updated 4/1/2011 12:24:12 PM ET 2011-04-01T16:24:12

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Wes Spradlin, Leo Gerard, Chesley Sullenberger, Joe Sestak

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

This is what‘s on the table tonight:

A protest Tea Partiers?  Is that all you got?  Is that all you can get to the nation‘s capital to say this is what we got to do with the budget?  Well, the Tea Party, believe it or not, is leading Republicans towards a government shutdown.

But you know what?  Where do the Democrats stand in this fight? 

Commentary coming up.

According to Captain Chesley Sullenberger people will die in an aviation bill from House Republicans becomes law.  Captain Sullenberger joins us exclusively tonight to talk about it.

And the question of arming Libyan freedom fighters has become far more complicated.  And the debate is heating up.  We‘ll touch on that.

And Donald Trump for president.  Who wants Donald Trump to be president?  Commentary coming up on that.

But this is the story that fires me up tonight: President Obama and the Senate Democrats need to take a stand for the middle class and stop capitulating to the Tea Party on this budget fight.  “Politico” reports a crowd of roughly 200 Tea Party faithful showed up on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. today.  The small crowd was there to push Republicans to pass $60 billion in cuts to the federal government.

Now, a handful of Republican lawmakers showed up to their fire up the crazies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  Cut the budget.  Get this government under control.  It‘s not good enough to slow it down.  We‘ve got to reduce the size of this government.

REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  We‘ve got to say to Harry Reid and liberals in the Senate, this far and no farther.  We got to borrow a line from another Harry and say, “the debt stops here.”

SEN. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY:  I believe we can surmount any problem.  We can climb any hill.  I believe, as Ronald Reagan said, that government is not the solution to the problem.  Government is the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SCHULTZ:  Makes you regurgitate, doesn‘t it?

Tea Party chair and 2012 presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann got the crowd all jacked up with this load of garbage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  They want to shut the government down and they want to turn you into their scapegoat and say it‘s the Tea Party‘s fault for shutting the government down.  Now, the cat is out of the bag.  We know who has no interest in negotiating.  It‘s Harry Reid.  It‘s the big libs over in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Now, at $33 billion in cuts.  That‘s not negotiating. 

Democrats aren‘t the ones saying shut it down.  It is the Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE:  If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shutdown the government instead of making a small downpayment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say, shut it down.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I guess he‘s not sharing notes with Michele Bachmann.  He says, “Shut it down.”

Now, look.  This is a time I think for Democrats to wake up.  Republicans are handing you the gun.  The Tea Party wants to force John Boehner to shut it down and Democrats don‘t have the guts to let it happen.

Last night, Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats put $33 billion worth of cuts on the table.  Speaker Boehner hasn‘t agreed to anything yet.  The speaker knows he can‘t look weak to the Tea Party members in his caucus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Our goal is to cut spending, not shut down the government.  And you‘ve heard a lot of talk over the last 24 hours.  There‘s no agreement on numbers and nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to.  We control one-half of one-third of the government here, but we‘re going to continue to fight for the larger spending cuts we can get to keep the government open and funded through the balance of this fiscal year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Speaker Boehner is absolutely correct.  The Democrats have the Senate and the White House.  So, why in the hell are they giving in to any of these cuts at all?

The American economy—can we agree it‘s pretty much still on the ropes?  It‘s a fragile recovery.  Unemployment still high and millions of Americans rely on government assistance just to survive.  This is exactly the wrong time to cut anything.

Take a good look at this chart.  During the last 12 months of the Bush administration, unemployment skyrocketed.  Those numbers did a 180 when President Obama and the Democrats passed the largest stimulus package in the history of the country and gave a loan to the automobile industry, which the Republicans have decried all along.  America has had 12 straight months of private sector job creation because the federal government invested money in people and projects.

Now, if the Republicans get their way, it will wipe out that momentum and cost America 700,000 jobs.  That‘s not my number.  That‘s Moody‘s number.

Democrats have let Republicans convince America that the federal government needs to tighten its belt.  OK.  A little bit.  I get it.

But $33 billion?  Why?  Why that number?

President Obama and the Democrats gave in on extending the Bush tax cuts, gave in on the public option which would have saved money, and gave in on the Employee Free Choice Act where there really was no fight for American workers.  And I‘m just saying—you know, when does the weakness stop?  I mean, do the Democrats have any guts at all to draw a line in the sand every time a party—Tea Party folks show up in the Capitol, 200 or 300 of them?  Oh, we got to make more cuts.

