updated 12/18/2009 4:04:16 PM ET 2009-12-18T21:04:16

Guests: Howard Dean, Ron Wyden, John Nichols, Lanny Davis, Jane Hamsher,

Laura Flanders, Ernest Istook, Paul Rieckhoff, Roger Simmermaker, Sam

Stein

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

I have been telling you for a few days they got rabbit ears, the White House.  Ooh, are they a little touchy as of late, desperate to sell what they are calling health care reform?  I don‘t buy it.

They are trying to vilify now anybody who opposes it.  That‘s what‘s happening to Howard Dean. 

So I go on “MORNING JOE” this morning to try to explain why I think that this bill is not real reform.  Now it‘s changes, I‘ll give you that, but it‘s not reform. 

So, White House senior adviser David Axelrod, he blackberries me and says I‘ve got to get on the program, I‘ve got to counter this.  So, he gets on the program and he gets to talk to Ed. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Progressives in this country do not believe that there is direct competition for the insurance industry.  We‘re going to be handing private insurance 40 million customers roughly, with taxpayer dollars, subsidizing those under $90,000 a year, as it stands right now. 

Where‘s the competition?  You talk about the exchange.  The exchange is going to be—the oversight there is going to be private insurance.  The key is people in this country right now, the progressives, don‘t believe that the White House has stood up to the insurance industry. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  David? 

DAVID AXELROD, SR. ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Ed, let me ask you a question.  Why is the insurance industry so vigorously opposing this bill? 

SCHULTZ:  They are playing a shell game. 

AXELROD:  If this such a gift to the insurance industry, if they don‘t believe that this is going to force competition and force them to adhere to some standards in terms of how they treat patients—by the way, let me just add, parenthetically, we fought for years as progressives for a Patient‘s Bill of Rights.  Everything that was in that Patient‘s Bill of Rights is now enshrined in this legislation, and yet people say, let‘s just throw it away, we don‘t need it anymore. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

AXELROD:  Why is the insurance industry fight it so hard, Ed? 

SCARBOROUGH : Ed, why are they fighting it? 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Respectfully, Mr. Axelrod, I will answer your question if you answer mine.  I will answer your question. 

They have the money to play a shell game on the American people.  They are creating this facade that it‘s really bad for them. 

It‘s not.  It‘s a handout.  We have had former insurance executives who have nothing to lose come on the air and explain to the American people that this is a sellout to big insurance. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  So, Mr. Axelrod failed to answer my question on “MORNING JOE.”  And he also failed to answer it when he was on “HARDBALL” in the last hour tonight.  But he did have to say this about me... 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AXELROD:  Well, let me say, I think there‘s a lot of passion around this issue, and I don‘t disparage anyone who has—Ed Schultz is a very passionate person, and I think he genuinely wants the best for people.  And we have to set aside the things that we don‘t like and recognize that this has enormous good in it, and it is—and it maybe the last chance we get. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Now, I want to point out to the viewers of THE ED SHOW tonight that we, on about three occasions today, tried to get Mr. Axelrod to come on this program and talk to me face-to-face.  I don‘t know.  I don‘t bite, I just ask direct questions and tell you exactly where the progressives are in this country on the issues. 

The president goes around the country telling everybody how tough he is, but maybe he doesn‘t have tough guys around him.  Maybe the media heat from Fargo is just too tough. 

Mr. Axelrod, you‘re dodging the major issue here of competition. 

Where‘s the competition to keep the insurance companies in check? 

It doesn‘t exist.  It is not in this bill.  And you know that. 

Senator Byron Dorgan had a great line last night.  The White House should take note of this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA:  My dad used to say, “Never buy something from somebody who is out of breath.”  There is a kind of breathless quality here about the deal-making that has been going on. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  And the deal-making he is talking about is the deal with big pharma, as the drug reimportation bill didn‘t pass because they twisted arms on 30 Democrats to vote against it.  It would have been an immediate impact on consumers in this country. 

Bottom line here, folks, the White House is scrambling.  They are going to take any bill they can get.  They have lost the focus on what health care reform is all about. 

And for the record, I don‘t think the Democrats should kill the bill yet.  You know, I think we should try to go through the process, let the elected officials try to fix this thing in conference committee.  But I think the bigger point that Howard Dean is making that is so critical, the Democrats once again are showing that, you know, they are not a party that has a whole lot of spine and a whole lot of loyalty. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIRMAN:  You know, if we were Republicans, we would have rammed this thing through the way we wanted to.  They wouldn‘t have hesitated to do that.

And, you know, we‘re not tough enough.  The Democrats aren‘t tough enough.  We don‘t have to be mean like the Republicans can be, but we have to be a lot tougher if we are going to get anything done. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Nobody‘s mean.  And I just want to say that I do not believe in my heart that it is a radical position to expect the leaders of the party to fight for a public option when it is in the party platform.

Universal health care for all Americans, I don‘t think that‘s a bridge too far.  This is the first time in 30 years the Democrats have had the White House, House and Senate.  So, it‘s just one capitulation after another. 

And so, all right, you‘re going to capitulate on a lot of stuff?  I want to have the opportunity to ask you the direct question, where is the competition guarantee to the American people that there is a mechanism in place to keep the insurance industry honest? 

