updated 1/28/2011 11:11:44 AM ET 2011-01-28T16:11:44

Guests: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ben Jealous, John Nichols, Leeland Yee

           

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

These stories are hitting “My Hot Buttons” at this hour.

           

Well, the nice talk about Social Security from House Speaker John Boehner is meant to obscure the real talk about Social Security from House Speaker John Boehner—you know, like raising the retirement age?

Let‘s just be clear: the goal is to retire Social Security, itself. 

My commentary on that tonight and the grand old bait-and-switch.

America is a light to the world.  That‘s what he said.  It was founded on an idea.  He said that.  But since he is President Barack Obama, those words don‘t count.  Not to Republicans who just can‘t seem to give this president any credit for anything.

An anonymous death threat against a California state senator with words about how Rush Limbaugh will kick his blank—that California state senator is our guest exclusively on THE ED SHOW tonight.

But this is the story that starts us off tonight here on our program.  Republicans, what they want to do is get their hands on your kids‘ money to line the pockets of their donors on Wall Street.  This is the big play.  John Boehner is hiding a secret.  The speaker of the House wants you to believe he‘s sorry for suggesting Americans should work until they‘re 70.

Last June in an interview with “Pittsburgh Tribune Review,” Boehner said this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  On Social Security, we‘re all living a lot longer than anybody ever expected.  And I think that raising the retirement age going out 20 years, so you‘re not affecting anyone close to retirement and eventually getting the retirement age to 70 is a step that needs to be taken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Well, that was a classic Boehner, sitting back in his chair, taking it easy, talking with reporters the same way he would talk to a guy sitting on a bar stool I guess—like last night, Boehner changed his tune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  I made a mistake when I did that, because I think having the conversation about how big the problem is is the first step.  And once the American people understand how big the problem is, then you can begin to outline an array of possible solutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Big problem.  Just remember that.  Big, big problem, huge problem.

Don‘t kid yourself, folks.  Boehner isn‘t sorry for suggesting you should have to work until you‘re 70.  His only mistake was he was telling us what he really thinks.  Boehner and his buddies in the Republican Party are fixating on making your kids work until their very last breath.

You see, Indiana governor and former Bush budget director, Mitch Daniels, recently said this about young workers during an interview with “The New York Times.”  “They‘ll live to be more than 100.  They‘ll be replacing body parts like we do tires.”  That‘s all warm and fuzzy, isn‘t it?

Daniels just told you exactly how Republicans view Social Security.  Don‘t let them fool you again, folks.  The Grand Old Party is on a mission to destroy the New Deal and open the flood gates of your money for the select few on Wall Street.  That‘s the plan.  Big problem now, big crisis we got going as part of the information scheme.

Republicans are talking a good game about raising the retirement age, means testing, and reducing benefits.  But that‘s not the mission.  They just want to privatize Social Security.

Take a look at what John Boehner said about investing your Social Security on Wall Street back in 2006.  Boehner told “The Washington Times,” quote, “If I‘m around in a leadership role come January, yes, we‘re going to get serious about it.”

Will the real John Boehner please stand up on this issue?  Boehner is now in the ultimate leadership role in Congress.

There‘s no daylight between the new speaker and the suits on Wall Street—you can believe that—who have their eyes on the $2.6 trillion surplus in Social Security, that wonderful trust fund that the government‘s never failed on.  Think about that.  Wall Street would love to get their hands on $2.6 trillion.  Think anybody would make any money on that?

Boehner doesn‘t want the American people to know that Social Security is financially sound.  He puts it like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  Well, if you really want to talk about what the Sputnik moment is, it‘s the fact that we‘re broke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

BOEHNER:  The American people know we‘re broke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Really.  So, how come you ushered in all those tax breaks again?

Liberals in the Senate are determined to fight to protect Social Security.  Today, Bernie Sanders and six other Senate Democrats started the Defending Social Security Caucus.  At the same time, the Republicans were down at the other end of the hall starting the Tea Party Caucus.  A representative in Sanders‘ office tweeted, “As Bernie convened the new Defend Social Security Caucus, the new Tea Party Caucus met down the hall.  Which would you join?”

You know, that‘s a damn good question tonight.  Americans, you need to ask yourself the same question.  Do you want to stand with those liberals who want to protect your Social Security or do you want to stand with the Republicans with risky investments on Wall Street?

