updated 6/2/2011 5:55:11 PM ET 2011-06-02T21:55:11

Guest Host: Thomas Roberts

Guests: Rep. Peter Welch, Robert Reich, Pat Garofalo, Loretta Weinberg,

Errol Louis, Faiz Shakir

THOMAS ROBERTS, GUEST HOST:  Hi, everybody.  Good evening.  Welcome to THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, filling in tonight for Ed Schultz.

And we have breaking news to start the show in the Northeast as a state of emergency has been declared by the governor of Massachusetts.  Just look at these images.  “The Associated Press” is citing Massachusetts officials who say that four people are dead after at least two tornadoes swept through western and central parts of the state.  We are monitoring this story and we‘re going to bring you further developments right here.

But tonight, a remarkable scene to show you that happened outside of the White House.  More than 100 Republican lawmakers storming the White House to exchange budget ideas with the president.  They, of course, demanded spending cuts.  And tonight, we‘re going to tell you how the president is responding.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

           

ROBERTS (voice-over):  Also tonight—Sarah Palin‘s magical mystery tour.  Today‘s big stop: a meeting with FOX News executives.  Is a presidential announcement next?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is under fire today for allegedly abusing taxpayer dollars.  We‘ll give you the details.

And Anthony Weiner talks to Rachel Maddow about his Twitter scandal.  We‘ll play you the highlights and the congressman responds to Jon Stewart‘s take on the alleged picture prank.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN:  As a comedian, it‘s a slam dunk.  Weiner name, Weiner picture, where‘s my check?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS:  Hi, everybody.

The meeting between the president and House Republicans today described as frosty and cool.  But if the nation‘s debt limit isn‘t raised within the next 63 days, the economy is the one that‘s going to be iced.  And today‘s events proved once again the debt ceiling fight will probably boil down to Medicare with polls running strongly against Republicans on this issue.  Democrats have an opportunity to stand firm or needlessly fold.

More than 100 House Republicans filed into the White House today—just look at that line.  There they go.

And this meeting as described again, frosty and cool—this according to Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey.

Congressman Tim Murphy said it was like “group therapy.”

And in the wake of the GOP‘s big loss the New York 26 special election, Republicans were on the defensive on the issue of Medicare.

And the architect of the GOP Medicare plan, Congressman Paul Ryan, says he asked the president to stop calling it a voucher program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  I just said, we got to take on this debt.  And if we demagogue each other at the leadership level, then we‘re never going to take on our debt.  It‘s been misdescribed by the president and many others.  And so, we simply described to him precisely what it is we‘ve been proposing so he hears from us how our proposal works so that in the future, he won‘t mischaracterize it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  But on the other side of things, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says the president has not been mischaracterizing this plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Is that what the president thinks he‘s doing?  Is he misdescribing this plan?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No, he doesn‘t.  And, look, as I said, there is no question that there are differences.  And what the president has made clear is that he doesn‘t believe that we need to end Medicare as we know it, to dismantle the program as it currently exists, in order to achieve significant deficit reduction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  And the White House is still framing the debate this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARNEY:  In order to achieve the reductions that they seek in the House Republican plan and to pay for the extensive tax cuts for the wealthy that that plan calls for, they need to do things to Medicare that aren‘t necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  And Democrats might take heart that a new poll shows Americans solidly are against Ryan‘s Medicare plan, 54 percent to 38 percent.  And on Medicare, voters trust the president more than congressional Republicans, 47 percent to 39 percent.

House Speaker John Boehner released a letter in which 150 economists support his premise of deep spending cuts that exceed any increase in the debt limit.  But as Media Matters notes, “At least 46 economists from Boehner‘s letter called the 2003 Bush tax cuts fiscally responsible.”  And several of Boehner‘s 150 economists have used extreme rhetoric to attack President Obama.

Now, today, Republicans once again ruled out the uncertainty talking point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  And if we‘re going to get serious about creating jobs in America, we‘ve got to reduce some of the uncertainty.  Some of that uncertainty is caused by the giant debt facing our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  But as a broad spectrum of experts have noted, the greatest uncertainty threatening the economy right now is uncertainty over whether the debt limit will actually be raised come August 2nd.

Let‘s bring in Congressman Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont.

Sir, it‘s good to have you on with us tonight.  And I want to go right to this and be blunt.  Are Republicans holding the debt ceiling hostage?  And are Democrats basically falling for it, hook, line and sinker?

REP. PETER WELCH (D), VERMONT:  They are holding it hostage.  And it‘s a very dangerous game.  I mean, the market went down nearly 300 points today.

Bottom line, it‘s a politically uncomfortable vote to raise the debt ceiling, but the basic question is this: does America pay its bills?  We always have.  We always will.

And, in politics, you try to leverage whatever advantage you can get.  Republicans do it, Democrats do it.  But at a certain point, you have to exercise restraint and responsibility.

We have to pay our bills.  Otherwise, we‘re playing with a loaded gun.  Russian roulette in the American economy is on the receiving end of that bullet.

