updated 6/23/2011 11:45:07 AM ET 2011-06-23T15:45:07

Guests: Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Michael Sheehan, Ashwin Madia, Mayor Virg Bernero, Jonathan Alter

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

The big news this evening: President Obama announced his plans to bring home 10,000 troops by the end of this year, and 33,000 by next summer, as the Afghan forces begin to take over securing their own nation.

Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow will join me to discuss the president‘s plan and the reaction so far.

This is THE ED SHOW, let‘s get to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

           

SCHULTZ (voice-over):  President Obama announces his plan to start pulling troops out of Afghanistan.  But is it mission accomplished?  And what about the 70,000 troops left behind?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow on the policy and the politics.

A bipartisan group of senators push for a one-year extension of military operations in Libya.  What happened to weeks not months?

And Democrats in Congress finally called out Republicans who they say are trying to sabotage the economy because it will hurt President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  They believe that a weak economy is their best chance of winning the next election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  So, what will the Democrats do about it?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHULTZ:  Good evening, folks, from Las Vegas tonight.

I want to say one thing off the top, I‘m not sold.

Fifty-two days after President Obama announced Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, he announces to the country his new plan to draw down a nearly 10-year military involvement in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals.  As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.  And we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point.

After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.  Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Ten thousand troops this year and another 23,000 by next summer in my opinion it‘s not enough.  This isn‘t going to satisfy the liberal base, the antis out there.

President Obama made this announcement as more and more Americans, more than ever, want this war to end.  A new poll shows 56 percent of Americans think our troops should come home as soon as possible, 39 percent say the military should remain in Afghanistan, until the situation has stabilized.  Stabilized?

After 33,000 troops come home, it will still leave 68,000 Americans in that country, along with all the private contractors, with only 50 al Qaeda remaining?  It doesn‘t make sense.

This chart from “Think Progress” shows America will still have twice as many troops in Afghanistan as we did the day President Obama was inaugurated.  America‘s longest war has come at one hell of a price.

The president, I think, did a great job communicating to American people tonight that he understands the sacrifice and is connected to the soldier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country.  We‘ve learned anew the profound costs of war.  A cost that‘s been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan—men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom they defended.  Thousands more have been wounded.  Some have lost limbs on the battlefield.  And others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet, tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.  Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm‘s way.  We‘ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country.  And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of the secure peace can be seen in the distance.  These long wars will come to a responsible end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Well, if the tide is receding, now is the time to bring this war to a responsible end.  Afghanistan is a graveyard and has been a graveyard for empires that America needs to get off before our nation crumbles financially.  This has been a graveyard for countries that have been gone into Afghanistan for hundreds of years.

And the president still holds out hope for peace.  I think security is what we should be concerned about.  We can‘t have peace everywhere.  It‘s wishful thinking.

The president made this point tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Over the last decade, we have spent $1 trillion on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.  Now, we must invest in America‘s greatest resource, our people.  We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means.  We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy.  And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.

For our nation draws strength from our differences.  And when our Union is strong, no hill is too steep; no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I completely agree with the president.  And I think millions of Americans do as well.

But keeping 68,000 troops in Afghanistan for the next three years is going to cost billions of dollars.  And hold it right there when he talks about nation-building—there‘s a political reality to all of this.  Nation-building with what money?  Nation-building with the help of the Republicans?  It isn‘t going to be there.

The financial cost of the war in Afghanistan has already passed $440 billion and it‘s on the rise.  Right now, we are spending $120 billion a year, twice as much as two years ago.

This is not an exit strategy.  This is a troop shift.

The president said he wants to shift the mission from combat to support.  I think we heard Bush say that all the time.

I don‘t think the American people and I won‘t be on board for any more nation-building in Afghanistan.  Not the state of the American worker in this country and what we‘re going through.

The president is taking, I think, a pragmatic approach to hopefully get a successful conclusion.  There‘s a little bit for the left here tonight.  There‘s a little bit for the right here tonight.  There‘s a little bit for every political facet to chew on.

At the same time, we are going to be spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan for years to come.  And that‘s not where the American people are.

Mr. President, I have immense respect for you, but I have to call this one as I see it—it was not a good night at the office.

