updated 3/2/2010 9:00:25 AM ET 2010-03-02T14:00:25

Guests: Max Brantley, Adam Green, Tom Harkin, Jeff Merkley, Steve McMahon,

Ron Christie, Jack Rice, Dennis Van Roekel, Elijah Cummings.

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

New York tonight.

Great to be with you.  Was that a heck of a hockey game last night or what? 

All right.  These stories are hitting my hot buttons tonight.

The left is fed up with Blanche Lincoln.  Now the lieutenant governor of

Arkansas is taking her head on.  This is great news for progressives.  More

on that in just a moment.

And the White House says Democrats have the votes for health care reform,

but Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, is still

saying no to reconciliation. 

HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin will join us for the latest in just a

few moments. 

And one Republican senator is about to pull the rug right out from under

one million Americans.  Jim Bunning is single-handedly blocking

unemployment benefits, dropping four-letter words in the process, and

flipping people off.  I think it‘s a new low for the GOP. 

That‘s all coming up here on THE ED SHOW tonight.  But first, this is the

story that has got me cranked up tonight. 

Democrats have had enough.  Now we‘re weeding them out, right?  And this

one, I think, is going to take a fall in the primary. 

Over 60 million people stormed the polls in 2008 because they wanted to see

change.  They were promised change.  Remember those days? 

The middle class was promised a seat at the table for universal health care

and the right to organize within the workplace without intimidation.  But

we‘ve had to wait because Blue Dog Democrats have been trying to cover

their backside, kowtow to the “party of no.”

Well, now the time is up.  The number one offender in all of that, in my

opinion, has been Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln.  She‘s an

obstructionist as well.

The senator from the Wal-Mart state has really stuck it to the Democrat

base time and time again.  She has, let‘s see, fought the public option,

she‘s gone after the unions, didn‘t give them any support.  She has sided

with Wall Street.  The Democrats in Arkansas have had enough. 

Today, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter—much rumored, now it‘s true—

has said that he would challenge Lincoln in the primary.  He made the

announcement on his campaign Web site this morning. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. BILL HALTER (D), ARKANSAS:  Washington is broken—bailing out

Wall Street with no strings attached while leaving middle class Arkansas

taxpayers with the bill; protecting insurance company profits instead of

protecting patients and lowering health costs; gridlock; bickering and

partisan games, while unemployment is at a 25-year high 

Enough is enough. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I like it.  It sounds to me like this guy isn‘t going to be

calling up lobbyists to see how they are ought to vote on stuff. 

I mean, that doesn‘t sound like a guy to me who is afraid of any Tea Party

crazies out there.  See, over here on the left, we don‘t have any Tea

Party.  They‘re talking about a coffee party, and I don‘t know what that‘s

all about. 

But we do have middle class folks, even in Arkansas, who want crazy things

like health care reform.  And they all want a fair shake in the workplace

as well.  What Democrats really want is to have Democrats act like

Democrats. 

This could be really interesting.  I think there could be a lot of Bill

Halters all over the country.  And this could send shock waves right

through the Democratic Caucus. 

If you don‘t listen to your base, you could be next.  That‘s the message. 

The money is starting to fly into Halter‘s campaign.  Progressive groups

are going after it.  They‘ve already sprung into action and they‘ve already

raised 66 percent of their fundraising goal and met that, for the first

week, totaling more than $330,000. 

The people who wrote the $25 checks to Obama just cannot stand Blue Dog

Democrats.  They‘ve gotten in the way of change.

Now the president of the United States, I think, is going to have to make a

choice, and a tough one.  Will he support a candidate that wants real

universal health care reform or is he going to stand with Blanche Lincoln? 

The White House said today Lincoln is their choice.  I‘m disappointed. 

Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will join me on this program

tomorrow night.  I can‘t wait for that conversation. 

Need you to get your cell phones out tonight, folks.  Want to know what you

think about this. 

Tonight‘s text survey is: Do you think this is a good move for progressive

groups to target Democrats? 

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

later on in the program. 

All right.  Joining me now is Max Brantley, editor of “The Arkansas Times.”

Mr. Brantley, you‘re the perfect guest for this story tonight because we‘ve

got to get a flavor of Arkansas.

Tell us, how vulnerable is Blanche Lincoln?  And can the lieutenant

governor really mount a charge and unseat her as a United States senator?

What do you think? 

MAX BRANTLEY, EDITOR, “ARKANSAS TIMES”:  Well, there‘s no doubt that she‘s

vulnerable to being beaten in this election.  The question of how

vulnerable she is in the Democratic primary is a much tougher question.

I think the passion of progressives that you described is certainly true on

the national level, and there‘s some really mad liberals in Arkansas as far

as Blanche Lincoln is concerned.  But the polls at this point show her

fairly popular.

I think you have to remember, the Democratic primary in the last

presidential election, went strongly for Hillary Clinton.  These are kind

of party regulars here.  I don‘t think it follows that all of them will

necessarily follow the track that, say, the eastern might. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

Well, what kind of political chops and popularity does Lieutenant Governor

Halter have?  I mean, is he really a guy who can come in here?  I

understand he‘s very popular.  And after watching that announcement, he‘s

everything that I‘ve been hearing from progressives all over the country. 