ROBERTS:  Congressman, on the surface, Democrats do appear to be winning this fight over Medicare.  And basically, the simple reason is the public likes Medicare.  However, Republicans, they are complaining that the Ryan plan is being mischaracterized.

In your opinion, is that a fair estimation or not?

WELCH:  It‘s not.  You know, health—Medicare provides security to Americans, 65 and older.  They have access to health care.

Keep in mind, the Republicans in the House not only are about abolishing Medicare for 55 and under Americans, but they abolish the insurance reforms that would allow you to get access to coverage if you have a pre-existing condition.

So, under their plan, if you are under 55, when you turn 65, you are subject to an insurance company saying yes or no on whether they‘ll ensure you.  Now, that assumes that you can even afford it.  So, no, it‘s not.

Now, the issue on health care is about the cost of health care that is escalating two and three times the rate of inflation, wages and profit growth.  And Democrats have acknowledged that we have to reform and control the cost of health care, but we‘re not going to attack Medicare.  Absolutely not.

ROBERTS:  Today‘s meeting was meant to augment these ongoing Biden talks in which the White House and congressional leaders are looking at more than $1 trillion in budget cuts.  Republicans want Medicare to somehow be a part of that.

Do you think ultimately that it‘s going to be, sir?

WELCH:  I don‘t.  What can be part of it is reforms in the delivery system of health care in general because the challenges in Medicare, that is the—how attach costs—are the challenges that we face in health care.  So, employers who are providing health care are getting hammered with health care premium increases.  Individuals who are getting—trying to buy private insurance are getting hammered with increases.  That, obviously, is a factor in the cost of Medicare because it‘s part of health care.

So, the Democrats are at the table.  Let‘s reform health care.  Let‘s do price negotiation with prescription drugs.  Let‘s transform the payment system from the fee-for-service, volume-driven approach to a pay-for-value driven approach.

There‘s lots of things that we need to do to have more affordable and better health care.  But one of the things that is absolutely essential for American security and middle class security in this time of enormous pressure in the economy is to maintain the guarantee that when you are 65 and you‘ve been paying into health care, Medicare all your life, you are going to get it.

ROBERTS:  We have you here, I need to talk about the debt ceiling, though, because we have that date of August 2nd looming.  Analysts have been saying for months that unlike typical budget negotiations, the debt ceiling vote cannot be dragged out to the final day, without risking some serious economic impacts.

So, is this going to be a horse to water with all of you guys getting us up to this date and then something going to happen at the very last minute and then we have to deal with whatever economic impact has happened over this summer?

WELCH:  Well, see, I think that‘s an extraordinarily dangerous game.  And I think both sides have to acknowledge that we cannot play Russian roulette with the American economy.  You know, when we were talking about the continuing resolution and keeping the lights on in government for another six months, we could go to the midnight hour.  And if we went past it, there wouldn‘t be a lot of harm, there‘d be some inconvenience.

But once we rattle the markets where they believe that we‘re not going to be capable to pay our bills, then that market will turn suddenly and it will turn savagely, and the lasting damage to this economy will be devastating.  Any member of Congress who is part of that effort and wants to overextend their hand on this leverage game is going to reap the whirlwind.

ROBERTS:  Congressman Peter Welch, thanks for joining us tonight, sir. 

We do appreciate your time.

WELCH:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  Well, of course, Medicare is not the only entitlement under threat from the GOP budget.  House Republicans propose blocking grants for Medicaid, which is also strongly opposed by Democrats.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi addressed both those issues today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  I think the Republicans deserve credit for doing what they believe, and they do not believe in Medicare and Medicaid.  But I think as they find out what the ramifications are of their actions, you will see something different.  I don‘t see them block-granting Medicaid.  I really don‘t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  All right.  Let‘s turn now to former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, now a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Professor, it‘s good to see you.  Twice in one day.  It‘s quite an honor.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY:  Good evening, Thomas. 

How are you?

ROBERTS:  I‘m great.  Thanks.

Let‘s get back to what Speaker Boehner is talking about, when it comes do uncertainty.  Explain what uncertainty is over the debt limit deadline and what it could do ultimately to the economy as I was talking to the congressman, if we drag this out until August 2nd.

REICH:  Look, there‘s no doubt.  I don‘t know that anybody in the capital markets, in the United States or around the world believes that the United States is not going to raise the debt limit.  I mean, the full, faith and credit of the United States is so important and so basic to the global capital market that they are—the debt limit will be raised.

This is just an elaborate game of chicken going on between Republicans and primarily—basically the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party saying, look, we will not do anything.  We will not swerve in this game of chicken.  And Democrats who say, look, you‘ve got to at least consider some tax increases on the wealthy to get the long-term budget deficit down.

But, Thomas, if I can just say one thing—I think that this debate that‘s going on in Washington right now, although it‘s very important, and all the Democrats, I believe, are absolutely correct, this debate is becoming increasingly disconnected from where most people in this economy are.  I mean, the reason that the stock market plunged today is because ADP, which is a payroll, employee payroll firm, projected that in this month, that is last month of May, there were only 38,000 jobs created.

