Guest: Bernie Sanders, Kent Conrad, John Harwood, Jamal Simmons, John Feehery, Ryan Lizza, Rep. Joe Sestak
Spec: Politics; Arlen Specter; Senate; Insurance; Health and Medicine;
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: I`m Ed Schultz. This is THE ED SHOW.
SCHULTZ: Good evening, Americans.
Live from 30 Rock in New York City, it`s THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
How about this? Arlen Specter switches parties. The Democrats get a
potential 60th vote in the Senate. The GOP gets more extreme.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime generation opportunity for the Democrats.
Will they use their supermajority to get real reform on health care?
We`ll ask Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak.
President Obama is steamrolling to success. We`ll show you some
numbers from our brand new NBC News poll at 6:30, at the bottom of the
They make it, they own it. Chrysler workers bet on the future of the
United States auto industry.
Plus, "Psycho Talk." Rick Santorum is back.
But first, tonight`s "OpEd."
I mean, what a political thriller. "We`re thrilled to have you."
That`s what President Obama said when Senator Arlen Specter told him he was
becoming a Democrat.
Now, Specter was vilified by Republicans when he crossed the aisle and
voted for the president`s stimulus plan. Right-wing talkers pounded on
him. RNC Chairman Michael Steele threatened to run a campaign against him.
And today, Specter told the world he`s had enough of this TEA-partying
and psycho-talking crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: As the Republican Party has
moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at
odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of
the Democratic Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: All right. Now, what does that mean?
Democrats are now looking at 60 votes in the Senate, a supermajority?
That`s assuming that Minnesota gets its act together and seats Al Franken.
But Senator Specter can change the key big time here on some key issues
like health care.
Democrats are holding all the cards right now. They have the White
House, the House, and a supermajority in the Senate. No more excuses;
Let me tell you something, folks. Now is the time for real
progressive action on the number one issue facing this country.
This is how I view the Specter move -- man, that`s health care.
There`s no more hand-wringing. There`s no more sitting around saying,
well, maybe we can get this done.
Democrats, you`ve got to get this deal done.
The Republicans will say, oh, you`re nothing but a bunch of
socialists. Who cares what they think? They`re a party of "no."
They have no solutions on health care. They have no solutions
actually on anything. They are the minority that just keeps getting
In fact, they can`t even get their base cranked up. Earlier this
week, 21 percent of Americans said that they identified with the GOP.
Democrats, you need to act now. Single-payer health care -- that`s
right -- is it politically feasible right now? For-profit health care is
absolutely destroying people`s lives and killing small businesses across
Insurance companies, what are they doing? Well, they are denying
claims. And nobody is doing anything. Free market does not work when it
comes to a person`s health care.
Now, this move by Specter I think really intensifies the battle on
health care. Now, for the record, Arlen Specter has signed onto the Wyden
bill. I think that`s why President Obama picked up the phone today and
said, hey, we`re thrilled to have you.
There is no better time to put a party in chaos out of their misery
and on the defensive. OK? The country wants single payer. I have heard
it at every health care town hall meeting across America.
Prove me wrong. Show me some numbers.
Here is reaction from the Republican Party on the move.
Today, Senator Lindsey Graham said, "As Republicans, we`ve got a
problem. I want to be a member of a vibrant National Republican Party that
can attract people from all corners of the country, and we can govern the
country from a center-right perspective."
Hold the phone on that, Lindsey Graham. Your party is very white. It
doesn`t have any diversity. And if you noticed the math, you`re pretty
doggoned southern as of late.
Now, Senator Olympia Snowe said this, and really hit the nail on the
head. "Ultimately, we`re heading to have the smallest political tent in
Can you imagine that? This is 2009. Can you remember just five years
ago, back in 2004?
Joining me now is Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who
obviously caucuses with the Democrats.
How big a political opening is this, Senator? Thanks for joining us
tonight. How big of a political opening is this for the Democrats, and to
really get something done?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Well, Ed, it really depends upon
whether or not we can put together a strong grassroots movement that tells
White House, that tells Congress that we are, as you just head, sick and
tired of private health insurance that`s wasting over $300 billion every
single year on administrative efforts. They have all kinds of
bureaucracies. They deny people claims that that they are entitled to.
