met a guy named Chris.  His family owns its own business.  He works, his wife works.  They have a brand new baby at home.  But they just don‘t have enough or make enough to get health care. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS LONA, CLINIC PATIENT:  My brother has a business.  We have an auto repair shop. 

SCHULTZ:  Oh, OK.  Great. 

LONA:  And we can‘t really afford insurance.  I had it at one time for a couple of months, but I went in for my first checkup and they kind of denied everything.  They approved it to begin with, and then when the bills were to be paid, they declined everything.  And all there was checkup for prostate, and regular blood pressure and all that other stuff. 

SCHULTZ:  Sure.  So you had insurance.

LONA:  For a second.  And then they denied everything.  And I ended up having to, you know, spend—it was like close to $3,000. 

SCHULTZ:  How much? 

LONA:  Three thousand dollars on just the checkup stuff. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  See, the Senate, I think, should do business in front of these people, in their own country, the folks who are struggling to make ends meet and live in dignity.  Have the guts to tell these people to their face—and I‘m talking to the Republicans tonight and some conservative Democrats—have the guts to say to these folks to their face that they‘re not worthy of health care because they just don‘t have enough money to buy insurance.  They may see these faces briefly on the campaign trail, but they don‘t make their decisions right in front of them when they‘re standing in line, actually in pain, in agony, in despair, and certainly in desperate need. 

Now, how any lawmaker could deny full access to full health care coverage to any American is just beyond me.  It was a very moving experience. 

You know, we throw billions of dollars at wars, and often we do it without hesitation.  But some in the Congress are willing to say that healing people in their own country just isn‘t worth it because of the money. 

The National Association of Free Clinics and the people who work in this organization, my friends, I have to tell you, this is the best of the best in the United States of America.  They should be doing the voting, making the policy and writing the rules, because they‘re there on the front lines every day. 

I beg the Senate, please make the correct decision for the United States of America and its people—a health care bill that will never fall short of any need for any American.  That‘s really what we‘ve got to have. 

And I want to tell you about these clinics, the National Association of Free Clinics.  It costs about a $250,000 to put these clinics on.  They don‘t have any scheduled like now.  They‘d like to do one in Charlotte, North Carolina, they‘d like to do one in Atlanta, Georgia, and they‘d like to do a couple, actually, in Connecticut, in Hartford and New haven.  They‘re looking for a facility. 

Maybe there will be some community leaders that will step up and help this organization get a facility so they can help thousands of people in their community. 

Get your cell phones out, folks.  Want to know what you think about this one tonight. 

Our text survey tonight is, “Do you think our Senate grasps how bad the health care crisis?” 

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

Joining me now is Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. 

Senator, good to have you with us tonight. 

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Thank you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  And I asked our team—you bet.  I asked our team if we could specifically get you on tonight because you‘ve been in the Senate almost 30 years, and you have made a shift from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. 

If you could give our audience tonight some insight about how the Republicans might be thinking in caucus about the health care bill?  Is it all about defeating President Obama and his agenda, or they really believe that denying Americans health care coverage is the right way to go? 

Senator, if you can, give us some insight on that. 

SPECTER:  It‘s strictly political, Ed.  The statement came out of the Republicans Caucus that they want this to be President Obama‘s Waterloo, that they want this to “break him.”  So that is where it is. 

Not one Republican—only one Republican in the House of Representatives voted for the health care package out of more than 170, and only one Republican on the Senate Finance Committee voted it out of committee.  It is strictly political, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s amazing to me, and I appreciate your honesty, because what I saw yesterday in Kansas City, Missouri—and I‘m going to go to some other free health care clinics because I think this is the pulse of America.  This is the middle class that we keep talking about on this show, and what we hear from the Obama administration about reinvigorating America and the economy, health care reform is a big part of it. 

If I were to take a Republican senator to one of these clinics, they would say that it‘s all about politics, we have to beat Barack Obama?  Do you think they‘d say that right in front of the very people who are being denied health care in this country? 

SPECTER:  Well, there are a couple of Republican senators who you might get to go there, but I don‘t think you‘d get very many to go, so they wouldn‘t want to say something. 

Look, Ed, I‘ve been struggling with a health issue for a long time.  For 10 years, I chaired the Appropriations Subcommittee, took the lead on National Institute of Health funding and community health centers.  And there are many of us—I think there are 60 senators—and that‘s what it takes to legislate—there are 60 senators who want to have a health care reform bill. 

It‘s not as good as I would like it, but I think we‘re going to get there in a significant way.  I‘d like to have Republican help. 