I mean, we‘re in an economic crisis right now.  We‘re heading back toward a double-dip recession.  The whole recovery is stalling.  And Washington is debating budget deficits five or 10 years from now.  This is ridiculous.

ROBERTS:  I want you to take a listen to what Speaker Boehner had to say today and then we‘ll talk on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  If we‘re going to raise the debt limit, the spending cuts should exceed the increase in the debt limit.  Otherwise, it will serve to cost us jobs in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: All right.  So, break that—how does that make sense?

REICH:  It doesn‘t make any sense at all.  I mean, the reason we don‘t have jobs right now is because consumers are afraid that they‘re going to lose their jobs or they don‘t have enough money in their pockets.  We‘re actually seeing wages adjusted for inflation dropping.  Hourly wages, 80 percent of Americans, non-supervisory or production workers, their hourly wages are dropping.  At the same time, they are worried about their, you know, their jobs.

Housing values have dropped 33 percent since 2006.  That‘s a larger drop, Thomas, than we‘ve seen in this country since the Great Depression.  I mean, if the major asset of most people, which is their homes—

ROBERTS:  Right.

REICH:  -- takes that much of a cut, people are not going to go out and buy.  And if people don‘t go out and buy, then we‘re going to have a return to a recession.  It‘s because consumers, American consumers, the vast middle class, simply doesn‘t have the purchasing power to continue to buy.

ROBERTS:  Right.

REICH:  That‘s the key problem right now.  It has nothing to do with the budget deficit five or 10 years from now.  I mean, the Republicans don‘t know what they‘re talking about.

ROBERTS:  Well, certainly homeownership is not the nest egg that it used to be.

But I want to get your opinion on Medicare and Medicaid.  Does it appear that Republicans are using this crisis to ask for cuts that aren‘t necessary as the White House has been suggesting?

REICH:  Well, of course.  They are—you know, they want to cut Medicare, Medicaid.  They want to get rid of food stamps.  I mean, Republicans have hated Medicare and Medicaid ever since they were created.  I mean, they were created, at least in the Republican mind, on the model of the New Deal program, Social Security.

And, you know, these are absolutely anathema to Republicans.  They represent big government.  The problem is, most—at least for Republicans, is most Americans love Medicare.  They love Social Security.

They also happen to love Medicaid because Medicaid is the last resort for a lot of Americans and a lot of seniors who have no other way of basically keeping going.

And so, what we‘re having is this disjuncture between the ideology of the Republican Party right now and where most Americans are on these fundamental social safety nets.  And Democrats—look, obviously, Democrats are playing on this and Democrats have every right to play on it.

ROBERTS:  Robert Reich, author of “Aftershock”—sir, it‘s nice to spend more time with you today.  I appreciate it.

REICH:  Thanks, Thomas.  Bye-bye.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, as the Great Recession took its toll on Main Street, corporate America did make a profit—why a dozen of the country‘s largest companies raked in billions and paid little to no taxes.

And then Governor Chris Christie is take something heat from New Jersey taxpayers for using a state helicopter to catch a baseball game and a meeting with Iowa power Republicans who want them to save their party.  We‘ve got more on chopper-gate.  It‘s coming up later on the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  Welcome back, everyone.

We‘re following breaking news out of Massachusetts that we started the show with.  You are looking at this footage of a tornado hitting the city of Springfield earlier.  This comes to us from our affiliate in Boston, WHDH.

As you can see, this was really a destructive force of nature.

Now, at this hour, state officials are confirming that at least four people are dead after multiple tornadoes swept through the western and central parts of the state.  Governor Deval Patrick has declared a state of emergency, calling up the National Guard to aid in rescue and response efforts there.

As many as 12,000 homes are currently without power.  The tornadoes have also caused an unknown number of injuries, also considerable damage.

We‘re going to continue to monitor this story and bring you any developments right here.  And we‘re back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  Big companies, big profits, zero taxes.  That‘s the headline out of the latest report from the non-profit Citizens for Tax Justice.

The study followed a dozen of the country‘s largest corporations, including General Electric, which is a minority owner of NBC Universal.  And while Main Street got squeezed during the Great Recession, these companies raked in major profits over $170 billion worth, to be exact.  And they paid an effective tax rate of negative 1.5 percent, meaning that the companies got money back in the form of tax benefits.

As “Forbes” puts it, “Not only have these 12 companies paid zero in taxes, they actually received tax subsidies that added $62.4 billion to their bottom lines.”

The study shows that not one single company paid anywhere close to the full 35 percent statutory tax rate.  And to make matters worse, if just these 12 companies had paid at a 35 percent tax rate over the past three years, total federal revenues from corporate taxes would have been 12 percent higher than they actually were.  It‘s pretty amazing when you think about it.

It‘s time to call in, though, Pat Garofalo, the economic policy editor for ThinkProgress.org.

Pat, it‘s good to have you on.

Explain to all of us because, you know, so many of us are—we pay our taxes on time.  We want to be good Americans, upstanding citizens.  It‘s nice to get something back.