What do you think? 

BRANTLEY:  Well, he‘s not the charismatic sort of politician that, say,

(INAUDIBLE) or Bill Clinton or David Pryor was.  But he ran away from the

field in his race for lieutenant governor in 2006 with a very smart and

friendly media campaign that was about sort of his high school, small town,

grocery-checking, football-playing values.  I think you got a flavor of

that today in his video on the air and we‘ll see more of the same.

He will take a great deal of good feeling into the polling place because of

the new state lottery, which is solely his invention, solely of his making,

but he will carry a huge amount of resentment from the Democratic Party

establishment.  How much of a factor that will be in the vote, they‘re

viewed as somewhat at the county courthouse level.  I think that‘s the big

question in this primary right now.

SCHULTZ:  Do you think, Max, that Blanche Lincoln could change her position

on health care reform and have maybe a softer stance to the point where she

would say, OK, I‘ll vote for the public option?  Could she do that? 

BRANTLEY:  Well, there are a lot of us that wish she would.  But to this

point she has not, and I think she runs the risk at this point of looking

even more rootless than she already does if she flip-flops again. 

After all, she did vote for the Senate health care bill which we can all

take apart from 15 different ways, but it was still a critical vote that

she got beaten up for very badly in Arkansas, for being a critical vote

against the filibuster and then finally a vote for approval of the bill. 

So she finds herself a little bit in a damned if you do, damned if you

don‘t situation. 

SCHULTZ:  Max Brantley, editor of “The Arkansas Times,” with us tonight. 

It‘s the number one weekly in the state.

Final question: Where has Blanche Lincoln really gone wrong, in your

opinion? 

BRANTLEY:  She‘ s solely in the keeping of the corporate interests in

Arkansas.  That‘s generally viewed as pretty smart politically since they

control a lot of the shots.  But after a while, the voter tumbles to it,

and it hasn‘t served her well. 

She‘s viewed as a tool of Wall Street, the big farmer, the big banker, the

big insurance company, and not of the man on the street.  And I think we‘ll

hear a lot from Bill Halter about that. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  And she is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture

Committee.  And, of course, Ag is a big part of your economy in Arkansas. 

BRANTLEY:  But I think it‘s a huge part of our economy in terms of wrong

number of people employed because of the rise of corporate farming.  It‘s

not quite the same impact statewide.  I don‘t find a great deal of uprising

support for Blanche Lincoln because she‘s chairman of the Agriculture

Committee.  I just don‘t hear it. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

Max, great to have you on.  Thanks for your time tonight. 

BRANTLEY:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  For more, let‘s bring in Adam Green.  He is the co-founder of the

Progressive Change Committee.  You can find them on the Web at

boldprogressives.org, and they have also launched yet another Web site

today, and that is dumplincoln.com. 

Well, this has been quite a run for your organization, Adam, and there‘s a

lot of money that has been floated to the lieutenant governor early on. 

Is this the tip of the iceberg?  Will there be more?  What do you think? 

ADAM GREEN, CO-FOUNDER, PROGRESSIVE CHANGE COMMITTEE:  There will probably

be more, but this will probably be the great symbolic race of 2010.  And

this essentially symbolizes Democratic voters who have had enough of

corporate Democrats calling the shots.  And in this case they will have a

clear choice, and we‘ll see what happens.  But if Bill Halter wins, it will

send shock waves throughout the Democratic Party and put a lot of other

people on notice. 

SCHULTZ:  So this is target number one for the progressive community, all

the big progressive have gotten together.  And message number one, you

better line is with the party platform. 

Is that pretty much the way this shakes out? 

GREEN:  That‘s true.  The party platform, but also, in many cases, what the

overwhelming majority of Americans and folks from Arkansas want. 

You know, when we did polling, 56 percent of Blanche Lincoln‘s constituents

wanted the public option.  Of course, that didn‘t go very well with her

health insurance contributors who gave her millions of dollars.  So, she,

has consistently, as that reporter accurately said, sided with big

corporations over regular people. 

SCHULTZ:  Are you disappointed that the White House is supporting her and

not the lieutenant governor? 

GREEN:  How many times in one week do I need to say that the White House

has a loser mentality?  I mean, it‘s really unfortunate.

Like, they consistently err on the side of risk aversion and going with

politicians who are not going to fight for “change you can believe in.” 

But, again, there is a huge grassroots outpouring.  You mentioned it

before.

We‘re actually over $400,000 now raised from the folks at Daily Kos,

MoveOn.org, Progressive Change Committee and Democracy for America.  And

our entire goal for the week was $500,000.  So, again, thousands and

thousands of people are going to dumplincoln.com or mikebennett.com (ph)

and chipping in.  It‘s really a grassroots moment.

SCHULTZ:  Do you think that all of the—if you call it kind of a

bellwether campaign and a real, I think, real comeback against the Tea

Party—I mean, you guys have a base and you‘ve got a platform, and

Blanche Lincoln hasn‘t followed it.  I mean, why not set a goal of raising

$5 million and make it happen?  I mean, if you can raise $500,000 in one

day, this could really have a major impact. 