The American people would be a lot more confident about what we are doing if it was bipartisan.  That‘s a showing of balance.  But we may be able to persuade a couple of Republicans to come forward, Ed, but not many. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, this is a short interview that I had with just one of the people that I ran into yesterday.  I want to play this for you. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LONA:  We recently just had a baby, and so it‘s been kind of rough with the income.  So, you know, we‘re just praying that the work that you guys are doing at MSNBC is enough to put pressure on the senators to get something for the people that work but can‘t afford health insurance. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Senator, let me ask you, with all your experience in the Senate, give us a sense tonight.  Does the Senate grasp the severity of what Americans are facing right now in this country when it comes to health care?  Do you think the Senate gets it? 

SPECTER:  Most of us do.  And that‘s why we have been working on this plan.  We‘ve been working on it now, Ed, virtually nonstop for months.  And the 60 of us on the Democratic side—and we‘ve had input from a couple of Republicans—are trying very hard to structure it.  So, in direct response to your question, the answer is yes. 

We know millions are not covered.  We know that people can‘t afford it.  We know that we need to give subsidies to people at the lower income levels.  And we‘re determined to take a big step forward.  Not as big a step, I repeat, Ed, as some of us would like, but I think it is a significant step forward. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator Specter, good to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much.  Appreciate your time.

SPECTER:  Always a pleasure, Ed.  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

Robert Reich, former labor secretary, is now with us here on THE ED SHOW tonight.  He‘s a professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley.  He blogs at RobertReich.blogspot.com.  And I‘ve been reading some of it, and he has a lot of good stuff to say. 

I want to ask you, Dr. Reich, about the public option versus a limited Medicare buy-in for those over 55 who don‘t have insurance.  Would this, in your opinion, be a good tradeoff?

ROBERT REICH, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY:  Not at all, Ed, because the Medicare buy-in assumes that there‘s a private insurance market out there that is keeping some discipline and has some competition going on.  That‘s not the case. 

I mean, Medicare costs are exploding.  There is going to be a commission in the Senate bill that takes some—or control over those costs.  But again, only to the extent that private health care expenditures are exceeded. 

But private health care expenditures are going to go through the roof if the private health care expenditures are dominated by these for-profit insurance companies.  That‘s why we need a public option. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think that the Progressive Caucus would be doing the right thing if they were to balk at this if it didn‘t have a public option in it, and walk from this and force the bill not to go through and just head to the next midterm? 

REICH:  Well, Ed, the House bill does have a public option in it right now.  The Senate bill looks like it‘s not going to have a public option.  Now, the question is, what happens when it gets to conference?

Ultimately, I do believe progressives have got to draw the line and say, look, if the private insurance companies are not going to have any competition, and if there‘s not going to be any antitrust law, they are exempt from the antitrust laws, then they are going to become monopolies.  And if we‘re asking Americans and we‘re telling Americans they all have got to buy insurance if they don‘t have it, if they‘re not subsidized, well, you‘re telling Americans they‘ve got to buy insurance to buy into a monopoly.

You know, these private insurance markets are consolidating like mad.  Nine states right now, you‘ve got two private insurance companies that have 85 percent of the market.  And it‘s growing.  Their dominance is growing.  So, there‘s got to be some control there. 

You know, Ed, I look at the Senate bill and I say, yes, it‘s an improvement over the health care system we have right now.  But look at down four or eight or 10 or 15 years from now, and you‘ve got to question, if you‘ve got a private insurance market that is so consolidated, that is so monopolistic, and everybody -- 31 million—however many million Americans are being subsidized or have to buy into that private insurance market, and all the employers have got to buy in, or are providing insurance to their employees, the costs are going to go through the sky and the private insurers are going to clean up.

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Well, let‘s took about antitrust for just a moment, because I don‘t know if I buy into this or not.  And I want your take on it. 

All right, Mr. Robert Reich, you run Aetna and I run UnitedHealthcare.  And we go have lunch some day, and we strike a deal over lunch—you know, why don‘t you stay out of Minnesota and I‘ll stay out of California, and, by the way, why don‘t you charge this for a family of four.  And you be in the neighborhood and I‘ll be in the neighborhood, and we‘ll just do our business as we do it.  And we‘ll just tell the Congress that, you know, it just costs too much money to go set up shop in that part of the country, so we‘re happy doing our business right here. 

Answer me this, Mr. Reich.  How in the hell is that going to be enforced by the Congress?  They can pass the antitrust law all they want, but how are you going to monitor it? 

