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Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Read the transcript from the Wednesday 6 p.m. hour

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Guests: Richard Engel, Ed Rendell, Mike Capuano, Brian Katulis, Sam Seder, Debbie Wasserman Schultz

CENK UYGUR, HOST:  Welcome to the show, everybody.  I‘m Cenk Uygur.

We start with Libya tonight, of course, where there are questions about how the war is going and how long we‘ll be involved. 

Defense Secretary Robert Gates tried to answer one of those today. 

Speaking in Cairo, he said that we could hand over operations by Saturday. 

Whoa.  That is very early. 

President Obama arrived back at the White House tonight after cutting short the last leg of his overseas trip.  Earlier, he again emphatically ruled out the option of a ground war in Libya. 


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A land invasion is out of the question. 


OBAMA:  Absolutely.  And the exit strategy will be executed this week in the sense that we will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment. 


UYGUR:  Now, I thought that was pretty clear.  That was clear, right? 

I‘m getting a yes, clear. 

But apparently not clear enough for House Speaker John Boehner.  Boehner sent the president a letter today saying that he‘s “—troubled that the U.S. military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America‘s role is in achieving that mission.”

Boehner also whined the president has “consulted extensively with the U.N., but not Congress.”  No, not the U.N.!  Egads!  Gadzooks!  How dare the president actually care about anyone else in the world? 

Do you remember when Bush didn‘t give a damn about our allies and we went into Iraq alone?  And how did that work out for us?  Oh, yes. 

All right.  We‘ll have much more on the politics of this throughout the show, but I want to give you some of the more important news in the developments in Libya today. 

It‘s day five of the air campaign, and the Libyan air defenses are all but destroyed.  Today, the U.S. increased attacks on military units loyal to Gadhafi.  But there are reports of pro-Gadhafi snipers terrorizing civilians in the western city of Misrata, firing at people from rooftops. 

Also, in the west, a resident in the city of Zintan told The Associated Press that a captured Gadhafi officer revealed he had orders to “—turn Zintan to a desert to be smashed and flattened.”  And if we can prevent that, well, obviously that would be a great thing.  Now, U.S.  officials say coalition forces are intercepting and attacking pro-Gadhafi troops who have tried to storm populated areas. 

And today, air strikes from allied forces reportedly managed to push back Gadhafi‘s tanks from that important city of Misrata, which might have actually saved the city.  As for Gadhafi himself, he‘s digging in his heels. 

He made a brief but defiant appearance on Libyan TV last night.  He told supporters, “I am here.  I am here.  I am here.” 

Dude, I got it.  I know, you‘re there.  And he said Libyan would be victorious, leaving the United States and its allies in the dustbin of history. 

This guy is a total clown. 

When asked what he was doing, he said, “Winning.”  Duh.  Which of course is exactly what he‘s not doing. 

Joining me now live from a rebel-stronghold in Benghazi is NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel.

Richard, you had a scary moment earlier today, and I want to show that video in a second.  But first, I want you to set it up for us. 

What happened earlier today? 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  What happened earlier today is we went down to the rebel frontline.  And yes, it‘s true that U.S. and allied air strikes have taken out a lot of Gadhafi‘s hardware, his air defenses, some of his tanks when they‘re on the open roads, and they definitely saved the city of Benghazi, preventing a major assault on the city where I am right now. 

But a lot of Gadhafi‘s forces dug in, instead of remaining out in the open desert after they saw what happened to the vehicles as they were approaching Benghazi.  The vehicles that were still out in the field pulled back and went into towns like Misrata.  They went into the town of Ajdabiya, which is about 100 miles south from here.

So, today, we went down to the rebel frontline, and the rebel frontline is about five miles outside of Ajdabiya.  And the Gadhafi forces are still dug in to the northern end of the city, and they are firing in both direction.  Gadhafi‘s forces are firing on those rebels, keeping them about five miles off, and they are continuing to fire into the city of Ajdabiya itself.  And according to witnesses, causing many, many casualties.  And they‘re somewhat protected, the Gadhafi forces, because it‘s difficult to carry out air strikes on these tanks because they are actually in the city itself. 

What we saw was when we got to the frontline.  We were with the rebels, they were struggling to advance, and then we saw exactly why they were struggling as artillery rounds came falling down around us, some of them very close.  And we were actually talking to one of the rebels, and I was shocked when he showed me that his gun is actually made of plastic.

And I think you have that clip right here.


ENGEL:  I didn‘t realize until he put it in my hands, it‘s actually just made of plastic.  It‘s a toy. 



UYGUR:  Richard, that‘s really scary.  What happened there? 

ENGEL:  So, as you saw, the artillery rounds landed, probably three of them.  We heard three explosions.  They were very close, maybe 50 yards away. 

The rebels scattered, they regrouped in another area, and they‘re going to try this again tomorrow.  They‘re just pushing to the frontline, seeing if they can get a little bit further, inching forward toward Gadhafi.  But there‘s a range problem. 