We now are seeing the White House in a roundabout way telling the American people that they are going to trust the very industry that has gouged the middle class for the last 10 years.  I don‘t buy it.  It doesn‘t go far enough.

I‘m not radical.  I‘m not a rebel.  I‘ve been out there with the folks. 

I have done a lot of town halls.  I listen to them every day on the radio. 

So, folks, tell me what you think tonight in our telephone survey. 

The number is 1-877-ED-MSNBC. 

My question tonight is: Do you think the liberal wing—we‘re going juice it up for you—do you think the liberal—you know, it‘s just so hard to say that word, just such a nasty word, “liberal.”  Do you think the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is just being too tough on the White House? 

Press 1 for yes.  Press 2 for no.  Again, the number is 1-877-ED-

MSNBC. 

We‘ll bring you the results later on in the show. 

Stand up and cheer for this next man.  Joining me now is the man at the center of this firestorm, Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and former chair of the DNC. 

Governor Dean, thanks for your time tonight. 

DEAN:  Thanks for standing up for what‘s right, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I just don‘t think it‘s a radical position to expect the party that had it part of their platform to get universal health care for all Americans.  I mean, I went to the convention.  I think you were at the convention.  Weren‘t you? 

Let me ask you.  I believe that you are really forcing progressives and the Democratic Party to do some serious soul searching here in the last 48 hours.  Do you feel like you are doing the right thing by challenging the White House so much?  Because they are coming back saying, hey, seven presidents haven‘t been able to do this, we‘ve got a chance at historical reform here. 

Your take, Dr. Dean? 

DEAN:  Ed, my purpose was never to challenge the White House.  And as I said on MSNBC this morning, I plan to vigorously campaign for President Obama in 2012.  He has done a terrific job on the environment, restored American—the American name abroad. 

The health care bill is a disaster.  And the reason it‘s a disaster is not because there are not some good things in it.  There are definitely some good things in this bill.

But here‘s—let‘s take pre-existing conditions.  Everybody thinks, oh, great, we can stop the insurance companies from discriminating against us with pre-existing conditions.  But they can charge three times more for older people than they do for younger people. 

That could be $20,000 a year for somebody who makes $80,000.  That‘s a quarter of their income.  And that‘s post-tax. 

So, you know, I just—you talked about competition.  There‘s no—you know, insurance companies have an exemption from antitrust law.  Well, that was supposedly going to be in the bill to fix it.  That‘s gone.  On and on it goes. 

I found out this morning that there were some cost control things, some pilot programs.  Well—and they were very good, very good stuff.  The Congress put in a thing that said, well, you‘ve got to come back to Congress to allow them to be implemented. 

Well, we have had that before.  We have seen it with a great pilot program some years ago about durable medical equipment, which costs a lot of money.  That was a pilot project that worked.  Congress never re-authorized it because the lobby industry got in there and got them not to do it. 

So this bill, the fine print of this bill is what kills you.  There‘s some good things in this bill.  There really are.

SCHULTZ:  No doubt.  No doubt. 

DEAN:  But the fine print just kills you. 

SCHULTZ:  Has the White House surrendered?  I mean, the public option, the Medicare 55, it seems like everything the Liebermans of the world ask for and the Nelsons of the world ask for, they get. 

DEAN:  Well, look, I really have vowed, and I‘m going to continue this, unless I lose my temper, which I do once in a great while, but I vowed not to get into that game.  I don‘t want to spend time blaming Joe Lieberman or blaming the White House or any of this kind of stuff.  I just want to get the bill fixed. 

You know, we could slim this bill down, get a lot of the pro-insurance company stuff out of it, which is a lot of the bill.  This could still be a decent bill.  One of the things that didn‘t get in...

SCHULTZ:  I mean, Mr. Axelrod has said some pretty personal stuff about you, like you don‘t know what you‘re talking about. 

DEAN:  Well, he didn‘t really say that.  Look, I talk to him pretty frequently.  In fact, even today we had an e-mail exchange. 

I think he‘s good guy.  I don‘t think it‘s an insult if somebody says they disagree with me or they don‘t think I have the facts or something like that. 

There has been a little subterranean games being played sometimes, but for the most part, the debate has not been about personalities and I would like to keep it that way.  We are all on the same team.  We are having a very public fight because we were promised something that we didn‘t get, which was a real attempt at health care reform with American choices. 

Here is one of the worst things.  You and I are going to be forced, if we don‘t have insurance, and our kids are going to be forced to pay the salaries, $20 million a year, of these health care companies while they fly around—these CEOs while they fly around in their private jets. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s a handout.  It‘s a handout to the private...

DEAN:  For 40 million people.

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely.  Of course it s. 

DEAN:  So at least you ought to get rid of the individual mandates so people aren‘t forced to give all these insurance companies all this money.  This is an outrage.  This bill is an outrage. 

SCHULTZ:  I think it‘s a classic example of overselling and under-delivering.  In the business world, you know, if you‘re in sales, gosh, you promise the sky and then you under-deliver. 

Finally, where do you go from here, Dr. Dean?  I mean, how—when they get this done is it over?  Where do you go from here? 

DEAN:  Well, look, I think they can fix this bill.  I think they can...