Joining us now is independent Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.  Of course, this senator has been a fighter for the people and he launched the Defending Social Security Caucus earlier today.

Senator, good to have you with us tonight.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Good to be with you.

SCHULTZ:  This mission to privatize Social Security has been no secret at all.  This is what they‘ve wanted to do for a long time.  Their method, your take on their method and the way they‘re going at it this time.

SANDERS:  Massive amounts of misinformation and disinformation.  The truth of the matter is, Social Security today has a $2.6 trillion surplus.  Social Security can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 27 years, at which point it could pay out about 80 percent of all benefits.

What does that mean?  It means that within 27 years, we have to figure out how we deal with that gap.  In my view, what you do is you lift the income cap so that people making more than $250,000 contribute more into the system.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

SANDERS:  Right now, you‘re making $1 million—you‘re putting the same into the system as somebody making $106,000.  Do it, problem solved, end of discussion.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So, their method is misinformation.  Their goal is to do what, line the pockets of the big boys on Wall Street?

SANDERS:  Absolutely.  Look, what the debate is about, Ed, is not really about the finances of Social Security.  It‘s an ideological debate.  You know as well as I do, these guys don‘t like government.  They love Wall Street.

If you destroy Social Security and people want to have a retirement account, you invest in Wall Street.  Wall Street makes over a period of time tens and tens of billions of dollars.  That, in fact, is the long-term goal.

Second of all, if you have a Social Security system, as we have right now, which for 75 years, Ed—and people should appreciate that—has paid out every nickel owed to every eligible American in a very cost-effective way.  You know what?  People might actually have some faith in government.

SCHULTZ:  What do you—what do you make of your former colleague, Mr. Boehner, over in the House and how he has shifted his position on the retirement age?  Some people think that—well, he actually just said what he finally thought.

SANDERS:  Well, has he called about raising the retirement age?

SCHULTZ:  He did it one time and then reversed his position on that. 

Can he be trusted?

SANDERS:  No, I don‘t—well, in my view—I mean, I think the Republicans are very clear.  These guys are not sympathetic to the idea of government providing retirement benefits to elderly people, nor are they sympathetic to the government providing help to people with disabilities or widows and orphans.

Here‘s the problem that they have: Social Security has worked.  It has worked fantastically.  Before Social Security, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty.  Today, 10 percent live in poverty.

People like Social Security.  Well, if you‘re a right wing ideologue and you hate government, this is not a good situation.

SCHULTZ:  And do you think the Tea Party is right in bed with the Republicans on this one?  There isn‘t much difference between the two, is there, on this issue?

SANDERS:  We‘ll see how it plays out.  At the grassroots level, you‘ve got a lot of working class people—

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

SANDERS:  -- who got, you know, sucked into the Tea Party and I think once they understand that some of their leaders want to destroy what is very important to their lives, I think they may think twice about that.

SCHULTZ:  This is what Harry Reid said about Social Security on “Meet the Press.”

Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, “MEET THE PRESS”:  Senator, you‘re really saying the arithmetic on Social Security works?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  I‘m saying the arithmetic on Social Security works.  I have no doubt it does.

GREGORY:  It‘s not in crisis?

REID:  No, it‘s not in crisis.  This is—this is something that‘s perpetuated by people who don‘t like government.  Social Security is fine.  Are there things we can do to improve Social Security?  Of course.

GREGORY:  It means testing, raising the retirement age?  Do you agree with either of those?

REID:  I‘m not going to any of those back door methods to whack Social Security recipients.  I‘m not going to do that.  We have a lot of things we can do with this debt that‘s a problem, but one of the places where I‘m not going to be part of picking on is Social Security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Senator, I hear Harry Reid and I hear what you‘re saying but I don‘t hear the White House talking like you two guys.  What about that?

SANDERS:  Well, as you know, and I think I‘ve discussed that on this program, we wrote a letter to the president, a very short letter.  And basically we said, Mr. President, all we want you to do is tell us now what you said during the campaign.

And during the campaign, the president was very, very strong in saying he is going to defend Social Security, he‘s not going to raise the retirement age, he is not going to cut benefits and he‘s certainly not—

SCHULTZ:  Are you afraid it‘s become a bargaining chip for the White House?

