The Ed Show for Monday, March 14th, 2011
Read the transcript to the Monday show
Guests: Lee Cowan, Chris Hayes, James Acton, John Nichols, Tony Schultz, Joel Greeno, Laura
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: Good evening, Americans. And welcome to THE ED SHOW tonight from New York.
Our lead story tonight: a live report coming up from Japan in just a moment.
And a huge story in Wisconsin over the weekend, forget about the Tea Party, even busing people to Washington, D.C. They never once managed to rally as big as this one in Madison, Wisconsin. Call it what you want, the birth of a movement—a call for arms to working Americans, a rally for the cause of a living wage and human dignity.
We‘re going to have full coverage of this massive turning point, what it means for us as Americans, and the president‘s strategy. And the latest on the Republicans who awakened the sleeping giant, and are now fighting for their political lives.
But, first, it‘s late Tuesday morning in Japan right now. As day five of this unfolding disaster brings us yet another explosion at a nuclear plant, turning this into the second worst accident at a nuclear plant in history. And even away from the plant, millions of survivors are still wondering, what comes next after another day of aftershocks, fires, and tsunami alerts.
At this hour, 10,000 are feared dead, tens of thousands are still missing, a half million homeless, 2.6 million without power, half as many thought to be without water.
The earthquake that struck Friday afternoon now officially measured at 9.0. And just a few hours ago, the Fukushima power plant experienced its third explosion in four days. And tonight, Japan‘s nuclear safety agency said it suspects the explosion may have damaged the reactor container, itself. Emergency workers are battling to prevent a potential catastrophic release of radiation.
But a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency told “The Associated Press,” quote, “a leak of nuclear material is feared.”
Hundreds of thousands have been evacuated from a 12-mile radius as officials distribute potassium iodide in nearby shelters. Experts warn that a full meltdown cannot be ruled out.
Joining me now to discuss this unfolding nuclear crisis is James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace.
Mr. Acton, good to have you with us tonight. What is the latest on this situation with these reactors in this latest breaking news on this? How do you view this? How seriously does it change the situation?
JAMES ACTON, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR PEACE: Well, Ed, the news from reactor two is pretty grim at the moment because there appears to be two simultaneous problems. Firstly, there is this long-running challenge of trying to cool the fuel rods in the core. And the plant operators have recently said that 1.7 meters, and that‘s a significant amount of fuel rods, are now above water.
But, secondly, there was also an explosion inside the outer walls of the reactor itself. The fear is that explosion has damaged those outer walls and that creates the potential for the release of radiation.
SCHULTZ: How does this compare to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl?
ACTON: Well, I think Chernobyl is an unhelpful comparison, actually. In the Chernobyl accident, a very large fraction of the radioactivity within the core of the reactor was explosively strewn all around the surrounding area. It is very unlikely either that there will be a similarly large explosion or that such a large quantity of radiation will be spewed.
SCHULTZ: Mr. Acton, give us the worst-case scenario right now.
What‘s the worst-case scenario and what does this mean for the survivors?
ACTON: Well, the worst-case scenario is there is extensive melting of the core. And at that point, the core could effectively turn into a molten mush known as curium, and burn through the bottom of the reactor vessel. The good news, if there‘s a good side to this, is that even under extensive core melting, a large release of radiation is not guaranteed.
Under the Three Mile Island accident, for instance, there was very extensive core melting but only a small release of radiation into the environment.
So, I think that the Japanese analysis that a large release, a very significant release of radiation into the environment is fortunately unlikely even though I don‘t want to play—underplay the seriousness of this unfolding crisis.
SCHULTZ: So, this is a game changer. I mean, this is as severe as it‘s been so far through this crisis.
ACTON: That‘s right. I mean, what‘s particularly worrying at the moment is the confluence of two problems simultaneously, the challenge of cooling the fuel rods and now, what appears to be damage to the containment vessel. What that means is if there is—if the core does start to melt more significantly, it‘s going to be harder to keep that radiation within the containment building if it is indeed breached.
SCHULTZ: And what does this mean for pumping the seawater in to cool all of this?
ACTON: Well, they‘re continuing to pump the seawater into it. And Tepco, that‘s the plant operator, reported at their news conference that inside the steel vessel in which the fuel rods, themselves, are based, the level of water and the pressure of steam was remaining constant. Now, if there is one piece of good news to cling to, it‘s that, because if that story is correct—and I want to emphasize the confusion surrounding this event at the moment—but if that story is correct, then it means the integrity of the reactor vessel itself is holding together. And that is going to potentially prevent—hopefully, prevent the worst case outcome here.