SCHULTZ:  In conference committee? 

DEAN:  Well, I would like to see them fix it in the Senate.  I really would.

This does not have to be this kind of a bill.  This is silly, to run all this nonsense by the American people.  They can fix this.  There are some good things in this bill. 

Harkin and Sanders have some good things in there.  John Kerry has got a great amendment on the exchanges to make them work.  That‘s a good piece of legislation.  There‘s stuff in here that‘s worth passing, but we‘ve got to get this—all this insurance...

SCHULTZ:  Well, you‘re saying kill the bill.  There‘s stuff worth passing, but you are still on that page of kill the bill, right? 

DEAN:  No, no, no.  What I‘ve said, what I‘ve always said is, I wouldn‘t vote for this bill as it‘s currently...

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

DEAN:  If they can fix it, that‘s great.  But if I were in the Senate and this bill came to the floor of the Senate, I would vote no.  I absolutely would.  But, you know, hopefully they can fix it. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So you‘re—so, I don‘t want to get mixed signals here.  You know, we were under the understanding that you want to bill kill this bill and start over and go to reconciliation. 

DEAN:  Well, certainly, that would be the best thing to do, because then you could get a public option, or, even better yet, a Medicare buy-in.  That would be the best thing to do.  That‘s what we should have done in the first place, but we didn‘t do that.

Look, there are those senators who said we should just strip out all the pro-insurance company legislation here and pass something, and then come back and try this two years later.  I think that works. 

I think this stuff about, we‘re not going to see this for another generation is not true.  There‘s too much fighting the old wars and not enough of the new stuff.  This is a health care—this is an emergency for America. 

SCHULTZ:  It is.  It is an emergency. 

DEAN:  Listen to this, Ed.  Two years from now, we could come back and pass a bill, signed by the president, and at this time in 2011, and get insurance faster than we would get it if the president signs a bill at the end of December, because this bill doesn‘t take effect for most Americans until 2014.  One of the joys of using Medicare was that you could get people actually insured within months of the president‘s signature. 

SCHULTZ:  Governor Dean, good to have you on tonight.  I appreciate it very much. 

DEAN:  Thanks for standing up for right thing.  I appreciate it, too. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think we‘re correct on the issue.  I really do.

For the other side, I want to bring in Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. 

Senator, good to have you with us. 

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON:  Thank you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  And you may not be on the other side. 

Is Howard Dean and the progressives going too far and being too tough on the White House? 

WYDEN:  I think you always have to push for the consumer.  But here‘s the bottom line, Ed.  I worked very hard for a different bill.  If you look at the record, or say do you a Google search, people can see that I wanted, for example, a robust public option...

SCHULTZ:  Not there. 

WYDEN:  ... that was available to everybody, not just 10 percent on day one.  That‘s not in there.  But at the same time, I am not going to hand the far right a big victory. 

SCHULTZ:  But don‘t you think—Senator, don‘t you think the White House should have to explain, where‘s the competition?  Because I don‘t see it. 

WYDEN:  Of course.  And clearly, we are going to try to improve this at every step of the way. 

We want to have tougher loss ratios.  That means that when these insurance companies take in a dollar for a premium, they have to pay it back to folks in terms of actual services. 

I‘m trying to get an amendment through that would say that insurance companies that hold down their premiums, they would pay less tax, but if insurance companies don‘t hold their premiums down, they would pay more tax.  So, you bet.  We ought to try it at every step of this process to make it better, but we shouldn‘t hand a win to the far right. 

And if they win on this, Ed, make no mistake about it, they are going to bring hyperpartisanship to every issue.  They will do this on climate change, they‘ll do it on energy, they‘ll do it on taxes. 

We have got to make sure as progressives that at every step, we do our best to make this better.  But when you talk about an emergency—and you and the governor were talking about it—an emergency, it seems to me, is what you have when 30 million people don‘t have health care.  And this bill gets it to them. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  Senator, good to have you on tonight.  I appreciate you being in the fight. 

WYDEN:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, Lanny Davis has got a bone to pick with me over my reaction to all of this.  He‘ll be here to go face-to-face with me at the bottom of the hour.  You won‘t want to miss it.

Plus, Dennis Miller took a cheap shot at Nancy Pelosi on “Monday Night Raw,” and that earned him a slap on the back and a donation from Bill O‘Reilly. 

I‘m setting him straight in “Psycho Talk.”  

Plus, we‘ve got—the unions making a statement.  They‘re starting to stand up for the president.  And I will give you their statement in “The Main Event.”  We‘re talking about that.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Big news today.  Ben Nelson out of Nebraska says he doesn‘t like the abortion compromise proposed by Bob Casey out of Pennsylvania, a fellow pro-life Democrat.  And therefore, Ben Nelson can‘t vote for the current version of the health care bill. 

What else is new? 

The bill has already been gutted, but Nelson‘s still holding out for more.  And he will probably get it. 

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders says his vote isn‘t guaranteed, but I doubt anyone will suggest that we put the public option back in to win his support. 

The deal-making only seems to be going in one direction, folks. 

Joining me now is John Nichols, Washington correspondent for “The Nation.”  His roots, Wisconsin.  He was back in the heartland. 

