updated 1/15/2010 11:18:59 AM ET 2010-01-15T16:18:59

Guests: Kelly O‘Donnell, Brian Williams, Nan Buzard, Ed Menendez, Wendell Potter, Jonathan Alter, Todd Webster, John Feehery, Rev. Al Sharpton, Gregory Meeks, Roy Sekoff

ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  Good evening, Americans, and welcome to THE ED SHOW from New York tonight.

It‘s day three of a massive rescue effort in Haiti, where the situation is becoming increasingly desperate.  Humanitarian relief is available and on its way, but it can‘t get into the country. 

The airport can‘t take any more airplanes, and many of the roads are undrivable.  In the capital city, survivors are still trapped under rubble, hospitals are running out of medicine, and the situation worsens. 

Unrest is growing.  Bodies are piling up in the streets.  People are looting the shops and houses just to find food.  U.S. troops already on the ground with 5,000 more on the way. 

Today, President Obama pledged $100 million to the recovery. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership.  And today, I‘m also announcing an immediate investment of $100 million to support our relief efforts.  This will mean more of the lifesaving equipment, food, water and medicine that will be needed.  This investment will grow over the coming year as we embark on the long-term recovery from this unimaginable tragedy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  The president also asked former President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to lead a long-term relief effort. 

“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has the latest from Haiti. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, HOST, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS:  We‘re back at the airport, but just back on a reporting trip to check on some of the rampant chaos and lingering sadness in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  I should add, the teeming city streets. 

It seems like everyone is on the move somewhere.  People are carrying virtually all of their remaining belongings.  If you have a vehicle with gasoline, it‘s a good chance you‘re going to be stopped by civilians looking for help, looking for a ride somewhere. 

The new Red Cross estimate of the deaths putting it at between 45,000 and 50,000, as a high-end estimate.  It is sadly not a surprise to a lot of the people here. 

And while President Obama‘s words this morning were no doubt comforting, it will take a good long while for the people of this nation to fully hear that message as there is no power and no discernible communications system yet.  A few street lights in Port-au-Prince are working because they work off solar panels, but that is the only manifestation of electric power visible in the city.  And at night, it gets very, very dark.  Many people living in public flat spaces outside because of the continuing tremors and aftershocks and the risk of collapse of any given structure that survived the initial 7.0. 

As for the aid effort, we have seen a lot of it today.  The first giant U.S. airborne transports have come and gone from here, and flights are coming in now on a regular basis.  The U.S. Air Force is acting as air traffic control. 

There is a disconnect, however.  It will take some time, given what we have just seen on the streets of just Port-au-Prince.  It will take some time for what‘s arriving here on pallets and the search and rescue crews to get out where they are needed. 

It‘s still an unfolding situation as we enter the third day of this crisis here in Port-au-Prince.  We‘ll have a lot more tonight on “NBC Nightly News,” but that‘s the situation here in Port-au-Prince for now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Brian. 

For an update on the Red Cross effort in Haiti, let me bring in Nan Buzard.  She is the senior director of international response for the American Red Cross. 

Nan, thanks for your time tonight. 

If you can tell our viewers tonight what it has been like for the Red Cross in the last 24 hours.  Are you making progress? 

NAN BUZARD, AMERICAN RED CROSS:  Thanks, Ed.  We are making progress, but it is an extremely frustrating situation.  There is no question that we do have what we call a perfect storm here. 

The scale of this disaster is enormous and the infrastructure is equally poor.  It‘s tough.  We‘re all very frustrated.  We‘re working very hard. 

Things are moving.  Our teams are in place.  We‘re putting in our infrastructure, which is great.  The issue is getting in relief supplies. 

One of the issues you have now is the search and rescue is coming in, which is terrific.  It‘s a lot of machinery, it‘s a lot of people.  That‘s got to finish up its work.  It‘s going to finish up fairly soon, get out, and the relief supplies have to come in.

I‘m guessing that we‘re going to have to have a range of air bridges and road bridges, and that airport is not going to be sufficient. 

SCHULTZ:  Nan, the numbers are staggering, 50,000 people dead, a graveyard of 7,000 people who have already been buried because of the possible threat, potential threat of disease.  But when you think about the number of people that need aid, three million people, how—put into context how this relief effort, all the agencies put together, all the volunteers on the ground, how in the world are you going to get water and food and basic needs to three million people? 

BUZARD:  I don‘t have an easy answer for that.  It‘s going to happen in stages. 

Not all three million are going to need everything all the time, all at the same—all at once.  So, it‘s going to be in stages.