It‘s about weapons.  The rebels have mostly hand-held weapons, AK-47s, which can fire 400, 500 yards if you‘re good with it.  They‘re not particularly skilled with these weapons, the ones that aren‘t made of plastic.  And the Gadhafi forces have tanks and artillery which can have fire accurately for miles. 

UYGUR:  So, Richard, I‘m trying to understand how the geography of this whole thing is playing out.  If the tanks pushed into some of the cities, where are the rebels?  I thought the rebels were inside the cities. 

And, you know, wouldn‘t that present a problem for those tanks to be able to get out at some point, or wouldn‘t they be swamped by the rebels?  Do you see what I‘m saying?  I‘m a little unclear on where the two sides are. 

ENGEL:  You know, well, and it is a fluid revolution, a revolt.  But, in Ajdabiya, for example, there are the rebel front, where we were today, five miles out, trying, struggling to advance on the city. 

There are also rebels inside Ajdabiya itself.  So, in some ways, the Gadhafi forces are trapped and surrounded, and they‘re firing in both directions.  Firing to keep the rebels off them, and firing into the small city of Ajdabiya to punish the people and keep the rebels from overwhelming them. 

But it is not easy to just simply run up and overwhelm a tank.  There are about 30 tanks and artillery pieces in this area.  Hopefully, eventually, from the rebels‘ perspective, the tanks will run out of fuel and run out of ammunition, and then they‘ll be in a difficult position. 

But until that happens, they can cause a great deal of damage.  And witness accounts are that they are causing many, many casualties in Ajdabiya.  And as we saw today, still causing casualties on the rebels.  On that frontline today, rebels told us that at least five people were killed. 

UYGUR:  Right.  You know, that‘s a great point, because I was going to ask the same thing.  I mean, at some point, they‘re going to run out of ammunition if they‘re surrounded.  So that‘s a very interesting development. 

One last question for you, Richard.  I know it‘s tough at this point.  But from what you‘ve seen so far, do you have a sense of on the ground who‘s got the advantage, the rebels or Gadhafi? 

ENGEL:  So far, Gadhafi‘s forces have the advantage where they are.  There are more rebels than there are Gadhafi forces, particularly in this area.  And we‘re just talking about a rebel-held area.  But as long as the Gadhafi forces have the weapons and the training and the expertise on how to use them, they still have the upper hand in the pockets where they‘re dug in, because the rebels just don‘t have—they have the numbers, but they don‘t have the tactical ability to reach Gadhafi forces where they are. 

It was a huge help that the allied air strikes stopped the attack on Benghazi.  But what the rebels say they need now is trainers, advisers on the ground.  They need close air support. 

If there were a few Apaches or a few A-10s—these are the kinds of aircraft and air force platforms that destroy tanks—if there were four of five of them, they could probably eliminate all of the tanks that are on the edge of Ajdabiya, and then the rebels could move in quickly.  But those A-10s and those Apaches aren‘t here, and the rebels aren‘t going to get them anytime soon, from what I can tell. 

UYGUR:  All right.

NBC‘s Richard Engel, live from Benghazi tonight.

We really appreciate it.  Fascinating report.  At least I feel that I understand the situation on the ground a lot better right now. 

All right.  Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Mike Capuano from Massachusetts.

Congressman, I understand you have some reservations about this action in Libya.  Is that right? 

REP. MIKE CAPUANO (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I have some reservations the way it got going.  Certainly, I like the idea of humanitarian assistance, but I think the United States needs a consistent policy on when we‘re going to use that. 

UYGUR:  All right.  So talk to me.  If you were in charge, what would be the consistent policy? 

CAPUANO:  Well, first of all, I would have gone to Congress.  I think the Constitution does require the president to come to Congress to seek action—to seek the ability to have action.  And I think with those discussions, maybe I could have learned more to figure out exactly what makes this different than Sudan, what makes this different than Egypt, makes this different than Yemen and Congo. 

I‘m not saying that they should all be the same, they should all be dealt with a broad brush.  I accept the argument that sometimes military use for humanitarian reasons is a good thing, but I also think that we should have some general policy to be able to approach it, and I would like to have a better idea of what our long-term strategy is. 

We started this out as a no-fly zone.  We‘re already into a no-tank zone.  And I‘m wondering, how much further do we go, how much further does the world go, and what is the ultimate objective? 

UYGUR:  But you see the facts that we all see.  What would have been your policy?  What do you think—yes, go ahead. 

CAPUANO:  I would have come to the United States Congress and had a discussion.  Now, it would have been a short-term one.  I would have done it in a couple of days.

Obviously, the president was convinced, and I respect that.  I‘m an early and ardent supporter of this president and most of his policies.  I would tend to give him the benefit of the doubt where I probably didn‘t do that in the past for other presidents.  So, I still think, however, that no individual—it has nothing to do with President Obama, Democrat or Republican—no individual should be able to bring this country to war. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, asking Congress for authorization is a very fair point.  Liberals have made it, conservatives have made it, a lot of people have made it on this program. 

How about on the merits?  If he says, all right, look, I‘ve asked you for authorization, now can I go into Libya?  Do you think a no-fly zone makes sense? 