And this talk about nation-building—with what money?  You can‘t get money out of the Republicans right now.  What nation-building are we going to do?

You have to cut expenses.  This country has to cut expenses.  Meaning, we have to cut the cord over there.  Not take another bite out of the American worker here on our soil.

I‘m disappointed tonight.  And I think a lot of Americans are going to be disappointed.

Get your cell phones out.  I want to know what you think.

Tonight‘s question: do you think President Obama is pulling troops out of Afghanistan too slowly or too quickly?  Text A for too slowly, text B for too quickly, to 622639.  And, of course, you can always go to our blog at Ed.MSNBC.com.

I am honored tonight to have my two colleagues tonight here with us tonight on THE ED SHOW, Rachel Maddow, host of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW,” and also, Chris Matthews, the host of “HARDBALL.”

You know what?  Watching this tonight, I was almost speechless.  I expected more.  And I think it‘s lofty thinking to think that we can do nation-building at home when you got the Republicans down the street that are about squawking that you know they‘re not going to help the president out.

Rachel, what is—did he go far enough tonight in your opinion?

RACHEL MADDOW, “TRMS” HOST:  I think the president tonight did not answer the question that was on everybody‘s mind.  And the question that‘s on everybody‘s mind is, “Now that we‘ve killed Osama bin Laden, can we please go home?”  If we‘re not going to go home, what is it that 70,000 Americans are going to do in the next three and a half years that we haven‘t been able to do in the past decade of being in Afghanistan?

There‘s very, very simple questions.  I think you‘re right to key in on the president‘s rhetoric about nation-building.  He says, we want a nation built at home.  We don‘t want to nation-build in Afghanistan.  That is what people want to hear.

He talked about—as you pointed out—the tide of war receding, the light of a secure peace could be seen in the distance.  But the deadline he‘s talking about, the end of 2014, that‘s the same deadline he was talking about in December 2009.

And a really important thing has happened since then—Bin Laden‘s dead.  He defined this narrowly as a war against al Qaeda.  The head of al Qaeda has been cut off.  And not—

SCHULTZ:  Chris—

MADDOW:  -- knowing why that changes our strategy I think that leaves the biggest question unanswered tonight.

SCHULTZ:  Chris, did he go far enough tonight?  How is this going to play politically for the president going into an election year?

CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  Well, I don‘t see how it helps him.  And I think, Ed, I agree with everything you said, maybe with a different point of view.  Well, actually no different point of view, maybe different you said it.

But, you know, I keep looking at this question a couple ways.  If Barack Obama had been elected as he was in 2008, came into office in August 2009, and there hadn‘t been a war in Afghanistan, would he have taken us in?  No way in the world.

Would the American people have understood any president take us in under the current circumstances?  No.  We were taken in under the argument that we were in hot pursuit by al Qaeda.

We obviously let them go in Tora Bora.  We didn‘t really seem to make an effort in the end to catch him.  You wonder when we lost the trail, when we wanted to lose the trail and try to do something else over there.

I have to admit, in all of these regards, I have a deep, deep prejudice and that‘s against American occupation of countries overseas.  I believe in nationalism.  I believe what we call patriotism in this country is not unique to us.

Every country in the world, every village has a patriotic spirit, a local spirit, a resentment of occupation by others.  Even the Brits when we were fighting the Nazis together, in the best possible war in human history, they said of American G.I.s, overpaid, oversexed, over here.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  People don‘t like other people in their country with guns.  We are in that country with guns giving orders.  No one‘s going to like us, and as the years go on—now, what is it, since 2001, 10 years, they begin to hate you.

And the easiest thing in the world to do is to be a Taliban official right now—if they call them officials—and say, let‘s get those damn Americans out of this country.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What An easy battle cry, bringing men and women into war against us.

SCHULTZ:  And, Rachel, do you feel confident that this is going to be over in 2014 after going down this road for 10 years?

MADDOW:  I want to know if there‘s going to be a declaration that combat operations in Afghanistan have ended.  We heard that combat operations in Iraq had ended prematurely from President Bush, and then we heard it from President Obama almost against his will when the last combat troops left Iraq this past August.  There have been another 50,000 Americans in Iraq that will be there until New Year‘s Eve this year, and then it will be over.