It‘s a massive effort.  It‘s an international effort.  It‘s obviously not just the Red Cross and Red Crescent, it is NGOs, it‘s government, it‘s military. 

There is support.  It‘s this incredibly destroyed infrastructure that‘s going to make it so difficult to make this happen.  It will happen.  You will see change.  But remember, it has just been just 48 hours. 

It feels like a lifetime for all of us.  It‘s 48 hours. 

SCHULTZ:  Do we see Haitians helping Haitians?  Are there—have there been a lot of people, I guess, for lack of a better term, that have taken the bull by the horns, that have really started to help out as much as they possibly can and functionally work with volunteers to make the effort better? 

BUZARD:  Absolutely.  Human beings around the world are the same.  They are going to help their neighbor, their friend, spontaneous gestures of support, of generosity, of compassion, of sharing absolutely going on all the time. 

And you also have a chaotic, teeming city with dazed and panicked people.  So you‘re going to have both in the same thing.  This is human nature.  You are seeing it all, right out there, raw. 

SCHULTZ:  Nan, I‘ve got to ask you—it is a matter of resources.  It is a matter of the American people responding to all of this. 

Has the money been coming in from the American people?  Are you keeping up?  As you look at this mammoth effort that‘s in front of this world, how is the United States responding?  How are our people responding? 

BUZARD:  I think our people are responding terrifically.  I know the American Red Cross is absolutely benefiting from the generosity.  We‘re trying to turn that into relief supplies, into our teams going in, into cargo planes. 

I think that there‘s a lot of aid agencies.  They all need support, or at least all of the legitimate and good ones.  And I know there are some very good vetting agencies that are out there to do that.

The American public has always stepped up, they‘re certainly stepping up in this situation.  And we are just working as hard as possible to get our teams fully on the ground and to get stock in there.  And I know the Red Cross across the world is bringing in an enormous amount of resources.  But again, we have got terrible, terrible bottlenecks. 

SCHULTZ:  Nan, thanks so much.  Appreciate your time. 

BUZARD:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  God bless the Red Cross and all of the other agencies that are dealing with this unbelievable human tragedy. 

The United States government has launched a massive recovery effort. 

America is doing the heavy lifting to help our neighbor. 

For more, let me bring in Senator Robert Menendez.  He chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees U.S. aid. 

Senator Menendez, nice to have you with us tonight. 

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY:  Great to be with you, Ed.  And I wish it was a different topic we would be discussing tonight. 

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely, sir.  I know these are tough times. 

Urgently, what do we need to do as America right now?  What do they have to have?  Of course, they have to have everything.  We‘re rebuilding a country right now.  But as this relief effort has taken place, what strikes you at this hour? 

MENENDEZ:  Well, at first, let me just say our thoughts and prayers are with the Haitian people and with their families, many here in New Jersey and throughout the United States. 

And what we are doing in the first instance, this is search and rescue, still with the hope and aspiration of saving lives.  And those who are under the rubble, those who maybe trapped, as well as taking care of those who are injured. 

So one of the things we need to do to make sure, we opened up our airport.  U.S. Southern Command flew there, and its personnel is helping operate the airport and secure it so traffic can come in, including the supplies.  U.S. Coast Guard ships are off of Haiti as we speak. 

Tomorrow, the U.S. aircraft carrier should arrive.  It has 19 helicopters on it to ferry people, three operating rooms, and the ability to produce fresh water from its operations.  And we have a 72-member search and rescue team out of Fairfax County that is commissioned by the federal government, is on the ground, helping to do search and rescue.  We also have our disaster assistance response teams on the ground already. 

So, this is the most significant humanitarian movement that the United States has had in some time in response to a disaster, and it‘s going to continue to be needed as we move in the days ahead.  But it‘s about saving lives in the immediate term and then, of course, we will be looking at a longer-term commitment.  The president, as you know, made a $100 million commitment to the country, as are other countries in the world. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, the relief effort from the United States has been, obviously, terrific and timely, but we are told tonight that the airport has been shut down right now until 8:00 tonight.  It can‘t take any more airplanes coming in.  So, facilities, obviously, are an issue right now.

As we move forward, how many volunteers does the State Department or your committee anticipate?  How many volunteers can we get in the country, say, in the next 24 to 48 hours, which is a very critical time at this point? 

MENENDEZ:  Well, you‘re going to have on their way from Camp Lejeune, about 2,000 Marines.  You‘re going to continue to see the search and rescue teams and what we call our DART teams, disaster assistance teams, that are going to continue to come in. 