Clearly, the United States needs to join the industrialized world with
a real national health care program that guarantees comprehensive health
care to every man, woman, and child, and we save money as we do that.
SCHULTZ: Well, I just got word now that Kathleen Sebelius has been
confirmed as the secretary of Health and Human Services.
How big a deal this? I mean, it looks like the Republicans might be
getting the message here?
SANDERS: Well, she is a moderate Democrat. She is certainly not a
supporter of single payer. And let`s not have any illusions that we`re
close to a single payer.
There`s a lot of support in the House, less support in the Senate.
But what we have behind us, as you indicate, are the people.
We`ve got 15,000 physicians who believe in single payer. We have all
of the evidence that we need not spend a nickel more on health care. We
can guarantee every man, woman, and child health care with a single-payer
SCHULTZ: Senator, that is what just boggles my mind. We have right
now a political moment in this country.
The president has high approval ratings. You have the people out
there. Town hall after town hall I hear it, they want single payer.
You`re close to the supermajority, depending on how -- you know, some of
SANDERS: But Ed, what are you forgetting in that equation?
SCHULTZ: Well, I`m for getting the filibuster, I guess.
SANDERS: And you`re for getting the power of the insurance
SCHULTZ: Yes, that`s right.
SANDERS: ... the huge amounts of money they spend, the power of the
drug companies. And if you think that every member of the Democratic
caucus is prepared to stand up to those guy, you`re mistaken.
SCHULTZ: Well, then you know what? Then they shouldn`t be voted in.
I`ll tell you that right now. The Democrats should not be in there,
because you`ve got to eventually listen to the people of this country. And
they are sick and tired of being ripped off by health insurance companies.
SANDERS: You`re damn right they are. And if we could pass a strong
single-payer system, you know what? The Democrats would be in power for
the next 20 years, because every American would know the comprehensive,
quality health care that`s affordable to their families will be there.
What kind of Democrat is Arlen Specter going to be on health care?
Now, I mentioned that he signed on to the Wyden bill, which, in my opinion,
doesn`t go far enough, but what kind of Democrat do you think he`s going to
SANDERS: Well, I think he`ll be a moderate to conservative Democrat.
He has indicated, as I understand it today, that he will oppose the
Employee Free Choice Act. I suspect he keeps his politics, but on
procedural issues, his vote will be important to give us 60 to end
SCHULTZ: Now, how do you think President Obama views this move today
by Specter? Does this just give the Democrats more momentum?
SANDERS: I think it does. I think what it does is it tells -- it
further indicates to the American people, as Specter indicated, that the
Republican Party is an extreme right-wing party way out of touch with the
needs of working families, and simply is the party of "no." Anything that
the American people want, they say no.
SCHULTZ: Do we need more moderate conservative Democrats...
SANDERS: No, you don`t.
SCHULTZ: I don`t think so either.
SANDERS: You don`t. Frankly, what you need are progressives who have
the guts to stand up to Wall Street.
SCHULTZ: It`s about guts. I don`t mean to interrupt you, but it is.
It truly is about guts. It is. It`s about standing up, because if we can
get all of these people in this country without health insurance, if we can
get them covered, if we can reel in the insurance industry in this country,
we`ve got a chance to save the economy.
SCHULTZ: Don`t you think it`s the economy that`s being butchered by
health care costs?
SANDERS: Well, when Obama talks -- when people say we can`t deal with
health care now because of the economy, Obama is right. You have got to
deal with health care because of the economy, whether it`s General Motors
or a small businessperson.
People can`t afford escalating outrageously high costs of health care.
We spent twice as much as any other country on health care, yet we`ve got
46 million people uninsured. And our outcomes, our health outcomes, are
not particularly good.
We need a revolution in health care. We need to say health care is a
right, not a moneymaking business, which is currently the case.
SCHULTZ: All right. I guess when I see Arlen Specter, I see a number
First he cosponsors the Employee Free Choice Act, then he bails out on
it. First he says on the campaign trail that he is in favor of solving the
health care issue. Then he signs on to the Wyden bill. I don`t think
we`re going to ever get him to universal health care.
They`ve thrown him under the bus as far as torture is concerned.
There are some moderate things there that the Democrats can warm up to.