But that key point, that combat operations were ending, the troops were pulling back to bases, that they would be in a support role, and they would essentially be managing the fact that we were getting out of the country.  It was an important psychological turning point for the country.  It‘s why Iraq stopped getting covered, frankly.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Are we going to have that moment in Afghanistan?  Or is it going to be combat until 2014?

The president tonight described a nebulous transformation of the mission, but gave no time period for when it would actually happen.

SCHULTZ:  And, Chris, two administration officials are saying that General Petraeus did not endorse this position.  Politically, does this give the Republicans an opening to criticize him?  And do you think they‘ll take it?

MATTHEWS:  Look, look, the president is the commander-in-chief.  The civilian leadership makes the calls.  General Petraeus is an honorable soldier, a great soldier.  He does not set policy.

Anyone who says he should doesn‘t understand the American Constitution.  With no discredit to the general, he doesn‘t set policy, the elected officials of our government do.

And, by the way, on the point of Iraq, look how we‘re leaving.  Look

to al Sadr, I just don‘t like the looks of it, to be honest, is now saying

he wants us out by the date we said we‘re leaving.  Here‘s this guy you can

predict will be the next leader of Iraq, a Shia, close to Iran.  This is

what we‘ve done with all the blood and treasure since 2003.  This hilarious

hilariously ridiculous war in Iraq, it‘s going to put that guy in charge, the guy who tells us to leave.

           

That‘s what we get over there for gratitude, for all that we‘ve done to get rid of Saddam Hussein, a little leader like Muqtada al Sadr who tells us to get the hell out of his country.  And that‘s how we‘re going to leave, with the door slamming behind us.

I can only expect that when the time comes, Karzai or whoever he names with his corrupt government to succeed him, will say the same to us—get the hell out of here, we wish you had never come.  That‘s what we‘re going to get in the end here—from both of these countries.

SCHULTZ:  And, finally, the question for both of you, do we need to

negotiate with the, Rachel, Taliban?  I mean, is this our best exit

strategy at this point?  Because Americans want us out of there, it‘s like

again, you see the American people way ahead of Washington, like a year and a half, two years ahead of Washington.  Do—is our best option to negotiate with the Taliban?

           

MADDOW:  Well, I think that is how are with as end, that you end up talking to people who disagree.  And you get the people who disagree with each other all at the same table and you get people to agree on what they can agree on and you hope that it stops the fighting.  That is the way that wars end.

I honestly don‘t think the American people are going to care very much whether or not U.S. officials are involved in talks with the Taliban.  We know that there are bad guys who you have to deal with, in parts of the world where bad guys have great sway.  Those are the influencers.  And I don‘t think the American people are going to care.

I think if the U.S. left today with no ceremony, there would be almost no difference in the effect on that region than if we -- 

SCHULTZ:  Chris, what do you think?

MADDOW:  -- leave with this long horizon like we got right now.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I agree, and I tell you one thing—Charlie Bartlett, a friend of mine, and a lot of other people, who are smart people, are very concerned about our whole system about presidents get their scorecard punched on the basis of getting re-elected.  Presidents who are involved in wars are very un-inclined to end wars that may not look good the way they end them.

So, every president seeks reelection to get to prove historically that he was the successful president.  And, therefore, you can‘t the end the war on your watch.  That‘s what Johnson went down to.  That‘s what Nixon went down to.  That‘s what Kennedy would have faced if he hadn‘t been assassinated.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  This fear that someone‘s going to say Munich, that somebody going to say, appeasement, then you cut and run.  And so, therefore, to avoid the cut and run charge, the instinct is to fight.  Even when your better instincts as a civilian keep telling you, you know, this was a mistake to begin with, what makes me think I‘m going to change that fact.

SCHULTZ:  No doubt.

Two encyclopedias here on THE ED SHOW tonight, definitely raising the level of conversation, immense respect for both of you.  Thanks so much for working extra tonight.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews with us tonight here on THE ED SHOW.

Remember to answer tonight‘s question there at the bottom of the screen.  I want to know what you think.