You‘re going to see, of course, our coordination with the U.N., with the World Relief Food Program.  It‘s committed about $500,000 in immediate food grants.  And this is a challenge, Ed.  Let‘s not mistake it. 

It is massive, but it is a challenge, both nature and what it‘s done, as well as the—you know, logistical limitations there are going to be consequential.  But we‘re going to do everything we humanly can, and I‘m impressed with the new administrator of AID, Mr. Shah, who is, in fact, in his first, in essences, days on the job, has been able to respond very significantly. 

SCHULTZ:  Sure.  And Senator, just finally, can you speak to other countries for a moment, to our viewers tonight?  The Russians, the Chinese, the French, the Brits, the Germans, are they in this as much as the United States is? 

MENENDEZ:  Well, they all have disaster assistance and search and rescue teams on the ground.  As a matter of fact, the French found some of the people alive at the hotel, along with some of our search and rescue people. 

So, in that respect they have.  They have made significant pledges of money.  But what we need is the coordinated effort. 

And here, again, it‘s U.S. leadership leading the way in one of the most difficult and darkest periods of time for the people of Haiti.  And it‘s going to be U.S. leadership that makes all the difference in the world in terms of both saving lives, coordinating the international effort and, at the end of the day, bringing, you know, some measure of hope out of an incredible humanitarian disaster. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, I think, finally, it needs to be pointed out what kind of day the president of the United States had. 

Let‘s see, he is dealing with Haitian relief, health care, big banks, two wars, and a new terror threat from al Qaeda out of Yemen.  It‘s been a busy day for lawmakers and the leader of the country.  There‘s no question about that. 

MENENDEZ:  That‘s the nature of the presidency  And this president‘s meeting it all head-on.

I mean, you know, the one thing you‘ve got to say about President Obama, he doesn‘t shirk away from the challenges.  He meets them head on.  And that is why we elect a president, to meet the challenges of a nation. 

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

MENENDEZ:  Good to be with you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Robert Menendez from New Jersey tonight here on THE ED SHOW.

Thank you so much. 

Now, here is where, again, you and I can come in, and the American people have definitely responded.  But we can help the millions of people in need by making a donation to one with of the charitable organizations that are on the ground in Haiti.

Just go to Ed.MSNBC.com and you can be connected to the aid group of your choice.  Or you can make a $10 donation to the Red Cross by texting the word “Haiti” to the number 90999.  It will be automatically charged to your cell phone bill.  I hope you can do it. 

Coming up, we‘ll have much more on the crisis in Haiti.  Reverend Al Sharpton is here to talk about some issues at the bottom of the hour. 

And at this hour, the president is behind closed doors with House Democrats, hammering out the final details of what we hope will be a very productive health care bill.  I‘ll bring you that and the very latest. 

Plus, President Obama says he‘s got a plan to get back every dime of the bailed-out money that went to the big banks. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Reports have been circulating all afternoon out of Washington that Labor and the White House have reached a deal on this excise tax when it comes to taxing health care benefits.  At this hour, labor leaders are holding a conference call. 

In the meantime, the president is meeting with House Democrats.  So something should develop tonight. 

On another part of the story, the dirty dealings of the health insurance industry are never-ending.  “The National Journal” recently found out that a handful of companies have been funneling money through the Chamber of Commerce to help finance the anti-reform ads that have been playing in states all across the country. 

Here‘s what has been going on. 

The insurance companies gave between $10 million and $20 million to the insurance industry trade group AHIP.  AHIP passed the cash along to the Chamber of Commerce, which forwarded it to a couple of business coalitions like the group Employers for a Healthy Economy.  Then, they used the money to produce attack ads designed to torpedo any health care reform effort. 

My next guest says that the congressional investigation needs to take place.  Let me bring in former Cigna health care executive Wendell Potter. 

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

WENDELL POTTER, FMR. CIGNA HEALTH INSURANCE EXEC.:  Thank you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  This has been under the radar.  We kind of sense—and you‘ve told us many times on this program that they will go after any angle they possibly can to defeat this, but does this story surprise you, the way this money has been funneled? 

POTTER:  No, it doesn‘t.  What surprises me is they were a little bit sloppy to be caught doing this. 

They go to great lengths to try to make sure that their fingerprints are not on this kind of stuff.  But they did this time.  And it‘s exactly what they have done every time that health care reform has been before Congress.  They will say that they are for reform and be working behind the scenes every time, through front groups and third parties, to try to kill it. 

SCHULTZ:  I have had several people in the Senate tell me, one of them Senator Conrad, that a lot of these ads that have been playing around the country are just absolutely false and the misinformation campaign has been at a fever pitch. 