So, we went to the Senate Democrats today.  The producers of this show, THE ED SHOW, put the request out to every single Democratic press aide in the Senate.  We did this today.

We said, “We‘d like to know whether there are any Senate Democrats willing to come on the program tonight to defend the proposed $33 billion in budget cuts.  If your boss is willing to do so, please let us know.”  That‘s an e-mail we sent to the press secretaries of all the Democratic senators.

You know how many showed up?  Not a single Democrat accepted the offer.  Not one.

Why?  Because they don‘t want to go out and say to their constituents, well, we got to cut $33 billion.  This is a tough thing to do.  It‘s a tough bill to swallow.

And the last time I saw the ratings on the Tea Partiers in this country, they‘re going down in the polls.  We‘re seeing a shift.  Cutting anything right now is exactly the wrong thing to do.  And the Democrats are letting the Tea Party call the shots in my opinion.

Take a good look at today‘s Tea Party rally.  President Obama, Senate Democrats, and John Boehner, they are letting this small group of radical people set a policy for America.

A handful of FOX News-loving Americans have got more power than what?  Than 100,000 people who are fighting for their rights in Madison, Wisconsin?

The president, of course, arguably never went to bat for these middle class folks because it would have been about him, it would have politicized the whole thing.  And I said in previous commentaries, I‘m sick of that garbage.

It is about politics.  And right now, they‘re out-politicking us. 

That‘s how I feel as a liberal.

Look, Senate Democrats have to realize one thing.  You can‘t pin this on President Obama.  You guys got elected, too.  You have the majority.

The Senate Democrats need to stand up and say, you know what?  You gave us a record number of filibusters.  You‘ve said no to absolutely everything.

We gave you the Bush tax cuts.  We‘re not going to take these draconian cuts.  Shut down the government.  Go ahead and do whatever you guys got to do.  We‘re ready to do this.

But for some reason, the Senate Democrats, they get in caucus and say, well, you know, President Obama has got to engage.  President Obama really has to do this.

What does President Obama have to lift every weight in Washington?  Hold your own, Harry.  Get your caucus together and say, we‘re not going to do $33 billion worth of cuts—because you‘re going to have to go home and explain cuts that are going to really hurt a lot of Americans who helped put President Obama and the Democrats in power in the Senate.

I don‘t think Americans want these kind of cuts.  There is a huge difference between $10 billion and $33 billion.  There‘s going to be a political backlash to this.

And right now, here you have Boehner in a tight spot because he‘s answering to the radicals.  Make him answer to the radicals.  It‘s his problem.  It‘s not our problem.

And don‘t turn and say, well, we got to hear more from the White House.

No, you don‘t.  You have the majority, Democrats.  You have the votes to sit there and say across the board we‘re not going to do this.  We are not going to hurt Americans.

You know why?  Because Republicans, we gave you everything you wanted during the lame duck.  We gave you the coveted Bush tax cuts that were going to save the economy.

So, the job creation, Mr. Boehner, where is it?  When do these Bush tax rates going to kick in and we start adding millions of jobs every month?  It isn‘t going to happen.  It‘s another game being played by the Republicans who just want to get rid of the president.

They want to shut this down because they want to blame President Obama.  And here are the Senate Democrats, instead of standing up and saying, no, President Obama doesn‘t have anything to do about this, this is our call in the Senate, we‘re the Democrats.  We represent the people across the country and this is exactly what we‘re going to do.

I kind of feel like this is a public option fight all over again, you know?  They have the power to do it.  They just have to have the guts to do it.

Get your cell phones out, I want to know what you think.  Tonight‘s question: Should Democrats explain their support of spending cuts?  Text “A” for yes, text “B” for no to 622639.  And we‘ll get you the results later on in the show and we want you go to our new blog at Ed.MSNBC.com.

There are two sides to this story.  There‘s a number of different ways of looking at it.

Joining us tonight is “Washington Post” columnist E.J. Dionne, who is also senior fellow at the Brooking Institute.  The title of E.J.‘s column today is “Where‘s Obama‘s resolve on the budget battle?”  Fair question.

E.J., good to have you with us tonight.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST:  Good to be with you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Do you think the president can make a big difference in this right now?  What do you think?