REICH:  Well, it‘s going to be very hard to monitor.  I think what you have to do is make sure that there is a public option.  Short of a public option, the government is going to have to monitor the insurance markets to make sure that there‘s not that kind of collusion even if the antitrust laws did apply, as you were saying. 

SCHULTZ:  Exactly. 

REICH:  But look, the Senate bill right now does not even allow the antitrust laws to apply.  It keeps the exemption for the insurance companies from antitrust.  So we‘ve got the worst of both worlds, the worst of all worlds in the Senate bill. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘ll tell you what‘s also bad is they‘re not taking a vote on the drug reimportation that Senator Dorgan has got for an amendment.  That ought to be in the bill anyway.  I mean, there‘s a lot of stuff going on that the American people in a short period of time have got to pay real attention to. 

As it stands right now—go ahead.  I‘m not convinced it‘s reform right now.  I‘m not. 

REICH:  Well, Ed, I think your point that you just made is absolutely the key.  Americans have got to pay attention to this. 

You know, when I‘m in Washington, as I often have to be, people say to me, “Don‘t make the perfect the enemy of the better.”  That‘s what I hear over and over again, and I understand that. 

I mean, legislation is legislation.  It‘s like making sausage.  It‘s pretty ugly sometimes. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

REICH:  But if people are not paying attention, the only players in this game are the big insurance companies, the big pharmaceutical companies, the AMA, all of the inside players.  It‘s very hard for the public interest to actually be responded to. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, my dad used to say, “You show me a bull in a china closet and I‘ll show you the bull in a china closet.”  The result is always going to be the same, and the insurance industry is the bull in the china closet and you can‘t control them. 

Mr. Reich, great to have you with us tonight.

REICH:  But Ed, people can still—I just want one final point...

SCHULTZ:  Sure. 

REICH:  ... and that is—the public option can still be there.  If people wake up—I mean, Americans can say to their representatives, say to their senators, say to their relatives who are in states like Nebraska and Iowa and Florida and Maine, look, we have to have a public option in order to keep the private insurers honest. 

SCHULTZ:  I agree.  Got to run, Mr. Reich.  Great to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much. 

REICH:  Thanks, Ed.  Bye-bye. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, the Congress really did something right today. 

They got out the bullhorn and let Wall Street know that the party‘s over.  John Harwood will tell us about the crackdown in legislation in just a moment. 

And, get this—a top Republican leader says his party‘s moved too far to the left and it‘s time for the Tea Partiers to take over.

I‘m calling them out in “Psycho Talk.”  

All that, plus one of Tiger‘s mistresses spilled some nasty beans on “The Today Show.”  Stephen A. Smith and Stephanie Miller are in the house to talk about that tonight.

You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER:  ... the past administration, because philosophically they believe in the objective, took the referees off the field.  And the game got out of hand. 

And when game gets out of hand, it‘s the little people.  It‘s the Sue Chapmans (ph) that get trampled on.  This bill puts the referees back on the field. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Big move in Congress today. 

President Obama and the Democrats are making good on their promise to rein in Wall Street.  And it happened today. 

The House passed landmark reform legislation that allows for too-big-to-fail banks to be broken up.  It puts much more vigilant oversight on hedge funds and other risky businesses, and it creates a new watchdog group to protect consumers.  Not surprisingly, though, not one—not one Republican voted for it. 

Joining me now is John Harwood, CNBC chief Washington correspondent and political writer for “The New York Times.”

John, great to have you with us tonight. 

And I think what a lot of Americans are probably wondering tonight, if this legislation that the House passed today had been in place, would a lot of things not have happened that happened a year ago? 

What do you think? 

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it‘s certainly possible.  The consumer protection, the oversight of systemic risk, in theory, ought to have prevented it, but it‘s very hard to go back and replay that.  And remember that a lot of the fault was a sort of confluence of events, actions by Wall Street, actions in Washington, and actions by ordinary people trying to get more house or bigger loans than they could afford.  But Democrats certainly feel like they‘re taking a step forward. 

And isn‘t it remarkable?  Don‘t we relearn every time you‘ve got a big issue, whether it was on the stimulus package earlier this year, to this vote right now, how polarized these two parties are, remarkable that no Republicans voted for it? 

SCHULTZ:  It is absolutely amazing that you would think that they would get at least a few votes on this.  It almost is an endorsement that they‘re OK with what happened on Wall Street. 

Tell us, John, about this new watchdog group.  What will they do?  How will it operate? 

HARWOOD:  Well, the watchword of this reform is greater transparency, disclosure.  People understand what products they‘re getting, a lot less of the fine print and the nasty surprises that people get when their payments go up.  So the Consumer Protection Agency is trying to make sure that financial institutions are straight up with people when they borrow money and make sure that they don‘t take it to the cleaners. 