POTTER:  It‘s true.  And it‘s part of the strategy.  It‘s been part of the strategic communications effort that the industry planned a long time ago, even going back to when I was a part of it. 

And all the time, they have been telling the president and Congress that you can expect us to be good-faith partners with you this time.  We‘re there to work with you, this is important to the American people. 

That‘s what I think Congress needs to investigate, because leaders of this industry have been appearing before congressional committees, testifying that they are going to be working in good faith and doing this or that, and behind the scenes, they have been working to kill reform. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  This is one of the ads that has played around the country by one of these groups, Employers for Healthy Economy ad, one of the organizations funding the ads with AHIP money funneled through the Chamber of Commerce. 

Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  An economy in crisis, families struggling.  And now, a health care bill from Congress that makes health care costs go up even more.  Hundreds of billions in new spending as our future slips deeper into debt. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  You know, I think, folks, the bigger question here as well with the congressional investigation that should take place that you, Mr.  Porter, are suggesting that Congress should do, what in the hell is the Chamber of Commerce all about?  I mean, I‘m a small business owner.  What is the Chamber of Commerce doing getting involved in an ad campaign that is absolutely throwing falsehoods out at the American people? 

Your thoughts on that? 

POTTER:  It‘s not at all unusual for me, because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has long been a very close ally of the health insurance industry.  They will do pretty much whatever the health insurance industry asks them to do, including setting up these phony front groups and accepting money that‘s been laundered.  People don‘t understand that the chamber is very much in bed with the health insurance industry, and running these kinds of ads, this fear-morning campaign to try to defeat reform. 

SCHULTZ:  And you think the only thing that would stop this kind of activity is a hearing, an investigation, and then legislation to make sure the money doesn‘t get funneled like this?  I don‘t know how else you are going to stop it. 

POTTER:  I agree.  I don‘t know either, but there needs to be a hearing.  People need to know more about this.  And Congress certainly needs to understand exactly how the industry operates. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Wendell.  Good to have you on again tonight. 

POTTER:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Appreciate it so much.

Another story that‘s gotten me fired up tonight is the fact that the big banks that were bailed out with our taxpayer dollars are doling out major bonuses to employees and calling it business as usual. 

Today, the president went on the offensive for the middle class and announced his plan to get this money back. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We want our money back, and we‘re going to get it.  And that‘s why I‘m proposing a financial crisis responsibility fee to be imposed on major financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street.  If these companies are in good enough shape to afford massive bonuses, they are surely in good enough shape to afford paying back every penny to taxpayers. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  The fees would last for a minimum of 10 years, or until the banks pay back all of the taxpayer investment. 

Tell me what you think about this in tonight‘s telephone survey.  We‘re a little late getting to this in the program tonight, but I think it‘s a heck of a question. 

The number to dial is 1-877-ED-MSNBC.  My question tonight: Do you think President Obama has done enough to rein in the big banks?  Press “1” for yes, press “2” for.  I‘ll bring you the results later on in the show, and Huffington Post founding editor Roy Sekoff will join me later in the show to talk about this issue as well. 

Also coming up, Pat Robertson.  This guy has sunk to a Limbaugh low when it comes to the crisis in Haiti.  This time, the White House, they‘re responding. 

That‘s next in “Psycho Talk.”   Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And in “Psycho Talk” tonight, America‘s foremost evangelical hack, Pat Robertson. 

Now, I know this guy.  I sat on a media panel with him once in Washington, and I thought he was a pretty decent guy.  But then he does “Psycho Talk.”  

This guy, he‘s the guy who blamed 9/11 on unionization and homosexuality, and who blamed Hurricane Katrina on abortion.  What? 

Well, now he‘s blaming the people of Haiti for bringing the earthquake on themselves. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT ROBERTSON, “THE 700 CLUB”:  Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people may not want to talk about it.  They were under the heel of the French.  They got together and swore a pact to the devil. 

They said we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. 

True story. 

And so the devil said, OK, it‘s a deal.  And they kicked the French—you know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free.  But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Wow.  It‘s another “wow” moment of “Psycho Talk.”  

Pat Robertson, well, he would know about deals with the devil.  And that‘s what the moral of the story is here, that Haiti shouldn‘t have fought for their independence? 

This man has no business passing himself off as a figure of moral authority with comments like that.  It is absolutely a disgrace to Christianity. 

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Robertson‘s insane comments at the press briefing today.  Here‘s the response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It never ceases to amaze that in times of amazing human suffering, somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid, but it, like clockwork, happens with some regularity. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Gibbs has got it right.  What Pat Robertson said was utterly stupid “Psycho Talk.”  