DIONNE:  I think the president has power to influence the debate that nobody else has.  I mean, if you go back to the Clinton budget fight, it was really Bill Clinton who put the idea that he was fighting for Medicare or Medicaid education in the environment on the table.  And I think President Obama, so far, has said, this is a tiny part of the budget.  I don‘t want to get caught in the muck of all this congressional wrangling.  It‘s not going to do me any good.

And maybe he‘s waiting.  Maybe he‘s waiting for Paul Ryan‘s bigger budget next week for the next fiscal year, which is going to be, I think, pretty radical.  And if that doesn‘t set off a fight, then nobody really stands for anything.

I mean, we‘re not talking at all about the cuts in Head Start.  We‘re not talking at all about the cuts in student loans or the programs for women, infants, and children.  I mean, we‘re only talking about numbers.  If it‘s a fight about numbers, the Republicans are always going to win because everybody is going to say, well, they‘ll cut more than the Democrats.

SCHULTZ:  Don‘t the Senate Democrats look a little weak right now that they just can‘t stand up and say we‘re not going down this road, we don‘t believe the American people want this?  What do you think?

DIONNE:  I hate to bring up that great old Will Rogers line again.  “I don‘t belong to an organized political party.  I‘m a Democrat,” he said.  And I don‘t think you can talk about a Senate majority because I think that Democrat, that majority in the Senate is split.  I don‘t think they have the capacity to deliver a whole Senate majority behind a position that says we‘re not going to accept most of these cuts.  And that‘s part of the problem here.

SCHULTZ:  So, do you think that $33 billion cuts that were talked about last night by the Democrats and the Vice President Biden, do you think that‘s a real number?  And if it is, do you think John Boehner can convince the Tea Party Republicans in the House to take the deal?

DIONNE:  To be perfectly honest I hope it‘s not a real number, because if it is a real number in the sense of really cutting back programs, you‘re going to have to cut some stuff we really need.

And think about that $33 billion.  That is what John Boehner and Paul Ryan, the budget chairman, wanted and then, the Tea Party revolted, and they said, we want more.  Well, guess what?  Their revolt worked because by starting way out there at $60 billion, they‘ve now got what they wanted originally.  I got to see that as a Republican victory.

SCHULTZ:  I mean, where are the Tea Party rallies across the country? 

We have seen rallies in the thousands of working families come out—

Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan.  I mean, Indiana, their House was out for a while.  They went on a hiatus and said we‘re not going to take this stuff against collective bargaining.

I mean, it seems to me that the Democrats have the people on their side, but they‘re just afraid to make the move.

DIONNE:  I think there really has been a shift in mobilization that the conservatives and the Tea Party were really, really mobilized by the health care fight and by the election of Barack Obama.  I think they have receded and that activism you‘re seeing in the Midwest is a progressive activism we haven‘t seen since the 2008 election.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

DIONNE:  But no one is fighting this budget fight in a way that says, look, we‘re talking about big income transfers in our country, big growth in inequality.  That‘s what those battles are about in Wisconsin and Ohio, and no one is trying to translate that to the Washington fight.

SCHULTZ:  E.J. Dionne, always a pleasure.  Great to have you with us tonight.  Thank you.

DIONNE:  Good to be with you.

SCHULTZ:  Remember to answer tonight‘s question at the bottom of the screen.  We want to know what you think.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHULTZ (voice-over):  Captain Sully, hero of the Hudson, says Republicans will put lives at risk by gutting new airline safety guidelines.  Captain Chesley Sullenberger is my exclusive guest.

Governor John Kasich‘s union-busting bill is now law in Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WES SPRADLIN, OHIO FIREFIGHTER:  I didn‘t know, when John Kasich said he was creating jobs in Ohio, he meant I was going to have to get a second one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  That firefighter, Wes Spradlin, joins us.

Had enough of the Donald‘s B.S.yet?  Me, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION:  Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I‘ll tell you why he‘s not really running for president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And we sure want you to check out our new blog at Ed.MSNBC.com.  There you‘ll find links to my radio Web site, WeGotEd.com, Twitter, and Facebook.

Last night, we heard from firefighter Wes Spradlin after Ohio‘s union-busting bill passed.  Today, Governor Kasich signed the bill into law.  Mr.  Spradlin will join us next.