The president talked about the ongoing mission in Afghanistan tonight.  But we‘ll ask our guests whether we really need to be in Afghanistan at all to keep our country safe.

And later, Republicans are blatantly trying to tank the economy by rejecting jobs programs and tax cuts in Congress.  Can you believe it?  Today, the Democrats grew a pair, grew a spine and fought back.  That‘s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

The seemingly endless war in Afghanistan has got to have a clear mission if the president expects Americans to support it.  Here is some of what the president said tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  The goal that we seek is achievable.  And can be expressed simply.  No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against on our homeland or our allies.

We won‘t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place.  We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.  That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace.

What we can do and will do is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures, one that ensures we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  The mission and whether we need to be in Afghanistan at all. 

That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

We‘re taking a close look at the president‘s primetime address to the nation this evening on Afghanistan.  He talked about the military mission as well as a need for a political settlement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement.  So, as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile an Afghan people, including the Taliban.  Our position on these talks is clear.  They must be led by the Afghan government.  And those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan, must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence and abide by the Afghan constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  We should also be debating whether the war as it stands now is really keeping us as a nation safer.

Let‘s bring in the interim chairman of VoteVets.org, Ashwin Madia, and NBC terrorism analyst Michael Sheehan.

Gentlemen, thanks for your time tonight.

Ashwin, you first.

Quite simply, did the president make the case that we still need to be in Afghanistan for the sake of our national security?  What do you think?

ASHWIN MADIA, VOTEVETS.ORG:  Well, I‘m not sure in that what the president needs to decide is whether we‘re going to adopt a full-on counterinsurgency strategy or a full-on counterterrorism strategy.  And that‘s going to drive the question of whether we need to be in Afghanistan or not.

If we‘re going to prepare for counterinsurgency, then he needs to prepare the nation for a long term commitment of 10, maybe 20 years, and the financial resources, and the troops that accompany that.

On the other hand, if he wants to do counterterrorism, it‘s going to be based around intelligence and counterterrorism operations, such as what killed bin Laden, then I think we‘ll need far fewer troops and far fewer resources.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ:  Michael, I think that there are a lot of Americans out there, I‘m guessing, a hunch, that they‘re out there tonight saying, is this the only way we can do this?  Is there any other way we can do it?  What do you think?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, I think the

president is quite aware that the country has a whole is becoming very wary

of the effort in Afghanistan.  And I think what the president did today was

as your guests alluded to just recently, he clearly narrowed the mission for the U.S.

           

In his remarks, he talked about—now, we‘re talking about denying sanctuary to al Qaeda.  And you got that all the rhetoric about nation-building, about reinventing Afghanistan, I think what‘s happening here, Ed, is the president is beginning a process of shifting—of narrowing our mission there, which will in turn narrow the commitment of our troops to Afghanistan.  You‘re going to see that evolve over the months ahead.

SCHULTZ:  Gentlemen, I want to pose this question to you.  Both of you, the president mentioned Libya tonight.  And I thought for a moment watching him, I was getting some Bush administration talk about freedom on the march and that the Libyan people deserve an opportunity to have a democracy.  And I‘m paraphrasing here.

But I just felt that was really open-ended.

Ashwin, your thoughts on that.

MADIA:  Well, I agree with you, and I think that anything that happens in Libya ought to be organic from the Libyan people.  And I think that the American people are quite wary of these adventures in Middle Eastern countries to build democracies or to build nations.  And I don‘t think that they‘d support and extended adventure in Libya.

SCHULTZ:  And you, Michael, your thoughts on that, Libya—his comments on that tonight?

SHEEHAN:  I agree, Ed.  The president is talking about aspirations.  Of course, we support the Libyan people have aspirations for democracy, aspirations to get rid of a madman like Gadhafi as the head of the state.  But that doesn‘t mean that we‘re going to make an unlimited, an open-ended military commitment to help them do that.

And I think that‘s what we‘re going to think about in the Middle East, is how can we support these movements without getting ourselves into entanglements that a lot of the American people are growing very wary of.

SCHULTZ:  Michael, you‘ve been around this a long time.  Do we have to have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan to be protected on our shores and on our soil?