But explain to us how these big companies can get away with this.

PAT GAROFALO, THINK PROGRESS:  Well, the way these big companies get away with it is because the corporate tax code is an absolute disaster.  While the rate is high on paper, it‘s so cluttered up with credits, deductions, loopholes and there‘s so much outright tax evasion that companies end up paying next to nothing or in the case of a company like G.E., making billions in tax benefits on top of their billions in profits.

ROBERTS:  So, are these 12 companies just the tip of the iceberg here, Pat?  I mean, are there more corporations out there that are enjoying these tax loopholes which just aren‘t getting the attention?

GAROFALO:  Oh, absolutely.  Corporate tax revenue is at historic lows at the moment.  Fifty years ago, corporate tax revenue made up about 23 percent of total revenue.  Now, it‘s down to about 6 percent or 7 percent.

So, this really is the tip of the iceberg.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, explain, though, how can Republicans continue to make the argument about lowering taxes and doing so to say we‘re going to create job growth, but we‘re not watching job growth in this company.  However, all these places, all these 12 companies and then some are raking in these billions of dollars.

GAROFALO:  Well, that‘s exactly the problem.  If we really believed that tax cuts created tons of jobs, we would have seen lots and lots of job creation over the last decade.  It hasn‘t happened.

Republicans like to dress up their tax cuts under the guise of tax reform which if you structured it correctly and did it right, you actually could lower the corporate tax rate while raising more revenue for the federal government.  But the way Republicans want to do it will actually just end up costing the government more money.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, both President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner have argued for deficit neutral corporate tax reform.  And you write this is a colossal missed opportunity.  Why is that?

GAROFALO:  Because, like I said, corporate revenue is at historic lows.  And you could easily reform the system in a way that brings the rate down, levels the playing field, makes the U.S. more competitive, but still raises more revenue.  If you don‘t raise more revenue from the corporate tax code, that just means they‘re going to put more of the burden of deficit reduction on to the middle class, on to the working class.

And actually if you look at Ronald Reagan‘s 1986 corporate tax reform, that system raised more revenue after the reform than it did before.

ROBERTS:  All right.  So, you‘ve written that both major parties have not been able to put together any type of vision for corporate tax reform that would raise net revenues and really tackle deficits.  So, explain to all of us what happens if they fail to act and what does that do to the larger picture for the long run?

GAROFALO:  Well, if they fail to act, we‘re just stuck with this code that doesn‘t make any sense and the taxpayer will continue to pay companies that are already hugely profitable.

ROBERTS:  And if they do act, what can we see changed?  I mean, if we‘re talking baby steps here, Pat.

GAROFALO:  I certainly hope at the very least, they can start cleaning out some of the credits, cleaning out some of the deductions, getting rid of things like oil subsidies that make no sense when oil is $100 a barrel.  Those are the sort of things you can kind of start scraping the surface of what is a huge problem.

ROBERTS:  Maybe they can snowball from there.

Pat Garofalo of Think Progress—Pat, great to have you on tonight. 

Thanks.

GAROFALO:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  Sarah Palin‘s trip to the Big Apple brought her across the street to meet her bosses at FOX News.  I‘m going to tell you why Uncle Rupert might be changing his tune on Palin‘s political future.

And civil libertarians are upset over the latest controversial law signed by Rick Scott of Florida.  Wait until you hear this one.  We‘ll explain, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  Hi, everybody.  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts.

The economic downturn of the past few years has hit the state of Florida and done so pretty hard.  The unemployment rate in that state is well above the national average, at nearly 10.5 percent.  And now, thanks to a new law that‘s been signed by the Governor Rick Scott, Florida residents applying for welfare assistance must first prove that they are not on drugs.  This law was signed yesterday and it states residents applying for welfare assistance must first pay for their own drug test.

Now if they pass, they get their money back—the drug test money that is reimbursed.  And then they receive assistance.  If they fail, no money and no money for at least a year.

The drug tests are required for everyone seeking assistance, whether they are suspected of being on drugs or not.

According to the Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, “Searching the bodily fluids of those in need of assistance is a scientifically, fiscally and constitutionally unsound policy.”  Today, that unsound policy is Florida law.

Now, a similar law in Michigan was ruled unconstitutional and that happened back in 2003.

Republican golden boy Chris Christie might be having a case of helicopter envy.  Christie used New Jersey taxpayer money to dine with desperate Iowa Republicans last night.

And then today, Congressman Anthony Weiner abandoned his strategy of silence with regard to Weiner-gate and he hit the interview circuit.  He spoke to MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow less than an hour ago.  We‘ve got the highlights for you—straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Chris Christie, I‘ve been watching you from across the river.  I really like you.  I really—I‘m going to play some of the audio from you. 