Is the base shaken, John?  Good to have you with us tonight.  Is the base nervous? 

JOHN NICHOLS, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATION”:  It‘s good to be with you, Ed.

And yes, the base is—they are not just nervous, they are deeply frustrated.  The fact of the matter is, I was at a Democratic dinner in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the other day, and virtually every one of the couple hundred people there came up to me at some point or another and said, “What‘s going on with the administration?  Why aren‘t they fighting for the health care that they promised us in the election campaign?”

SCHULTZ:  And do you think the White House has politically underestimated the reaction that they have been getting the last 48 hours? 

NICHOLS:  I think the White House assumed that its base would be there no matter what it did.  As long as they had a bill, people could be rallied to it.  I think that was a very bad miscalculation.  The fact of the matter is, there are an awful lot of Americans for whom Dr. Dean‘s comments make a lot of sense. 

SCHULTZ:  Why are Obama‘s—the president‘s numbers going down?  Why was the NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll so bad for the White House? 

NICHOLS:  The president is not fighting for health care reform.  Right now, the president is sort of a spectator as members of Congress negotiate health care reform down to what is essentially an insurance regulation bill and an insurance bailout.  The president‘s not out front on this in the way that he needs to be.  And as a result, he looks weak. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you say to those that say, hey, you know, you liberals shut up, just go ahead and take what you can get? 

NICHOLS:  What I say to them is, you don‘t play hardball at the start of the game.  You play hardball when the game matters. 

This is the urgency moment.  This is the adrenaline moment.  Progressives should be making a lot of noise right now.  And not just progressive activists.

Progressives in the Senate should be saying, as Ben Nelson is on abortion, look, we have some issues that are deal-breakers for us.  If enough of them do, Ron Wyden is right, this bill could still be made better, and it should be. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think that the White House has a responsibility to explain to the American people that put him in office where the competition is?  Because, personally, I don‘t think it‘s reform unless you‘ve got competition for the industry that‘s been gouging the people for so long and under-delivering and denying coverage. 

Do you think the White House has an obligation?  Are they making a political mistake by not answering that question? 

NICHOLS:  They are making a huge mistake.  The problem, Ed, is that when you were on with David Axelrod, you saw the reality.  They can‘t make the case because the competition isn‘t there. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, he answered me with a question, which is a perfect debate strategy. 

NICHOLS:  The competition—Ed, the competition is not there. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

NICHOLS:  The White House needs to step up.  It needs to back up those people who want to put some competition in. 

We can still save this bill and make it viable.  What Dr. Dean said to you tonight was very, very important.  He‘s not saying kill the bill.  He is saying make the bill better.  That ought to be every progressive‘s job. 

SCHULTZ:  John Nichols of “The Nation.”

Always great to have you with us.  Thanks so much.

NICHOLS:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Up next, Dennis Miller, he hasn‘t been funny in a long time.  He sucker-punched Nancy Pelosi, and Bill O‘Reilly provided the laughing track last night.  You know where that puts him—into the psycho zone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And in “Psycho Talk” tonight, failed comedian and sportscaster Dennis Miller.  Well, you have to admit he didn‘t do very well on “Monday Night Football.” 

And one of his only fans, Bill O‘Reilly.  Miller was on O‘Reilly‘s show last night and played a clip of him hosting the WWE‘s Slammy Awards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS:  Here‘s a sound bite where he compares the wrestling crew to the political people. 

Roll it.

DENNIS MILLER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR:  Both have loud, obnoxious women with increasing power whose faces scare little children.  Every time I see Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, I feel like Charlton Heston waking up in a field and the chimps on top of the pony. 

O‘REILLY:  A reference, of course, of “Planet of the Apes.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Not only did O‘Reilly condone that despicable display of unapologetic sexism, but he rewarded his good buddy‘s unacceptable behavior by saying that he would donate to his charity. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  Miller, I‘m going to send USA.org (sic), USA Cares, $25,000 tomorrow. 

MILLER:  You‘re a good man, Billy O‘Reilly.

O‘REILLY:  There you go.

MILLER:  Have a merry Christmas, baby. 

O‘REILLY:  You, too. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Well, actually, neither of them are good men.  As a matter of fact, you barely qualify as men. 

Real men argue the issues.  They don‘t engage in this kind of low-rent, sexist “Psycho Talk.”  

Coming up, former White House counsel Lanny Davis says that Democrats have become a circular firing squad on health care. 

Oh, Lanny, let‘s just load them up and go after it in the next segment.  We‘ll do that.

Lanny is also a little bit mad at progressive Jane Hamsher.   He wrote something pretty tough about Jane Hamsher because she was talking about Lieberman‘s wife. 

You know what?  We have got a family feud coming up that you won‘t want to miss next on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Thanks for watching tonight.  The Obama White House is pretty much getting hammer over this health care capitulation.  The progressives pretty furious.  Now, some are accusing the progressives of being traitors.  The left is not betraying the Obama White House.  They are fighting for what they were promised, real health care reform. 

I don‘t think being a good Democrat means lining up behind a bad plan.  My friend, Lanny Davis, disagrees with that.  He wrote that the left is really a circular firing squad, and also has got hateful, suicide impulses.  Holy smokes, Lanny.  Were you mad at somebody when you wrote this? 