CAPUANO:  A no-fly zone can make sense, but I‘d like to have some idea of what—I don‘t think a no-fly zone is going to accomplish the goals that they really have, which is the removal of Gadhafi.  I‘d like to know, what happens when we‘re done with a no-fly—that‘s relatively easy.  There are no flights going on by the Libyan army or the Libyan air force right now. 

So that, technically, has already been accomplished.  So the question is, what next?  Where is the line?  What is the real agenda here, number one?

And number two is, what about the next one?  I‘m the founder and co-chair of the Sudan Caucus.  We‘ve been watching Darfur now for years.  I have personally called for the U.S. military to be involved in Sudan in the past in the middle of the genocide.  No one listened, no one wanted to hear it, and we had two million people who lost their lives. 

UYGUR:  So what‘s the difference, do you think?  What do you think makes the difference in administration policy, whether it‘s Republican or Democratic, that they do not go into Sudan but they go into Libya? 

CAPUANO:  Well, I‘ve been told by some because we can do it.  And I actually think it‘s a fair thing to say.

Some things that you want to do, you can‘t do.  But at the same time, I‘d like to ask, who makes that judgment?  And I think that judgment should be done by the American people through their elected representatives in the Congress. 

As a matter of fact, as I read the Constitution, technically—and I don‘t like to get into technical arguments too much—the president actually has no role in declaring war.  It is only the Congress that declares war. 

And I‘m not interested in the technical issues of it.  I just think that no one individual, not President Obama, not President Bush, not my mother should be in power to bring this country to war. 

UYGUR:  Well, we agree on that.  No offense on your mother. 

CAPUANO:  No, none taken.

UYGUR:  Not that she should be empowered with that kind of power.

All right.  But, listen, if you had your way now—you just mentioned Sudan and how much you care about it—would you have gone into Sudan if you were the president? 

CAPUANO:  Well, I would not have done it unilaterally, but as a member of Congress, I called for that to happen.  And I thought it would have been an appropriate action to do.

UYGUR:  So if you would have gone into Sudan, why not go into Libya and stop the massacre that would happen in Benghazi? 

CAPUANO:  And I might agree to that.  I have never said that I would not vote to do it, I just don‘t have enough information. 

The information I have is exactly what you have, which is through the media.  I‘d like to have a better idea of what our allies are willing to do.

I know that we‘ve been told that the Arab League is in favor, we‘ve been told that Qatar is eventually going to send three or four planes, but I would like to see this a little bit led by the Arab League.  If they want us to go in, then they have military. 

Egypt has several hundred planes.  Why are they not flying over Libya?  Those are the kinds of questions I would like to ask, is who‘s really doing this and what is really honestly the ultimate goal? 

UYGUR:  All right.

Congressman Mike Capuano.

Definitely a principled position.  Thank you for joining us tonight. 

CAPUANO:  Thank you very much.

UYGUR:  All right.  With me now is Brian Katulis from the Center for American Progress.

Brian thank you for joining us.  We appreciate it.

Let me throw some of the same questions at you.

I mean, look, as I look at this, I think, hey, you know what?  It looks like we‘re accomplishing some of the objectives that we wanted to.  We want to make sure there wasn‘t a massacre in Benghazi.  We wanted to give them a fighting chance in Misrata.  It looks like that‘s exactly what‘s happening today.

So, isn‘t this in some sense a win already in those goals? 

BRIAN KATULIS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Well, yes, there‘s been some progress in the last few days, certainly when you measure it against last week, which was a horrible week.  But if you look at the goal stated in the U.N. resolution, 1973, protect the civilian population of Libya, and the two means, which is the no-fly zone and the arms embargo—the second piece, not many people are talking about, the arms embargo—that may not be enough to meet the goal of protecting the Libyan people, as we see in Misrata and other places. 

I think this is going to be an ongoing military engagement for quite some time.  And I think the tricky thing will be the handoff to whatever European Arab committee is in the formation that might take this over as soon as this Saturday.  And I think that‘s going to be one of the trickier pieces. 

The other piece, which I think the congressman has some great questions that need answering, is what is the actual end state that we‘re looking for in Libya?  Do we expect that Gadhafi is going to step down, or is there some sort of negotiated settlement in the works?  Those sorts of things, I think, you know, it‘s good to get some answers on them pretty soon. 

UYGUR:  Well, here‘s my argument, Brian.  I say sad day, we don‘t live in a perfect world.  We don‘t have black and white issues in this case.  A lot of people are saying either we go in completely with ground troops or we don‘t go in at all. 

I say there is a possibility where you do a middle-of-the-road approach.  Now, I know everybody says, oh, middle of the road?  It‘s terrible!  It depends on the circumstances, where we give the guys a fighting chance to win, and then if they win, great.  If they don‘t, and Gadhafi wins, well, I‘m not going to go in because ground invasion is counterproductive.  But I at least want to give them a chance to topple Gadhafi. 

Well, isn‘t that middle-of-the-road approach actually sensible in this case? 

KATULIS:  Yes, I think it‘s a fair approach.  That doesn‘t mean that we shouldn‘t get answers to these questions.