I want to make one point on the partisanship that we were talking about a minute ago.  When I talked to Democrats yesterday, they thought they were going to get 10 to 15 Republican votes.  They thought, to use the phrase that Barack Obama and Sarah Palin have both used recently, that some of those vulnerable Republican moderates would get all wee-weeed up about the idea of being on the wrong side of regulating Wall Street.

It did not happen.  Republicans held together.  And I think they‘re making a bet, Ed, that they can hang everything that happens in the economy next week year with high unemployment on the Democrats. 

SCHULTZ:  And one other story, John, I want to touch on with you tonight is that the president wants to take some of this unused TARP money and move it into a position where it can help small businesses. 

Is that really going to be a reality?  Do you feel like the White House is going to be able to accomplish that?  And I‘ve said all along that I think this is going to be the real key to recovery in job creation. 

HARWOOD:  I do, absolutely.  They‘re extremely committed to this. 

The president said in his job speech the other day, it‘s time to use that bailout money, shift its purpose from Wall Street to Main Street.  Democrats know they have got to do that, because they‘re extremely vulnerable politically in 2010, with 10 percent unemployment.  It may go down a little bit, but not all that much.  People think it‘s going to go higher than 10 percent, where it is right now. 

They‘ve got to find a way to do it.  And using some of that TARP money is something the administration believes it can do unilaterally.  Whatever Congress does in a jobs package, they believe they can use some of that TARP money for this purpose. 

SCHULTZ:  John Harwood, appreciate your time.  Have a great weekend. 

Thanks for being here tonight. 

HARWOOD:  You bet.

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, Senator Jim “DeMinted” of South Carolina is sucking up to the Tea Party crowd in a way that can do some real damage to this country, in my opinion.  I suggest he put down the tea cup and drink some of what I‘m going to serve up next in “Psycho Talk.”

Stay with us.. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And in “Psycho Talk” tonight, Senator Waterloo, Jim DeMint of South Carolina. 

DeMint went on the Christian Broadcast Network this week.  He was talking about how the Republican Party needs to recruit ultra-conservative candidates for 2010.  And to top it all off, he threw in a shameless plug. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  What we need to do is just restore the faith of the American people in our government.  In this next election, they need to have some clear choices. 

I think there are many Republicans out there across the country who are willing to step into that role, and we just need to give them a shot.  So the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is SenateConservatives.com, by the way, if folks want to help. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Before you break out your checkbooks, folks, listen to the kind of fools that Jim thinks can fix the Republican Party. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMINT:  The problem in the Republican Party is that the leadership has gone to the left, and the Tea Parties and the Republicans across the country are right there where, you know, American principles have always been.  And I‘m trying to pull the party back to the mainstream of where America really is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Really, Jimbo?  You‘re saying these Tea Partiers are part of mainstream America?  You really think that they represent American principles?  Ever seen the signs? 

If you want to make these hate merchants to take over your party, have at it.  But that just shows that you‘re full of nothing but self-serving “Psycho Talk.”  

Coming up, Harry Reid says he‘s very comfortable with what the Senate‘s doing with the health care bill.  Well, that makes one of us, I guess. 

The Progressive Caucus is fired up.  Congressman Earl Blumenauer will be here to blast off in just a minute. 

And Tiger‘s former mistress drops some bombs on “The Today Show” this morning.  Stephen A. Smith will turn down the lights on that in the “Playbook.”

Stay with us.  We‘re right back on THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW tonight.  Thanks for watching.  Another Democratic senator is trashing Harry Reid‘s compromise deal that would allow the uninsured people over 55 to buy into Medicare, but force everyone else into private insurance.  Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said today that the Medicare buy-in would be a non-starter.  Progressives are pushing back hard, and Harry Reid is on the defensive.  He says he hasn‘t turned his back on the public option. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  That would be the case if we didn‘t have something better than the public option.  So we feel very comfortable with where we are. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining me now is Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a member of the Progressive Caucus.  Congressman, thanks for your time tonight. 

Normally, I‘ve got a pretty good read on everything that‘s going on when it comes to health care.  I‘ve been paying close attention to it for months on end.  But I have to say, public option, no public option; we‘re over here; then we‘re over here; then we‘re over here; then we‘re out there.  What‘s going on?  Can you give us—there has to be an update in the last five minutes.  What‘s happening, Earl? 