SANDERS:  Well, you know, he spoke to the issue very briefly at the State of the Union.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

SCHULTZ:  If you parse and look very closely at the statement as I do, there was a little bit of wiggle room.  And I hope that the president will be stronger on that.  I hope that he will tell the American people that any effort to cut Social Security, to privatize Social Security, or raise the retirement age, he‘s going to veto that.  That‘s what I really want to hear him say.

SCHULTZ:  Senator Sanders, keep up the fight.  Great to have you on THE ED SHOW tonight.  Thanks so much.

SANDERS:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  This really is the issue.  We have one party over on the right that says it‘s a crisis.  We have another party over on the left, the Democrats, saying that no, it‘s solvent.

And there were steps taken by the Reagan administration back in 1983, put into law in 1984 to enhance Social Security.  That‘s back when the Republicans were in power, right?  And, of course, we had record debt, record foreign debt, under the Reagan years.

But, now, we roll fast forward to where we are today, after eight years of the Bush administration and two years of the Obama administration, our finances are a lot different.  This is not a Reagan crowd, this Republican Party.  That‘s what we need to know as Americans.

They want to privatize this.  They want to put at risk the dignity Americans will have late in life known as Social Security—that check that has never bounced on any American, that commitment that this country has always made good on.

For how long?  A couple years?  Couple decades?  No, almost eight decades—almost eight decades of this government run program that you and I have paid into for years all our lives, a very small portion of our check, and it has allowed us to have elderly Americans live in dignity in the latter part of their lives, after they retire.  It‘s just a smidgeon of a retirement now for many Americans.

You know what the Republicans want to do?  They want to go after that.  Number one, they want to cut the benefits.  And then they want to totally privatize it.  That‘s the mission—totally privatize it, meaning take that $2.6 trillion and put it three miles from here, down on Wall Street, and let those fat cats make as much money as they possibly can off it.  And if it works, it works.  If it doesn‘t, that‘s OK, that‘s just Wall Street.

That‘s the risk.  That‘s the difference.  And it‘s the fundamental question that the younger generation in this country has to choose where they want to go.

You want to risk?  Talk to your parents about it.  Talk to your grandparents about it.  I mean, we have done this correctly.

Now, you look at the way Reagan ran his finances.  You look at the way Bush ran his finances.  If you were an investor, would you want somebody handling your money with that kind of track record?  Or would you take somebody who has never defaulted on a payment for almost 80 years?  So, you be the judge.

The Republicans are totally wrong on this issue.  They‘re wrong on every account and they‘re phonying up the information when they say, it‘s a crisis.  It‘s a crisis.

It is not a crisis.

The report is out and it should matter to anyone who wants to get at the truth tonight.  This country‘s financial crisis was caused by the kind of Wall Street deals that make monopoly money look real by comparison.  Or it was caused by the average Joe snookered into a home loan that just went bad.  That‘s coming up.

And later, President Obama talked about a Sputnik moment.  But Sarah Palin wants to talk about a Spudnut moment.  I‘m not making this stuff up.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  The minority report on the financial crisis: why blame the big gamblers on Wall Street when you can blame blue collar and middle class homeowners on Main Street?  Twisting the facts is wrong and you need to know just what they‘re doing.  Stay with us.  I‘ll tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Let‘s see, the report says, “We conclude this financial crisis was avoidable.”  Hmm.

That‘s the summary of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission which released its report today on the economic collapse of 2008.  Remember those days?

Wall Street honchos, government regulators, mortgage brokers, see, they were all to blame for the economic mess that we‘re still digging through, right?  Well, but the conclusion wasn‘t unanimous.  The four Republican commissioners disagreed with the majority opinion of that group and one of them—well, he wants to rewrite history in my opinion.

Peter Wallison from the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute says the government‘s affordable housing policy is responsible for the economic crisis.  In other words, we just gave too many mortgages to minorities who just couldn‘t afford them.  That‘s what almost brought the entire economy down?  Give me a break.

So, Peter Wallison, he wants you to forget what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in 2008 that loans to minority communities were not the root of the crisis.  And Wallison wants you to ignore all the other culprits cited in the commission‘s report.