One of the things that I would raise is the guys on the other side point that you made, the rebels or the opposition.  We really have to develop a stronger understanding of who these guys are, what their capabilities are militarily, and then what their political intentions are. 

I know that‘s asking a lot, but before we go into—deeper into what is essentially a civil war, we really need to understand who we‘re throwing our support behind.  And if we want to become the air force for a rebel group, we better have better knowledge than I think we have right now of this disparate group of tribes and different movements --  


UYGUR:  Again, I‘m going to go to the imperfect world thing.

KATULIS:  Right.

UYGUR:  I mean, look, I‘m with you, and I‘m scared to death of the guys in Yemen and what that might bring us.  Those are legitimate concerns.  But at the same time, we‘ve got, you know, are you going to stop the massacre in Benghazi right now or not? 

And we did stop it.  I know the devil I got with Gadhafi, and I‘m not interested in that devil. 

But, Brian, I‘ve got to ask you one last question. 

Look, you say clarity and John Boehner says they want clarity and et cetera.  But the president is in a tough spot here.  He can‘t say what I just said, even if he means it, even if he thinks it. 

He can‘t come out and say, hey, listen, I‘m going to give the guys a fighting chance.  If they lose, well, that‘s a sad day, but, you know, that‘s the middle-of-the-road approach I‘m going with.  That might make a ton of sense, but he can‘t say that, right? 

KATULIS:  Yes, I agree with you.  And part of why I he‘s a little, I think, unclear in some of his statements is you‘ve got a coalition management here.

For the sorts of things that I think you‘re talking about, you would actually need to have signoff from a lot of countries like Turkey, some Arab members of this coalition, which may not agree.  And we‘ve got to admit that this coalition that‘s been put together is, first, impressive, but then, second, also quite fragile. 

You had five leading powers abstain from the U.N. resolution.  And to push it further into offensive operations, or to be an air force for the rebel groups, will actually lead to more fractures pragmatically within sort of the international coalition that is attempting to come together here in the meetings in Brussels and things like this.  So it‘s a very delicate balancing act.  I agree with you.

UYGUR:  Right.  That next stage is very important.  Totally agreed on that. 

Brian Katulis, thanks for joining us this evening. 

KATULIS:  Great.  Thanks.

UYGUR:  And everybody, we‘ll be right back. 


UYGUR:  If our involvement in Libya has taught us anything, it‘s that there‘s a major disconnect between people who approve of President Obama‘s policies and those who approve of the president himself.

Now, look.  Take a look at this CBS News poll.

A majority, 68 percent, think that the use of military air strikes in Libya was the right decision.  OK.  If you‘re the administration, that‘s fantastic.  They agree with the administration‘s position.

But look what happens when people are asked how the president is handling Libya.  Now, keep in mind, this is the same guy who approved those air strikes that Americans overwhelmingly support.  Only 50 percent think that he‘s handling the Libyan crisis properly.  That‘s an 18-point drop. 

That‘s crazy.  It‘s the same exact policy.  But there‘s 18 percent of the country who refuse to agree with Obama even if he has the same exact position of them. 

Oh, I love that position.  That position?  Oh, Obama has it?  Well, hell, no, he‘s doing a terrible job. 

That doesn‘t make any kind of sense.

So what‘s causing the disconnect?  Some can be explained by the poor messaging of the Democrats, which is perpetual.  All the time, poor messaging.  And part can be attributed to the GOP propaganda machine. 

And that machine includes people like Newt Gingrich, of course, who won‘t back the president no matter what he does. 

Now, here‘s Gingrich just a few weeks ago, hammering the president for not intervening in Libya. 


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS:  What would you do about Libya? 

NEWT GINGRICH ®, FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER:  Exercise a no-fly zone this evening.  The United States doesn‘t need anybody‘s permission.  We don‘t need to have NATO, who frankly won‘t bring much to the fight.  We don‘t need to have the United Nations. 


UYGUR:  So, Gingrich definitely on board for a no-fly zone.  And he‘ll do it even without the support of the U.N. or NATO.  Clearly, he thinks it‘s the right move now.  Right? 


GINGRICH:  I would not have intervened.  I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Gadhafi.  I think there are a lot of allies in the region that we could have worked with.  I would not have used American and European forces. 


UYGUR:  Unreal!  That‘s the same guy!  He just totally flip-flopped on it. 

Why?  Because Obama was on the other side.  That‘s Obama derangement syndrome, to borrow a phrase, where you‘ll even disagree with your own stated position if Obama agrees with you. 

Oh, I‘ll tell you what, no-fly zone, that‘s the way—wait, Obama said that?  Oh, no.  Hell, no, no, no.  I‘ve got to get out.

Come on.  That‘s mental. 

All right.  You can see I‘m worked up about it. 

Joining me now is Sam Seder.  He‘s host of both “The Majority Report” and “Ring of Fire.”

Jesus.  You‘re busy, Sam.


UYGUR:  All right.

So, Sam, which one is it, or is it all of the above?  What is causing that 18-point enormous difference? 

SEDER:  Well, I think it‘s both.  I mean, I think, to a certain extent, the country doesn‘t know exactly what our policy is. 