SCHULTZ: Have we been given good enough information from the Japanese government?
ACTON: You know, Ed, it‘s very hard to assess that at the moment. I, like many experts, have been frustrated by the slow pace of information. But we‘ve also got to recognize that Japan suffered the largest earthquake in its history, a massive tsunami, the operators all probably have their own personal tragedies, and they‘re having to deal with this situation in three reactors.
So, I think the—in the investigation, we‘re going to have to look at who understood what, when, and whether information was being withheld. But right now, given the extraordinary challenges that the Japanese operators are working under right now, I do think it‘s too early to share the blame on that front.
SCHULTZ: But we are undoubtedly in uncharted waters right now.
ACTON: We are. I think that‘s right. I mean, you know, there‘s only been one event in nuclear history where there was a substantial degree of core melting and that was at Three Mile Island. So, there‘s a very small experience base if you like to predict how this crisis is going to unfold from here.
SCHULTZ: James Acton, thank you for your time tonight.
ACTON: My pleasure.
SCHULTZ: I appreciate your expertise as this breaking story unfolds.
For those in other parts of the country, rolling blackouts and empty supermarket shelves. That‘s common. In the hardest hit areas of northeastern Japan, we‘re still getting the full scope of the disaster, loved ones searching for missing folks and shelters and makeshift hospitals are full. And the Japanese broadcaster NHK reports many shelters are running out of food and fuel.
Meanwhile, this is what is left of the Sendai airport, 21st century infrastructure completely destroyed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A cottage has landed at international arrivals from where no one knows. The architecturally drop-off section has become an eerie trap for the tsunami‘s wave power to deposit cars and trees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: This was once a vibrant town along the coast, but you wouldn‘t know it by looking at these pictures. It was flattened by the tsunami. And now, emergency workers here are concerned with finding the dead and stopping the spread of disease.
This disaster has affected every facet of Japanese life. In one port city, a third of it was destroyed by the tsunami. Today, the few who returned found their homes crushed by its own tuna fishing fleet, the entire sector of the industry destroyed. One survivor describes his ordeal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): All at once, this wave just came towards us. I‘ve never seen anything like it. You felt your time had come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what was this? What was this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: And at another town, another cruel reminder of Friday‘s disaster.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the coastal road, the tall, concrete school has stood its ground. The school clock stuck at 2:46, the moment the quake struck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Joining us now on the phone en route to Kesennuma is NBC‘s correspondent, Lee Cowan.
Thanks for your time, Lee. What‘s the latest on this developing nuclear crisis?
LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think just to add to what your guest was saying there, what‘s difficult is that up here, the communications are so bad and so cut off, that people actually are unaware of exactly how bad the situation is or is becoming. I think the main part, they‘re most concerned with, is just dealing with their own crisis and part of them which is finding food, fuel, and there are so many rumors that are going around about what‘s going on with the reactors to the south of where we are.
And that‘s just fueling a panic of a whole different sort. I mean, they‘re worried about some kind of mass evacuation up here. There‘s not enough fuel for a lot of people to be able to get out of town.
We passed a supermarket where people are waiting two, three, and four hours just to get inside to get water and basic supplies, and they are so worried about the fact that it‘s beginning to rain now, they got umbrellas not to protect them from the rain but protect them from what they fear might be the radioactivity in the rain. I mean, those are the kinds of rumors that are spreading around here faster and faster with each passing day.
But, again, nobody really knows. There are a lot of people who say they don‘t trust the government. They don‘t trust what‘s coming out. They think it‘s taking far too long and now, they are starting to fear the worst.
SCHULTZ: You‘re saying that the residents there, those who are in desperate need of just the basics, are now starting to question whether they‘re getting the truth from the government?
COWAN: They are. A lot of them, especially some of the younger folks that we talked to, said they don‘t believe that the news that it isn‘t as serious as some people think, that that is simply not true, that it is far more serious. But, again, even people who haven‘t heard the latest of what‘s just happened within the last couple of hours with that second explosion at the reactor that seems so much worse than the other explosions we‘ve heard.