The Federal Reserve lacks standards, big problem.  Poor risk management at financial institutions like Citigroup and AIG.  Risky borrowing from investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers.

Financial industry lobbyists who helped dismantle regulations?  Remember Glass/Steagall?  Forget all that stuff, folks, because we just gave out housing loans to minorities.

You know, we just can‘t let them get away with this kind of stuff.  The facts are out there.  Don‘t let them change the narrative and put all the blame on one group of people.  We can‘t tell them do this, but that‘s not how it happened and we can‘t let it happen again for sure.

Joining me now the president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous.

Ben, good to have you with us tonight.

BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  I mean, this is 100 percent scapegoating, is it not?

JEALOUS:  You know, this is a distortion and it‘s a big distraction.  They don‘t want you to focus on what actually happened.  They don‘t want you to go down through this report and see it‘s, you know, its huge governance failures, big ethics problems.

If you—you know, if they simply had done their job right, if the government had done its job right, the banks had done its job right, this wouldn‘t have happened.  You know, the shills for these, for the greediest bankers want you to think that it‘s, you know, someone else.  They want to pick—you know, point out the scapegoat.  And this is an old game.

SCHULTZ:  Why is it Republicans have attacked minority mortgages as a way to go after the Community Reinvestment Act?

JEALOUS:  You know, again, this is a really old game.  In the 1930s, when the government rolled out the 30-year mortgage, they said, look, if you want to keep your housing prices stable, you‘ve got to have a racially restricted covenant.  And they sold it like candy, like this is the best thing—to make sure that your house gains value, have a racially restricted covenant.

You know, that was the first time that they blamed black folks.  Then in the late ‘60s, ‘70s, when black folks started to move into the neighborhood, then it was the realtors.  They said, hey, there‘s a black on the neighborhood and you know what the government says with this racially restricted covenants, uh-oh, you better sell your house for half of what it‘s worth.

So, they, you know, basically screwed white folks going out.  You know, they said, look, we will take your house and we will give you pennies on the dollar, but you better run because black folks have moved in and they screw black folks coming in.  And, you know, and sold these houses for twice what they, you know, had bought them for.

So, that was the second time they tried to blame us.  And now they scapegoat CRA.  And the reality is, if you read the report, it says very clearly that the CRA banks, the banks that, you know, practiced the CRA, were less likely to make bad loans.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  Well, it also just goes to show, this report in the way it‘s been countered by some conservatives on the panel just shows that they are out to protect Wall Street any way they possibly can and lay the blame elsewhere, because their big mission, of course, is to deregulate as much as they can and, of course, when they get their hands on that Social Security money, they don‘t want anybody telling them what to do with it.  I think the stories in a sense are related when it comes to blame and what not.

JEALOUS:  That‘s right.

SCHULTZ:  But the NAACP has always been vigorously advocating the enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act.  And when you see the way it is structured right now, is that going to hamper the future?  What do you think?

JEALOUS:  Oh, yes.  This Congress definitely has some folks, you know, the same people who think that there‘s such a thing as a jobless recovery, you know, the same kind of far right wing conservatives who push that mess are trying to, you know, shove real changes on the CRA.  And the reality is that the CRA is the reason that a—you know, that and a few important civil rights laws, that a black doctor can walk in and get the same treatment as a white construction worker.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

JEALOUS:  You know?  I mean, this is real basic fairness.

And the reality is that they really tarnish the name of conservatives when they use it as, you know, that word as basically a veiled synonym for racist.  I mean, you know, the way banks practiced in this county, for centuries, was very conservative.  And, you know, but for—you know, but for the racism practice against black folks, they, you know, were fairly safe financial institutions.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

JEALOUS:  What they need to be saying as conservatives is, let‘s go back to conservative banking policies.  Let‘s go back to—let‘s get away from these complex derivatives—again, if you read the report, are actually blamed for a big part of this crisis.

SCHULTZ:  Sure.

JEALOUS:  Let‘s go back to the basic common sense banking and while we‘re at it, you know, one more conservative value is actually treating people fairly.  Let‘s treat folks fairly.  But that, for some people, you know, that‘s just—that‘s just hard to do.

SCHULTZ:  It is hard to do.

Ben Jealous, always a pleasure.  Great to have you with us tonight—president of the NAACP with us here on THE ED SHOW tonight.  Thank you, Ben.