Coming up, much more on the relief effort in Haiti.  Reverend Al Sharpton and Congressman Gregory Meeks are in the House tonight. 

And Harry Reid says Joe Lieberman stabbed him in the back.  Didn‘t we predict that? 

And Obama wasted his time trying to get Olympia Snowe on board.  That, too, sounds familiar. 

We‘ll give you a live update from NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell in just a moment. 

Plus, hour the president plans to get big bucks back from the banks. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW and thanks for watching tonight.  Health care reform is almost over the finish line.  Some Democrats say a bill could be done in days.  But the president isn‘t leaving any room for error.  The White House has been holding marathon negotiation sessions the last couple of days.  And even Joe Lieberman was invited in today.  What‘s that mean? 

Later today, the president went to Capitol Hill to rally House democrats. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Believe me, I know how big a lift this has been.  I see the polls.  The media‘s all in a tizzy.  Oh, what‘s this going to mean politically?  Well, let me tell you something, if Republicans want to campaign against what we‘ve done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have. 

I will be out there waging a great campaign from one end of the country to the other, telling Americans with insurance or without insurance what they stand to gain. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  The president is still on the Hill taking questions right now from lawmakers behind closed doors.  But the Republicans are sticking to their guns as well.  Minority Whip Eric Captor says Republicans can still kill the bill by picking off conservative Democrats.  NBC‘s Kelly O‘Donnell joins me with the latest from Capitol Hill.  Kelly, there‘s been reports circulating today that labor and the White House have come to terms on this excise tax.  What can you tell us about that on the Hill tonight? 

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, good evening, Ed.  That is a breakthrough on one piece of what has been holding up putting these two bills together and getting health care to the finish line.  It is about the Cadillac plans, as they have been called, higher value health care benefits.  Labor was concerned because many of its members negotiate to get better benefits in lieu of salary. 

So what did they decide to do?  If they raise the amount at which a new tax, 40 percent excise tax kicks in, that would mean more people wouldn‘t be caught up in it.  They would also take out extra benefits like vision and dental, not count that toward the amount.  That is helpful to labor.  And to delay when labor would have to participate in this. 

And if it‘s things like firefighters or police officers‘ unions, they would be exempt.  So for labor, those are some things they really wanted.  The problem is everything they gave back, they have got to now find in terms of where do they get the revenue to make up for that?  That will be part of what continues in the discussions. 

They‘re going back to the White House tonight.  We expect that they will be there late in the evening.  And Ed, I was in the room when the president was talking to House Democrats.  And when you are in the room, you can get a feel for thing.  And I was struck by, although he was enthusiastic, you didn‘t get the same sense of enthusiasm about being on the campaign trail with health care from some of the members. 

Now, granted, they are tired.  They also see the president more often than most people do.  But they didn‘t seem quite as thrilled with some of his comments about this being an issue they can campaign on successfully.  Ed? 

SCHULTZ:  Kelly O‘Donnell at the Capitol.  Thanks for joining us tonight here THE ED SHOW.”

O‘DONNELL:  You bet. 

SCHULTZ:  A couple of developing stories with Harry Reid.  The Senate majority leader did an interview with the “New York Times Magazine,” says that Joe Lieberman stabbed him in the back.  Also makes the determination that the Democrats have spent too much time trying to get Olympia Snowe or any republican, for that matter. 

For more on that and the president‘s visit to Capital Hill, let‘s go to Jonathan Alter, senior editor “Newsweek,” and NBC News analyst.  Jonathan, we are definitely getting—the clock is getting ready to strike 12 on this.  I saw in that videotape there a very determined president of the United States.  His involvement right now, how crucial is it? 

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  It is critical.  His presidency is on the line.  Were this thing to go down, Ed, he would be, as Jim DeMint said, a broken president.  And for the Democrats to abandon him now would basically be condemning themselves to be a failed political party. 

So it‘s very much on the line.  He is obviously deeply involved.  I don‘t understand Harry Reid‘s comments at this point.  It is kind of like commenting on a presidential campaign or another political campaign before the election.  It is one thing for him to say these things privately, which I understand he has been doing.  But why do this in an interview with the “New York Times?”  To me, it is less understandable than his gaffe, you know, his slip of the tongue that got so much attention in the last—

SCHULTZ:  He seemed very frustrated.  Jonathan, he seems very frustrated, very tired. 

ALTER:  Right. 

SCHULTZ:  He has been through a lot.  He is down in the polls.  It is almost as if Harry Reid is saying, the hell with it.  If they don‘t want it, they aren‘t going to vote for it.  That is how I‘m taking it. 