But people are worried because they‘re not sure they‘re going to get the information, and more importantly, how are some of these people are going to get the information? Especially in some of these hardest hit areas, there‘s no power, there‘s no radio or television that people are hearing. In some places, they‘re so cut off it‘s taking aid workers hours and hours and hours just to get to them.
So, if there is some kind of mass evacuation effort going on, how are these people going to find out?
SCHULTZ: We‘re just getting word tonight that just moment ago that the Japanese prime minister is telling those people to stay within 19 miles away from the site of this new explosion and this new explosion obviously is changing the situation significantly.
So, where you are, Lee, from what I can understand, is that the folks out there aren‘t getting the word and getting the latest. What is their demeanor? How are they handling this? Is there panic there out in the outer skirts of these towns?
COWAN: No. I think there is an incredible amount of stoicism I think. People seem very resigned to what has happened. They‘re doing the best they can pushing through day by day and literally hour by hour in some of these cities.
But, no—there doesn‘t seem to be a sense of panic. I think there is a sense of frustration about getting as much of the information as they can. But, again, it‘s just the sheer difficulty of getting it because some of these areas are so cut off.
And at a certain point, Ed, I think there are no options for these people.
COWAN: You know, some of the cities that we saw, there‘s no automobiles left. Some of the roads heading out of town aren‘t even passable by car anyway. A lot of the people we saw getting in and out of these areas were on foot.
SCHULTZ: So, we could just suspect that sooner or later this is going to turn from a rescue mission to a survival mission, as you described these people are just trying to get the basics to get through hour by hour. Correct?
COWAN: I think you‘re right. We‘re almost at that point now. You know, I think even in some of these cities that were not hit directly, where there‘s no damage that we can see from either the quake or the tsunami itself, as you move inland, that‘s mainly what it looks like. You don‘t see any damage.
What we do see are just a shortage of everything—no gas, no water, no bread. And that is the ripple effect that I think is really starting to take hold and getting worse by the day.
SCHULTZ: Lee Cowan reporting from Japan—thank you for your time tonight.
Just absolutely gut wrenching video that we are seeing from the other side of the globe. Is this actually happening? Has this happened? It‘s unbelievable. It‘s hard to imagine going through something like this.
And another turn of events tonight and we will keep you posted on the severity of it as we go through this broadcast tonight.
Lee Cowan, thank you very much.
SCHULTZ (voice-over): Back to Wisconsin—more than 100,000 rally. More than any Tea Party rally ever. We‘ll hear from a farmer who hasn‘t given up the fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We reject this union-busting bill and we reject this budget.
SCHULTZ: The race for 2012. The president has a strategy: reconnect with the people. But what about these people?
And, the video you‘ve seen from Japan, like no one else has shown it before.
SCHULTZ: Be sure to check out our new blog at Ed.MSNBC.com. There you will find links to WeGotEd.com, Twitter and Facebook.
Coming up, you‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. We‘ll keep you posted on what is going on as breaking news continues in Japan.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
This is a developing story. We are now getting reports of a fire at a fourth reactor and more radiation has been released. We will bring you more on this as we get it. But that is the word we‘re getting at this hour.
And the Japanese prime minister has told citizens to stay at least 19 miles away from the explosion -- 19 miles away from the explosion and a fire at the fourth reactor. And we are told that there is more radiation being released.
We‘ll have more for you as this broadcast continues.
Japan has the best tsunami warning system in the world. Some of their buildings are literally built on massive springs so that they can sway instead of fall down. And experts say that the strict building codes and early warnings of the earthquake and tsunami saved countless lives.
Well, you know, what strict building codes and warning systems are?
That‘s big government, regulations, spending and infrastructure.
So, what if it happens here? How prepared are we in our country?
Well, today the House Republican leader Eric Cantor defended Republican proposals to cut spending for the United States Geological Survey, the National Weather Service, and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Democrats predict the closure of as many as 12 NOAA offices, which provide warning services for 30 million Americans. And the National weather service budget would be cut by $126 million over the next six months with furloughs at 22 forecast offices and shorter workweeks for the storm prediction center and the national hurricane center.
Where are we going as a country?
Last week the president of the NWS union said that if those cuts go through, there will be furloughs at both of the tsunami warning centers that protect the whole country.
And another quote, he says, “There is a very heightened risk of life if these cuts go through. The inability for warnings to be disseminated to the public, whether due to staffing inadequacies, radar maintenance problems, or weather radio transmitter difficulties would be disastrous.”