REP. EARL BLUMENAUER (D), OREGON:  I think you just gave, Ed, the perfect update.  I mean, talk about a shell game, lots of moving pieces.  We really don‘t know.  You heard members of the Democratic Senate caucus indicate that they thought they had a deal, but they didn‘t know what it was.  The people who are so against single payer, are they really going to buy into the biggest single payer program we‘ve got in the United States, government-sponsored Medicare? 

It raises more questions than it answers.  I think we sent them a reasonable bill, including a public option.  I think they ought to stick with it. 

SCHULTZ:  I do, too.  I read the House bill.  I think it‘s solid.  It‘s reform.  It‘s competition.  It covers a lot more Americans.  The people that I ran into yesterday at the free clinic in Kansas City, Missouri would be helped dramatically by the House bill, because they‘re all under 90,000 dollars in income.  They would get subsidies and they‘d be able to go out and purchase insurance, even in the private sector.  It would seem to me that everybody would be able to buy into that. 

Now, let me ask you about this Medicare 55.  I think we need to make this very clear, from what you know about it.  This would not be available to people over 55 if they‘ve already got insurance.  It seems to me that there‘s a lot of people out there commenting, oh, this plus 55 is a great deal.  It‘s just going to cover everybody over 55.  That‘s not the case.  Now, do I have that right or wrong? 

BLUMENAUER:  You just stated what my understanding is.  We‘ve got big questions, though, beyond that.  As you know—and we‘ve talked before on your show—one of the things we have to do is change the wild disparities of Medicare reimbursement all over the country, in some cases rewarding volume over value.  This has the potential to really pose really serious problems for low cost, high value areas.  And what happens if people who are really, really sick buy into it when they need it?  We can skew the financing for Medicare.  And we‘ve already got a problem, as you know, with Medicare, the long-term financing of Medicare.  This could be very dicey. 

SCHULTZ:  There will be no Republican, come hell or high water, House or Senate.  Do you believe that? 

BLUMENAUER:  As it looks right now, I don‘t see where they come from.  But I, for one, think that each week that passes, with health care rates going up, with bankruptcies continuing, and the same thing that I‘ve seen with other areas—when the public focuses, it helps us in the long run. 

I‘ll tell you, I‘ve got an idea that I think will give us health care in six months, maybe in six weeks.  All these people that don‘t like government involvement in their health care, I say let‘s cut off government involvement with health care for members of the House and Senate.  I‘ll guarantee you, if they‘re no longer eligible for the federal health insurance program, for Medicare, for veterans, for the House attending physicians, for military doctors when they fly overseas, if all of that goes off the table, I‘ll bet you, in a pretty short order, they‘ll start to understand the urgency.  And I think we‘ll get real reform. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, great to have you on tonight.  Thanks so much, appreciate your time. 

BLUMENAUER:  My pleasure. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

For more, let me bring in Dr. Jack Lewin.  He‘s the CEO of the American College of Cardiology, a gentleman I feel like calling every day, because I think I‘m going to have a heart attack following all of this stuff.  But anyway, Dr. Lewin, good to have you with us tonight on a Friday evening. 

DR. JACK LEWIN, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF CARDIOLOGY:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  If you could, from a doctor‘s perspective, when you hear that Medicare could be expanded to those at 55 and older, whether it is just three million people or 20 million people, what does that mean to you?  What does it mean to the profession? 

LEWIN:  Ed, first, cardiologists, and I think most doctors, think we need to have health reform.  We‘ve got to do something to deal with costs, coordinate care better, improve quality.  That we‘ve got to move. 

But, you know, Medicare, it serves 40 plus million people pretty well.  It‘s been around for 45 years.  But there‘s a lot of concern among doctors, if you talk about expanding Medicare, because it is paying doctors in crazy fashion.  Cardiologists are going to get a 27 to 30 percent cut in January because of kind of a flawed formula.  All doctors could get a 21 percent cut.  Cardiologists would get another 27 percent. 

You know, what‘s going to happen is that cardiologists are all going to work for the hospitals as employees, and then the tests in the hospital are triple the cost of the doctor‘s office.  Do we really want to move private practice doctors into hospital employment?  I‘m not sure we‘re ready for these big moves. 

So this Medicare expansion needs to be handled very carefully.  We‘ll work with Congress, if that‘s what they want to do.  But it‘s not something that just snap your fingers and make it happen very easily. 

SCHULTZ:  I think it‘s very interesting what you bring up, because it sounds like—or correct me if I‘m wrong.  Would it be easier to make the case for the public option from the medical profession standpoint than it would be to go through what you just explained? 

LEWIN:  The public option is something we would want to sit down and figure out with Congress how it‘s going to work and details.  Is it really going to be a plan where doctors can contract with it?  Or is it going to be another price fixing plan? 