Why keep the bar so low? 

GREEN:  I wouldn‘t be surprised if the bar got raised significantly as

early as tomorrow.  But since you mentioned the Tea Party, you know, one

thing that‘s been kind of a critique of the Democratic Party is that they

haven‘t tapped into this populist anger that‘s out there. 

SCHULTZ:  No, they haven‘t.  There‘s populist anger over on the left. 

There‘s populist anger on the left.  And I‘m just not caving in on this.  I

know the public option has got a pulse. 

You have done some fabulous work.  How many signatures does your

organization have now with Democratic senators to go reconciliation on the

public option? 

GREEN:  Well, we‘re a little bit less than two weeks now.  We‘ve gone from

zero to 30 Democratic senators on the record saying they would vote yes if

the public option was brought up through reconciliation. 

I can tell you, tomorrow, a couple more will also be stepping out.  It‘s

been an amazing progress.  And again, we need the White House to shape up,

stop undermining what the will of the American people is. 

We can pass the public option.  We have the votes to do it.  It‘s just a

matter of, do Democratic leaders have the will? 

SCHULTZ:  How many other Blanche Lincolns are out there, in your opinion? 

Give me some names of some other people that you think are very vulnerable. 

GREEN:  Well, in the Senate, when Ben Nelson is up for re-election next

time, he, like Blanche Lincoln, will go into the general election being

unpopular and also be vulnerable to a primary. 

SCHULTZ:  But, I mean, this might spur people around the country who are

thinking about a primary challenge, or somebody getting on the ticket, you

know, independently.  I mean, who knows where this is going to go? 

I mean, all the Tea Partiers, they‘ve got all the rhetoric, got the big

name at the convention speaking and everything else.  But this is still

America bouncing back from the left, and I think it‘s fantastic.  I think

this is going to turn Blanche Lincoln on health care fast. 

What do you think? 

GREEN:  I wouldn‘t necessarily bank on that, but we‘ll see.  You know,

stranger things have happened.  But even if that‘s true, it‘s important to

have the real deal.  You know, Bill Halter is an economic populist.  We

need someone who has that in their heart, not just who‘s pandering for a

couple of months before the May primary. 

SCHULTZ:  Adam Green, great to have you with us.  Good work.  Thanks so

much for joining us tonight. 

Coming up, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander says Democrats will be on a

political kamikaze mission if they go with reconciliation.  The chairman of

the Senate HELP Committee, Senator Tom Harkin, will respond to that here in

just a moment on THE ED SHOW.

And while denying over a million Americans unemployment benefits, Jim

Bunning of Kentucky dropping a four-letter bomb and gave a TV producer the

finger. 

More on that at the bottom of the hour. 

Plus, I‘m issuing kind of a nerd alert in “Psycho Talk” tonight. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE:  It would be political kamikaze

mission for the Democratic Party if they jammed this through after the

American people have been saying look, we‘re trying to tell you in every

way we know how, in elections, in surveys, in town hall meetings, we don‘t

want this anymore. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Republican Senator Lamar Alexander says going reconciliation

would be a kamikaze mission for the Democrats?  We‘ll talk about his

reconciliation record in a moment.

This guy is looked at as a moderate in the United States Senate?  I think

this is dangerous language. 

White House health care adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle says Democrats have the

votes.  And late today there‘s a development.  Chairman of the Senate

Budget Committee Kent Conrad of North Dakota opened the door for

reconciliation saying, “If the House passes the Senate bill and wants

certain things improved on, like affordability, the Medicaid provisions,

how much of Medicaid expenses are paid for by the federal government, that

is something that could be done through reconciliation.  A sidecar would be

a good candidate for reconciliation.” 

Joining me now for more on this and the latest, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin,

chairman of the Senate HELP Committee. 

Senator, great to have you with us tonight. 

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D-IA), CHAIRMAN, HELP COMMITTEE:  Good to be with you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  First, I want to talk about reconciliation. 

Lamar Alexander was the first Republican to speak at the big gig last week

that the president hosted.  And I was home because Olympic coverage was

going on in this timeslot, but I almost threw a shoe at the TV set, because

this is Lamar Alexander‘s record on reconciliation: 2003, Bush tax cuts;

2005, Deficit Reduction Act; 2005, Tax Increase Prevention; 2007, College

Cost Reduction and Access Act.

He was all about reconciliation on those, but not for anything when it

comes to health care reform, and asked the president to take it off the

table in the opening statement last Thursday. 

How did you feel when you heard that comment, based on these numbers,

Senator? 

HARKIN:  Well, sitting down where I was at the end of the table, we were

all just smiling to ourselves because we knew his record.  That tax cut

bill that they rammed through under Bush, that‘s twice as expensive.  Twice

as expensive as the health care bill, and that increased the deficit.

Our health care bill is going to reduce the deficit.  But my good friend

Lamar Alexander, and all the Republicans, hey, reconciliation was fine when

you were giving tax breaks to the wealthiest of our society.  But when

you‘re trying to cover 30 million Americans that don‘t have health care

insurance, when you‘re trying to make it more affordable, when you‘re

trying to cut back on the egregious policies of the health insurance

industry, no, then they can‘t have reconciliation. 