SHEEHAN:  I think the issue is, Ed, as we‘ve already discussed, is defining what the issue is.  I think a lot of the military leadership over there rightfully believes, or they believe in their own mind that in order to really secure the United States homeland from attacks from al Qaeda, that they have to completely stabilize Afghanistan and create a really stable state.

I think the president moved away from that formulation tonight, and we‘re going to see later if the military strategy adopts that, where he narrows the mission to a counterterrorism strategy, deny sanctuary there.  And, by the way, our mission in western Pakistan is also to deny sanctuary to al Qaeda in western Pakistan.  And we do not have U.S. forces permanently there.

So, the question will become is how do we deny sanctuary to al Qaeda in places—not just in Afghanistan or around the world, but without having to occupy a country with massive troop numbers.

SCHULTZ:  Ashwin Madia, Michael Sheehan, great to have you both with us tonight.  I appreciate your time.

House Republicans are trying to pull the plug on America‘s military involvement in Libya.  But a bipartisan group of senators—they aren‘t having it.

Tour on ice?  Sarah Palin reportedly quits her bus tour halfway through it.  Sound familiar?  No, we‘re not making it up.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  As President Obama announces a draw down in one conflict, some members of Congress are trying to put an end to another one.  Today, Republican House leaders indicated they plan to bring two measures to the floor this week dealing with American involvement in Libya. 

One is the House version of a bipartisan Senate resolution, introduced by Senators Kerry and McCain.  It would authorize the limited use of force in Libya for one full year.  Meaning no ground troops.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he has the votes to pass that resolution, although it is expected to fail him out. 

The second measure House Republicans discussed today is an attempt to force a withdrawal from Libya, most likely by cutting off funding.  Withdrawal is a measure Senators McCain and Kerry strongly oppose. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Gadhafi is going to fall.  It‘s just a matter of time.  Is this the time to ride to the rescue of a failing tyrant when the writing is on the wall that he will collapse? 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Gadhafi‘s finished.  Ask the people in the country.  The last message that any United States senator wants to send, in my judgment, is that all he has to do is wait us out.  All he has to do is wait for the Congress, even as the progress is being made, the vice is tightening, because we‘re divided at home. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Interesting.  Two Vietnam veterans saying stay in Libya for another year.  So since the Senate doesn‘t support cutting funding, we can chalk this up as another example of the Republican led House of Representatives wasting time on ideological statements, instead of focusing on creating jobs. 

America‘s mayors, well, they take a stand; stop funding the wars. 

I‘ll talk with Lansing mayor—Lansing, Michigan, Mayor Virg Bernero next. 

>

Why did this senator praise a job creating program in Congress and then hours later vote to kill it?  Democrats are finally calling out their Republican counterparts for deliberately trying to hurt the economy under Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Thanks for watching tonight.  OK, folks, let‘s get to the money, the money.  We have spent billions on rebuilding cities on the other side of the world, while neglecting our own here in the United States.  And now a group of our nation‘s mayors, well, they‘ve had enough. 

The United States Conference of Mayors is calling on President Obama and Congress to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, quote, “bring these war dollars home.”

The mayors have passed a resolution noting the huge price tag American cities have paid to keep these wars going over there.  This year, the war effort will cost the people of New York City nearly six billion in tax dollars. 

You folks in Los Angeles, well, you‘re going to pay nearly two billion dollars for all of the shenanigans in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Philadelphia, 612 million. 

Let‘s go to Boise, Idaho, a city of just over 200,000.  They will fork out over 75 million dollars.  Are you asking if it‘s worth it? 

With unemployment high and Congress cutting spending, mayors have been forced to make some real tough choices at home when it comes to job cuts and services.  Take, for example, the two billion that the folks in Los Angeles are spending.  That money could pay for nearly 17,000 elementary school teachers, or 17,000 firefighters.  Or it could have, you know, helped nearly half a million low income folks get access to health care. 

Do we care about that?  It seems like a no-brainer to me.  And the mayors voted on it. 

Joining me now is the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, Virg Bernero.  Virg, great to have you with us tonight.  First of all, your thoughts on this vote.  A vote like this is really a message to the president and to the administration and the lawmakers in Washington that you guys out in the heartland are really taking it financially, and you‘re strapped and you can‘t go anymore.  You need help. 