Let‘s bring in MSNBC contributor Chris Hayes, also the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine.
Good evening, Chris. Good to have you with us tonight.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good to be here, Ed.
SCHULTZ: As this story unfolds, it‘s amazing that we in this country are looking at cutbacks at these very systems. And back in 2001, FEMA warned that the top three likely catastrophes for the United States would be a terror attack in New York, flooding of New Orleans, and a West Coast earthquake. President Bush at the time ignored the first warning and cut federal funding back for the programs of the other two.
Are we on par with Japan when it comes to earthquake and tsunami readiness? Americans want to know.
HAYES: Well, no. I mean, I think Japan is sort of widely recognized, particularly in the engineering part of this, which is a huge part in terms of how buildings are actually constructed. And there‘s a case—I mean, we‘re going to find out in the wake of this—there‘s a case to be made that as, you know, millions of people possibly, lives have been saved by the regulations and the engineering there.
But one of the things we learned during Katrina is that it‘s very easy to not pay attention to the aspects of the government that provide emergency services, that protect against and warn against emergencies when emergencies aren‘t happening. But we know emergencies will happen and one of the things that was so frustrating and galling about the whole FEMA episode was that Michael Brown had been there all along with his bad qualifications, and it only became a story once Katrina happened.
And so, we‘re in a situation now where we have sort of heightened awareness because of the awful tragedy that‘s happened in Japan, but it‘s very tempting when you‘re doing these bizarre, every two week C.R.s, continuing resolutions, to fund the government, to whack away at things you think people won‘t notice because, hey, what are the odds there‘s going to be some sort of cataclysmic weather event?
SCHULTZ: Yes. Well, the United States Geological Survey—I understand that they‘re trying to build an advanced national seismic system which, of course, could give enough warning to shut off gas lines and stuff like that. And, of course, Republicans, they want to cut the USGS budget. But doesn‘t that sound like an important investment, I mean, so gas lines don‘t blow up if we do have a severe earthquake?
HAYES: That‘s one of the things I find kind of bizarre about this. I was going through the continuing resolution.
I mean, first of all, there‘s a lot of gimmickry in this continuing resolution because a fair amount of the money that is being saved are what‘s called rescissions, which is money that wasn‘t spent anyway. So, the sense is we‘re returning money back to the Treasury because it didn‘t spend all the money that was allotted, et cetera.
But if you‘re going to make an argument from the most sort of extreme libertarian perspective, there‘s a few things you got to conceive of as just basic public goods, and things like tsunami warning systems, early warning systems for cataclysmic, seismic events—those are things that are clearly public good. Even the most kind of stripped down conception of a real kind of night watchman state, those are things you want the government doing. And in the general context of the federal budget do not cost that much money.
Let‘s keep in mind that the entire defense portion of the budget and the earmarks therein—there are more earmarks in the defense appropriations bill than any other bill—have all been protected from the cuts by the House Republicans.
SCHULTZ: Well, it‘s basic safety for American citizens that they‘re talking about jeopardizing. We would be less safe under all of these cuts they go through. I mean, we‘re talking about aviation, utilities, agriculture. It is amazing how far they go. We better rethink this whole thing.
Chris Hayes, thanks for joining us on. Appreciate it.
HAYES: Thanks a lot, Ed.
SCHULTZ: We‘ll continue to follow breaking news out of Japan at this hour. A fourth reactor at the Fukushima plant is now on fire and officials say there has been a release of radiation. The Japanese prime minister has asked all people within 19 miles of the plant to remain indoors.
And coming up, this Saturday‘s protests in Madison dwarfed any Tea Party rally, 100,000 people and dozens of tractors. That‘s right—tractors jammed the capitol to push back on Wisconsin‘s new anti-middle class law. John Nichols will give us the latest and tell us what‘s next now that this bill is law in Wisconsin.
Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: And it‘s time for “The Take Down” on THE ED SHOW.
Friends of nuclear power, that industry are putting their spin on the unfolding situation in Japan. From the Senate floor, here is Senator Lamar Alexander.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER ®, TENNESSEE: In this age when instant communication can sometimes create misinformation and even panic, the Japanese leadership on nuclear scientists are working with organizations from around the world in responding to the danger and keeping the rest of the world informed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: So, there is no panic from the Japanese leadership. Well, that‘s reassuring—until you look at today‘s “New York Times.” “‘They‘re basically in a full-scale panic‘ among Japanese power industry managers, said a senior nuclear industry executive.”