I mean, it‘s one thing to say I agree with air strikes, I want to protect the people in Benghazi.  It‘s another thing to say, where does this go?  Where is the—what is the end game and where do we draw the line? 

And then on the flip side—and I do mean flip—you look at what Newt Gingrich is doing.  You look at guys like John McCain, who, a couple of years ago, was having dinner with Gadhafi, saying he‘s a great guy.  He was even arguing that we should send weapons to Gadhafi, we found out through WikiLeaks. 

So, I think it‘s a combination of the president hasn‘t gone out and really explained this policy to the American public. 

UYGUR:  Now, but you see this throughout.  I don‘t think it‘s just about Libya.  I mean, with the president, he‘s constantly getting hammered on things even when people agree with him.  So, is he doing something wrong here in reaching the American people and explaining his position? 

SEDER:  I mean, look, I don‘t think he‘s been aggressive enough in coming out and, at the beginning of this, saying to the American public, this is where I draw the line, because I still don‘t know.  I mean, you know, I think I tend to agree with you and your prior guests. 

I mean, here‘s a guy, he‘s gone to the U.N., the U.N. has sanctioned this action, as opposed to Iraq, where you had an illegal war stated by the U.N.  It was an illegal war.  And in this situation, if there was no Iraq, if we didn‘t have this protracted mission in Afghanistan, I think most people would be completely on board with this. 

You‘re protecting citizens.  The question is, where do you draw the line?  And we need reassurance from the president that we can draw the line at a certain point and we‘re not going to go in for something like regime change militarily. 

UYGUR:  Now, outside of Libya, look, I think the president has got to draw the line and say, look, they say I‘m divisive, right?  That‘s exactly what they said with the Clintons, because they keep attacking me.  If I was the president, I would almost play those Gingrich clips and go, you see these guys?  You see, they‘re frauds. 

But he seems to never fight back. 

SEDER:  Well, look, I mean, I think that the president shouldn‘t be commenting on Newt Gingrich‘s TV tour, frankly.  But I do think he needs to come out and leave no oxygen for a guy like Gingrich to dance around like this, because we need to be able to sit here, and you and I would both have a tough time saying, where does this end? 

Where are we willing to go and where are we willing to stop?  And I think that‘s a problem that Obama has got to communicate.  And frankly, the media should not be taking—I don‘t know why Newt Gingrich is even on TV at this point.  I mean, that‘s not even a pivot, that‘s like a teleportation.  You know, he‘s teleporting into another position. 

UYGUR:  Right.  I hear you on that. 

Sam Seder, thanks for joining me tonight.  I appreciate it. 

All right.  Now, coming up, why is Donald Trump going to Iowa?  Speaking of people who shouldn‘t be on TV or running for president, I can only hope he‘s running, because then I would get to make fun of him for years on end. 

Will the man with the absurd hair and the absurd ideas make a run for it?  We‘ll tell you. 


UYGUR:  Donald Trump is heading to Iowa for big speech on June 10.

Donald will be the headlines for you for Iowa‘s GOP‘s Lincoln Day dinner.  Remember Trump said, he would announce in June if he‘s running for president. 

All right.  He‘s claimed for months now that he‘s seriously interested in running.  Oh, please be quiet.  You‘re not running.  This is all one giant publicity stunt.  Who would let this dufus into the White House?  Why are we talking taking reality show stars like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump seriously?  Now, speaking of reality search, Trump just got ripped by the situation of all people on a roast all about, you guessed it, Donald Trump.  How presidential.  Best way to get a campaign rolling, go on stage and have Snoop Dogg mock you.  Where Alan Simpson would say, Snoopy Coopy poop dog or whatever you called it.  But if anyone doubted him, which I absolutely do, Trump wanted to make people aware that he‘s very rich and that his millions will give him a huge advantage if he decides to run. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You would put up $600 million for this?

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN:  Absolutely, assuming I‘m doing well. 

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  Do you have $600 million to spare?

TRUMP:  I have much more than that.  Part of the beauty of me is that I‘m very rich.  So, if I need $600 million, I can put up $600 million myself.  That‘s a huge advantage. 


UYGUR:  How unbearable is this guy?  By the way, I don‘t believe him at all.  I don‘t think he‘s anywhere near that rich.  He‘s all hype and nonsense.  But one part is true.  Given all that hype and nonsense and talk about how rich he is, he does belong in the Republican primary. 

All right.  Now, health care reform one year later.  And Republicans are still shamelessly distorting it.  Former Governor Ed Rendell and the politics of health care and the new conservative spin, the White House is beneath Sarah Palin.  She should be the next Oprah. 


UYGUR:  Welcome back.  I‘m glad you were still with us.  In fact, we should all be glad we still around period.  When President Obama signed the health care bill a year ago today, Republicans predicted it would be the end of the world. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Socialized medicine is the crown jewel of socialism, this will change our country forever. 

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ® TEXAS:  You get it?  One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine. 

REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA:  This program of government option, this being touted as being in this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care at an affordable price is going to kill people. 