ALTER:  I think he is saying the hell with it with the Republicans. 

SCHULTZ:  Yeah. 

ALTER:  But even with that—you know, I talked to somebody from Olympia Snowe‘s staff recently.  She hasn‘t set her feet in concrete on voting for this bill on final passage.  Maybe he has heard otherwise.  But, you know, why—why potentially alienate other senators? 

I think he is doing a great job, by the way, in herding cats, which is

as his predecessor in this job said, that is what the majority leader has to do.  He‘s done outstanding work.  He‘s hasn‘t gotten nearly enough credit for it.  But these comments weren‘t very smart. 

SCHULTZ:  Are there some progressive Democrats that aren‘t going to take kindly to the way this is coming down?  Anthony Weiner of New York made the comment, he feels like we have a gun to our head on this deal, and we have to take the Senate deal.  All it is going to take is a few progressive Democrats in the House and they could blow this thing up. 

ALTER:  They could if they are idiots, I mean, if they have no historical sensibility at all.  Look, Ed, I always like to think back to Franklin Roosevelt, because I spent so much time researching for for my book.  He had this precise problem on the eve of the vote for Social Security in 1935, because the bill had been so watered down.  It excluded more than half of senior citizens at the beginning.  And it was a terribly racist bill, did all sorts of things that the southerners insisted on to keep blacks out of Social Security at first. 

Roosevelt‘s attitude is, look, let‘s get the bill through, and then

we‘ll go back and fix it in the years ahead, as they did.  And the same

thing can happen now.  If the bill goes down now, nobody will touch this

for the next 15 years.  It would be such a disaster for the Democratic

party.  So it is fine for Weiner to whine—or Weiner to wean or whatever

whiner to whine, but it doesn‘t really make any sense for them to actually vote against it when it comes time to—

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Jonathan. 

ALTER:  Yeah. 

SCHULTZ:  I have to say, in that most recent sound-bite we just played of the president talking, he had a little look of LBJ on him. 

ALTER:  Yeah. 

SCHULTZ:  There was some determination—

ALTER:  Absolutely. 

SCHULTZ:  -- that we have not seen before.  Jonathan Alter, thanks so much for joining us. 

ALTER:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  For more on this, let‘s go to our panel tonight, Democratic strategist Todd Webster and Republican strategist John Feehery. 

John, what do you make of the president?  This is almost like his final move on Capitol Hill? 

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think he‘s still got a lot of work to do.  They‘re still trying to negotiate this behind closed doors, when the president said they were going to do it in a transparent way.  Then he‘s got to still sell it to his folks on the Hill.  I don‘t know if the votes are there yet.  This is so hard.  This so unpopular.

There was a story this week about what Ben Nelson has faced when he faced his constituents and how much they hate this bill.  I don‘t—

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t like him either. 

FEEHERY:  They don‘t like him either.  And for Ben Nelson to take that step and vote for this thing, if it is in final passage, and they need his vote—thanks to Harry Reid‘s comments about Olympia Snowe, they definitely need his vote.  Boy, that‘s—for some of these guys, this is political hara-kiri to vote for this thing. 

TODD WEBSTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Horse feathers.  This is the most significant piece of domestic legislation that this country will have passed in 60 years.  This will be a huge benefit to Americans. 

It does three things that the president outlined early in the stage.  It expands health care—health care access to 35 million Americans.  It ends the worst insurance company practices of discriminating and dropping coverage for people.  And third, it is going to lower costs.  It is going to lower the deficit cost over the next ten years. 

So it is a monumental—it is an historic piece of legislation.  And it‘s not going to be perfect.  Social Security wasn‘t perfect in 1935.  It didn‘t cover domestic workers.  It didn‘t cover—

SCHULTZ:  Gentlemen, we got to ask you about Joe Lieberman‘s involvement in this 11th hour.  The leadership of the Democratic party was at the White House today, along with Joe Lieberman.  I want your take on that.  And we‘re just told that the president has wrapped up at the Capitol and the meeting is over.  So we may have someone from the Capitol here before the show‘s out tonight.  But -- 

FEEHERY:  Ed, they need Joe Lieberman.  That‘s why he is in the room.  I‘m sure he is saying you got to have it my way or I vote against this.  He is using his 60th vote to the utmost degree.  Without Joe Lieberman, this thing goes down.  That is why he is at the table. 

SCHULTZ:  Here‘s what it looks like, Todd Webster.  It looks like Joe Lieberman went to the White House, they got him sewn up, and the president went over to the House and said, OK, we got Joe in the Senate; we are going to pass this thing.  All you guys got to get in line and let‘s just put this into political, historical perspective.  Todd, that is what it looks like. 