Good to have you with us, buddy.  I appreciate your time tonight.  I will definitely tell you, you are telling it like it is.  No doubt.  At least from your perspective, my friend. 

LANNY DAVIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I‘m never mad at you, even when I think you are wrong, because we are both liberals.  And the left I was talking about was the left who is attacking Barack Obama and attacking all the liberals in the Democratic Senate.  There are great liberals in the Senate who are supporting this bill. 

SCHULTZ:  Who is attacking the president? 

DAVIS:  And Bill Clinton. 

SCHULTZ:  Who is attacking the president? 

DAVIS:  Well, I‘ve certainly heard Howard Dean on television this morning saying that we need to kill this bill.  And I didn‘t say attacking the president personally.  I‘m saying opposing President Obama‘s‘ position, Bill Clinton‘s position, and the position of every liberal Democrat in the Senate, that this is a good bill.  This is an important bill to get done this year.  We can always improve it next year. 

So, it‘s a disagreement among liberals as to whether it‘s worth going forward on what we think, Bill Clinton thinks, Barack Obama thinks, every liberal in the Senate thinks, I think, is a good enough bill to go forward with.  We can always improve it next year, if we get it done this year. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Well, I don‘t know how you are going to improve it next year, when it doesn‘t even go into effect until 2014.  But Lanny, let me ask you, philosophically, do you really believe that it is a radical position to want a public option? 

DAVIS:  No. 

SCHULTZ:  You don‘t?  Well, then why not fight for it?  I mean, there‘s a lot of people in the media that are saying, well, the left is rebelling and that, you know, we are terrorists, and we are going after this.  Come on, this is not a radical position, when the majority of Americans want a public option.  Is it too much to expect that the Democrats that got elected go in and fight for this? 

DAVIS:  Our only disagreement here—I happen to support the public option.  Our only disagreement is that Barack Obama supported the public option.  All the Democrats in the Senate that are liberals supported it.  But at some point in time, we—and we disagree with you, respectfully—have made the judgment that now is the time to get what we can with 60 votes, that would allow 30 million uninsured people to become insured.  Who speaks for uninsured?  Well, I am speaking for them.  They need that insurance.

SCHULTZ:  And who is speaking for the insurance industry that is giving them all these customers? 

DAVIS:  -- preconditions can be denied.  This is a very important step forward for the country. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, Lanny, first of all, how many insurance commissioners are we going to have at every state to monitor that?  These guys are experts at getting away with this kind of stuff.  They are experts at denying it.  I think logistically being able to monitor what these insurance companies are doing is going to be extremely hard.  But I also want to point out that you have said in your column that to compare prices, encouraging competing companies—where‘s the competition, Lanny?  We got the oversight being done by the private sector on this. 

DAVIS:  Well, this is compared to what now?  We have, for the very first time in our history, if this bill passes, 30 million uninsured people who can‘t afford insurance, who rely on public hospital emergency rooms -- 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s good.  That‘s good. 

DAVIS:  Number two, no insurance company can deny coverage because of preconditions.  That‘s a fact.  And number three, for the first time, we will have every private insurance company required to post their policies transparently on a public exchange, on the Internet, where people can price compare, and where insurance commissioners will be in a better position to regulate. 

SCHULTZ:  But that doesn‘t force competition.  Have you ever—I‘m sure you put out bids before to insurance companies.  It‘s amazing how they all come back the same, Lanny.  We got to have a mechanism in place that‘s going to hold these rates down, or these rates are going to skyrocket.  And I don‘t trust these very people that have been gouging us for the last ten years that are going to, all of a sudden, be honest brokers with the American people and they are going to be good stewards.  It‘s sellout and it‘s handing customers to the private insurance. 

Heck, how about if somebody called your law firm up, Lanny, and said, you know what, you got 40 million new cases.  You would be hiring a bunch of people.  Come on.  You can‘t get around that.  This is not reform.  It‘s changes, I‘ll give you that.  But it‘s not reform. 

DAVIS:  All right.  Well, look, you and I have a disagreement, but it is not a big one.  You think it is not good enough to pass this year.  I think it is good enough to get it passed this year, when we have a chance of insuring 30 million people, and forcing insurance companies to cover everyone.  And next year or—

SCHULTZ:  At what price?  You are going to force them to cover everybody at what price?  We have another element of your column.  You called Jane Hamsher notorious.  Holy smokes.  Let me bring in Jane Hamsher from FireDogLake.Com.  Let‘s settle this score right now.  Jane, good to have you with us tonight.  Why are you notorious.  You went after Joe Lieberman‘s wife, making a connection that she, of course, was connected to the pharmaceutical lobby.  How do you feel about what Lanny wrote about ya? 

JANE HAMSHER, FIREDOGLAKE.COM:  Well, I think that you said it was a family feud, and Uncle Lanny needs to be a little bit more transparent about who he represents.  He happens to be a partner in the firm of McDermott, Will and Embry, who have a lot of pharmaceutical clients as well.  The Senate lobbying database says he represents Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis.