JEALOUS:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Sarah Palin wants to give us a lesson on Sputnik.  You know, since she can see Russia from her house and all that stuff, she‘s the expert.  Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Coming up: the Republican money men are in meeting in their smoke filled rooms to crown their presidential nominee.  Well, we‘ll tell you who spilled the beans on all of that—but it doesn‘t sound like they‘re about to let the Tea Party send Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin into the general election.  And it might be because of stuff like this—last night, Sarah Palin was asked about a huge moment in American history.

President Obama talked about it in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.  It was an American defeat that inspired us to American greatness.

When the USSR put Sputnik into orbit, they beat America in the first lap of space race, in the space race.  But, as President Obama said Tuesday night, we answered the challenge.  By the end of the ‘60s, we left the old Soviet Union in the dust and we had American astronauts walking in moon dust well before them.

So, watch Sarah Palin, but keep in mind just a few things—one, Americans did not celebrate Sputnik.  They overcame it.  And two, the space race did not bankrupt the USSR.  The Soviet Union fell two decades later because of the arms race.  The single biggest event in the second half of the 20th century and Sarah Palin does not understand it?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS:  Governor, last night, there was a lot of discussion about the Sputnik moment that the president talked about.  Do you agree with him?  Is this our moment?

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  That was another one of those WTF moments, when he has so often repeated, the Sputnik moment, that he would aspire Americans to celebrate.  And he needs to remember that what happened back then with the former communist USSR and their victory in that race to space, yes, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union.  So, I listen to that Sputnik moment talk over and over again and I think, no, we don‘t need one of those.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  If you‘re a lefty, don‘t you really want her to get the nomination?  Wouldn‘t it be fun?  A huge superpower collapses because of military spending?  The same problem we face now?

On a tape in 2004, Osama bin Laden said he wants to bankrupt the United States of America with military spending driving up our deficit.  Quote, “al Qaeda has gained.  But on the other hand, the deficit shows that the Bush administration has also gained.  Something that anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush administration linked mega-corporations like Halliburton and its kind will be convinced.  And it all shows that the real loser is you.  It is the American people and their economy.” 

So al Qaeda wants to defeat America by ramping up our military spending.  Even Ron Paul gets it, the libertarian hero with the Tea Party.  He wants to cut military spending.  Only Sarah Palin, who doesn‘t even know why the Soviet Union fell, wants us to keep doing what al Qaeda wants us to do: keep our military spending. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  This administration may be willing to cut defense spending, but it‘s increasing—obviously it‘s increasing spending everywhere else.  I think we should do it the opposite, the other way around.  Kind of spending it in every single department apart from Defense.  No cutting corners on national security. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Didn‘t John Boehner just say recently we‘re broke? 

The Iowa Tea Cup is getting bigger by the day.  First it‘s Tea Party favorites Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle.  Now it‘s Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the guy who talked about Obama‘s Waterloo.  I‘ll tell you, folks, some freedom loving Americans are headed to the great state of Iowa.  But in their case, freedom‘s just another word for nothing left to lose. 

That‘s next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA:  Freedom in itself is when millions of people make their own decisions about what they want to do and what they value.  Tyranny is when a few people make the decisions for those millions of people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  You know, I hear that sound bite right there and I think about the polls that are out there and the surveys about how we want universal health care in this country.  If you were to ask Americans collectively, all 300 million of us, what do you want?  The majority of Americans would say, we want universal health care. 

What a hypocrite this dude is.  That‘s south Carolina senator Jim DeMint addressing the first ever meeting of the Senate Tea Party caucus in Washington today.  In tonight‘s Battleground Story, never mind the phony tyranny coming from the White House.  DeMint needs to be worried about the tyranny coming from the establishment wing of his own Republican party. 

Today, DeMint‘s people said the senator would be headed to Iowa in March.  They also said he isn‘t running for anything.  But of course that‘s what they all say. 

We‘re all—we‘ve already seen Sarah Palin do a few tours in Iowa.   Michele Bachmann was there last week lying about slavery.  And last night‘s Mrs. Second Amendment remedies showed up in Johnston, Iowa, for a movie preview. 