WEBSTER:  At the end of the day, that is what it is about.  The sausage making process, the legislating process is ugly, if you look at it too closely or too long.  This is how things get done.  But, at the end of the day, what this is about is an historic expansion of health care for Americans, the first time in 60 years.  It is critically important.  It will be something that Democrats can run on, the president can run on. 

SCHULTZ:  Fellas, let me tell you something.  I got to run.  I‘m short on time.  The story right now is those progressive Democrats that just got out of that meeting with the president.  Do you accept what the president said?  And are you ready to vote yes?  Because it‘s going to be the Senate bill.  That‘s the way it appears right now.  Fellas, thanks for joining us tonight. 

Next up, the president has pledged 100 million dollars to help the people of Haiti.  I will ask Reverend Sharpton and Congressman Gregory Meeks what else needs to be done to save millions in need?  We are right back on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  To the people of Haiti, we say clearly and with conviction, you will not be forsaken.  You will not be forgotten.   In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. 

So today you must know that help is arriving.  Much, much more help is on the way. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  And help is on the way; 5,000 US troops are headed to Haiti, along with 100 million dollars in aid from the United States.  Joining me now is Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network.  He is also going to Haiti to help with this massive relief.  Reverend, good to have you with us tonight. 

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  What are your plans down there?  I know that you want to bring attention to the relief effort and the humanitarian effort.  But this, of course, is very timely with Martin Luther King‘s birthday. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think that as we are now upon Dr. King‘s birthday—tomorrow is his actual birthday—Monday is the holiday—we will be in Atlanta and talking about how Dr. King gave his life for those that were in need.  And certainly, in the global community, there‘s no people more in need than the Haitians. 

And I think that we are going to spend King weekend putting focus on that.  Right now, we cannot land.  So we don‘t know exactly when we are going.  We are going to take it hour by hour.  But we want to raise the attention this weekend, in the spirit of Martin Luther King, that the people should do what I think the president, frankly, has already set the tone.  That is, short-term and long-term, to rebuild this nation. 

This is not going to be something that is going to be a quick fix.  The whole infrastructure is gone.  We have got to be committed in the long run, from the world community, and from the United States. 

SCHULTZ:  Reverend, are you satisfied with the efforts so far the United States has put forth and the commitment today? 

SHARPTON:  I think the commitment today—what impressed me about it, and I‘m skeptical about these things, is the president was very specific.  He gave point for point exactly what he was going to do, from money to the military to medical.  And I think that it gives us a way to gauge and mark exactly what is going to be effective or not. 

So what impressed me was he didn‘t just give a feel-good speech or statement; he gave specifics.  And that‘s what we need, because these people are really, really in pain. 

SCHULTZ:  Reverend, not everybody is on board with this relief.  And I want to play this sound cut from radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh today.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  This will play right into Obama‘s hands, humanitarian, compassionate.  They will use this to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community, in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community this country. 

I want you to remember, it took him three days—three days to respond to the Christmas day fruit of kaboom bomber.  He comes out here in less than 24 hours to speak about Haiti. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Reverend, he has got a lot of listeners.  What is your response to that? 

SHARPTON:  I would hope his listeners see how bizarre and insensitive this is.  You have people under rubble, fighting for their lives.  You have tens of thousands of people dead, babies dead from a natural disaster.  And he decides to politicize it, and act in some way as if there is some conspiracy between God and the politics of President Obama. 

Clearly, President Obama responded to a natural disaster as it happened.  We knew it was an earthquake.  When we had the attempted terrorist attack, we didn‘t know what it was.  Anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence would have wanted to investigate and know what happened, what you are dealing with, before you respond. 

So, how do you take one and compare it to the other, and then racialize it with light-skipped and dark-skinned—what does that have to do with it, other than in the mind of someone that is not well? 

SCHULTZ:  Reverend Al Sharpton, good to have you with us.  Safe travels down there, my friend.  Thank you. 

SHARPTON:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  For more, let me bring in New York Congressman Gregory Meeks.  Congressman, nice to have you tonight.  Where are we, in your opinion?  Are we doing enough at this hour?  And what do you think the next stage of relief is for the United States? 

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK:  I think that the United States and President Obama is—as Reverend Sharpton said, there is a plan.  We know who‘s in charge.  We know who to talk to.  There has been conference calls and members of Congress have been on them throughout the day.  And what is currently being planned—because the most urgent need is to make sure we get medical equipment, along with doctors, into Haiti to try to make sure that you are able to treat the people that are there. 