You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

SCHULTZ:  Those were protesters last night after the Ohio legislative session passed a bill that dramatically cut the collective bargaining rights of public workers, like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Republican Governor John Kasich has claimed all along that it‘s not about union-busting.  In fact, here‘s what he said earlier this month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH ®, OHIO:  This is not an attack on you.  This is not a political operation.  I could care about the politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Really?

To prove that point, this morning, Kasich sent out a fundraising e-mail claiming victory.  The legislation, quote, “strips power from the union leaders.”  Then Kasich asked for donations to help the, quote, “ongoing efforts.”

The measure cuts health care, pension, and sick time from all public workers.  They don‘t like what‘s happening.  It also prohibits workers from striking.  And that‘s a big one.

The former FOX News host previously said he understood the real life implications.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KASICH:  The day we sign, it‘s not going to be some, you know, I don‘t anticipate some big deal because this is hard for people.  And anything that‘s hard, I want to be respectful of other people‘s feelings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  So, after plugging the signing ceremony on Twitter.  Just hours ago, Kasich signed the bill into law.  The event broadcast on live TV.

Joining us now from Columbus, Ohio, is Wes Spradlin.  He‘s been a firefighter for 20 years.

It‘s an honor to have you on the program tonight, Mr. Spradlin.  I appreciate what you do for your community.  Thanks so much for joining us.  I know you have the concerns of a lot of Ohio employees.

Last night, we played a sound bite of your reaction to the bill‘s passage and I‘d like to play that again.  Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPRADLIN:  I think it‘s going to tear my family apart.  I didn‘t know when John Kasich said he was creating jobs in Ohio he meant I was going to have to get a second one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  So, what kinds of sacrifices are you and your family going to have to make right now?  What does it mean?

SPRADLIN:  It means a lot to my family.  Mostly, if I‘m going to come home safe tomorrow morning.  My family was going to buy a new car for my wife to drive back and forth to her part-time job this year.  That‘s been put on hold.

My fellow firefighters are losing their union rights.  They‘re using their power to speak.

The officers in my union, over 400 of them, are not going to be covered by collective bargaining anymore.  I don‘t understand how this helps the budget at all if my friends and my brothers and sisters cannot be a part of my union.  How does that help the budget?

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s talk about the governor.  He says that he understands how tough this change is.  Do you believe he‘s telling the truth?  Do you think he understands?

SPRADLIN:  Anybody that could compare a hair cut to my livelihood to my dreams of being a firefighter doesn‘t understand anything—nothing at all.

SCHULTZ:  Do you believe your children are going to be better off because of this?

SPRADLIN:  My father worked to be better than his father.  And I worked to be better than my father to give my children more than I have.  This cuts me back almost 20 years of a career and benefits and pay.  My measly retirement is 60 percent of my best three years, 60 percent.  Not 100 percent, 60 percent.

I cannot get Social Security.  I‘ve paid into it working second jobs all my life.  I can‘t use that as retirement.

This is going—this is going to kill my family.  I‘m going to have to spend more time away from them.  I‘m not going to be able to go to school functions with my children.  If I get to say good night to them not being on the phone, it‘s going to be a good day.

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Spradlin, you say 60 percent of your best year.  If I may, what would be your best year as a firefighter in Ohio?

SPRADLIN:  My best year at 20 years has been right at $70,000, right in that area.  That‘s with the overtime because of short staffing, because I can‘t get any help.  Every time I call off sick or someone else does, we have to replace it with overtime.

So, the overtime costs are pretty high but if we had more firefighters, which now we‘re not allowed to collectively bargain for at staffing, sure, they‘re going to give us—we‘re going to be allowed to bargain for better, safer things to go risk our lives to save the public.  But I don‘t have anybody to run them.  A new fire truck doesn‘t do me a lot of good if I ain‘t got nobody to drive it.

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Spradlin, you are exactly what THE ED SHOW on MSNBC is all about—a hard working American speaking his piece.  I appreciate you doing that tonight.  Thanks so much.

Time now to call in Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steel Workers.

Leo, good to have you with us tonight.  What do you make of this?

LEO GERARD, UNITED STEEL WORKERS:  Well, first of all, let me say, Ed, that hearing Mr. Spradlin talk was heart-breaking because what we‘re ending up doing is we‘re punishing the victims of the economic collapse and we‘re running a Ponzi scheme on them as well.

Let me give you a few facts that don‘t seem to make it into the debate at the moment.  Corporate profits last year are up 37 percent while taxes last year were at the lowest level since 1950.  We do not have a spending problem in America.  We have a revenue problem.