But the question is this: Does this mean that it`s an automatic walk-
in? Do you think that there could be a Democrat in Pennsylvania, like Joe
Sestak, who could come out there and challenge him? Or do you think there
was a deal cut that we`re going to leave Specter alone and let him walk in
to the Democratic Caucus?
SANDERS: I`m not knowledgeable about Pennsylvania politics. My
understanding is that Obama said that he will be supporting of Specter,
which is obviously very significant.
But the bottom line here, Ed, is, you`re absolutely right. We have a
Democratic president, strong majority in the House, 60 votes in the Senate.
If we can`t deliver on energy, on health care, on workers` rights,
then what`s the sense of it all? And the answer is, people have got to put
pressure on Congress to have the guts to stand up to the insurance
companies, the drug companies, the banks, the military industrial complex.
SCHULTZ: Well, who is going to put pressure on them? Who do you
think is going to put pressure on them?
SANDERS: We`re going to need a strong grassroots movement to make
SCHULTZ: OK. So you think that people can be heard on this?
SANDERS: Absolutely. Absolutely they can.
SCHULTZ: And if they are not heard, the Democrats pay the political
price down the road?
SANDERS: I think that is exactly correct.
SCHULTZ: Well, I`ll tell I what, I`m with you, Senator. I don`t know
why the Democrats aren`t going full speed ahead on this. And there are
some Democrats that are just in the pockets of some insurance companies
that I think, you know, what are you going to do?
Now, this is -- and the point is, there`s real change here. There`s a
real opportunity for change here.
SANDERS: Ed, you are 100 percent right.
SCHULTZ: I think tomorrow night the president should come out at this
press conference and say, guess what, folks? Everything is on the table.
And find out what the people really want.
I mean, this idea that Max Baucus is taking single payer off the
table, nothing should be off the table.
SANDERS: Not only that, but some of these Democrats want to make sure
that any important vote requires 60 votes, which means that it becomes a
more conservative proposition.
SCHULTZ: All right.
SANDERS: All right. You keep up the good work, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Well, I just want to know, are you the first socialist that
I`ve ever had on this show? I mean, they`ve made this list out there. Are
you a socialist? Are you...
SCHULTZ: Senator Sanders, good to have you with us tonight.
SANDERS: Good to be with you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Thanks so much.
SANDERS: Thank you.
SCHULTZ: There`s a fighter for people right there. Right there, that
guy, he`ll stand up to any corporation, he`ll stand up to any insurance
company. He`ll get after it because he`s been out listening to the people,
and it can be done.
I think this is a real moment for the president. What if the
president comes out tomorrow night at the press conference, where I will be
tomorrow night broadcasting from Washington? I would love to hear
President Obama come out and say, look, I don`t have all of the answers,
but everything is on the table.
And this idea that single payer is not politically achievable, Mr.
President, respectfully, I think you are wrong on that. I think it is
politically achievable because the people want it.
Coming up, will Senator Specter be a Democrat in name only, or will he
actually help bring change on health care and education? I`ll talk to
Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad when we come back. He`s the
gatekeeper on a lot of key issues.
That`s next on THE ED SHOW.
Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
Democrats cheered Arlen Specter for switching parties, but at a news
conference this afternoon, the Pennsylvania Senator said not so fast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPECTER: I will not be changing my own personal independence or my
own approach to individual issues. I will not be an automatic 60th vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: So, will a Democratic Senator Specter be a reliable vote for
President Obama`s budget priorities?
Joining me for more on that is North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad,
chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Kent, great to have you on here tonight.
From a budget perspective, is this a good thing for Democrats, that
Arlen Specter is now going to be having lunch with you on Tuesday?
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Sure it is. It`s good news, but
look, I don`t think this is as transformational as some have suggested.
Look, the Democrats are not always united. So the notion that we`re
always going to have 60 votes before Arlen Specter or after Arlen Specter,
I don`t think anybody can really count on that.
Look, we have a broad, diverse caucus, and there are lots of different
points of views. This helps, but I think it really helps mostly at the
SCHULTZ: Well, there is division in the Democratic Party when it
comes to reconciliation. This is Senator Specter on reconciliation. Here
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPECTER: I`m opposed to reconciliation to be used for health care or
any other substantive legislative issues. I think it would undermine an
important institutional prerogative of the Senate to require 60 votes on
these complicated matters. I thought that when I -- whether I would be a
Republican or a Democrat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Now, Senator, I know that you, too, feel the same way about
reconciliation. But is this at odds with most Democrats? Break that down
CONRAD: Well, I can say this -- in the conference committee, I was
clearly outvoted. You had the speaker of the House, the majority leader of
the Senate, the president of the United States all believing that it should
be at least an insurance policy. But I`ve already predicted, I don`t think
reconciliation will be used. That`s a special fast-track process.