You know, we have such a frustrating experience recently with how Medicare pays doctors, in the formulas they use, that if they could solve some of those problems, and sit down with medicine, we could help them solve this problem.  We need reform.  We need to move ahead.  But we need to do it in a better way than the current system‘s working. 

SCHULTZ:  Doctor, good to have you with us tonight.  I appreciate your time.  Thanks for being on. 

LEWIN:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  For more, let me turn to our panel tonight, Joe Madison, XM satellite radio talk show host, and Michael Graham, talk show host of WTKK Radio in Boston. 

Michael, I probably should throw a couple of numbers at you.  There‘s been two polls out this week that says that 60 percent of the American people want the public option.  There‘s one of them, 58 percent say a public option is a good thing.  That‘s in the Marist poll.  Then, of course, there was another poll from CBS News/”New York Times,” 59 percent. 

So I‘m sure you‘re going to tell me these are lefty polls and nobody should be paying any attention to.  But I‘ll let you respond to it. 

MICHAEL GRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I won‘t tell you that at all.  Because if you ask specifically about the public option, and ask people that question, they‘re answering, as you said, about 55, 61 percent.  You ask them, do you want this health care reform package, as CNN reported today, 61 percent of Americans say no, don‘t do it; 38 percent say yes. 

I want to say something.  You know I love you, Ed, like the brother I never had.  But of all the moronic ideas your team has ever come out with, going to Medicare?  As Congressman Barney Frank said at a town hall a few months ago, Medicare‘s not going bankrupt; it‘s just running out of money. 

SCHULTZ:  It just needs more money.  But backing up here, what you just said about the 61 percent, I agree with that.  Because I‘m in that don‘t pass this.  I‘m in the don‘t pass mode right now, because it hasn‘t gone far enough.  So the devil‘s in the detail when you talk about what‘s on the table right now.  No, I‘d say no, it doesn‘t cover enough people and it doesn‘t have a robust public option. 

Joe, where do we stand right now?  It seems like we‘re playing darts right now.  We‘ve got a dart board mentality when it comes to what we‘re going to end up with. 

JOE MADISON, XM RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You‘re an old football player, like I am.  You know what it seems like?  It seems like, you know, how you keep throwing—lateraling the ball back to another player and another player and another player.

SCHULTZ:  We‘re watching the Stanford band play right now. 

MADISON:  Yeah, but here‘s another figure that everyone ought to look at: in the two weeks that the Senate has been debating this, 224,000 people have lost insurance.  Teachers have been laid off.  Policemen have been laid off.  Let me put that in perspective; that‘s more people that live in Reno, Nevada, as an example. 

SCHULTZ:  Oh, the numbers are staggering. 

MADISON:  And Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Those are the figures.  What bothers me about this plan is, like you, I think a lot of politics is in this.  This 54, 55 signing on early, who happens to be the bloc that votes the most, Ed.  It‘s that group.  And what bothers me is what about the young‘uns, who are 24, in their 30s, what do they do?  And they‘re hit by unemployment, actually, harder than most demographics. 

SCHULTZ:  I can tell you what, Joe.  Yesterday at that free clinic in Kansas City, Missouri, I watched closely.  The demographic was 25-54.  This was not a geezer clinic.  OK? 

MADISON:  That‘s absolutely right. 

SCHULTZ:  That older demographic has got Medicare.  It‘s the heart of America, the demographic in the heart of America, 25 to 54, the young families, that have no recourse.  They can‘t afford it.  These people are working Americans.  Michael, you were going to say something. 

GRAHAM:  Joe was asking about what‘s going to happen to to those younger people?  They‘re going to pay.  Because, as we all know, Medicare only covers about 70 or 80 percent of what it costs when these patients actually go in.  Those costs are shifted on to other people.  Now what you‘ve done is the pool of people who can bear that cost, it is going to even be heavier on the younger, hard working, struggling lowest income point people in their lives.  This is so utterly unfair. 

MADISON:  You just reversed my argument.  I‘m not talking about the younger people who are working. 

GRAHAM:  Oh. 

MADISON:  I‘m talking about the millions of younger people who aren‘t working, who can‘t afford any health care, can‘t afford any premiums.  And let me tell you the other thing; this thing about the federal government employees, you know that there are 225 -- I‘m sorry, 250,000 federal employees right now who can‘t afford their premiums. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s a staggering number. 

GRAHAM:  But we all know, as the Department of Health and Human Services, the AP report on it today, this plan will not reduce the cost of health care.  In fact, the cost of actual medicine, doctors and stuff, are going to go up faster under this plan than if we did nothing.  You guys have no plan to deal with the fundamental problem. 