We lost 60,000 factories during the Bush era and the economic collapse of ‘08.  Those factories paid municipal taxes.  They paid federal taxes.  They paid state taxes.

Close to 45 million people in America since the economic collapse on Wall Street have been unemployed for three months or more.  Those people don‘t pay into the system.  They didn‘t cause this wreck, this train wreck.  Wall Street did.

And now, we‘ve got a whole diversion going on in Washington and going on at the state level where they‘re blaming workers, they‘re blaming unions, and this is all just a big scam.

And I think America is waking up to that and when you see some ordinary person who loves his country, loves his family, is working hard, playing by the rules, tell the American public that this is going to cause him and his family economic decline while Wall Street and bankers are not paying taxes and lining their pockets with bonuses, Ed, we‘re having the wrong fight about the wrong issues.

SCHULTZ:  Well, you got a chance to recall some elected officials in the state of Ohio.  People of Ohio have 90 days to gather 230,000 signatures.  What‘s the game plan if you know of one?

GERARD:  Look, I think that you‘re going to see recalls going on in a lot of places.  But I got my hands on a document today that I‘ll hold up.  This is put out by the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association.  And it‘s a fundraising letter.

Let me tell you what it says.  Click here to make a generous corporate contribution to counter their efforts.  Donations are unlimited and undisclosed.

This is the results of that Supreme Court decision.  And ordinary working people have to fight for their democracy.  These are corporations trying to buy judges, trying to buy governors, trying to buy legislators.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

GERARD:  And I think we can take it to the streets, knock on a door, tell people what the real facts of life are, and we need to recall some of these people because they‘re destroying people‘s chance at a greater life and they‘re really undermining our democracy, turning it into a corporate-ocracy.

SCHULTZ:  And that referendum, we‘ll see if it takes place.  I know there‘s a lot of enthusiasm for it in the state of Ohio in the wake of this bill being signed.

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

And an update now on Wisconsin—in the first sign of weakness, Walker‘s administration said today they will comply with the court order and is suspending enforcement of its union-busting law.  The administration started implementing the law earlier this week despite a judge‘s ruling.  That prompted a state judge to issue an amended order.  Hearings and testimony will continue tomorrow.  And the fight for the middle class in America continues.

First, Captain Sullenberger saved American lives on the Hudson River.  Tonight, in our exclusive interview, he‘ll tell us how he is trying to save American lives from a Republican amendment.

And a Republican congressman says he is struggling to get by.  We‘ll tell you why his own party doesn‘t want you to hear what he said.  That‘s “The Takedown,” next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And it‘s time for the Takedown.  Sarah Palin helped get Wisconsin Republican Sean Duffy elected to Congress last November.  If he looks familiar to you, it might be from his time on MTV‘s reality show “The Real World.”

But people who saw Duffy at a town hall meeting in Polk County, Wisconsin last month might be wondering if Duffy lives in the real world.  In fact, the Polk County Republican Party erased the video from its website and told “Talking Points Memo” to pull the clip as well. 

Here‘s how Duffy responded when a constituent told him his family income of less than 50,000 dollars will take a big hit thanks to Scott Walker‘s union busting bill. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SEAN DUFFY ®, WISCONSIN:  I guarantee you—most of you, I guarantee you, I have more debt than all of you.  Six kids, I still pay off my student loans.  I still pay off my mortgage.  I drive a used minivan. 

If you think I‘m living high on the hog, I got one paycheck.  So I struggle to meet my bills right now.  Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks?  Maybe. 

But at this point, I‘m not living high on the hog.  I have no problem

you know what?  I think we should all take a step back and go, can everyone do more with less?  Absolutely. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Oh, yes.  We can all do with less.  Well, the median income of a Wisconsin family was just over 52,000 dollars in 2008.  Duffy‘s own taxpayer funded salary sitting at right now 174,000 dollars a year.  Not bad. 

Looking at his financial disclosure forms from 2009, the Duffy family of eight has hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from a mortgage, student loans, credit cards, and a vacation home.  So this debt that Sean Duffy has accumulated by his own way, his own decisions, not because the state decided to cut his salary—it looks like it might be time for some tough family choices, doesn‘t it? 