Firstly, I hope they all run.  I hope one gets the Republican nomination.  I hope really one of them wins it, but it can‘t happen because a small number of establishment GOP bigwigs—they‘re not going to let one of those folks get in there. 

The fix is on, folks.  The fix is in and it‘s on.  And I know it because Bill Kristol told me so.  The conservative guru and Fox News analyst came complained in his “Weekly Standard” column that there would be no free market for choosing the Republican nominee in 2012. 

According to Kristol “GOP bigwigs in Washington are meeting non stop, trying to determine for us all now, a year before the first primary, with limited information as to relevant candidate skills and almost no knowledge of next year‘s political environment, who the best presidential candidate would be.” 

In other words, we really don‘t want to screw this thing up.  Never mind who you Tea Partiers like.  You don‘t matter.  The bigwigs in Washington are just going to pick the next candidate.  But you can make all the noise you want. 

Hey look, that‘s not me talking.  It‘s Bill Kristol, one of the big righties over there that they really pay attention to.  Thanks for getting us this far, Tea Partiers.  Now we‘ll take it from here.  That‘s what it sounds like to me.  What was that Jim DeMint quote again? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMINT:  Freedom in itself is when millions of people make their own decisions about what they want to do and what they value.  Tyranny is when a few people make the decisions for those millions of people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s bring in my liberal brother, John Nichols, Washington correspondent of “The Nation.”  Good evening, John.  Good to have you with us. 

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”:  Brother, Ed, it is always good. 

SCHULTZ:  Those Tea Partiers, they took them so far, but they‘re going to leave them at the water‘s edge, aren‘t they?  What do you make of this story? 

NICHOLS:  This is a very important story because, while we were all paying attention to the State of the Union Address, the Republican leadership, for all of their attempts to suggest they didn‘t care, was freaking out about the fact that Michele Bachmann was stealing their thunder on that night. 

And they‘re starting to realize something about the Tea Party that I don‘t think they fully understood.  The Tea Party knows how to communicate with the base.  And just as Barack Obama in 2008 leapt over a lot of the Democratic establishment and went straight to the people, they‘re now quite frightened that a Tea Party candidate could come along and cause them huge problems in the primary process, perhaps even dividing the party. 

SCHULTZ:  So they‘re trying to get this right.  I think that the ego of the three candidates that we just showed, they‘re not going to accept anybody else from the standard GOP party.  They‘re going to splinter I think.  And I think Sarah Palin just—if she doesn‘t get the nomination for the Republican party, they‘ll go off and go rogue, so to speak.  You know, what do you think? 

NICHOLS:  Well, listen to this, Ed.  Up in New Hampshire, when the New Hampshire Republican Committee polled its members—and this is a 400-member committee.  These are the real activists in the first primary state, Thirty eight percent voted for Mitt Romney, the boring old predictable candidate.  Everybody said oh, big win for Mitt. 

But what people didn‘t notice is if you took all the disparate votes for the different Tea Party contenders, put them together, you had a number almost equal to what Mitt Romney got.  What terrifies the Bill Kristols and the Republican establishment is somebody like a Michele Bachmann or Jim DeMint will get out there, do a good enough job of uniting that Tea Party base. 

They may not win, but they will fully recognize its power.  And as a result, once you get to a convention, the Tea Party people are going to be pretty mad they don‘t end up with the authority within the party.  They‘re terrified of that fight. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think the Tea Party followers—that group recognize that these GOP bigwigs are trying to marginalize them and they‘re not going to take a chance on one of their really right wing candidates?  What do you think? 

NICHOLS:  Well, I don‘t think the Tea Party is organized enough to generate up its own candidates.  So this is really—if you imagine it this way, Ed, there is a Republican party and perhaps also we‘ll have a Tea Party primary.  And if one of these Tea Party people, a Bachmann, DeMint or someone, really gets going and comes up, you could see an insurgent candidacy that would shake the Republican party up in ways that will make it very, very hard for them to get back together for that November, 2012 race. 

SCHULTZ:  So who is the king maker right now in your opinion?  I would say it would be Mike Huckabee.  If I had to pick a Republican right now, it would be Mike Huckabee.  How about you? 

NICHOLS:  I think you‘re right.  Huckabee can bridge a lot of the gaps between social conservatives and really much more of a main stream audience.  The one thing about Huckabee that‘s different than most of the other Republicans is that he actually knows how to string a sentence together and say something that might be vaguely interesting to the American people. 