I don`t believe it will be used for health care. The budget
resolution makes it possible, but I don`t think it will be used. And the
reason I don`t is because it just doesn`t work very well. As people get
into the details of what really happens, I think most people understand,
much more practical to proceed with health care using the regular Senate
SCHULTZ: How is Arlen Specter going to be received by Democrats,
Senator Conrad? Because, OK, he went along with the stimulus package. I
think he has a pretty progressive view when it comes to the torture issue.
But there are times that we look at the situation. I mean, he`s in trouble
How genuine is this move? What do you think?
CONRAD: Well, the place he`s in trouble is in a Republican primary.
In a general election, I think Arlen Specter does very well.
Look, Arlen Specter is respected. He`s a serious legislator. And
he`s not always going to be with us, but, look, many members of the caucus
aren`t always with us. Sometimes I diverge from positions of the caucus.
You know, that`s to be expected. Actually, I think that`s a healthy
thing. So I think his willingness to join the Democratic caucus is a
positive thing and we welcome it.
SCHULTZ: Boy, things have really changed in the last five years when
it comes to Washington politics. I mean, back in 2005, after the president
won re-election, the first trip he made was to your town of Fargo, North
Dakota, to talk about privatizing Social Security.
Now look where they are. Only 21 percent of the American people even
identify themselves with the Republican Party. And this is what Lindsey
Graham had to say today: "Today`s decision by Senator Specter puts a great
deal of pressure on red-state Democrat senators. Their constituents will
look at them to reject a far left-wing agenda."
Well, Kent, you`re a red state Democratic senator. Feel any more
CONRAD: No, I really don`t. Look, I feel pressure every day to do
the right thing for the people I represent, the people of North Dakota.
And my state is a Republican state, but my state is a place that really
values fiscal responsibility and commonsense government.
I try to provide that. That means sometimes I`m at odds with my
caucus. Most times I`m not.
You know, again, I think disagreement and debate is a healthy thing.
We`ve had too little of it in the United States Senate. Arlen Specter is
somebody -- he`s not going to tow any party line. And you know what?
That`s a good thing.
SCHULTZ: OK. Healthy debate is always good. You`ve always said
Senator Conrad, great to have you with us tonight. Thanks so much.
CONRAD: Good to be with you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: You bet.
Next up on THE ED SHOW, "Psycho Talk."
Now there`s another Pennsylvania dude in the news. Former Senator
Rick Santorum, remember him, crazy right-winger from Pennsylvania? He
claims Democrats are breaking the rules on Capitol Hill. Does he have
That`s next on "Psycho Talk."
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
Have you heard some of the crazy things that are being said by
Time again for "Psycho Talk."
Oh, you`ve got Cheney, Gingrich, Rove, all vying to lead the
Republican Party again. Now there`s a blast from the past moving in on
this deal. We`re talking about former Senator Rick Santorum.
Tonight he`s landed in the "Psycho Talk."
Now, Santorum jumping into the hysteria over the use of
reconciliation. Reconciliation is a process that would allow President
Obama`s budget on health care reforms to pass with just 51 votes rather
Now, Santorum claims reconciliation has never been done before.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), FMR. SENATOR: What the Democrats have done here is
try to short-circuit the process on a major piece of legislation. This has
never been done before. We have never seen a major long-term policy
prescription, whether it`s Medicare, or you go back throughout history and
look at all of the major pieces of legislation. None of them have ever
been passed using this procedure. This is truly an abomination.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Never been done before? An abomination? Does Santorum have
First of all, ThinkProgres.org points out that reconciliation has been
used nearly 20 times since it was first created back in 1980. Most
recently, to pass Bush`s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.
But even better than that, Santorum himself has used that. That`s
right, Santorum was the Senate Republican`s point man in trying to push
welfare reform through the budget, reconciliation in 1995.