(CROSS TALK)

MADISON:  The wrong party there, Michael.  You‘re the party of no.  We might be the party of fear, but you‘re the party of no. 

GRAHAM:  I‘m the party of no dumb.  I don‘t want to do anything dumb, please. 

SCHULTZ:  Good to have you tonight.  Good to have both of you. 

MADISON:  No and dumb is what‘s going on on your side. 

SCHULTZ:  Joe and Michael, good to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much.  I should point out that there has been—we‘ve got a lot of scoring going on by the CBO.  There‘s never been any scoring on single payer whatsoever.  I think that‘s a travesty.

Coming up, former Blackwater employees have stepped out of the shadows to reveal some stunning details about their partnership with the CIA.  We‘ll be talking about that, blowing the lid off the world‘s most powerful mercenary army.  That‘s coming up in the playbook.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, more controversy surrounding intelligence operations in Iraq during the Bush administration.  Former Blackwater employees told “The New York Times” that between 2004 and 2006, they actively participated in secret CIA raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But Blackwater‘s government contract only authorized them to use force defensively. 

Now, CIA officials are saying that the agency‘s director, Leon Panetta, has ordered a special review of those contracts.  For more, let me bring in who we consider to be the authority on this issue, and that is “The Nation‘s” Jeremy Scahill.  Jeremy, good to have you with us tonight. 

Exactly what—of course he‘s also the author of the book “The Rise of The World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Blackwater.”

Jeremy, exactly what were they doing with, in conjunction with the CIA, that the Congress didn‘t know about? 

JEREMY SCAHILL, “THE NATION”:  Well, let me just stress, at the beginning here, Ed, that the American people and the Congress only know a tiny fraction of the dark acts that Blackwater has committed in the names of the American people.  In fact, I‘ve had Blackwater operatives come up to me and say, I read your book and you only know about one percent of the things that we were involved with. 

This story that broke today in “The New York Times” was essentially a public secret for those of us that have been covering this issue.  Blackwater operators were supposed to be doing what‘s called force protection for CIA operatives that were in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This contract goes all the way back to 2002.  What we understand is that the Blackwater guys, many of them former Navy SEALS, Delta Force, were actually participating actively in raids and, in some cases, in the extraordinary rendition or the rendition of prisoners as part of this CIA team. 

SCHULTZ:  Do we know how many Blackwater personnel were involved?  Because a lot of the media reports over the last six, seven years—we‘ve got so many troops here, so many troops here.  Have we really gotten an accurate number about what kind of resources in personnel that we have committed in Iraq and Afghanistan? 

SCAHILL:  Ed, the company was a plausible deniability machine.  Eric Prince, the owner of that company, built a parallel infrastructure to the US military.  He had an air force, with his own aircraft.  He had a maritime division.  He had Blackwater Select, which was providing special operations guys.  They were guarding and still do guard US diplomats and ambassadors, including the US ambassador in Afghanistan right now. 

Ed, I also understand that Blackwater, because it‘s owned by such an incredibly wealthy individual, did some operations for free.  That‘s the ultimate deniability under the Bush administration.  There were arrangements with Cheney, the CIA and special forces, where Blackwater‘s guys were essentially working for free in operations funded by the owner of that company, Eric Prince. 

The story here, though, Ed, that everyone seems to be missing is that Blackwater wasn‘t just working for the CIA.  They were working for the Joint Special Operations Command, the US military.  And we talked about this on your show recently, including in Pakistan, where Backwater simultaneously worked for the CIA and for JSOC.  That story is a scandal that needs to be investigated much more thoroughly, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Is this relationship between Blackwater and the CIA and the use of Blackwater still in existence under the Obama administration? 

SCAHILL:  It certainly is.  In fact, news was breaking as I came on tonight that Leon Panetta, the CIA director, is trying to cancel Blackwater‘s participation in the CIA drone bombing campaign, which has put its operatives on the ground not only in Pakistan, but in Afghanistan as well.  So my understanding, from sources both within Blackwater and outside, is that Blackwater remains very active with both US special forces and the CIA. 

SCHULTZ:  Jeremy, we‘ll be calling on you a lot.  I appreciate your time tonight on THE ED SHOW.  Thanks so much. 

SCAHILL:  Thank you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, folks, it might be time to send your kids into the next room, because we‘ve got some new details to share on Tiger.  Stephen A. Smith in the house tonight. 