So I think if you are going to be on here advocating for the passage of this bill, when these companies stand to make a tremendous amount of money, that is incumbent upon you to say you are here doing that, Lanny.  I mean, you went out and criticized—you did the same thing.  You have the shtick of attacking progressives for standing up for what they believe in on behalf of these corporations, who pay to you spew venom at them.  You did the same thing for John Mackey of Whole Foods, when you weren‘t transparent about the fact that he was a client of yours, when you went after progressives for attacking an op-ed that he had. 

So in the same way that we‘re asking, what about Lieberman, who has no skills about breast cancer, that would make them want to pay her something natively—we‘re asking questions about money that goes through to her husband‘s pockets for his views on pharmaceutical stuff.  Same thing for you.  You are here today representing something that will make your client a lot of money.  What is up with that? 

SCHULTZ:  Lanny, you have the floor.  Lanny, you‘ve got the floor. 

DAVIS:  Thanks.  That was quite a long presentation, so I will try to be respectful.  I won‘t call her Aunt Jane.  I‘m happy to be uncle. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, did you write that she is notorious, Lanny.  That is pretty tough. 

DAVIS:  Let me respond.  She is notorious for using a black face on the Internet, which was a racist stereotype that she tried apologize.  That is what makes her notorious.  I was specific about that fact.  She also called for the firing of Hadassa Lieberman, because she used to work for drug companies. 

HAMSHER:  Who‘s paying you, Lanny?  Who is paying you to be here? 

SCHULTZ:  I did not interrupt you.  This is the difference, Jane, between you and me.  I listened to you carefully—

HAMSHER:  You are bringing up stuff that is three years old—

SCHULTZ:  You are now proving the reason why people see you as personalizing and demonizing people.  You aren‘t even allowed to—

HAMSHER:  Answer the question, who is paying you? 

SCHULTZ:  Let him answer, Jane. 

DAVIS:  Ed, I want your audience just to see the technique that, first of all.

SCHULTZ:  We are going to let you answer.  Answer that.  Lanny, do you represent people that are going to profit from this health care bill? 

DAVIS:  Um, I do not have clients that Jane named. 

HAMSHER:  You are a partner in the law firm and you enjoy the profits, yes? 

SCHULTZ:  You said that Jane.  Let him finish. 

DAVIS:  Not only did she say that, but she repeats herself over and over again by attacking personally.  You notice she didn‘t deal with the merits of what I said.  The fact is that Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and every liberal in the Senate, including Russ Feingold, including Ron Wyden, including everybody we admire, you and me, Ed, is supporting passage of this bill.  But Jane Hamsher can‘t deal with the merits.  She has to demonize people.  That‘s why she used black face and was denounced by every liberal I know.

SCHULTZ:  But Lanny, isn‘t—

DAVIS:  -- rather than dealing with the issues. 

SCHULTZ:  But Lanny, is it a circular firing squad if progressives support what‘s a part of the party platform, which is universal health care for all Americans?  And this is a sellout.  The progressive community thinks that this is a sellout to big insurance.  Now, is that a circular firing squad? 

DAVIS:  Here is what I mean by a circular firing squad: it‘s OK—and I agree with a lot of the positions of disappointment in this bill.  But it is a circular firing squad and Barack Obama would say and Bill Clinton would say, two former Democratic—one former Democratic president, our current president—that defeating this bill, with all the good that‘s in it, is a way of the Democrats hurting themselves and possibly committing political suicide. 

And I say one more time, who speaks for the 30 million uninsured who fear bankruptcy?  Not you, who has insurance?  Not me, who has insurance.  That is what we need to worry about. 

SCHULTZ:  Lanny, the base is peeling off from this president because he has been a let down when it comes to—it is enough to make a difference. 

DAVIS:  Not much. 

SCHULTZ:  Lanny, I got to run. 

(CROSS TALK)  

SCHULTZ:  Good to have you with us tonight.  Appreciate your time. 

Laura Flanders is with us tonight.  She is the author of GritTV.org and Ernest Istook, former congressman from Oklahoma is with the Heritage Foundation.  All right, Laura Flanders, is it a circular firing squad to challenge the White House or anybody else who thinks that this is just a wonderful bill? 

LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV.ORG:  No, I think it is a really good set of questions that my colleague, Jane Hamsher, just asked.  Frankly, Lanny Davis, he is working for the folks who made the coup in Honduras.  So, no wonder he is not bothered by corporate influence back here at home. 

But Jane, personalities aside, is asking the important questions.  Who is working for whom?  And for what right here?  And you know, Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders and yourself, I believe I hear a passion there not against health care reform, but for getting health care to the people who need it.  They are sounding an alarm on a bill that is a mandate without cost controls.  All this talk about no preexisting conditions—there is no protection in this bill for the preexisting condition of not being able to afford health care and not want to pay for it through taxes. 

SCHULTZ:  Good points.  Ernest, are we watching the December destruction of the Democrats?  What are you witnessing here? 

ERNEST ISTOOK, HERITAGE FOUNDATION:  Well, you know, if conservatives said the things about liberals that liberals are saying about each other right now, we would be accused of using hate speech.  That‘s—that‘s how bad it‘s getting.  And I think people are losing track of—

SCHULTZ:  Where‘s the hate speech? 