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, OHIO:  We‘re about 24 hours from Armageddon. 


UYGUR:  (LAUGHTER).  Armageddon, it‘s a year later.  Did we have Armageddon?  Are 20 percent of the people dead as Louie Gohmert predicted?  Oh, Gohmert, get out of town.  Well, it turns out, no, were in fact, we‘re all still here.  And not only was there no Armageddon, but a lot of people are already actually better off because of parts of the bill that are already in place.  For example, plans now have to provide free preventive care.  That sounds well.  Kids can stay on their parent‘s insurance plan until they‘re 26-years-old, meaning more people are covered.  Insurance plans can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. 

In 2014, that policy will be extended to everyone.  And insurance plans can no longer drop your coverage when you get sick.  Now, I want you to think about that one for a second.  What kind of a joke system do we have where insurance can drop you if you get sick?  What‘s the hell is the point of insurance?  I got insurance in case I get sick, right?  But they‘re so obsessed with profits, that there‘s, well, look, if the guy is sick, he‘s going to cost us more money.  Let‘s get him out of here.  And look, the bill tried to address it, in my opinion, didn‘t go far enough. 

We‘re still so many ways at the mercy of those private insurance companies.  But what was the down side of the extra protections that we‘ve gained from the bill?  Nothing.  No downside so far.  There was no Armageddon.  All these people didn‘t drop dead.  But of course, that didn‘t stop republican leaders from insisting that the law is a disaster, based on absolutely no facts.  Both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released videos today, doubling down on their doomsday scenarios and their intention to get rid of health care reform entirely. 


MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER:  One year ago today, over the objections to the American  people, the disastrous health spending bill that Washington Democrats rammed through with a partisan vote became law. 

BOEHNER:  Instead of creating jobs, employers have been handed more uncertainty and more headaches.  In the coming weeks you‘ll see more votes and more hearings in the House.  And to take this law apart step by step.  We‘ll do whatever we can to ensure that Obama-care is never fully implemented. 


UYGUR:  I was amused by the ram through with partisan votes.  How else do you get the bill through? You take a partisan vote and you win, and it becomes a bill.  By the way, the Republicans in the House, they‘re not ramming anything through in a partisan way at all right now.  But why are they doing this whole effort to kill health care reform now?  Because the heart of the legislation gets implemented in 2014, and the Republicans believe that they will never be able to reverse it after that time because people will see that the reality rather than their propaganda.  That‘s why they‘re rushing up the fear mongering now to kill it before it actually goes into full effect.  Now, how one out of five people actually got of course not?  They‘re so over the top, I can‘t believe anyone believes them anymore.  But this is how they win.  They substitute fear for facts and hope that you panic. 

All right.  Joining me now is Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and MSNBC political analyst.  Governor Rendell, was it a mistake to wait until 2014 for these things to get implemented?  Because you were going to get four years of republican fear mongering until then. 

ED RENDELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, no, it isn‘t Cenk, because it‘s going to take that time to set up the exchanges and do it right.  And I think the president was intent on doing it right.  But I agree with you.  People are starting to change.  And you know, you see the health care bill get more and more supporters as time goes on.  Two things you didn‘t mention is that every senior who had to lose prescription drug coverage because of doughnut hole, got a $250 check this year to help defray some of those cost. 

And in the next three weeks, small businesses with 25 employees are less are going to file their income tax returns, the federal income tax returns and they‘re going to get a substantial tax credit for offering their employees health care insurance.  So the facts are belying all of the B.S. rhetoric, I‘m sorry, I almost said a bad word, but all of the B.S.  rhetoric, and the rhetoric that you played was unbelievable.  Socialism?  This bill kept the private insurance health care delivery system intact.  It‘s not socialism.  It kept business and private sector in the bill.  It‘s not single payer at all.  Government option?  Didn‘t those guys realize the president, and a lot of critics say, he did the wrong thing, took the government option out of the bill. 

But these guys continue to lie, even though they know what they‘re saying is untrue.  It‘s not socialism.  There is no government option.  The private insurance system is still intact and best of all, the insurance reforms, the things that you and I just named are starting to come into effect, and they‘re coming into effect now, and even better than that, Cenk, the president challenged all of these republican governors who kept saying it‘s a disaster for the states.  He said OK, we‘ll give you a waiver.  If you can design your own system that covers as many people and costs the same or less than our bill, we‘ll give you the waiver.  It‘s put up or shut up time.  And guess what?  No one is going to put up. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, Governor Rendell, I want to ask you about something you just mentioned.  You mentioned, the government option, otherwise known as a public option, and they‘re saying he did it when he didn‘t do it, right?  We knew they were going to lie like that.  They do it all the time.  They call him a socialist and a Maoist no matter what he does.  Given that, shouldn‘t the president have actually done the public option?  Should they say, you know, if they‘re going call him all this stuff, actually be progressive and actually challenge the monopoly of the insurance companies. 