That must be what he told the crowd in Polk County.  Right? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUFFY:  Let‘s take a pay decrease.  Let‘s go across the board and all join hands together and let‘s all take a pay decrease.  I‘ll join with you.  Absolutely. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  All right.  So let me get this straight.  Duffy says he is struggling on 174,000 dollar a year salary because of his own debt.  To him, that‘s the same as a family making under 50,000 dollars a year, who will make less because Republicans are cutting middle class and lower income salaries.

And he thinks everyone should take a pay cut across the board?  No wonder the Republicans didn‘t want anybody seeing this video.  You know, Sean Duffy shouldn‘t worry so much about his finances.  He comes from a lumber jacking family and has participated in lumber jack competitions. 

After he‘s been in congress for a half a term, he can, you know, maybe copy the career path of the—probably the most high profile endorser of his job, because of course she quit her job and he can quit his job.  Then he can get his own reality show, just like “Sarah Palin‘s Alaska.”

He‘ll be back on reality TV where he belongs.  He‘ll surely land a nice gig on Fox News.  And he won‘t have to worry about that measly congressional salary anymore, will he?  At 174 grand a year.  That‘s the Takedown. 

We‘re not afraid to debate on this show.  Jeremy Scahill was here last night talking about the Libyan freedom fighters.  The debate continues with Congressman Joe Sestak. 

And standing in for our exclusive interview, Captain Sully Sullenberger on a Republican amendment that could cost American pilots and passengers their lives.  Safety is a huge issue on this legislation.  Stay with us.  That is next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW and thanks for watching us tonight.  I appreciate it so much. 

It was January 15th, 2009 when Captain Chesley Sullenberger saved the lives of 155 passengers and crew onboard a U.S. Airways Flight 1549 by landing the damaged plane safely on the Hudson River. 

Today, two years later, he is trying to save lives again.  Back then, the problem was a flock of birds sucked into the engines.  Relying on years of experience, Sullenberger managed to bring the jet down smoothly enough for the passengers to be evacuated and rescued before the plane went under. 

Today, the problem is an aviation bill about to be passed by House Republicans.  According to the captain, quote, “people will die.” 

An amendment to the bill from the Republican Bill Shuster would slow down FAA rules, including a rule put in place after a crash killed 50 people outside Buffalo, which would reduce pilot fatigue by reducing the length of their shifts. 

Captain Sullenberger is not only a veteran pilot, but also an accident investigator.  On his Facebook page, Captain Sullenberger wrote, quote, “special interests are focused only on the bottom line and are lobbying extensively for this amendment.” 

And Captain Chesley Sullenberger joins us exclusively tonight. 

Captain, thanks for your time. 

First of all, I appreciate you speaking up, because you are viewed seriously as a leader in the aviation community.  And you have said some bold things.  You‘ve said that people will die if this passes.  Explain that to our audience tonight, sir. 

CAPT. CHESLEY SULLENBERGER, PILOT OF 2009 HUDSON LANDING:  Well, good evening, Ed.  It‘s good to be with you.  And to answer your question, how could I not speak up?  This flight two years ago on the Hudson has given me a greater voice about the things I‘ve cared about my entire life. 

I feel a duty to do this, to keep on improving aviation safety and to keep our passengers safe.  This bill is—or this amendment is really a slap in the face of the families of the victims of the Buffalo crash, who have all worked as tireless, ardent advocates for the highest professional and safety standards. 

They‘ve had some successes.  They‘ve gotten through the Congress a bill that would increase and improve pilot experience.  They‘ve worked with us to try to improve pilot fatigue rules, so that every pilot is rested and can perform as well at the end of a shift as at the beginning.

This bill is disturbing in many ways.  It would essentially freeze our safety regulations in time, by erecting so many barriers and obstacles and high hurdles that only the cheapest and most innocuous safety rules would likely be put forward. 

And it also would carve out and exempt from important rules huge segments of the aviation industry: cargo, supplemental carriers and others.  By the way, as a veteran, it is particularly disturbing and offensive to me that one suggestion is that the supplemental carriers, who carry the vast majority of our troops back and forth overseas, would not be subject to the same fatigue rules as domestic passengers here are in the United States. 

There needs to be clearly one level of safety.  We‘ve been calling for that for 25 years.  We‘ve never achieved it.  This would only take us further away from it. 

SCHULTZ:  Yet, Captain Sullenberger, there are so many in Washington who think that less regulation is better.  Do you think this is a clear example that less regulation could cost people their lives in this country?  And I‘m curious, how do you think other pilots feel about it? 