Look, come on.  We all know this is a game.  We know what they are up to. 

SCHULTZ:  $1.8 trillion is what he voted for when it came to the Bush tax

cuts.  That‘s half of what health care reform would be in this country. 

Plus, over 10 years, the CBO scores it as saving money. 

Now, Senator—Tom, we‘re friends now, OK? 

HARKIN:  Always have been, always will be. 

SCHULTZ:  My man, I need you to sign this public option letter.  What is it

going to—if the public option comes up for a vote for reconciliation,

would you vote yes, Senator Harkin? 

HARKIN:  Look, Ed, you‘re talking to a guy who is for a single payer

system.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

HARKIN:  And I‘m for a public option, always have been.  But I know that

Speaker Pelosi said yesterday, I guess, on one of the talk shows, that it‘s

off the table, simply because of the vote arrangement that we have to do. 

She has to count votes in the House side.  So we‘ve got a deal with this

very delicately. 

And I always say this, Ed—you know, to Adam HARKIN and others like that,

God bless you.  I appreciate what you‘re doing.  You‘re on the right course

in terms of pushing for the public option. 

This bill is not the Ten Commandments, Ed, as you‘ve heard me say many

times, carved in stone for all eternity.  This is a bill.

We pass laws around here.  And then when we do, we come back and we amend

them and we change them.

I‘ll tell you this—if the public option is not in this bill—and it

looks like it probably won‘t be because of the votes—that means we‘ll be

back on it again, maybe even this year, maybe next year.  But I‘m telling

you, it‘s going to be coming back again and again and again.  We are not

giving up on it. 

SCHULTZ:  But why do I sense a “yes” out of you?  If it were to come to the

floor, you would vote yes for the public option, would you not? 

HARKIN:  Ed, I‘ll tell you this straightforward.  Not if it meant that it

would sink the whole health care reform bill. 

There‘s a lot of other stuff in there I care very deeply about—getting

rid of all of these pre-existing conditions, insurance rescinding these

things, covering 30 million people, giving tax credits to low income so

they can buy insurance, getting more competition out there.  These are very

important things to have for our country, and so I have to weigh all of

that. 

And if we have a bill sent to us from the House, a reconciliation bill that

does not have the public option in there, then if we were to do that, if we

were to add it here, that would sink the whole bill.  And I don‘t want to

sink this bill.  I want to get this bill passed.  I want it on Obama‘s desk

and have him sign it. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  We all do, Senator.  But if it were just a single issue and

a single reconciliation attempt at a public option, you would vote for

that, wouldn‘t you? 

HARKIN:  Ed, not if it doomed the entire bill. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

HARKIN:  I‘ve got to be honest with you.  Not if it doomed the entire bill.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  But in this case it might not be that scenario. 

HARKIN:  Well, I don‘t know.  Well, Ed, let‘s see what the House sends us. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

HARKIN:  And we‘re working that out right now.  As the chairman of the

committee, I‘m involved in these talks.  The Speaker is—I‘ll tell you,

she is doing a great job. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

HARKIN:  But she has to get 218 votes, Ed.  And this is a very delicate

balancing trick to make sure we get all these votes, and -- 

SCHULTZ:  Well, they had a public option in the House bill before.  Why

would they not have the votes for it this time? 

HARKIN:  Well, because there are other things happening because the Senate

bill is there and they have to pass the Senate bill.  There are certain

things in the Senate bill that cannot be fixed in reconciliation, and some

House members are peeling off. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.

HARKIN:  The Stupak Amendment, for example, we can‘t fix that in

reconciliation.  So some House members are peeling off.  So Speaker Pelosi

has a very tough job of making sure she gets all the votes together. 

SCHULTZ:  All right, Senator. 

HARKIN:  Now, Ed, I‘ve got to tell you one other thing. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes? 

HARKIN:  Alexander said about this is a political kamikaze for the

Democrats to pass this.  Ed, I‘ve been around here long enough to recognize

reverse psychology when they are doing it. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

HARKIN:  If the Republicans thought that we were on a kamikaze mission on

this health care, they would be applauding us.  Why aren‘t they?  Because

they know that if we pass this bill, and Obama signs it, the American

people are going to see what‘s in that bill. 

They are going to recognize that we clamp down on the insurance industry. 

They are going to recognize we‘re covering 30 million people.  They are

going to recognize that we‘re giving tax credits to families. 

SCHULTZ:  They don‘t want to be on the wrong side of history, yes. 

HARKIN:  And they‘re going to be on the wrong side.  And I‘ll tell you this

we pass this bill, it‘s kamikaze day for the Republicans. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, great to have you with us.  And I will accept that

polite Iowa scolding you just gave me on the public option. 

(LAUGHTER)

HARKIN:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  This is how Washington used to be.  People used to get along and

have a nice gentlemanly conversation. 

Tom, great to have you on.  Thank you.

HARKIN:  I love you, Ed.  Thanks.

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Me too, my friend.  You‘re a great one.  Fought for

the people all along and always give us a heady response.  I appreciate it. 

Coming up, when you put Ben Stein and Neil Cavuto together, a crash landing

in the zone?  Absolutely guaranteed. 