RENDELL:  Well, sure, he did that or drop the Medicaid age down to 55 which as you know, Joe Lieberman supported and then—it was his idea, partially his idea and then for some reason he changed his mind.  One of either of those things should have been included in this bill.  It would have made it better, it would have made it stronger, it would have put competition in.  But with the exchanges, Cenk, we‘re going to have competitions, you‘re going to see these private insurance companies, many of whom have had monopolies in many areas in the country, you‘re going to see them starting to have to compete and lower their prices because of the exchanges. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Governor Ed Rendell, thank you so much for your time tonight. 

RENDELL:  Thanks, Cenk.  Hang in there. 

UYGUR:  We appreciate it.  All right.  Up next, Senator Ron Johnson takes the death panel myth to a new low.  These comments are shameful.  We‘re going to break that down.  And Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman- Schultz fights back on the republican crusade to kill health care reform, next.                                        


UYGUR:  Welcome back to the show.  As we‘ve been discussing, Republicans have been relentless in their crusade to kill health care reform.  Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson marked the law‘s one-year anniversary with an Op-ed, arguing that his now adult daughter who was born with a heart defect wouldn‘t have survived if the new health care law had been in place.  He wrote, quote, “I don‘t even want to think what might have happened if she had been born at a time and place where government defined the limits for most insurance policies and set precedence on what would be covered.  Would the life-saving procedures that saved her have been deemed cost-effective by policymakers deciding where to spend increasingly scarce tax dollars?”

And that‘s just a new way to say death panels.  And it‘s sick and wildly disingenuous.  The new health bill does not prevent you from getting private health insurance at all.  That is a deception.  It‘s a lie.  In fact, it probably makes the insurance companies richer.  That‘s why I didn‘t like it.  I thought, it should have been a lot tougher on them.  But there current death panels, I should say.  Now, it didn‘t exist when Ron Johnson‘s daughter was four.  They are run by private insurance companies who tell you that your kid has a pre-existing condition and they will not cover her.  If that had been in place at that time, God knows what would have happened for an average person in Wisconsin. 

Now the Johnsons are incredibly rich, so they don‘t probably don‘t have to worry about any of this.  But for an average person, if your kid is born with that problem.  That‘s all too bad, pre-existing condition for the baby.  That‘s what this bill is fixing.  Meanwhile, there are already plenty of examples of people whose lives have been saved by the new law.  The White House released a video today of several phone calls President Obama has had with people who benefited from it. 


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  If it wasn‘t for you, I probably wouldn‘t be here right now.  That‘s from the bottom of my heart. 

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  And it means so much.  You would have had trouble buying health insurance. 

UNIDENTIFIED MAN:  Without the pre-existing insurance plan, I would not be able to have continued my treatments beyond that radiation. 

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN:  Providing health insurance for my employees is so vital.  The laws that have been passed are a good start for us personally. 


UYGUR:  All right.  And those people who are helped aren‘t isolated cases.  The Department of Health and Human Services reports that since the health care law took effect, 3.8 million people who have hit the Medicare doughnut hole have received a $250 rebate check to help cover their drug costs, 1.2 million adult children have become eligible to stay on their parents‘ health care plan, 12,000 people were previously denied coverage because a pre-existing condition are already covered by a government run plan, and that‘s just the tip of the iceberg. 

There are 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions who will no longer have to worry about being denied coverage if the plan makes it all the way to 2014.  Look, this is personal for so many people because it‘s their life on the line.  So, when people lie about it and pretend it‘s the insurance companies sticking up for you and the government who doesn‘t want you to get treated, well, people take it personally.  Because that‘s the exact opposite of the truth. 

Joining me now is Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida.  Look, you know, Ron Johnson maybe sick, it may be sick.  I mean, that‘s exactly what we‘re trying to prevent in this bill by saying, hey, you know, what, if your kid is a pre-existing condition, they can‘t just throw them out in the street. 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  You know, Ron Johnson is just horrendously irresponsible for distorting the truth and as you said, lying about what the Affordable Care Act does for children.  If Ron Johnson‘s daughter was born today, under the Affordable Care Act, Cenk, his daughter would be able to get coverage and not be dropped or denied coverage because of her pre-existing condition and would be covered all the way through her life.  So, it‘s just unbelievable to me during the debate on health care reform before the law was passed, they created this fabrication called the death panels scared people into believing that somehow the government was going to be making health care decisions on who lives, and who dies. 

You know, we know that‘s not true.  And they‘re trying to dredge stuff like that up again.  The bottom-line is, you know, the benefits that have kicked in on health care reform are already helping millions of people.  I stood with some of those people today in my district.  Lanie Schultz (ph), who‘s a breast cancer survivor diagnosed as a 25-years-old who is able to stay on her parents‘ insurance said, because of that law.  I stood with Patsy Cohen, the sweet 81-year-old little lady today who literally before health care reform was deciding whether to buy her medicine or whether her and her husband could pay their electric bill, so they could have air conditioning.  And we‘re from South Florida.  So, that‘s a big deal down here. 

I also stood with another woman, Donna, who has two issues.  She was able to put both her young adult sons back on her insurance after health care reform became law last year when they graduated from college.  And they would have lost their insurance, and she also was able to make sure that her parents who fell into the doughnut hole got that $250 payments and who now this year alone, when they fall in that doughnut hole will have a 50 percent cut in their brand name prescription drugs when they‘re in the donut hole.  It‘s a big deal. 