You may be George Washington.  I don‘t know.  You may be George Washington.  I‘m not willing to say—I‘m not willing to put my—my hopes on any man at this point, but you are beginning to appear to be a man who just doesn‘t speak it, but lives it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  George Washington?  No wooden teeth on Chris Christie, though.  All right, so New Jersey Governor Chris Christie needs a friend like Glenn Beck right now.  The governor who made his marks slashing the jobs of thousands of public school teachers and preaching about shared sacrifice used a state helicopter to attend his son‘s baseball game yesterday. 

And according to the “Newark Star Ledger,” Christie landed in the state‘s 12.5 million dollar helicopter just before the game began, buzzing over the treetops in left field and distracting spectators.  Christie then got out of that helicopter and jumped straight back into a black sedan with tinted windows. 

The driver took Christie and his wife the grand total of about 100 yards over to the baseball diamond.  The Christies, reportedly flanked by bodyguards, watched this game from the stands.  Well, at least some of the game, because in the fifth, the umpires had to stop this non-public high school tournament game it in order for the Christies to hop back in their car, head over that 100 yards. 

Christie felt the need to leave his eldest son‘s game early because he was scheduled to meet with wealthy Iowa Republican voters who traveled to the Garden State to convince the first term governor to run for president in 2012.  Democrats are jumping all over Christie for using taxpayer money to watch his kid‘s baseball game and meeting with out of state big wigs. 

State Assemblyman Paul Moriarty said, quote, “Governor Christie has no qualms decimating health care for women, slashing property tax relief for seniors and raising income taxes on working families.  But apparently he doesn‘t hesitate to abuse taxpayer dollars by taking taxpayer-paid helicopter jaunts.” 

Joining us now from New Jersey is New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg.  It‘s great to have you on here tonight.  I want to get straight to this.

What does it say to you?  What does this story about the governor and doing something like this?  Is this just a misstep on his part?  Lapse of judgment? 

LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NEW JERSEY STATE SENATOR:  Well, I think it‘s part of a road of a lapse of judgments.  First of all, it‘s a very big helicopter.  If anybody has seen a picture of it. 

Second of all, it‘s a helicopter that was bought for by the taxpayers for homeland security or to be able to pick somebody up who needed a quick flight to a hospital out of an accident scene. 

So if anything had occurred while he was on his way to a baseball game, the helicopter wouldn‘t have been available. 

Governor Christie does not need me to give him a lecture on what‘s right and what‘s wrong.  I think he knows it.  But there‘s a certain arrogance that he has displayed that needs much more self-control.  And arrogance that we‘ve seen—well, dating back from the campaign days when he rode the wrong way down a one-way street and hit a motorcyclist who was going the right way, and blamed the victim for the accident. 

Or when he was a U.S. attorney and consistently billed the federal government for higher than the limits for very special hotel rooms which had to be reserved.  And to take a helicopter to your son‘s baseball game on a day, by the way, when he had no public appearances, according to his public schedule—to take a helicopter to your son‘s baseball game and then have a car driven—I‘m assuming the car was driven by a state trooper from Trenton to ferry him 100 yards from the helicopter to the baseball game. 

And if I know adolescent boys, I‘ll bet you his son wanted to duck in a hole with all of this commotion, having raised at least one of them.  Not one of his, but one of my own. 

ROBERTS:  Kind of impressive, though, when your pop shows up in the helicopter and there‘s a big bodyguard coming and the sedan with the tinted windows.  It‘s kind of intimidating, especially if you are on the other team. 

WEINBERG:  My guess is it was probably very embarrassing, since they had to stop the game because of the whirling helicopter and the wind. 

ROBERTS:  But is there anything illegal about the governor using this helicopter? 

WEINBERG:  Whether it‘s illegal in terms of criminal, no.  But we do have rules and regulations.  And Governor Christie has seemed to have shown more than once during the—during his campaign for governor and now since he‘s been governor that there are rules for some people and then are rules for him. 

The arrogance of going, I‘m assuming, from the state house in Trenton, wherever the helicopter took off, to a baseball game, because he had to be back to meet with a group of Republicans from Iowa to tell them he wasn‘t running for president—I would like to know how much that trip cost, what it cost in fuel.  And I‘d like to see the governor, for once, stand up and say, you know what?  I made a mistake.

And I‘m assuming that he will reimburse the state of New Jersey for the cost of the helicopter. 

ROBERTS:  It‘s not just about saying I made a mistake.  It‘s also about writing a check. 

WEINBERG:  Absolutely.  This was definitely a private trip.  And he definitely showed the kind of excesses that he‘s been known for here in New Jersey.  He does talk about shared sacrifice.  He does talk about cuts in budget.  I‘ve been one of the leading proponents.

Seven and a half million dollars out of women‘s health care, to give poor women access to HIV testing, mammogram, all kinds of health services and, indeed, birth control, which I thought was a fight we finished a number of generations ago. 

We‘ve closed six women‘s health care centers since Governor Christie zeroed that money out of the budget.  So when there is such a press for so many important programs—we‘ve raised taxes on working poor people while we haven‘t raised taxes on millionaires. 

So I would suggest that he go back to driving a car if he‘d like to go to his son‘s baseball game. 