That‘s next.

You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And in “Psycho Talk” tonight, former Nixon speechwriter and a

hero to folks with dry, itchy eyes, Ben Stein. 

You used to be able to go—watch on TV and try to win this guy‘s money by

proving that you were smarter than he was.  Well, it‘s lucky for him that

he doesn‘t do that anymore, because I would probably clean up on him

tonight. 

Ben went on the right-wing network today and suggested that the Toyota

defects that have caused runaway vehicles weren‘t real.  He decided to

blame the victims instead. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN STEIN, FMR. NIXON SPEECHWRITER:  Is there even a real problem, or is

this, like, a phony problem like global warming?  I mean, how many actual

incidents were there?  How many were there that could be clearly traced to

something other than the driver making a mistake or the floor mat not being

properly installed? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Well, as a matter of fact, Ben, the “L.A. Times” reported that at

least 56 people have died because of out-of-control Toyotas.  They even

published accounts from the National Highway Safety Administration of all

those fatalities.

You should check it out before you go on TV again.

Although Ben was right that there‘s a connection between Toyota‘s defects

and global warming.  They‘re both real.  They‘re both potentially deadly. 

And they‘re both fodder for wacky writers who have nothing to do than go on

TV and spew a bunch of “Psycho Talk.”  

Coming up, Republican Senator “Gentleman” Jim Bunning has been acting like

not a real good guy over on Capitol Hill.  I‘ll talk to the senator he

recently cursed at on the floor in just a moment. 

Plus, conservatives are calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to sideline Charlie

Rangel while the Ethics Committee investigate his conduct. Whatever

happened to innocent until proven guilty?  All that and so much more coming

up on “THE ED SHOW” on MSNBC.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Thanks for watching tonight. 

Republican Senator Jim Bunning, he has got an answer for Americans

struggling with unemployment in this economy: tough you know what—I

can‘t say it on the tube or on the radio.  Can‘t pay your rent for your

mortgage?  Tough.  Lost your health care benefits when you got laid off? 

Tough.  Extending unemployment benefits for another month?  Absolutely a

no-brainer. 

The Senate was ready to pass it with unanimous consent last week, and

now one Republican is blocking it.  That means—that means, folks, that

over one million people are about to be denied unemployment and Cobra

benefits.  Already 2,000 federal workers were furloughed without pay today. 

Construction projects are just coming to a screeching halt across the

country.  The suffering has just begun, right? 

My next guest respectfully challenged Senator Bunning on the Senate

floor about this.  Bunning‘s response was a four-letter word that I can‘t

repeat on the tube.  And joining me is that Democratic senator from Oregon,

Jeff Merkley.  Mr. Merkley, good to have you with us tonight.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON:  Thanks, Ed.  It‘s great to be with

you.

SCHULTZ:  Is this the most heartless thing you‘ve seen the

Republicans do in the last year?  How would you characterize this? 

MERKLEY:  It‘s unbelievable.  It‘s shocking from every perspective. 

To take and say, tough luck—that‘s the polite version—to the American

working families when they are down and out, when we are sitting here with

record unemployment—I was back home this weekend.  I was in a county

with over 14 percent unemployment.  It‘s next to a county with nearly 17

percent unemployment.  I went down to southern Oregon, in Klamath (ph)

county, nearly 13 percent unemployment.  And here we have a Republican

filibuster aimed at our workers, aimed at our seniors, aimed at even our

small businesses. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, where is the outcry from other Republicans?  This is

their guy.  They picked one guy to step up and be an obstructionist.  This

is a hell of a way to say to the rest of the folks in this country that

we‘re spending too much money.  This is the job‘s bill.  It‘s not the jobs

bill.  But we‘ve been talking about jobs all along and now look what he‘s

done to over half a million Americans. 

MERKLEY:  Well, and believe you me, we shouldn‘t view this as one

Republican.  This is a coordinated Republican attack on the American

working family. 

SCHULTZ:  You think it‘s a coordinated attack by Republicans? 

MERKLEY:  Absolutely.  Here‘s the thing, others have to keep coming

to the floor so Bunning can leave the floor.  They did that last Thursday

night, and they did it just a few minutes ago when I was on the floor.  And

I‘ll tell you, this—I challenged Senator Thune to come to the floor and

end this filibuster now, because he had just given a speech about small

businesses.  Yet this filibuster is cutting off small business lending to

small businesses.  If you believe that, come to the floor.  If you believe

in support for working family, come to the floor, Republican leadership,

and end this Republican filibuster, this Republican attack on our workers

right now. 

SCHULTZ:  Money to small business, this is exactly what this

administration has been trying to do, been talking about, and trying to put

in place.  And now we‘re getting cut off at the knees by one senator who is

a Republican. 

MERKLEY:  Yes. 

SCHULTZ:  By the way, with all of the filibusters, we‘re at a record

level, an unbelievable pace for this year.  It‘s three times what it was in

the last session of the Congress.  How do you combat that, senator? 

MERKLEY:  I‘ll tell you, the small businesses are going to create

jobs.  We have a lot of help that we can send their way.  We are trying to

get the bill through the House now that we passed last week.  We‘re trying

to get a fund to recapitalize our community banks, so they can do more

lending. 