Do you think the message is going to be received?  And what does this vote mean? 

MAYOR VIRG BERNERO (D), LANSING, MICHIGAN:  Thanks for having me, Ed.  I think the message has been received.  I watched the president tonight.  I heard him talk about nation building at home.  I heard him talk about investing in our number one resource, the American people. 

I think they‘re getting the message.  I hope Congress gets the message.  Look, as mayors, we‘re not trying to make foreign policy.  In reality, we‘re not.  This is unprecedented, in my time, that I‘ve seen them come out and make as deliberate a statement as this. 

And it is the frustration that you‘re talking about.  I mean, how many cities are having to lay off police officers and firefighters and delay unnecessary roadwork?  We‘re suffering across the board.  I mean, municipalities have cut about half a million jobs just in the last couple years. 

We‘re cutting back at a time when the demands are high.  I mean, the shelters are filling up.  The soup—we can‘t keep soup on the shelves of the shelters.  We are in desperate shape.  Our infrastructure is failing.  And we‘re frustrated that we see the infrastructure of other countries being built up. 

We need to pay attention to the infrastructure here in this country. 

SCHULTZ:  We‘re spending more money in Afghanistan than we are in American cities.  I can tell you that, because—

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ:  A lot of the stimulus money is being blocked by these Republican governors across the country.  I want to get your reaction to the president‘s sound bite here on focusing on America.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.  Now, we must invest in America‘s greatest resource, our people.  We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Virg, there‘s a political reality to this.  Number one, where is he going to get the money?  Number two, the Republicans aren‘t going to help him out at all. 

I think the president was somewhat pontificating about how he wants to do nation building.  How is this going to happen on his watch in the first term? 

BERNERO:  Well, Ed, you know, I‘m hoping that he‘s laying the groundwork here.  I am hoping—I think that this is a signature event, this speech, that he‘s kind of putting a mark down, saying now we‘re going to begin this investment at home. 

Now he already has done some of it, but we‘re hurting out here.  It was music to my ears.  I heard him talk about the American dream.  You and I have talked about the American dream, and how we have to have opportunity for everybody, not just the folks at the top. 

I know that the military industrial complex has made out real well with these wars.  And God speed and God bless our troops who are out there putting their lives on the line. 

But we need to invest here at home.  He was talking about a strategic draw down.  It was music to my ears.  We need help here.  We provide real services to real people.  We are on the ground. 

We have to invest in this country and create opportunity and build our infrastructure. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘m all about it.  I think the American people are, too.  Now, Peter Dryer (ph), a professor at Occidental College, writes this resolution you mayors signed, by the conference of mayors, is not as strong as the one passed 40 years ago calling on Richard Nixon to withdraw troops from Vietnam. 

Does this resolution that you voted on, the wording—does it have enough meaning?  Does it have enough teeth?  Does it call for enough?  Your thoughts? 

BERNERO:  Well, I think it does.  I think it‘s a step in the right direction.  This is not—the group is not that political.  And it‘s Democrats and Republicans and independents who are saying enough is enough.  You know, we‘ve got to pay attention to our needs here.

Again, we‘re not foreign policy experts.  Most mayors do not want to put themselves in a position of really giving direct foreign policy advice.  The point is, don‘t forget about your needs here at home.  Do nation building at home. 

I challenge all of the legislators who have no problem voting for these wars overseas, voting to invest overseas—it‘s funny, they talk about—all this talk from the Tea Party about this spending that‘s got to be brought under control.  They never talk about the spending overseas.

This is what kills me.  They only want to cut the spending here to the police and the fire and the roads that we rely on here at the local level.  They never want to cut the spending overseas.  I‘m amazed by that. 

So let‘s have some reciprocity.  I remember back in the day, they used to sell war bonds.  We didn‘t used to spend money without having a source for it. 

I‘m all for the responsibility.  Let‘s apply it across the board.  Again, let‘s address the real infrastructure needs.  How are you going to have economic development throughout the country, in the heartland, when the infrastructure is collapsing, when roads and bridges and schools are collapsing? 