ROBERTS:  That‘s the way we all get around.  New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg, thanks for coming in tonight.  Appreciate your time. 

WEINBERG:  Thank you. 

ROBERTS:  Absolutely. 

Stay with us, everyone, because Congressman Anthony Weiner can‘t say for sure if it‘s him in the naughty photo allegedly released into the Twitter-sphere from his account.  But his long time friend, Jon Stewart of “the Daily Show,” swears it‘s not like the Weiner he knows.  You‘re going to find out why he‘s so certain, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  That risque picture that was allegedly sent from Congressman Anthony Weiner‘s twitter account is great fodder for the late night guys, especially like Jon Stewart.  But with this story, Stewart was faced with a real dilemma, because he‘s been a friend of Weiner‘s for the last quarter century.  Ultimately, he opted to semi-defend his friend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  The cons of this story is this is my friend Anthony.  Not this, but this.  This guy is a friend of mine.  As a comedian, it‘s a slam dunk.  Weiner name, Weiner picture, where‘s my check?

But as a friend, I really hope that this story is not true.  I do have my doubts about its veracity, having nothing to do with the circumstantial back and forth that seems to be going on about it. 

My doubts stem from this: no way, no (EXPLETIVE DELETED) way.  Seriously.  No way.  No way.  In real life, my memory is this cat had a lot more Anthony and a lot less Weiner.  This is not what I remember. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  All right, so Congressman Weiner took that joke in stride, telling reporters today that Stewart may have been right.  And while he is clear about saying he did not send that photo.  He has not conclusively said whether or not this picture is of him. 

We‘re going to have more on that, plus highlights from Weiner‘s conversation with my colleague, Rachel Maddow, next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Congressman Anthony Weiner said that he is done talking about that lewd picture that was allegedly sent from his Twitter account to a college girl in Seattle.  But after a testy exchange with reporters yesterday, that strategy went out the window. 

Now Weiner seems to have decided that he can‘t ignore all these questions about what has come to be known as Weiner-gate.  The congressman spoke to NBC‘s Luke Russert earlier today and he again referred to the incident as a prank, and unequivocally denied sending that picture. 

But he was much less clear about whether this Tweeted photo is actually of him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS:  The picture that went over Twitter to Jeannette Cordova from your account, is that you? 

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Well, let‘s keep in mind what happened here.  I was pranked.  I was hacked.  I was punked, whatever it is.  Someone sent out a picture. 

RUSSERT:  But that‘s not a picture of you? 

WEINER:  I can‘t say with certitude. 

RUSSERT:  Congressman, you would remember if you were to take a photograph of yourself like that. 

WEINER:  Well, you know, one of the reasons we‘ve asked an Internet security firm to come in is to see maybe if something was manipulated. 

RUSSSERT:  You will not flat out deny that that photograph is not you? 

WEINER:  Here‘s what I will say.  I will say that we are trying to figure out exactly what happened here. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  All right, so as you can imagine, that somewhat evasive answer unleashes a real stream of speculation.  Congressman Weiner took another crack at the question just about an hour ago on “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  You haven‘t answered a question about whether the photo is you or not.  You realize that now everybody thinks the photo is you. 

WEINER:  Am I allowed to say I wish.  Look, we don‘t know for sure.  The photograph doesn‘t look familiar to me.  But a lot of people who have been looking at this stuff on our behalf are cautioning me that stuff gets manipulated.  Stuff gets—you can change a photograph.  You can manipulate a photograph.  You can doctor a photograph. 

So I don‘t want to say with certitude.  It maybe didn‘t start out being a photograph of mine and now looks as something different, or maybe it was something that was from another account that got sent to me.  I don‘t—I can‘t say for sure.  I don‘t want to say with certitude.  I‘m not trying to be evasive.  I just don‘t know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  For more, let me bring in Errol Louis, host of New York One‘s “Inside City Hall.”  So Errol, here we have him saying, well, maybe it was me.  It‘s kind of impressive.  This pixilated bulge that we‘re showing on our air now.  But has the congressman successfully answered these questions around this Tweeted picture that it can go away? 

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK ONE:  I don‘t think so.  Some of this is in the eye of the beholder.  I interviewed him earlier tonight as well. 

ROBERTS:  The picture? 

LOUIS:  Well, the—the reality is, look, he said—up to a certain point, he said, look, here‘s what I know and here‘s what I don‘t know.  When somebody says they don‘t know, some journalists will take that as a cue to keep pressing them.  Some others will say, OK, the guy doesn‘t know.  Until we get some more information, there‘s no point in badgering him further about it. 

I thought also it was very interesting on Rachel‘s show that she showed that some people on her staff could, within minutes, basically—

ROBERTS:  Manipulate a Twitter account. 

LOUIS:  Sure, hack the account, in effect, and do what might have happened to him, which is what he says.  The young lady says she‘s never been to D.C. or New York.  She doesn‘t know the guy.  She never saw the photo. 

At some point, you have to start looking for—is there a real victim here?  Is there a real crime? 

Having said all of that, some of his answers sound a little bit evasive. 