Rick Santorum, reconciliation has never been done before? On numerous
occasions by your party it`s happened, and it also happened by you.
Your sudden amnesia, you got it, qualifies you for "Psycho Talk."
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
Tonight, a big new poll from NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal."
Tomorrow we hit the 100-day mark. Sixty-one percent approve of the
way President Obama is handling the job.
The country is split right down the middle when it comes to whether we
are on the right track. Forty-three percent say we`re headed in the right
direction and 43 percent say that we are headed in the wrong direction. A
reality check, In January, the right track number was at 26 percent.
Confidence in the direction Obama has taken the country really is sky
Poll numbers tonight show Americans want real reform from government.
Ninety one percent of Americans believe our health care system needs some
kind of reform; 33 percent want a major overhaul.
Arlen Specter joined the crowd today. He could hold a key vote on all
of this. Let`s bring in John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for
cNBC and political writer for the "New York Times."
John, great to have you on the program tonight.
JOHN HARWOOD, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Hi, Ed.
SCHULTZ: These numbers are very encouraging at the 100-day mark. But
doesn`t it just feel good for the Democrats to have a Republican leave at
the 100-day mark, and come over to President Obama and the Democrats? I
mean, isn`t this really a momentum move for them?
HARWOOD: Absolutely it is. And the other thing in the poll that
you`ve mentioned was just how good people are feeling about Barack Obama.
Sixty one percent saying that they approve of his job performance, but 80
percent of the people in this poll that said they like Barack Obama, even
60 percent of Republicans.
So when you`ve got a foundation of goodwill of that kind, it`s a very
good sign for the party holding the White House, that they may be able to
make some progress. But he does have to overcome some of the numbers that
you`ve mentioned, skepticism about the role of government.
SCHULTZ: Well, how does the president cash in on this number? What
would be his best play in your opinion, from here on?
HARWOOD: Well, he`s playing the chips for all they`re worth right
now, as you know, Ed, because he`s pushing very ambitious policies,
financial regulation, education, energy, health care, all within his first
year, with a goal of action by the end of the year.
So what he`s trying to do now, with potentially 60 votes in the
Senate, a solid majority in the House, is to move very quickly.
Rahm Emanuel, who I interviewed today, made the comment during the
transition, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. They`ve got an economic
crisis. That has become part of the fuel for trying to get the Congress to
go along with this ambitious agenda.
SCHULTZ: Jon, you mentioned the role of government. We are really
divided down the middle on this in this country. Just how much do we want
government involved in anything that we do? Well, the government role of
government, 47 percent say that the government should do more; 46 percent
say right now they are doing too many things.
Is this the hot coals that the president is walking on right now? Do
the Democrats have to maybe push not their hand too hard here? What do you
HARWOOD: Ed, that is exactly what the set of hot coals are for the
president. It`s the one bright spot in our poll, if you look at the
numbers, for the Republican party. They`ve done better over the last
several weeks in terms of boosting that skepticism by attacking Barack
Obama`s plan as a big government, tax and spend plan, that would give
Washington a larger role in your life.
They`ve gotten a modest amount of traction with that argument, as this
poll shows. And what Obama has to try to do, and his allies on Capitol
Hill, is make the case that, yes, it may be larger government in the
abstract, but here`s how we`re going to help your life. Here`s how we`re
going to get you health care coverage, where you don`t have it. Here`s how
we`re going to move to a new energy future that will create more jobs.
Those are some of the points that Rahm Emanuel made to me during that
interview today. And that`s part of the overall message of this White
SCHULTZ: I want to know, after you did the interview with Rahm
Emanuel, did he go behind closed doors with the rest of the team? And were
they high-fiving one another? These are great numbers. They`ve got to
feel good about the first 100 days here. Do you sense any excitement that,
OK, we`ve got through the first hurdle? We`ve got some momentum right now?
HARWOOD: There`s no doubt about it, this White House is feeling very
good, on very solid footing right now. I think the high fiving occurred
before Rahm went into the interview, because it occurred about at noon.
And the president had already gotten the word and phoned Arlen Specter that
he was going to get a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
So this is really the capstone towards this 100 day roll out that the
White House has been stoking for the last several days. They like what
they see, but they also know they have a lot of work to do, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Jon, great to have you with us tonight. Thanks so much.