I‘m not kidding about that.  He is a better communicator. 

SCHULTZ:  He would get the Christian right behind him.  He would get the southern states.  He would probably win a few in the west.  He probably has more appeal than the rest of them. 

John Nichols, always a pleasure.  Great to have you with us tonight. 

Thanks so much. 

NICHOLS:  Great to be with you, Ed.  Thanks. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, Rush Limbaugh never apologizes for his hate speech.  And threats against a California state senator just happen to mention Rush Limbaugh.  It is very specific, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  The theme couldn‘t be more apparent: we do big things. 

America is not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.  President Obama never uttered the words, but Tuesday night he spoke to us about American exceptionalism. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea; the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  JFK spoke of it.  So did Reagan.  Yet even with most visible example of it, Barack Obama himself standing right in front of him, Speaker of the House John Boehner refused to acknowledge the president‘s belief in it, and frankly, your belief in it and my belief in it.  Instead, here‘s what he told CNN‘s Kathleen Parker. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN ANCHOR:  You know, one of the words I listened out for in his speech last night was the word exceptional.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  No, they‘ve refused to talk about American exceptionalism.  We are different than the rest of the world.  Why?  Because Americans have—the country was built on an idea that ordinary people could decide what their government looked like and ordinary people could elect their own leaders. 

Two hundred thirty five years ago, that was a pretty novel idea.  So we are different.  Why is our economy still 20 times the size of China‘s?  Because Americans have had their freedom to succeed, the freedom to fail. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Rambling, rambling man.  Remember that song?  Was he listening to the same speech we all were?  You know, the Republicans have found the perfect leader in John Boehner.  I mean, it just hit me like a ton of bricks.  They countered “yes, we can,” with, “hell no, you can‘t.” 

Yet not only did the president appeal to the American exceptionalism that we speak of, but the exceptionalism of John Boehner. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from. 

That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight.  That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father‘s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Even with a tribute like that, Boehner admits he either wasn‘t listening or he needs an interpreter. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  We‘ve got more innovators, more entrepreneurs, and that is exceptional.  But you can‘t get the left to talk about it.  They reject that notion.  I don‘t. 

PARKER:  Why do you think that is? 

BOEHNER:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know.  I don‘t know if they‘re afraid of it, whether they don‘t believe it, I don‘t know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  We reject that notion?  President Obama rejects that notion?  That‘s where they come from.  You know, I‘m starting to believe that we really do have a leadership void in Washington.  And it starts with the speaker of the House. 

I was thinking today, this guy is one of the most negative politicians I think I‘ve ever heard in my life.  He never says anything positive about anything.  And when it comes to President Obama, it‘s almost like it‘s a one upmanship.  It‘s a game. 

We have to make sure we say something that counters everything he says.  The president talks about green jobs.  Well, Boehner can‘t say anything good about that.  The president talks about, you know, biotechnology.  Well, we can‘t say anything about that. 

The president talks about creating jobs and sacrifice.  Well, no, they don‘t talk about exceptionalism. 

The entire speech on Tuesday night was about exceptionalism.  There was a moment when President Obama on Tuesday night made Americans realize we have overcome a lot. 

You know, I had a football coach tell me one time it is amazing what we can accomplish as a team if we‘re not concerned with who gets the credit.  We don‘t have politicians in Washington that think like that.  It‘s all one upmanship. 

Now, this sound bite just jumps at me.  This is Mr. Boehner on the House floor.  Here it is.  Play this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  The American people are screaming at the top of their lungs, stop. 

The American people are outraged. 

This is outrageous. 

Hell no you can‘t!

The American people are scared to death.  Employers are scared to death. 

Every employer in America is scared to death. 

Americans are generally scared to death. 

Look at how this bill was written.  Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability, without back room deals and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?  Hell no, you can‘t!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Boehner, I come from the middle of the country and I can tell you people aren‘t scared to death.  They‘re not scared to death.  And the 32 million Americans that you want to deny health care to, are those the folks you‘re talking about?  Because they are scared to death.  Those people with a preexisting condition and the first thing you did was lead your Republicans in the House to vote that down and repeal it.