ROBERTS:  Which leads to the speculation.  Because it was yesterday, though, that the congressman really gave some testy responses.  Said he was done talking about it.  Then changed his mind about that.  Made the rounds to about every media outlet. 

I know you also had an opportunity to speak to him. 

LOUIS:  Yes. 

ROBERTS:  What was that interview like?  And what do you think changed that made him feel, OK, I‘ve got to reverse course and really tackle this head-on? 

LOUIS:  I think what changed was that he realized he was getting a lot of bad press.  He was getting a lot of negative—sort of inferences were being drawn against him.  He just decided—and people were also going into this secondary question of why is he reacting so badly? 

So he, I think, very wisely—he‘s a very media savvy guy—decided to try and get control of the story, get control of the situation and come out and speak to people.  I mean, on my station, we‘re the home crowd.  We cover all of New York City and all of his constituents. 

So he wanted to communicate and get his side of the story out.  It‘s not a particularly satisfying story for people who like the whole thing wrapped up neatly with a bow on top.  But he‘s telling the truth as he sees it.  And he‘s decided that that‘s his best strategy. 

ROBERTS:  So politically, though, it is a distraction for him right now.  But he spoke to Rachel about how he intends to deal with that politically.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  How do you intend to reassure your constituents and to the people who have supported you politically that they shouldn‘t think that you are a creep? 

WEINER:  Well, you know, the simple fact here is that what this appears to be is probably what it is.  People get hacked all the time.  Hundreds of thousands of times each year someone has their account either compromised or someone else takes their name or something like that. 

It happened to me.  This is what life is like perhaps in social media and the world of 2011.  And I‘ll do the very best I can to persuade my constituents both I‘m going to keep doing my job and, to be honest with you, I‘m going to return to Twitter.  I‘m going to keep doing the things I was doing because I think it helps me do my job. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  OK, he‘s remaining the course.  Since perception is reality, what is the perception of your listeners.  Have you had people calling in asking questions and raising concerns about how they think this could have happened?  Why this could have happened? 

LOUIS:  Not yet, but I‘ll be honest with you, we also—I used my interview time with him to ask him about what he thought about secure communities and some other stuff.  This guy is a public servant on the public payroll.  He needs to do his job. 

It‘s important that he do his job, not just for his own political sake, but for the sake of his constituents and for the good of our state and for the country. 

So I think it‘s important that you not get too distracted with this stuff.  He says he‘s going to dig up more information with this lawyer and this Internet firm.  I‘d be very interested to see what he comes up with.  Frankly, I‘m not all that interested.  Because as we‘ve seen tonight, it‘s very easy to fake these things. 

ROBERTS:  Yeah, it is.  But interesting to know.  If do we get some conclusive results, we‘ll have them.  Share them with everybody.  I don‘t know. 

LOUIS:  Yeah.  Well, and if he doesn‘t want to be forthcoming, then he‘s going to have another problem.  But I think he understands that by now. 

ROBERTS:  I was going to say, this is a person that has gone out and, I mean, either he‘s drinking a lot of Maalox, he‘s a sociopath or there‘s something else going on.  Because he‘s been on everybody‘s air today talking about this. 

Hopefully he can sleep well and rest well tonight.  Who knows.  Errol Louis of New York One‘s “Inside City Hall,” thanks for your time tonight. 

LOUIS:  Good to see you, Tom.

ROBERTS:  So the Palins have taken Manhattan.  Sarah saw Lady Liberty, shared a slice with the Donald and met with one of the networks in New York who signs her checks.  We‘re going to show you why she might be actually one step closer to making that official run for President Obama, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS:  Finally tonight, over the last five days, much has been made of Sarah Palin‘s magical mystery tour of America.  Now in between motorcycle exhaust and pizza with the Donald, Palin spoke through Fox on her bus yesterday. 

Now to her credit, Palin‘s buddy and colleague, Greta Van Susteren, asked the failed vice presidential candidate some real questions. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  The United States, the inner cities have unemployment rates of—they are skyrocketing, 25 percent, especially the young African-American teenage, 18 to 25 age group.  What—

I mean, what should we be doing about that? 

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  The private sector needs to be allowed to create jobs.  The private sector is allowed to create jobs when our job creators are allowed to keep more of what they earn, what they produce, so that they can reinvest in their own businesses and expand. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Not only has President Obama extended the Bush tax cuts, his policies have been part of 14 straight months of private sector job growth. 

Now next, Van Susteren turned to the controversial Ryan budget plan. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  What do you make of the Ryan budget program with Social Security and also the fuss within the Republican party about it? 

PALIN:  Well, the Ryan plan, of course, focuses less on Social Security than it does on Medicare.  And from day one, I have said thank you, Representative Ryan, for coming out with a plan.  And people who are slamming his plan and calling it social engineering or belittling his efforts, you know, for shame. 