We are trying to get the filibuster out of the way, this blockade, so

we can continue small business lending through the Small Business

Administration.  We need to do all of this, because our small businesses

will then be able to hire and put people back to work and seize

opportunities to grow this economy. 

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

Appreciate your time.  Thanks for keeping up fight. 

MERKLEY:  It‘s great to be with you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  Over in the House, Republicans are jumping on

Charlie Rangel‘s ethic troubles.  They are planning to force a vote on his

chairmanship after the House Ethics Committee found that corporate funded

trips Rangel took to the Caribbean violated House rules.  But Speaker Nancy

Pelosi says she will wait for the full Ethics Committee inquiry is finished

before considering any action. 

For more on that, let me bring in Democratic strategist Steve

McMahon.  Steve, great to have you on.  How do you view this?  Should the

Democrats just go ahead and move on Charlie Rangel?  Is their political

baggage at this point?  What do you think? 

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I think Charlie Rangel

deserves his day in court, if you will.  This is somebody who served in the

Korean war, was put in a segregated unit, fought in a segregated unit, came

home to serve his country, and has been there for a long, long time. 

There‘s no question that what he was found guilty of in, or accused

of this in ethics finding, taking corporate sponsored trip is a very

serious matter.  They also pointed out that there was no evidence that he

knew about the sponsorship and who was paying the bill.  Now, we can argue

about whether or not he should have known.  I think he probably should

have.  His staff certainly knew.  But they did not find that he knew

himself. 

There is, as you know, Ed, a number—there are a number of other

allegations that the Ethics Committee is looking into.  I hope they act

expeditiously, come out with a report so that Democrats can move on. 

There‘s no question that this is a distraction.  And there‘s also no

question that this is a distraction that Democrats don‘t need right now. 

SCHULTZ:  Here‘s the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on Charlie

Rangel.  Here‘s her response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  It is a public

admonishment.  It said he did not knowingly violate House rules, so that

gives him some comfort.  What Rangel has been admonished for is not good. 

It was a violation of the rule of the House.  It was not a—something

that jeopardized our country in any way.  So what remains to be seen—

what the rest of the work of the committee is and I hope it will be soon. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Steve, what about his tax issues?  Is that all cleared up? 

MCMAHON:  Frankly, the more serious allegations have to do with

whether or not he reported all of the income that he was supposed to

report, whether or not he paid all of the taxes that he was supposed to

pay.  He is the Ways and Means Committee chairman of the United States

Congress, which is the highest ranking committee, and, of course, it‘s the

committee that writes all of the tax policy. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, there‘s no doubt you‘re spot on with that.  But Nancy

Pelosi is caught in a tough spot right now, because she said she was going

to drain the swamp. 

MCMAHON:  She is caught in a tight spot.  She doesn‘t appreciate it. 

I think the honorable thing for Mr. Rangel to do would be to recuse

himself, for the time being, until the Ethics Committee finishes.  He was

admonished.  It‘s not like there‘s nothing here.  There are a number of

other allegations which, frankly, are far more serious than the corporate

sponsored trip thing.  I think it‘s a distraction the Democrats don‘t need. 

And, frankly, Chairman Rangel would be well advised, in my opinion, to sit

down for a few weeks or a few months, however long it takes, for this thing

to work itself out. 

SCHULTZ:  Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, great to have you on

tonight.  Thanks so much. 

MCMAHON:  Thank you.  >

SCHULTZ:  For more, let‘s bring in our panel.  Radio talk show host

and former CIA officer Jack Rice with us tonight, and Republican strategist

and former Bush-Cheney aide, Ron Christie.  Ron, what should the Democrats

do here?  Does Charlie Rangel deserve the full disclosure, full report? 

What do you think? 

RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think he should step aside

for the time being, Ed.  I think Steve McMahon was exactly right.  I think,

for the good of the House, for the institution of the House of

representatives—when you have a very senior member, who is the chairman

of the Ways and Means Committee, who has been admonished, who has other

serious charges before him, it‘s a distraction.  It‘s not only a

distraction for the Democrats, it‘s a distraction for the American people. 

I think, as Steve pointed out, which I agree with, for the next

several weeks and months, as the Ethics Committee does their work, I think

it would be good for him to recuse himself. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you think, Jack Rice?

JACK RICE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I think it‘s a magical

transformation for the Republicans, all of a sudden jumping on this one,

saying, we need to deal with ethics, despite all of the problems they‘ve

had in the past.

But, actually, I do completely agree here. I think it makes a lot of

sense, strategically, to say, you know what, there are issues out that are

there, let‘s address this.  This makes it very difficult for the Democrats. 

If they don‘t do it correctly, they will be just as hypocritical as I think

the Republicans have been in the past, and continue to be. 

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s switch gears now.  Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas

getting a challenge in the primary from the lieutenant governor, who I

think has come forth with some pretty populist ideas when it comes to

answering to the progressives in this country.  Jack Rice, is this going to

be a real challenge?  I mean, they are raising money like crazy right now. 

Over half a million dollars -- 400,000 dollars has been raised in one day. 