Plus, Jenny Sanford saying adios to the love gov.   She says she‘s going to divorce the governor of South Carolina.  Stephanie Miller will join us.  Stay with us, we‘re right back on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Breaking news at this hour,

Tiger Woods --  Tiger Woods has reported on his website that he will take

an indefinite break from professional golf.  He just posted this on his

website: quote, “I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my

infidelity has caused so many people, most of all my wife and children.  I

want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask

forgiveness.  It may not be possible to repair the damage that I‘ve done,

but I want to do my best to try.  I would like to ask everyone, including

my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA tour

and my fellow competitors for their understanding.  What‘s most important

now is that my family has the time, privacy, safe haven that we‘ll need to

·         for the personal healing.  After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf.  I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father and person.  Again, I ask for privacy for my family.  And I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period.”

For more, let me bring in Stephen A. Smith, columnist with “The Philadelphia Inquirer” and syndicated journalist and cultural commentator.  Stephen A., this is the big step that a lot of people have been waiting for.  What‘s your analysis at this hour? 

STEPHEN A. SMITH, “THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER”:  Relatively a waste of time, as far as I‘m concerned.  I don‘t feel sorry for him.  But, at the same time, I wouldn‘t want to be in the position he‘s in right now.  I understand that he‘s being sensitive to the public at large.  Obviously, he‘s the first billionaire athlete for a reason, because of their support, and them patronizing any product that he tried to sell.  But at the end of the day, what it comes down to, if he‘s not playing golf, he‘s going to be spending an awful lot of time at home with his wife, the very woman who he has publicly humiliated.  I wouldn‘t wish that on any man, any man. 

SCHULTZ:  Is he doing the right thing, Stephen A.? 

SMITH:  I don‘t think he is.  I don‘t mind him taking a short break.  But when you say indefinite leave of absence, that could be for quite some time.  The reality is that this story is not going to go away, as long as Tiger Woods doesn‘t get back out on the golf course.  That‘s really what this comes down to.  Unless he‘s permanently retiring, it‘s not going away. 

The fact is that every single day we hear about a different woman.  So it‘s obviously going to get worse, in all likelihood, before it gets better.  I think the only cure is for him to get back on the golf course and to win, and to face up and man up to the public, per se, as opposed to hiding in his mansion and never being seen by anybody.  That‘s not accountability in the eyes of the American public.  Sooner or later, he‘s going to learn that. 

SCHULTZ:  So you think that this isn‘t the beginning of the healing process?  It might be the personal healing process.  But for golf and for business, it‘s not a good move? 

SMITH:  No, no, no, for golf and for business, it may be a good move for the immediate future.  But the story is just going to be revisited, no matter how long Tiger stays out before he comes back.  When he comes back, it will bring even more attention.  It will bring more attention again, when people thought they were beyond that.  If he came out and dealt with it like a man, and just manned up, after a little time off, of course, it would be different.  But for him to think he‘s going to disappear for six months and then it is going to fade—no, it will be revisited the minute he shows his face. 

SCHULTZ:  Stephen A. Smith, good to have you on tonight.  Thanks so much.  For more, let me bring in Stephanie Miller.  It‘s time for Club Ed. 

Stephanie, we‘ve got big news coming out of South Carolina; the governor‘s wife, Jenny Sanford, saying see ya.  Good move?  What do you think?

STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Yeah, that‘s a shock to me as a woman, Ed.  When he said, my mistress is my soul-mate, but I‘m trying to fall back in love with the old ball and chain, that should have been just a real ice breaker for his wife.  Don‘t you think?  His wife also caught him with the texts and the e-mails.  Between he and Tiger, what have we learned this week, boys?  You can have sex with women other than your wife, or you can have electronic devices.  You can‘t have both.  Pick your toys, or you‘ll have a held in more ways than one, Ed.  And I think you know what I mean. 

SCHULTZ:  What is happening in the health care debate?  How do you call it right now?

MILLER:  Well, I‘m with you.  I was a single payer gal.  You know, I‘m a dog lover.  When I had to have my dogs fixed, I got them neuticles.  You know, they‘re fake testicles.  I say we send some of those to our Democratic congress-people and senators.  It‘s going to be a tight fit for Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln.  They can fake testicular fortitude, even if they don‘t actually have any. 

SCHULTZ:  Stephanie Miller, thanks so much for joining us tonight on the Club Ed. 

Tonight, I asked our audience, does the Senate get how bad the health care crisis is?  Seven percent of you said yes; 93 percent said no. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is coming up next.  We‘ll see you Monday.  Have a great weekend.  We‘re back here Monday night, 6:00 Eastern, on THE ED SHOW.  Have a good one.

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