SULLENBERGER:  I can‘t speak for all, but I certainly speak for many.  And in the last two years, I‘ve had a very consistent message from my colleagues at all the airlines.  First, they thank us for what we were able to accomplish, my crew and I, two years ago.

And they thank us even more for what we‘ve done since then, by being the spokesperson effectively for safety for our passengers and for our profession.  So to answer your question directly, if we choose not to increase safety, with new rules as we learn more about the science of safety going forward, then what will happen ultimately, eventually, somewhere, someplace, some time, someone will die who otherwise would not have had to. 

SCHULTZ:  Is this a money issue? 

SULLENBERGER:  Of course.  It‘s—we as an industry, we as a Congress have to keep our priorities straight.  We have to keep our passengers safe.  We have to keep our promise to our passengers.  And that is simple, that we will do for them the very best that we know how to do, and not take the easy, more expedient, less costly route. 

SCHULTZ:  And, captain, I have to ask you; we hear a lot about union busting going on in this country.  We hear a lot about collective bargaining.  Do you think that this amendment plays into that? 

SULLENBERGER:  I‘m very concerned about the labor aspects of it, also.  As an airline pilot, I was a proud union member for over 30 years.  I saw that even at good companies, it levels the playing field.  No individual can stand up to the power of the organization of management. 

It‘s only collectively we have an effective voice.  You know what?  People should have a say in how they live their work lives.  It has important other benefits. 

First of all, having a collective bargaining agreement provides a defined mechanism for resolving disputes.  I was a member of a safety committee.  And over the years, we did many important things, made many important safety contributions that would not have happened had we not been organized. 

SCHULTZ:  Captain Chesley Sullenberger, great to have you with us tonight.  I appreciate you speaking out.  As a pilot, I have a pretty good sense of what you‘re talking about.  And I wish the general public could understand that technology is going in leaps and bounds.  And we have to keep up with that commitment when it comes to safety in this country.

The traveling public deserves and I think should demand better.  Thank you for speaking up. 

SULLENBERGER:  Well, real quickly before we go, the traveling public and their families can do something.  Call your congressman and tell them to vote no on the Shuster Amendment. 

SCHULTZ:  I appreciate it so much, captain.  Thanks so much. 

Do you think the Republican party is banging on the door of Donald Trump to run for president?  And does Donald Trump even understand what it means to be a public servant?  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  There is one story out there that just seems to invade our lives.  Donald Trump continues to parade himself around the media as if people in this country actually care about his candidacy.  I don‘t think they do. 

This is a circus and it is fake.  Donald Trump is no more a serious candidate than me going back to North Dakota in an attempt to get a Senate run going.  And I must say at least they did ask me. 

Who was—who really has shown any interest in Donald Trump being the next president of the United States, other than Donald Trump?  Nobody.  The Republican party isn‘t banging on his door.  And the hilarious part of this is that he‘s trying to court the Tea Party through the Birthers. 

Trump, you know what he‘s doing?  He is screaming to the public, please, pay attention to me.  I‘m important.  I can get on any show I want.  I can be president.  And I‘m thinking about it. 

You know what I say?  So what?  Trump gives public service a bad image.  It‘s not about flash.  It‘s not about wealth.  It‘s not about hair style. 

It‘s about doing something for people and being an advocate for the community you represent.  Trump, well, he‘s done none of that, ever. 

Have you noticed in all of his interviews that he never has any solutions, no real answers other than verbal bomb throwing?  I‘d like to know, Mr. Trump, what‘s your plan for 15 million Americans unemployed in this country?

How about the 50 million uninsured Americans when it comes to health insurance?  How about the poor?  Do you have a plan for them?  According to Bread For the World website, “we live in the world‘s wealthiest nation, yet 13 percent of people living in the United States live in poverty. 

“Nearly one in four children live in households that struggle to put food on the table.  That‘s 16.7 million children.  The most direct way to reduce hunger in the United States is through the National Nutrition Programs.” 

Now, hold it right there.  I new that that story isn‘t going to grab anybody‘s attention on a big time talk show.  Right?  You got to talk about other stuff, about how you screwed somebody in a land deal and you can do a great job in foreign relations. 

But when it comes down to the devil in the detail of dealing with the issues of the people and making real change, Trump, you don‘t have it. 

You‘ve never had it.  Money is not a measure of a man‘s character or success in the arena of public service. 