How much of a problem is this going to be for other Democrats who, so to

speak, don‘t get in line with the agenda? 

RICE:  Frankly, I think it‘s a good idea that this drives the

Democrats to stand up and say what it is that they are standing for.  We

have seen a split amongst the party itself, and there‘s a perception across

the country that the Democrats can‘t get their act together, let alone

where the Republicans are.  If nothing else, what this does to Blanche

Lincoln is it requires her to step up and say, this is where I am. 

Does this drive them potentially further to the left?  Yes, it might. 

But that s not necessarily a bad thing.  Certainly not for President Obama. 

SCHULTZ:  And Ron Christie, aren‘t you kind of—over on the

conservative side—licking your chops on this one, because the White

House has already come out and said, we‘re going with Blanche Lincoln.  If

she loses in the primary—she could go the route of Joe Lieberman.  But

it just seems to me that the political capital is being spent early on by

the White House.  What is the risk there, in your opinion? 

CHRISTIE:  I think you‘re right, Ed.  I think the White House has put

a pretty firm line in the sand, saying, we support Blanche Lincoln.  We

want her to be our nominee.  Arkansas is a tough case for the Democrats

either way you look at it.  If the progressive candidate takes her out in

the primary, then the Republicans have an even better chance of picking of

that seat.  As it is now, Lincoln is in a lot of trouble.  You have a lot

of members—a lot of African-Americans in Arkansas who are very

displeased with her.  Regardless of any way you look at it, Ed, I think

she‘s in deep trouble, and not likely to come back for the next session of

Congress. 

SCHULTZ:  I think this is a wakeup call to a lot of progressives that

aren‘t on board with real change because there could be others.  I also

think this is going to embolden a lot of progressive groups.  If they can

get the lieutenant governor a victory in the primary, is it not going to be

a wake-up call, Jack Rice, to Democrats to get in line or get out? 

RICE:  Absolutely.  It also really strengthens the point of the left

of the party.  Frequently, what we have seen over the last year,

especially, is it seems that the Democrats have almost dismissed many on

the progressive wing.  And I think what the progressives are doing right

now is they‘re flexing their muscles and they‘re saying, look, we have a

seat—not just a seat at the table, one of the reasons that you are where

you are is because we put you there.  Now, you will either listen to us or

we will move you aside.  This is going to be a very interesting midterm set

of elections. 

SCHULTZ:  And Ron Christie, I guess I failed on my first night back

after my two weeks off from the Olympics, because I don‘t think you‘re mad

at me tonight. 

CHRISTIE:  I‘m not.  It‘s all good.  I‘m in a good mood.  Happy

March.  Good to see you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Up next, 7,000 students drop out of school every day in

America, which means over one million kids won‘t get their diploma this

year.  The president, he‘s got a plan that gives some teachers and

principals the pink slip.  That is coming up in the playbook.  Stay with

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, 1.2 million students drop out of

school very year in this country.  Now, President Obama has 3.5 billion

dollar plan that he thinks will turn that number around.  The problem is it

sounds like No Child Left Behind on steroids.  Part of the Obama‘s plan

targets 5,000 of the lowest performing schools in the country. 

But to get federal funding, those schools will have to take drastic

action following one of the four models.  The school could work to improve

in one of four specific areas: teacher effectiveness, instruction,

operational flexibility, and learning and teaching planning time.  Also,

the district could temporarily shut down a low-performing school, then

reopen it under charter school management.  Or they could permanently close

a failing school, and send the students elsewhere in the district. 

Finally, the school district could flat out fire the teacher, the

principals, and at least half the staff of a struggling school and overhaul

its program of instruction.  To tell us more about this, and does it have

legs, and is it going to turn things around, let me bring in Dennis Van

Roekel.  He is the president of the country‘s largest labor union, the

National Education Association, who is a teacher in Arizona. 

Mr. Van Roekel, appreciate your time tonight.  Does the NEA embrace

what the president said today?  Can you go along with this plan? 

DENNIS VAN ROEKEL, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION:  Well, number one,

we agree 100 percent that we need to do something about the dropout

problem.  One point two million kids a year that we are losing, our future

depends on us doing something about it.  And of the four models, the

transformation model, where it is done through collaboration, involving

management, the school board, the employees and their unions, who then must

reach out to the teachers and community and say, let‘s talk and work

together to determine what is best for the students—we support that. 

SCHULTZ:  Is it fair to say that the Obama plan is somewhat heavy

handed?  I mean, this sounds like No Child Left Behind on steroids.  If

they are going to come in, fire principles, fire half the staff, shut the

school down and redirect students.  You and I know—and we‘ve had this

conversation before—in low-income areas in this country, in the inner

city, it‘s really—public education is a challenge, to say the least.  Is

3.5 billion dollars going to do it?  And is this plan heavy handed? 

VAN ROEKEL:  One of the things that we look at when we look at the

lowest 5,000 schools, 30 percent of those are in small and rural

communities.  And of the four options, three of them don‘t make sense at

all.  I grew up in one of those little towns.  There was only one school. 

So the idea that you would close it, telling me to go somewhere else,

doesn‘t make much sense.  I don‘t think it makes sense to fire half the

teachers when you haven‘t done the research to know that that is the

problem. 