I‘m told that there‘s hundreds of people who are lying on the streets awaiting treatment.  They can‘t get treatment.  And if we just send doctors there without an organization and coordination, then they still can‘t treat unless they have the equipment there.  And so I know the administration, as we speak, is working to make sure that there is proper coordination between the medical supplies, that they can arrive, along with the doctors from around the world, so that we can get treatment to the hundreds of thousands of people who need help. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, I have been trying to wrap high head all day along around the figure of three million people needing help, medical help, water, food, housing, personal assistance.  I mean, can you put that into perspective of just how big a lift this is going to be for the world, not just the United States.  Three million people need immediate help.  That‘s amazing. 

MEEKS:  Ed, you have got it exactly right.  The president of the nation is homeless right now, the president of Haiti.  If you look at what the condition of the capital, the palace now, where it was.  I was just in Haiti about a month and a half ago.  I stayed at the Montana Hotel.  It no longer exists. 

And so the magnitude of what we are talking about is almost unimaginable for the country that is already wrecked with poverty.  So it is going to be a very, very, very long-term, I think, plan that we have to have.  And it is going to take every nation on this planet to pitch in.  But it is also important for us to lead the way, because Haiti is our neighbor right next to us. 

And one of the other things I think that we can do—and I know that a number of us from the House of Representatives have already sent a letter into the president.  And I know Senator Gillibrand and Schumer had this—to have temporary protection status for many of the Haitians that are currently in the United States, because, for sure, that country cannot take in anybody else at this point. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, good to have you with us.  Thank you for your time tonight. 

MEEKS:  Good to be with you. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, today, the president told the too big to fail banks that it‘s pay back time.  “Huffington Post” founding editor Roy Sekoff will give us his take, his two cents and more next in the playbook.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Time for the playbook tonight.  President Obama announced his plan to recover lost Tarp funds by imposing a fee on big banks.  He did that today.  And he made it clear that he was tired of Wall Street big wigs taking advantage of the folks that bailed them out.   

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  My commitment is to recover every single time the American people are owed.  And my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms that owe their continued existence to the American people. 

We want our money back and we are going to get it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s go now to Roy Sekoff, founding editor of the “Huffington Post.”  Roy, the word is the president wanted to make sure they get the bank CEOs on record in front of the committee yesterday before he put the hammer down.  He‘s had a busy day.  Is he going far enough and is this going to fly? 

ROY SEKOFF, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Look, Ed, for the last year, the White House has been in the political equivalent of a torrid love affair with Wall Street.  And being in bed with the big banks is the last place you want to be heading into 2010.  So this is almost something he had to do. 

And it is a good thing.  It is not a panacea.  There is a lot that it doesn‘t do.  It doesn‘t have structural reform.  It doesn‘t stop the crazy bonuses.  It doesn‘t stop the CEO pay.  And it doesn‘t keep the big—the banks from being too big to fail.  But it‘s a good start and it allows them to at least try to get on the right side of the populist anger  that is really directed at the bank. 

SCHULTZ:  Not only populist anger, but it seems to me that he has set up a formula that we are going to get paid back and then some.  So this financial tragedy is going to turn out to be possibly a good windfall for the US Treasury. 

SEKOFF:  Yes, this is a small part of it, Ed.  We‘re talking about, at most, 120 billion dollars, which sounds like a lot.  But when we are talking about the 23 trillion dollars that this has cost the economy, it is a start.  And I applaud it. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Some of the approval ratings that are out right now, the Allstate “National Journal” poll shows that the president‘s got a one point—or two point advantage, 47 to 45.  Also, another that‘s number out, is the country headed in the right direction; 34 percent of Americans say we are going in the right direction; 55 percent in the wrong direction.  How does the president turn this around?  He has got a lot on his plate. 

SEKOFF:  We saw some of the fire today.  We saw the fire with this speech that he‘s going to get back every cent, every penny.  And we saw the fire just then on the thing you showed on Capitol Hill, saying I‘m going to go all across the country fighting.  I think that is the Obama we have to see, the passionate Obama, not the sort of laid back, making the deal with the bankers kind of Obama. 

SCHULTZ:  He did get after it today.  No doubt about that.  Thanks, Roy.  You bet.  Good to have you with us tonight. 

In our telephone survey tonight, I asked our audience, do you think President Obama has done enough to rein in the big banks?  Thirty nine percent of you say yes; 61 percent of you said no. 

That is THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews has the latest Haiti developments starting right now on MSNBC.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night. 

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

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