I want to know where their plan is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  President Obama shamed Congressman Ryan when he laid out his budget on April 13th.  And the vice president is meeting of both parties to hammer out a long-term deal almost every day now.  And back in April, Palin was not very fond of the president‘s plan.  She sounded even more negative last night.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN:  President Obama is dead wrong to try to—he‘s deceiving the public in making it sound like we can just go along the way that we‘ve been going and still have, at the end of the day, somebody‘s retirement years that they‘re going to be able to receive what it is they paid into the system. 

We‘re going belly up.  So President Obama is wrong.  And if he says and he will say, oh, we‘re working on reform.  We‘re talking about reform in our budgets—bull. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Greta turned the conversation to political tones.  She asked the person who told voters to reload how to get the American people to stop fighting. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  How does one inspire the American people to stop fighting and get on the same page?  A lot of people are complaining about President Obama.  Before that, it was President Bush.  There really is a lot of resistance. 

PALIN:  You stop fighting by taking a step back and looking at the facts.  Look at the debt that has been accumulated in the last two years.  It‘s more debt under this president than all those other presidents combined. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Think Progress points out this is flatly false.  When Obama took office, the debt stood at 10.6 trillion dollars.  After inheriting two wars and the worst economy since the Great Depression, the debt has grown by 3.7 trillion since Obama has been in office.  Pain is off by roughly seven trillion bucks. 

Joining us now is editor in chief of ThinkProgress.org, Faiz Shakir.  Has the media focused too much on the circus and not the substance of what is the Sarah Palin bus tour? 

FAIZ SHAKIR, THINKPROGRESS.ORG:  That‘s undeniably true.  But let‘s look  at like what Sarah Palin is doing here.  It‘s consistent with her character.  In 2008, when she stepped out as a vice presidential candidate, nobody knew who the heck this lady was. 

Then she loved the media spotlight so much that she promptly resigned her position as the governor of Alaska, the elected job for which she was being paid 125,000 dollars a year.  Why did she resign?  So she could go sign a seven million dollar book deal, so that she could star in a television series that would pay her 250,000 dollars an episode, so that she could get paid 100,000 dollars for speeches, to be paid as a Fox News pundit. 

This isn‘t about principles.  It never has been.  This is about brand marketing.  Michael Jordan sells shoes.  Suzanne Somers sells Thighmaster.  Sarah Palin sells jingoistic, right wing hate politics.  Unfortunately, there‘s a market for it and she‘s selling it. 

ROBERTS:  And she‘s still cashing in when it comes to Fox News, because Palin met with the executives from Fox News during her bus tour today.  And Bill Shine—that‘s the network‘s vice president of programming—said, quote, “right now there is no change in her status with Fox News.” 

At the start of her tour, though, Shine didn‘t include the words “right now.”  And at the same time, he said that we‘re not changing her status.  Do you think, though, that Fox knows that Palin is not going to run and that‘s why they are letting this go on as long as they have, where they suspended other people, like Newt Gingrich and Santorum from their paychecks? 

SHAKIR:  Yes, that‘s the key point.  When Santorum and Gingrich were floating the possibility of running, Fox asked both of those people to step aside from their paid gigs, which suggested that they knew that it would create a conflict for the network.  They haven‘t asked Sarah Palin to do that, which suggests that they don‘t think she‘s going to run. 

So there‘s this great deception that the whole thing is built upon, which is that Sarah Palin goes out there as a pseudo-candidate, gets all this air time, gets the exposure, talks to her base, markets herself, brands herself. 

Fox gets the ratings, gets the exclusive interviews.  But nobody gets the truth about this false deception that‘s being created around her pseudo-candidate candidacy, which is that she is not running or somebody needs to come out, as I think hopefully was discussed today, and put this claim to rest. 

Fox can‘t continue to parade itself as the network that‘s giving free air time to potential candidates. 

ROBERTS:  Do you think the—we had “Sarah Palin‘s Alaska.”  Do you think this is another reality show, maybe just Sarah Palin‘s USA.  And it‘s National Lampoon‘s American Style? 

SHAKIR:  Look at what their trip is.  She‘s going to the Constitution. 

She‘s going to Gettysburg.  She‘s going to Ellis Island. 

She‘s got this sense of I‘m more patriotic than you are.  I‘m more American than you are.  If she were to run, that‘s clearly the message, that she‘s more American than you are. 

But what is she selling?  It‘s just a hate politics.  She‘s more American than Obama, but when Obama captures bin Laden, what does Sarah Palin do?  She says, oh, thank you, President Bush.  Not a word for President Obama.  Instead, rips Obama for not releasing photos. 

ROBERTS:  Right.  But you have to notice, though, that her signature is as large as the preamble of the Constitution on the side of that bus.  It‘s sharp.  It‘s looking good. 

Faiz Shakir—

SHAKIR:  It‘s a landmark.  It‘s an American landmark.

ROBERTS:  It‘s a moving landmark.  Thanks for joining us tonight.  We appreciate it.

SHAKIR:  Thanks, Thomas.

ROBERTS:  That is THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, filling in for Ed tonight.  You can catch me at my regular hour on MSNBC tomorrow at 11:00 am Eastern.  I‘ll be much more well rested.

“THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now. 

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