Let‘s see what other expert advice Senator Alexander from Tennessee can offer us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: The Tokyo Electric Power Company has told us that the highest level of radiation detected on site to date is 155.7 millirem per hour. To help put that in perspective, here‘s a couple facts. The average American receives about 300 millirem of radiation exposure each year from naturally occurring sources such as the sun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: I don‘t think Senator Alexander realizes what he just said. According to the senator, radiation exposure at the nuclear plant in Japan was measured at 155.7 units per hour. People are exposed to 300 units from sources like the sun over the full course of a full year. So, according to Alexander‘s math, one hour of exposure at the Japanese plant is equal to six full months of direct exposure to the sun? But it shouldn‘t surprise us that Alexander is spinning this so hard.
A November, 2009, article in “Esquire Magazine” about his ambitions for more nuke plants said Alexander “wants to move forward with a third generation reactor from Babcock and Wilcox.” Babcock and Wilcox are 15,000 dollar campaign donors to Alexander.
Now, there is some math that I think most people can understand. But if that‘s Alexander‘s excuse, then what‘s Glenn Beck‘s? In between playing Mr. Wizard and trying to explain nuclear physiques with M&Ms, Beck took a minute to blame the media for blowing the story out of proportion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Naturally I‘m skeptical when I see experts spinning, like this is going to be a horrific tragedy like the one at Three Mile Island. How many people died at Three Mile Island? Anybody on the floor even want to take a guess? Anybody know?
Thank you. Jack. Zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Well, except there were deaths related to Three Mile Island. Infant mortality in the area increased 47 percent. Cancer-related deaths in children under 10 are 30 percent higher than the national average. And there was a widespread death and disease among wild animals and livestock. But he probably doesn‘t care about them.
But Glenn Beck isn‘t alone in promoting this false idea about Three Mile Island.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: It‘s also important to remember that no one was hurt at Three Mile Island.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Boy, they sure want us to think that Three Mile Island just was really no big deal. I wonder who built the reactor at Three Mile Island in the first place. You got it right. It was Babcock and Wilcox.
Lamar Alexander may not be a very honest senator, but he sure seems to be a really good friend when he‘s needed.
As for Glenn Beck, I wouldn‘t take any physics classes at Beck University if I were you. That‘s the Takedown.
Coming up, the footage you haven‘t seen since the tsunami hit Japan last week. The story in Wisconsin is far from over. Scott Walker? Well, he‘s messing with family farmers in the Dairy State. They‘re taking him to the woodshed, coming up on THE ED SHOW. Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. There is breaking news at this hour. A fourth reactor is on fire in Japan. Rejoining us now is James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. And we are also joined by NBC News chief science and health correspondent, Robert Bazell, who is in Tokyo.
Gentlemen, this situation seems to be more dire by the moment. Mr.
Acton, you just heard the prime minister of Japan speak a few moments ago. What did he say about this fire at a fourth reactor? And more radiation has been released? What did he say?
ACTON: Well, Ed, this is really the end of a truly awful 24 hours, even by the standards of this terrible crisis. The prime minister mentioned a fire at the fourth reactor. And then the cabinet secretary elaborated a bit more.
Basically, he said that the fire was associated with the spent fuel storage areas in the fourth reactor. Now, I should take a step back. That fourth reactor was shut down for refueling at the time that the earthquake hit. And so it wasn‘t in nearly so critical a condition. There wasn‘t highly radioactive fuel in the core that needed cooling.
Nevertheless, there was highly radioactive spent fuel, either in the spent fuel storage pools or in the process of being transferred from the reactor to those pools. And there has been a fire in some way associated with those pools.
SCHULTZ: Bob Bazell, the Japanese prime minister warned residents within 19 miles to stay indoors. Why wouldn‘t getting any further away from that be an option? Why would he put a limit on it?
ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF SCIENCE AND HEALTH CORRESPONDENT: Well,
first of all, that is an area that suffered an enormous amount from the devastation of the earthquake and the tsunami. And evacuation is putting even more pressure on people who are horribly stressed already.
I don‘t want to get into an argument about radiation levels with you or Senator Alexander. But right now the radiation levels are not that high. They‘re far higher than they should be. I certainly agree with James Acton that this is a tragic situation that is unfolding here.