UYGUR:  But congresswoman, look, you know, I think the legislation didn‘t go far enough.  You and I have discussed that in the past, I believe. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes, right.

UYGUR:  Look, the problem is, there are death panels.  They‘re called insurance companies. 

SCHULTZ:  Exactly.  If you can say it—I was going to. 

UYGUR:  Right.  And I‘m not saying it‘s because they‘re evil people.  The problem is the system.  The system is set up, so they have to make a profit.  And if they have to make a profit, well, you know what, treating you is really expensive.  That‘s why they deny all these people.  And I know people who had pre-existing conditions, they were denied coverage and they died, so. 

SCHULTZ:  Cenk, as you know, I‘m one of those people, I have a pre-existing condition, I‘m a breast cancer survivor myself.  I was diagnosed three years ago at 41.  And, you know, thank God I caught it early and I had health insurance.  And I could afford my co-pays for mammograms and I could get those.  So, I was able to detect my breast cancer early.  But you know, I have women stop me all the time in the grocery store, on the ball field and they tell me that they skip those mammograms because they don‘t have health insurance or because they can‘t afford the co-pays, and as a result, they‘re rolling the dice. 

And I mean, that‘s just crushing to me.  You know, there is a literally 98 percent cure rate when you detect breast cancer early.  When you detect breast cancer at a late stage, the cure rate is only 27 percent.  I mean, that‘s—you‘re right, it is a matter of life or death.  We‘re one job loss away when you have a pre-existing condition from being uninsurable.  And that‘s—that‘s unacceptable, and that‘s what health care reform did for Americans. 

UYGUR:  And plus, you get trapped in your job, because God forbid you should lose your insurance.

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely.

UYGUR:  Because then you‘re playing with your life.  All right. 

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely.

UYGUR:  Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  We appreciate it. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Cenk.  Anytime. 

UYGUR:  All right.  Now, when we come back, is the White House beneath Sarah Palin?  Really?  That‘s what conservatives are saying.  We‘ll get into that when we come back. 


UYGUR:  Conservatives.  The White House is beneath Sarah Palin.  And she‘s better than that.  Isn‘t that a little unpatriotic to say the least?  And by the way, they say her tweets are more powerful than the president.  Oh, come on!  When we come back, I‘ll tell you where they got that crazy idea. 


UYGUR:  Sarah Palin‘s poll numbers are falling fast and that has some of the members of the conservative media a little worried about their own reputation, as they have unrelentingly backed her up all the way.  Just last week, Public Policy Polling survey revealed that Charlie Sheen would beat Palin in a matchup among independents by five percent.  As Sheen would say, winning!  Apparently, Tiger Blood means beats Mama Grizzly.  So, what do you do if you‘re a conservative commentator whose audience thinks that Sarah Palin can do no wrong?  Well, that‘s easy.  You just claim that Palin is more powerful outside of the White House and that being president of the United States would be a step down for her. 

Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, who can relieve that?  Some conservatives are claiming with a straight face, the move from Washington would be a downgrade for Palin.  Conservative media hoser and poser Andrew Breitbart suggested in GQ Magazine that this month, that Palin would be more powerful on TV than she would be in the White House saying, quote, “I think the presidency is beneath her.  There‘s more power in being Oprah Winfrey than being Barack Obama.  It would be my goal for Palin to become Oprah and be the ultimate kingmaker for 20 odd years.  Oprah anointed Barack Obama.”

First of all, she isn‘t going to be Oprah either.  Second of all, beneath her?  Please.  If TV trumps the White House, what am I, president of the world?  That‘s the dumbest theory I‘ve ever heard!  So of course, Ann Coulter agrees.  She thinks it would be crazy for Palin to make a run for the White House because she‘s really good at tweeting about death panels. 


ANN COULTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR:  I love her.  I think she could win the nomination.  I especially love her for her enemies.  I‘m insanely jealous of that.  I love her for how she makes liberal heads explode.  I wrote the conservative of the year piece on Sarah Palin for Human Events Channel, Reagan‘s favorite newspaper.  But I think it would be a step down for her to run for president.  It‘s like saying, Rush Limbaugh should run for president.  She‘s huge.  She has enormous power.  She sends out a twitter on death panels and everyone is talking about it, I mean, it would be crazy for her to run for president.


UYGUR:  So, as President Obama said, F-15s over Libya, Palin sent tweets over the internet, and she‘s more powerful?  Do you think we could have stopped Gadhafi‘s tanks with Palin‘s tweets?  So, where do they get this crazy theory that you‘re more powerful if you‘re out of office?


SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  My choice is to take a stand and effect change and not just hit our head against the wall and watch valuable state time and money, millions of your dollars go down the drain.  We know we can effect positive change outside government at this moment in time on another scale and actually make a difference. 


UYGUR:  Pea brains in a pod, all thinking alike.  All right.  Thanks for watching.  That‘s the show tonight.  “HARDBALL” starts right now.

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