So John Boehner is the perfect leader for the Republican party: Mr.

Negative. 

Mr. Boehner, I challenge you to just say something positive about America, just once as speaker of the House. 

The line that sometimes connects hate speech to death threats, it is there.  California State Senator Leeland Yee joins us next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And finally tonight, a very important story.  Last week, the United States and Chinese presidents gave a joint news conference at the White House.  Naturally, Rush Limbaugh made fun of how the Chinese leader speaks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Hu Jintao was just going ching chong, ching chong chong, chi—

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  California State Senator Leeland Yee called on Limbaugh to apologize for his, quote, “pointless and ugly offense.”  “His classless act is an insult to over 3,000 years of cultural history and is a slap in the face to millions of Chinese Americans who have struggled in this country, and to a people who constitute one-quarter of the world‘s population.  His comments are sadly indicative of the bigotry that has often plagued his commentary and lined his pockets.” 

In response, Limbaugh took to the airwaves last Thursday, mocking Senator Yee and he went after the Chinese president again. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH:  It‘s not hard to translate these people.  It‘s we will bury you.  We will bury you.  I could have done that.  But I wanted to go the extra mile as a service to the audience.  They weren‘t translating it.  I was just trying to report to you what was being said.  Yee-ha. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  So Limbaugh‘s answer was to tell his listeners China is going to bury U.S.  They pose a direct threat to America.  Well, sure enough, Yee‘s office got a fax yesterday with racial slurs and a picture of President Obama‘s head in a noose being dragged by a pickup truck. 

And this time, I don‘t want to hear anyone say we don‘t know whether this guy even listened to Limbaugh.  Quote, “Rush Limbaugh will kick your racial slur ass and expose you for the fool you are.” 

Later that day, Yee began asking civil right groups to boycott companies that advertise with Limbaugh, and started an online boycott petition that now has almost 2,000 signatures.  This morning, Yee‘s office got this voice mail. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I saw on the news that you want people to boycott Rush Limbaugh because he made a joke or something about a Chinaman or something, that president or whatever that deal‘s name is from China.  You know, the Chinese president who was here can go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) himself.  He should go burn in hell.  I hope he has a heart attack, that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Chinaman. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining us now for his first national interview on these threats, State Senator Leeland Yee of California.  Thank you for joining us, senator. 

LELAND YEE, CALIFORNIA STATE SENATOR:  Thank you for having me, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  How serious do you take this?  And how serious do you believe and how closely—or are they, in your words, connected to what the talk show host said? 

YEE:  Well, you know, elected officials throughout this country get these threats.  And it‘s rather unfortunate.  But given what happened in Arizona, Tucson, with the shootings there, we do in fact take it a little bit more serious. 

The authorities are investigating the threats.  But what is really important to all of us is what these threats really talk about or what these racial epithet tells us.  And that is that while we have grown and we have come a long, long way—this country elected the very first African-American president and there are many other ethnically diverse elected officials throughout this country.

That these threats and these epithets being spewed out is a sad reminder we still have a long ways to go. 

SCHULTZ:  Limbaugh said China was threatening to bury us.  And, I mean, how would you react if someone threatened to bury you? 

YEE:  Well, I will tell you that I think he is just sadly mistaken.  I think that China and the United States have a destiny.  And that destiny is that we are all going to work together.  I think that one of the greatness of this country is that we are a diverse country and somehow we have found way to get together to live together. 

And I think that what the president of these United States said in his speech is that China and the United States are going to work together to build a stronger world. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  And how seriously do you take these threats?  I mean, the voice mail, the material that was faxed to you, what about that? 

YEE:  You know, we all have to take it a lot more serious than we used to.  As I said, there are a lot of elected officials that get these threats and we all got to take it much more serious than before, in light of what happened in Tucson.

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

YEE:  But more important than that, we just cannot allow any of these

threats to stop us from doing what we think is the right way-

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Yee-

YEE:  -- to bring us all together.

SCHULTZ:  Senator, thanks for joining us tonight. 

YEE:  Thank you for having me.

SCHULTZ:  We will follow the story.  Thanks so much.  That‘s the “ED SHOW.”  I‘m Ed Schultz.  We‘ll see you tomorrow.  We‘ll see you Monday night here on MSNBC.

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