But you‘re not talking about the kind of radiation levels where you tell everybody to go run for the hills, because it‘s not that dangerous when it gets dispersed that far away. And you create panic and you create enormous logistical problems in an area that‘s already suffering almost beyond belief.
SCHULTZ: So how significant is this, Bob? What has unfolded tonight?
Another explosion, radiation being released, and a fourth reactor, a fire?
BAZELL: It is very significant. This is unfolding as the worst nuclear disaster other than Chernobyl. And I‘m not going to get into an argument about those death rates you were citing before at Three Mile Island. I don‘t think anybody was hurt at Three Mile Island. And when you talk about nuclear energy, and even in the middle of a crisis like this—and this is a crisis—you have to remember that we get our energy from somewhere.
We‘re ranting and raving for a long time about the Gulf oil spill and how much damage that was doing. Think about how many people die mining coal every year. You know, as long as we‘re looking for energy, we‘re going to have to take some risks. This—what we‘re seeing now is very, very bad and very frightening to me, in many ways. But the argument about whether we should have nuclear power is not so simple, based on this one accident or any other accident.
But to get back to the question, this is an unprecedented situation. It makes—one of the things that I think happens here is that the system, because of the earthquake and the tsunami—and there are about ten reactors on this one site. And this fire in the reactor that, as Mr. Acton pointed out, is down is a result of people just getting to be overwhelmed by trying to put out one fire or take care of one incident, and then they have to go on to other things.
And so they may take care of the routine maintenance they were doing on this other plant and the fire took place. So a lot of people who were worried about this to start with said that this situation, when it unfolded, because there were initially two reactors and a third and now a fourth—and there could even be more. There‘s ten reactors on that one site—they warned that this—of this potential chain reaction effect. I don‘t mean that as a bad metaphor to go with the topic, energy.
SCHULTZ: James Acton, Bob Bazell—Bob Bazell, chief NBC science correspondent. Thank you for joining us tonight on this story.
The story in Wisconsin is far from over. Scott Walker is messing with farmers‘ lives in the Dairy State. They‘re taking him to the woodshed when we come back. Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. Thanks for watching tonight. Scott Walker may have won the first battle in the war with the middle class in Wisconsin. But wage earners in that state, they just have not given up the fight.
Over 100,000 people filled the capitol grounds in Madison one day after Governor Walker signed his anti-worker bill. That‘s bigger than any rally any Tea Party ever had. Farmers from all over the state of Wisconsin drove to Madison and surrounded the capitol to protest Walker‘s power grab.
Recall petitions for eight Republican senators are kicking into high gear. Some of them may have enough signatures by the end of the week. Governor Walker doesn‘t care. He thinks this bill is, get this, progressive.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Walker said, “what we‘re doing here I think is progressive. It‘s reform. And it leads the country. And we‘re showing there‘s a better way, by sharing in that sacrifice with all of us in government.”
Yeah, right. I think that is almost Psycho Talk. Now there is nothing progressive about killing collective bargaining. It‘s not shared sacrifice when you give tax breaks to the top two percent and ask the middle class to serve it up.
This isn‘t reform. It‘s a cut. Whenever you hear a Republican use the word reform, grab your wallet. They‘re looking at a cut. For more on this, let‘s go to John Nichols, Washington correspondent on “The Nation.” John, what is this huge rally, historic proportions—what does it mean at this point?
JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”: Well, it was an epic rally, Ed. And I think had a tremendous effect not, just on the people who came, who weren‘t there to mourn Walker signing the bill. They were clearly energized and ready for the fights ahead, the recall, the coming state Supreme Court elections, the legal battle, which they‘ll be watching closely.
But the thing that struck so much is, having been there, actually when the 14 senators joined the march with the Madison firefighters and Madison teachers, was the sense that these senators have also been transformed. They arrived back not as typical politicians, but people who really saw themselves as being very connected to a mass movement in their state, and very committed to the struggles that are coming ahead.
I came away from the whole event with a sense that I have never seen such a connection between elected representatives and their constituents, and such a passion to go forward.
SCHULTZ: Well, the recall petitions, is this enough to generate enthusiasm for the citizens of Wisconsin to follow through on what they‘ve been talking about?
NICHOLS: There is simply no question, Ed. I spent a lot of today checking on the numbers. And many of these districts, they already have over 50 percent of the signatures that they need not just to qualify, but to beat any challenges that may come down the road.