Come on, this is investment.  The American people are worthy of this investment.  I think if you did a poll, people are willing to support taxes for issues like this, when they know that the money is going to stay home and affect and improve the quality of lives in their home areas. 

SCHULTZ:  I totally agree.  Mayor Virg Bernero, Lansing, Michigan, great to have you with us tonight.  I appreciate your work so much. 

Steve Doocy is all worked up about taxes.  He‘s complaining about President Obama soaking the rich?  I think Doocy‘s all wet.  He‘s going in the zone.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In Psycho Talk tonight, Steve Doocy is whining about taxes again.  He‘s not happy about Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner‘s support for raising revenue. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  He said, yeah, right now, in the short term, it sounds like we‘re going to wind up raising the debt limit, which we‘ve been talking about.  But then we really need to find another way to come up with some revenues.

Of course, that‘s code for we‘re going to have to jack up some people‘s taxes.  The question is whose taxes?  This administration not for that across the board stuff, more like one of those soak the successful things. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  In case you didn‘t catch that last part, he said, the people who actually create jobs?  Doocy is pushing the right wing line that tax cuts for the rich help the entire economy.  That‘s hogwash. 

I want to go back to my favorite graph.  The blue line is overall wages for the working folk of America over the last 30 years.  The green line is the productivity of the American worker.  And the red line is the income level of the top one percenters in America and how things have been going for them. 

Keep in mind, tax bills—tax bills are the lowest they‘ve been since the 1950s.  But these guys aren‘t creating jobs.  They‘re just getting richer while everybody else‘s wages have barely budged at all, according to that graph. 

If you want to talk about who‘s getting soaked, how about the middle class workers who are being forced to shoulder the burden of state budget deficits and the attack on labor. 

Of course, most Americans think that the wealthy should have to pay more taxes.  Over 70 percent of Americans think that.  But not Doocy.  You see, this isn‘t the first time he‘s pulled this soak the rich nonsense. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOOCY:  Isn‘t it becoming class warfare?  The president and his men are talking about, you know, soaking the rich.  So rather than the deficit reduction tour, call it the soak the rich tour.

Do you think one good way to close a budget gap is to soak the rich? 

It‘s a principle that the president has stood by since the get go. 

And he‘s said it over and over, I‘m going to soak the rich. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Well, from where I sit, and from where I see it, the rich in this country have stayed pretty dry so far during the Obama administration.  The president may support taxing the rich, but so far he hasn‘t been able to get that done. 

He signed a bill during the lame duck session of the Congress extending the Bush tax cuts.  So for Steve Doocy to complain about President Obama soaking the rich is outrageous Psycho Talk. 

Mitch McConnell has said the number one Republican priority is to make President Obama a one-term president.  Today, the Democrats took the gloves off and exposed the strategy of deliberately trying to tank the economy.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  The ruthless attack on the middle class continues in Wisconsin.  Get a load of this.  There are more than 10,000 jobless Wisconsinites.  They are no longer receiving unemployment benefits because state Republicans keep delaying a decision to accept a federal benefit funding. 

Can you believe this?  Even Governor Scott Walker doesn‘t agree with this one.  He wrote the Republican-led advisory council urging lawmakers to accept the extension.  But state legislators, like Republican Robin Vosse, say extending the benefits will discourage the jobless from finding work. 

That‘s hard to believe then, according to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.  The 363 dollars per week in unemployment benefits is equal to a nine dollar an hour full time job, virtually impossible for a family to live on. 

The advisory council can approve the benefits extension tomorrow.  If they do, the state legislature still needs to vote on it. 

Republicans in Wisconsin aren‘t the only ones dragging their feet on helping the jobless.  We‘ll show you how Democrats called out their Republican colleagues for deliberately hurting the economy.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  You might call this the last straw.  Republicans in the Senate killed a successful job creation program recently.  Even Republicans like Susan Collins voted down the program, despite saying earlier in the day, “I have seen firsthand that it has led to the creation of jobs in my home state and has been a catalyst for the private sector investment.” 