And I‘m curious; where do you stand on the Farm Bill, that boring thing?  Do you know anything about it?  I‘d like Donald Trump to tell the American people what state he thinks he can win.  Maybe with all his money, he can create a state. 

Mr. Trump, stop embarrassing yourself. 

Do the Libyan freedom fighters stand a chance unless they are supported by the United States with arms?  That debate is heating up.  Former Congressman Joe Sestak weighs in with his opinion versus mine, next on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Today, freedom fighters in Libya continue to get pounded by Gadhafi‘s forces.  Time may be running out to help these folks.  Michael Hirsch of the “National Journal” writes today “now that Obama has openly staked his credibility on Gadhafi‘s departure, the president may have little choice but to arm and aid a badly out gunned, under trained opposition, lest long stalemate and a possible slaughter result.” 

The president says no American troops will enter Libya.  He also says the option to arm the freedom fighters isn‘t on or off the table.  I say they got to help these people.  They got to make sure that the opposition has a chance. 

They need military hardware and they need to fight back.  And we got to help them do just that.  I understand there‘s a lot of reasonable people who disagree with me on this matter.  I know that there are consequences of arming the freedom fighters that we need to be aware of and avoid. 

“The Nation‘s” Jeremy Scahill and I were on opposite sides of this issue last night. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY SCAHILL, “THE NATION”:  What you‘re advocating is going to lead to more American deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars. 

SCHULTZ:  You don‘t know that.  I take President Obama‘s word for it that troops will not be engaged on the ground.  I take his word for it. 

Now if he wants to hang me and my opinion out to dry as an American, that‘s fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I think we need to proceed with caution.  We should put—not put any American lives at risk by sending troops into Libya.  But we are in this fight and we need to win it. 

And this is how we can do it, by making sure they have the means to fight Gadhafi and his army.  I say we need to do it. 

Joining me now is former Pennsylvania Representative Admiral Joe Sestak.  Joe, good to have you with us tonight.  Put your—if we can hypothetically put yourself in the president‘s position.  You‘ve committed to getting rid of Gadhafi, saying he must go.

The rebels are pretty much getting beaten back right now.  You have the option of whether you‘re going to arm these folks or not.  And a dictator is responsible for killing Americans.  Mr. President, what do you do? 

ADM. JOE SESTAK (RET), FORMER CONGRESSMAN:  Right.  You know that Joe Sestak does not support giving arms to the rebels, nor having intervened here.  However, if I were President Obama at this moment, I would recognize that the success of the United States policy actually has come to be the removal of Gadhafi. 

It‘s how it is perceived and it is the reality.  Therefore, I would recognize that unless you accept that we go to war for political objectives and that objective must have military means matched to it, or you‘ll just eventually get mission creep.  I think he has to admit that we‘ve erred and say Gadhafi is going to be removed, and our mission will be with military to remove him.  Otherwise, Ed—

SCHULTZ:  And that means? 

SESTAK:  That means forces will be targeted military at Gadhafi as a command and control center.  And it might even mean some troops have to be used.  The issue I have a lot of problems with is what appears to be we‘re in, but we‘re not in.  It‘s regime change or it‘s not regime change.  We lead or we don‘t lead. 

And this country needs leadership right now on this issue, not to be crept into this.  Because if arms go ashore—and there will be some advanced ones—they will need trainers.  And then will those trainers teach them how to organize and do combined arms? 

And what happened if those trainers are then attacked?  If I were president now—and, by the way, if somebody else became president for a moment, I think he should just not do this.  But if I were the president, having led us this far, I would just say to the country, yes, it‘s been an error.  We must match military to political objectives.  It is regime change. 

Gadhafi has to go.  That is what we‘re going to do.  And bear the political consequences of that. 

Otherwise, I fear it will be one step after another step after another step.  And we have abdicated our leverage to an alliance.  We‘re almost hostage to it, to what they might do in putting troops ashore or others.  And that‘s been my concern, Ed.  You‘ve known that for a bit of time here. 

SCHULTZ:  Admiral, appreciate your comment tonight so much.  Thanks for joining us.  We wanted your expertise and you gave it to us. 

Tonight in our survey, I asked should Democrats explain their support of spending cuts?  Eighty eight percent of you said yes; 12 percent of you said no. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information on THE ED SHOW, we want to take you to our new blog at Ed.MSNBC.com.  “Rage And Revolution; The Middle East in Crisis” with Chris Jansing starts right now.

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