So the recall is moving along very, very quickly. And it will be energized tonight, because State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced late in the day that he is going to try to deny the Democratic senators, the 14, their right to vote in committee sessions of the State Senate as a punishment for their departure.
So that‘s just going to—I guarantee you it already has gotten people even more energized, even more angry.
SCHULTZ: Quickly, John, are these rallies over with? Have we seen the last of the rallies before the possible recall?
NICHOLS: No. The rallies are going home to the districts. Scott Walker went up to northern Wisconsin the other day, to Washburn. And almost 3,000 people turned out in a town of less than 3,000. I think the rallies are going to be all over the state.
But those rallies will have recall petitions at the center of them. And I think they‘re going to be in the districts of some of these Republican senators.
SCHULTZ: Wisconsin 14 viewed as heroes. And the governor is trying to spin it saying what they‘re doing is progressive. It‘s amazing. John Nichols, Washington correspondent of “The Nation,” great to have you with us tonight.
Joining us now, two farmers who took part in the rally on Saturday. Tony Schultz, a third generation farmer from Athens, Wisconsin, and also Joel Greeno, a dairy farmer and vice president of Family Farm Defenders.
Tony, you are now famous on the Internet for the speech that you gave. People are saying that you should run for office. What inspired you to get up and just give it to them at the podium at the rally?
TONY SCHULTZ, WISCONSIN FARMER: Well, it‘s been the response that Wisconsin has had to Walker‘s agenda, to this budget bill, to the union busting that he‘s been trying to force through. And, you know, it‘s an old populist tradition, solidarity between farmers and workers. And I really felt my farmer friends and I really rose to the occasion and came in to support labor.
There are a lot of things that affect us that we‘re really angry about too.
SCHULTZ: Joel Greeno, how is this bill going to hurt agriculture in Wisconsin?
JOEL GREENO, WISCONSIN DAIRY FARMER: Well, the way we looked at it is
I‘m also the president of the American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association. And we see ourselves as defenders of the Caper Bullstead Act (ph), which was the bill that gave farmers their co-ops and their collective bargaining rights.
And so when we saw collective bargaining rights being attacked at the worker level, we knew that it was only our turn next. And that‘s why we fought back as hard as we did, because we aren‘t about to give up—I mean, 80 percent of the nation‘s dairy farmers market their milk through co-ops, which use collective bargaining to establish their prices.
So an attack on workers‘ collective bargaining rights was an attack on our rights. And we stood with the workers to defend that.
SCHULTZ: Is rural Wisconsin, Tony Schultz, with the people and against the governor on this? Have the attitudes and the mood really shifted throughout all of this?
T. SCHULTZ: Definitely. It‘s in every coffee shop. It‘s abuzz. People think he‘s gone too far. There‘s a lot of Dale Schultz style Republicans who are shaking their heads and wondering where this is coming from.
It‘s a obviously a strong ideological agenda that he is pushing through. He‘s not governing. He is trying to push through a wish list. People are seeing it and how their schools are going to be cut—
SCHULTZ: Well, you‘ve got 14 teachers in your town of a thousand people -- 44 teachers; 14 of them have been cut. Is that correct?
T. SCHULTZ: Yes, 14 of 44 received layoff notices this past week.
That‘s one-third of our teachers. It‘s bad for the stability of our town. It‘s bad for our children‘s education. And it puts the future of our school district, which is the center of our rural community, in jeopardy.
SCHULTZ: Finally, Joel Greeno, are farmers in Wisconsin rethinking their politics over this?
GREENO: Oh, quite a bit. A lot of us had already rethought the politics. And now a lot of them are kind of set back and, you know, trying to reevaluate. Because when they voted, this is not what they were thinking. And so now I think if we head back to the ballot box, I think the outcome will be a lot different.
SCHULTZ: Did either one of you vote for Scott Walker?
T. SCHULTZ: No, I did not.
SCHULTZ: But you didn‘t think he was going to go this far?
GREENO: No, and I don‘t think anyone thought he would go this far.
T. SCHULTZ: Well, I don‘t know about that. Because it seemed like he is a new batch of Republicans who make a myth out of Ronald Reagan. And he‘s trying to go farther than that. His fake phone call with the Koch Brother impersonator I think revealed a lot of things to a lot of Wisconsinites.