SCHULTZ:  I agree with you.  But how are you going to recruit

teachers to go into a troubled area?  Getting people into the profession

and paying them properly, to keep them motivated to stay in the profession

many times it does come down to the money.  How are you going to get

people to go into districts that are having the challenges under this

program?

VAN ROEKEL:  Well, we surveyed more than 2,000 of our members, who

are nationally board certified, and we asked them that question: what would

it take to get you into the most troubled, the most high need schools?  The

number one they say is they want good, strong school leadership.  And

that‘s in the principle.  They want to have collective and responsibility

and accountability for all of the students.  They want to have good

learning and working environment.  And pay comes in last.  And what it says

is, we want to have a say in what it takes to turn the school around. 

SCHULTZ:  When kids come home at night tired, they stay out of

trouble and they are probably doing something that is pretty constructive,

such as extra-curricular activities.  It would seem to me that if kids in

this country are going to get ahead, their time has to be occupied.  That‘s

what I believe in.  A kid that is focused and occupied and involved in

activities has got a much greater chance of getting there.  A lot of these

after school programs and pre-school programs have been cut.  Have they

not?

VAN ROEKEL:  Absolutely.  We agree with what you just said.  After

school programs are extremely important.  In the 23 years as a high school

math teacher, I also coached.  And I used to say to parents, I don‘t know

why you don‘t encourage your kids to get more involved.  Wouldn‘t you

rather have them with me, and let me send them home at 6:00 or 6:30, tired

and ready to stay at home, rather than running around in the afternoon.

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Van Roekel, good to have you with us tonight.

VAN ROEKEL:  Thanks a lot, Ed.  I appreciate.  

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, the verbal grenades being launched over health

care reform, well, they have brought new meaning to March Madness, in my

opinion.  Congressman Elijah Cummings will join me from Battlefield,

Indiana in just a moment.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  It‘s a battle every step of

the way for health care reform.  Democratic leaders in Congress can‘t even

agree on whether—who should act first.  Speaker of the House Nancy

Pelosi says they will have to wait and see what the Senate does.  But House

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says the House has to lead the way. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STENY HOYER (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Whether we‘re willing or not, we

have to go first if we‘re going to correct some things that the House

disagree with—change, so we can reach agreement  The House will have to

move first on some sort of corrections or reconciliation bill. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining us for more on this is Democratic Congressman

Elijah Cummings of Maryland.  Congressman Cummings, great to have you on

tonight.  Do you agree with the majority leader?  Is that the way it‘s

going to have to be? 

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND:  I think we‘re going to have to

move.  Keep in mind, we have a Senate bill and a House bill.  Keep in mind,

the Senate bill was passed with a super majority.  So what the House could

do is pass the Senate bill and then use reconciliation to tweak some of the

budget issues in that Senate bill. 

But basically the bills have been passed by both houses.  It‘s just a

question of whether we‘re going to take up that Senate bill and then tweak

it with reconciliation on the Senate side. 

SCHULTZ:  Is that what you recommend, congressman? 

CUMMINGS:  Well, it‘s going to be difficult.  I probably would,

because I think that‘s probably going to be the only way we‘re going to get

a bill through.  We‘re in a situation now where there‘s a lot of things

that I don‘t necessarily like about the Senate bill.  But I do believe that

if we get a commitment from the Senate that once we pass their bill, that,

again, has already come over to us with a super majority—that once we

get a commitment from them that they will do the right things, I think I

could live with it.

And then we‘ve got to deal with this, Ed, like we have dealt with

Social Security.  When Social Security first came about, it was not exactly

what we wanted it to be.  But then you tweak it and keep improving it, and

then it gets better.  Once we get this thing passed, then we‘ve got to make

sure that the American people understand that it is a good thing.  And then

we‘ve got to make sure that we make it clear that we‘re saving lives and

saving a lot of pain. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman Cummings, did the president make a difference

last Thursday? 

CUMMINGS:  I think he did make a difference, because I think what he

did was he showed that the Democrats were—believe that it is important,

that it‘s a right for people to have insurance and to be taken care of. 

And he—and I think—but on the other hand, he also showed the hand of

our Republican colleagues, who basically tried to find something wrong with

every little thing -- 

SCHULTZ:  Everything. 

CUMMINGS:  -- that the president was stating, even things like the

exchange that was their idea.  You know, that‘s—and that—it gets

rather frustrating, Ed.  And to be frank with you, I am coming to the point

where I think about all of the people who will not be able to have coverage

because of, say, for example, preexisting conditions or recissions, that is

being dropped when they have an ailment.  Ed, we have no choice.  We have

got to pass this.

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, great to have you with us tonight.  I

appreciate you weighing in on this. 

CUMMINGS:  Always a pleasure, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  Tonight in our text survey, I asked you, do you

think it‘s a good move for progressive groups to target Democrats?  Eighty

four percent said yes; 16 percent said no.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed

Schultz.  Be sure to watch tomorrow night.  Arkansas Lieutenant Governor

Bill Halter will be here to talk about his race against Blanche Lincoln. 

“HARDBALL” and Chris Matthews is next.

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