The Democrats pretty much have had enough.  Today, Democratic leaders in the Senate said it loud and clear, “Republicans are deliberately hurting the economic recovery by voting against everything and anything that helps the economy, even programs they previously supported.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER:  Shouldn‘t they at least consider some jobs proposal?  Some?  One?  Two?  They‘ve done none. 

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), MAJORITY WHIP:  When we bring up bills that really have a chance to create jobs, they stop them with 100 amendments, unrelated amendments.  That avalanche of amendments is not a show of good faith in dealing with this economy.  It‘s a show of bad faith. 

They want to play political gains at the expense of getting this economy back on its feet.  They believe that a weak economy is their best chance of winning the next election.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  So they would oppose something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they‘re just opposing anything that would help create jobs.  It almost makes you wonder if they aren‘t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining me tonight is MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter.  He‘s also a “Bloomberg View” columnist.  Great to have you with us tonight, Jonathan. 

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Those are the three top Democrats right there, with some pretty strong language.  Is this going to be politically successful for them to drive this narrative home?  What do you think? 

ALTER:  It‘s a tough sell, even though I think there‘s a lot to recommend what they‘re saying.  People tend to think it‘s just partisan whining or carping when they hear something like this.  But the evidence supports it. 

Let‘s just take one proposal, a payroll tax holiday extension, so that people are paying less in taxes as workers and as employers.  You would think that that would be enormously popular with Republicans.  Their religion is tax cuts. 

Do they support this?  No.  Why not?  Well, that‘s the question that‘s on the table right now.  Why would Republicans not support a Republican idea to help create jobs.  That‘s why the Democrats have gone to this explanation that maybe they do—it sounds sick, but maybe they do want to keep the economy in the doldrums through the 2012 election. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s all about the power for the Republicans.  I‘ve said that all along.  But the Democrats, are they late to the party?  Are they late to the dance talking like this?  Because this narrative has been out there, but we have never heard the Democratic leadership be so strong about it.  Will it connect with a lot of these jobless Americans?  Will it connect with the wage earners of this country that are looking at pension cuts and health care cuts and wage reductions and stuff like that? 

I mean, it would seem to me that this is something that the Republicans are going to have to answer to. 

ALTER:  It‘s all in how you frame the issue.  The only one with the power to frame it is the president.  Congressional leaders can get up and hold their press conferences.  But until Barack Obama decides that he‘s willing to, you know, not necessarily take the high bipartisan road and get down and start to fight on some of these issues, it‘s going to be very hard to educate the American public as to what‘s going on. 

So this is a tough choice for the president.  Politically, he doesn‘t want to alienate independents, working independents.  These are folks who have jobs, mostly.  The unemployed don‘t vote as much.  Remember that.  That‘s important to remember. 

SCHULTZ:  This president—this president, it‘s not his nature to come out and punch the Republicans in the nose. 

ALTER:  Right. 

SCHULTZ:  What are the chances of him doing this?  I meaning, he‘s got the Senate behind him on this narrative? 

ALTER:  Well, I don‘t think the chances are that good in the short term.  You heard him tonight in his speech, in the non-Afghanistan portions of that speech, he talked about being one nation, getting beyond the normal squabbling. 

So if he were to get down in the muck and start making these very serious accusations, I think he thinks it would hurt him.  I‘m not sure he‘s wrong about that, because most people are not paying close enough attention to get this kind of bank shot, that they‘re not supporting bills that they would normally support, because they want the economy to go down. 

That‘s like a triple bank shot.  People are busy.  They‘re—they have busy lives and they‘re not paying attention to all this in Washington.  So making that argument is very tough. 

What they need to do, I think, is have a positive jobs agenda, and lay out that agenda.  And then when the Republicans reject it, then they can score some political points.  So far -- 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Jonathan. 

ALTER:  You got to fault the Obama folks for not having enough of a jobs agenda. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter, thanks for joining us tonight. 

Tonight in our survey, I asked, do you think President Obama is pulling troops out of Afghanistan too slowly or too quickly?  Ninety two percent of you said too slowly.  Eight percent said too quickly.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  You can listen to me on Sirius XM Channel 127 Monday through Friday noon to 3:00.  “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts now.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night from Minneapolis.

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