SCHULTZ: Tony Schultz, Joel Greeno, thanks for joining us tonight. I appreciate your time here on THE ED SHOW.
Still ahead, would a new pair of shoes bring President Obama to Wisconsin? He said he‘d walk with the unions. My question is, when is that going to happen?
SCHULTZ: Finally tonight on THE ED SHOW, this just in, President Obama‘s advisers are telling him that he needs to reconnect with the people that got him elected. You think? He is missing a golden opportunity here to do just that with the people in Wisconsin, to stand with those wage earners. Between 35 and 40 percent of labor households voted Republican in recent elections. I can‘t believe that number, but it‘s true.
If they shifted just a few points in the Democrats‘ favor, it could affect 2012 big time. But the president hasn‘t gone to Wisconsin. This is what he said as a candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If American workers are being denied their right to organ collectively bargain, when I‘m in the white house, I‘ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I‘ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America.
Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Well, we‘re at that point. The executive director of the
National Nurses United, Roseanne Demora (ph), has offered to buy the
president that comfortable pair of shoes. Even recent requests from union
leaders and from the vice president of labor secretary to come to Wisconsin
they have been rebuffed.
They‘ve asked him to show up and they haven‘t. Let‘s bring in host of Grit TV and Free Speech TV, Laura Flanders. Laura, what‘s happening here? Is President Obama not missing a political opportunity, but just not doing what he said he was going to do? What do you think?
LAURA FLANDERS, HOST, GRITTV: I was in Wisconsin this weekend. And I watched that rally with more than 100,000 people showing up, block after block, as those tractors rolled up the streets, as the Democratic 14 showed up back in their state.
The chorus from everybody, the whole town, was thank you, thank you, thank you. That could have been Obama. That could have been the Democratic leadership getting that kind of thanks from its base.
SCHULTZ: The White House is probably sitting there saying we didn‘t have to go to Wisconsin, send the president there, because there are 100,000 people there. But the question is do those people support President Obama? Do they feel like they‘ve been let down, or that he should have been in this fight?
FLANDERS: There is this idea in Washington that you don‘t need to fight these fights and show the support to your base, because your base will show up. We‘ve seen what happened in the election in Wisconsin. It was outside money that really made the difference for Scott Walker.
We‘re going to see more outside money, thanks to Citizens United, coming up in the next two years to do this same role.
FLANDERS: The only thing that beats outside money is in state movement. And that‘s where the Democrats I think calculate—miscalculate terribly when they miss an opportunity like this to shore up their base.
SCHULTZ: But it just doesn‘t get any more fundamental than collective bargaining. And the playbook says it‘s Ohio. It‘s Indiana. It‘s Michigan. It‘s other states that are going to get onboard and do the Wisconsin playbook to break up collective bargaining. It would seem the president would have to get involved in this.
FLANDERS: Candidate Obama, in addition to the shoe comment, talked about this country needing a president that didn‘t choke on the word union. You wonder whether he needs cough syrup or something.
You talk about Ohio. He went to Cleveland and tried to sort of curry favor and build up support among young people; 150 miles south, that very day, there were 20,000 people in Columbus fighting for access to their own State House and fighting for collective bargaining rights and the rights for the pain of the economy to be shared equally, for schools not to be privatized, for students not to see their teachers‘ jobs cuts.
The president, instead of going to Columbus where the action was, or even just sending a message or sending Hilda Solis, tried this effort to have a round table discussion with students. They are not missing the contradictions here. They need help looking for jobs. And they‘re getting cuts in education.
It is a disastrous mix and they need a president who will not just walk in their shoes, but open a pathway, which is what the unions do.
SCHULTZ: Well, there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with the president capturing and getting a piece of all of this enthusiasm that are out there. I do believe—and I was in Madison as well, in Wisconsin. I do believe that they‘re wondering where is the president?
I spoke to the firefighters today in Washington, D.C. And I asked, you know, do you want the president involved? And there was a rousing ovation when I asked that question. So I think the president and the Democrats are missing it.
Laura Flanders, thanks so much for joining us tonight. That‘s THE ED SHOW. I‘m Ed Schultz. For more information on THE ED SHOW, we‘d like to take you to our new blog at Ed.MSNBC.com. You can check out my radio show, noon to 3:00, channel 167, Monday through Friday, live on XM.
“THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now. See you tomorrow.
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