ISTOOK:  Well, when—listen to the accusations that are flying back and forth between people in the liberal community, especially people unloading on Joe Lieberman and so forth.  But the point I was going to make is when you talk about competition—

SCHULTZ:  Well, calling a guy a turncoat is not hate speech. 

ISTOOK:  -- across state laws.  Well, you decide for yourself and  let other people decide whether the rhetoric -- 

SCHULTZ:  Ernest, you are saying that the left is doing hate speech.  Where is the hate speech on Joe Lieberman?  The guy said the other day he‘d consider running as a Republican.  How are the progressives supposed to think, oh, gosh, Joe is a real political ally; we can really count on him.  Where is the hate speech about that—

(CROSS TALK) 

FLANDERS:  What people are saying Joe Lieberman is they‘re asking the question is he working for the people of Connecticut or is he working for Aetna?  As far as I can see, he is the senator for Aetna, because his constituents in Connecticut wanted single payer.  A whole bunch of them would have liked a government-run system.  They are certainly in favor of public option in this—in this bill.  And he is looking the other way. 

ISTOOK:  Let‘s look at the merits of the issues.  Again, as I was saying, if you want competition among insurance companies, tell them they got to compete across state lines, instead of having competition only within a state. 

SCHULTZ:  Ernest, you say that, hold on, my friend, I like—

ISTOOK:  -- people to buy insurance they can‘t afford. 

SCHULTZ:  Ernest, you say this every time you come on this program; go across state lines.  You know how much it costs for an insurance company to go set up shop in another state?  It is a hell of a lot easier to go to lunch, do a deal and say, what are you charging?  What are you charging?  OK, you stay out of my territory, I will stay out of your territory.  The crossing state lines is getting real old. 

FLANDERS:  Is this really what we want to encourage here?  Howard Dean has talked about it, a race to the bottom, with respect to states and the quality of health care.  You want to see competition in Mississippi?  You want to see competition in other parts of this country? 

ISTOOK:  Sure I do. 

FLANDERS:  What you are seeing in the system here is—

SCHULTZ:  Give them a public option. 

FLANDERS:  -- least amount of choice states, highest prices. 

SCHULTZ:  Got to run, Laura.  Thank you, Ernest.  Appreciate your time. 

ISTOOK:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Some veterans in this country are saying that the president is leaving them behind.  Their message is, Mr. President, you‘re failing to plan for the planning of the fail, meaning what are you going to do when the vets come home from Afghanistan?  Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA, with us next in our playbook.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And in my playbook tonight, the first battalion of President Obama‘s 30,000-troop surge is starting to arrive in Afghanistan.  But we haven‘t heard much about the president‘s plans for those troops when they return home from the battlefield. 

Joining me now is the founder Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff.  Paul, good to have you on tonight. 

Paul, the president did not use the word or mention veterans in his speech when he outlined his plan in dealing with this surge.  Is that troubling to you? 

PAUL RIECKHOFF, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA:  It is.  It is a huge opportunity missed.  We were all looking for one big national call to action.  And what better nonpartisan call to action is there than supporting our veterans?  He could have talked about how folk could have volunteered at the VA hospitals.  He could have talked about how they could have supported veterans charities around the country.  He could have talked about how they could have volunteered in their local community to help military families. 

I think he really did miss an historic opportunity to bring the country together at this pivotal time around this urgent issue.  Going into the holidays, it would have been perfect.  We need every to be focus on veterans issues, no matter how they feel about health care and these other partisan issues that are bouncing around Washington. 

SCHULTZ:  Was that the place to do it, at West Point, do you think? 

RIECKHOFF:  Yeah, if you want to talk about a big change and a difference from Vietnam, how about talking about the fact that we are going to focus on supporting veterans this time, much better than we did in Vietnam?  I think every cadet in that stadium would have stood up and applauded that. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  What‘s happening with the GI Bill?  We have been getting some communications from some veterans who were going to school and not getting their tuition paid for.  What‘s happening there? 

RIECKHOFF:  Well, the VA has really struggled to implement this historic GI Bill.  It‘s a great benefit online, and what we did after World War II, where everybody who served can go to college, but they‘re really choking on it now.  As of today, they have 60,000 veterans who are still waiting for the GI Bill checks.  Those 60,000 veterans are waiting, on average, 47 days for their checks.  Second semester is starting, and the VA is not getting the checks out in the local community. 

They have made some good emergency efforts.  They cut emergency checks and sent out some vans. But we need presidential attention on this.  We need him to remove that backlog and get the checks moving. 

SCHULTZ:  I know the IAVA, your organization, does a lot with post-traumatic stress disorder.  Is that problem getting enough attention? 

RIECKHOFF:  No, not nearly enough.  You have folks going on fourth, fifth, sixth tours, over 800,000 people have been there more than once.  One of our guys, Sergeant Todd Bauers, just got back on Friday.  He was on his fourth tour since 9/11.  So it is really piling up, and we need attention every day, no matter what else is going on in the news. 

SCHULTZ:  Paul, good to have you with us tonight. 

RIECKHOFF:  Thank you, Ed, appreciate the support. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

Switching gears now, another page in my playbook tonight; the House passed a jobs bill last night.  It got a very controversial buy American clause in the bill.  The clause would mean that American steel, concrete and products would have to be used to build infrastructure in this country.  The Chamber of Commerce is against it, and there is a concern that this provision won‘t last through the Senate. 

Joining me now is the author of “How Americans Can Buy American, The Power of Consumer Patriotism,” Roger Simmermaker.  Mr. Simmermaker, good to have you on tonight.  Can Americans buying American affect our can committee? 

ROGER SIMMERMAKER, WWW.HOWTOBUYAMERICAN.COM:  Yes, they absolutely can.  We vote every single day with our dollar at the stores or on the Internet.  We may only vote once every two or four years at the polls.  But we have the power to vote every day with our pocketbook, to buy American-made products, from American-owned companies.  And, Ed, American workers are the only workers that pay taxes to America.  So if we are going to support public education and health care and national defense and our fire, police departments, Social Security, Medicare, we have to pay for the things that we, the people, have demanded from the use of our tax dollars.  The best way to do that, the best jobs bill we can have, is supporting American workers. 

SCHULTZ:  Roger, all of that makes sense.  Why would it have a hard time going through the Congress, buy American? 

SIMMERMAKER:  Well, it is amazing.  You know, with the health care, you have a problem with the insurance company lobby.  And I think with, you know, the jobs bill, and buying American, you have the problem with—I think, with the republicans mostly, you have corporations holding them hostage.  You know, you have got a lot of corporations that will move the factories overseas, and those corporations want to be protected, as if there is some sort of Constitutional right to import in the United States.  But I don‘t see that in the US Constitution. 

But what we really have to do is protect the American worker and protect the American producer from foreign producers that operate on a lower cost and are undercutting American production on price every time. 

SCHULTZ:  You have got a website, very interesting, HowToBuyAmerican.com.  I appreciate your time tonight.  Thanks so much, Roger. 

SIMMERMAKER:  Thanks, Ed.  Happy to be here. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  Buy American.  It does affect American jobs. 

All right.  Coming up, Mr. Axelrod, I‘m not your biggest problem.  Two of the most powerful unions in this country don‘t like the health care bill either.  That‘s next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And in our final segment tonight THE ED SHOW, unions were some of President Obama‘s most loyal supporters during the 2008 campaign.  But now the president may be at a risk of losing their support by not delivering what he promised on health care. 

Joining me now is “Huffington Post” political reporter Sam Stein.  Sam, I understand that the union leaders have been meeting here today and they have issued a statement.  Andy Stern, the president of the SEIU says “President Obama must remember his own words from the campaign.  His call of yes we can was not just to us, not just to the millions of people who voted for him, but to himself.  Now, more than ever, all of us must stand up, remember what health care—health insurance reform is all about and fight like hell to deliver real and meaningful reform to the American people.” 

How much of a role are they going to play in the mix down the stretch to getting a stronger health care bill? 

SAM STEIN, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Well, they seem poised to really bring out the big guns at this juncture.  Andy Stern has been one of the frequent visitors at the Obama White House.  He‘s a close ally to the president.  For him to come out and call the president out on abandoned principle says something.  I did an interview with Richard Trumka tonight, the president of the AFL-CIO.  He‘s not pleased in the slightest with the current status of the health care bill in the Senate.  And he‘s promising to really fight this thing when it goes into conference in the House. 

He is predicting that if the Senate bill were to go to the House today, it will die there.  So they are really saying, you know, the line has been drawn.  We are not going to stand for the Senate bill.  There is going to be—going to have to be some changes.  There might be the sacrificing of the public plan.  But the pay for provision in the bill is going to have to be different. 

SCHULTZ:  Are they willing to live without a public option or without the Medicare 55?  What do they want at this hour? 

STEIN:  Well, there‘s sort of a realization at this juncture.  They won‘t say it publicly, but privately, I think, there is a realization that the public option‘s days are numbered.  What they want right now is a system where you can pay for the health care, not by taxing Cadillac plans, which a lot of union members have, but by taxing the wealthy in this country.  It‘s a more progressive system.  The inverse is that it might not get cost control as much as the Senate variety. 

But it really disproportionately hurts unions and laborers who have these plans that are, over time, through negotiation, quite expensive.  Expect that to be the real battle in conference committee. 

SCHULTZ:  I have heard some—some union leaders have told me, Leo Gerard, steel workers, said to me on my radio show that they will not be there to support Democrats the way they did in 2008 and 2006. 

STEIN:  Sure. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think the White House believes that?  And are they listening? 

STEIN:  Listen, the White House better believe it, and for this fact alone, the SEIU and AFL-CIO have poured millions upon millions of dollars into the health care debate.  And they‘ve done it only to watch the Senate pretty much abandon three of the major provisions that they formally advocated.  If you were a union group and you said, wow, I just spent 10, 15, 20 million dollars pushing for health care, what makes you think I‘m going to come around on the next one, when all it takes is Joe Lieberman feigning disgust with the status of the bill to get change by the leadership? 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s all about the base, my friend.  Thanks, Sam.  Good to have you on.  Sam Stein, “Huffington Post.”

Tonight, in our telephone survey, I asked, do you think the liberal wing of the Democratic party is being too tough on the White House?  Twelve percent of you said yes; 88 percent of you said no. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com.  You can check out my radio show on XM167.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is next, right here on the place for politics, MSNBC.

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

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