HARWOOD: You bet.
SCHULTZ: Time to turn to our political panel tonight. Democratic
strategist Jamal Simmons joins us, Washington correspondent for the "New
Yorker" Ryan Lizza, and Republican strategist John Feehery tonight.
Gentlemen, we`ll get to all of the media issues in a second. But
today`s story, of course, is Arlen Specter`s. Jamal, how good of news is
this. Do you think Arlen Specter is going to be a good Democrat?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is yet to be seen how good a
Democrat Arlen Specter will be. He`s already said he`s not voting for the
Employee Free Choice Act. So that`s one thing that I think some of the
labor folks in Pennsylvania are going to be a little concerned about. But
you`ve got to imagine he`s a pro choice senator. That`s going to make some
of the women`s groups happy. Although, there are still some left over
bitterness from the Anita Hill hearings.
So it`s going to be interesting to see how the Democrats in the state
respond to Arlen Specter. Although, I think here in Washington, having 60
votes, makes people feel pretty good about getting some legislation passed.
SCHULTZ: John, let me just put it on the table here. Are you glad to
get rid of this guy? He was never a really good Republican anyway?
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I`m not, actually. I think
Arlen Specter should have stayed as a Republican. I think the reason he
left was he thought he was going to lose the Republican primary. He`s
leaving chiefly because he voted for a stimulus bill that`s very unpopular
I`ve always liked Arlen Specter. I think he`s really smart guy. I
think he`s a talented legislator. I think he`s been a pretty good
Republican over the years. Him leaving is a big hole for Republicans. I`m
not going to sugar coat it. But I think he`s leaving because I think he
thinks he would have lost the primary.
SCHULTZ: Ryan, isn`t the inside baseball story here, he was going to
get whipped in the primary. He`s way behind. He`s doing this for
political expediency, to save his career. What about that?
RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": Yes, there`s no doubt about that, Ed.
I don`t think we should be handing out any Profiles in Courage awards to
Arlen Specter. Look, perfectly nice guy, but if you look at his career,
he`s very often done what has been best for Arlen Specter. The amazing
thing, in 2004, this guy had the Bush-White House, Karl Rove and Rick
Santorum, backing him in that tough primary fight. Six years later, he`s
got Biden, Obama, and all of the Democrats backing him in a tough
Democratic primary, not a tough, but a Democratic fight in the same state.
So Arlen Specter is doing what is best for Arlen Specter. There`s no
doubt about it.
And to answer your first question to Jamal, of course he`s not going
to be a good Democrat. He`s going to be a pain in the neck. But it`s
better to have a pain in the neck caucusing with the Democrats than with
SCHULTZ: Jamal, if he`s not going to be a good Democrat, is this
over? Was there a deal cut with Joe Sestak? We`re going to have him on
the program here in just a few minutes. Would he be a good guy to run
against him in a primary? Are Pennsylvania Democrats going to be happy
SIMMONS: You know, this may lead to some amount of schism between the
Democrats in the state in Pennsylvania and the Democrats here in
Washington. I think Governor Rendell is probably a big Arlen Specter fan,
having him in the Democratic party. And there are probably some Democrats
down ballot who are looking at that seat, saying they might be able to go
get it. Here in Washington, with Harry Reid and the White, you`re probably
seeing them wanting to clear that field. We`ll see what happens.
SCHULTZ: OK. John, a number of comments out there by Republicans
saying that the Republican party is being too hard on moderates. And there
may be more that may be driven away from the party. And this might be the
tip of the iceberg. I mean, you`ve got Olympia Snowe out there talking.
You`ve got Lindsey Graham was saying tonight that the party has got to get
their act together, in a round about way.
Is this crisis time right now?
FEEHERY: Well, Ed, it`s been a little bit of crisis for Republicans
since the election. I do think that this is not a crisis of leadership. I
think the Republican leaders really wanted Arlen Specter to stay
Republican. This is really kind of a crisis of followers. And the
followers just did not like Arlen Specter`s vote on stimulus. And that`s
why they said we want the other guy. And that`s why Arlen Specter left.
The problem with Republicans right now, they have to communicate all
of their good ideas, and they have to brand those ideas as good ideas. And
they really have to work the grassroots, and they`ve got to get a unified
party. Otherwise, they are in big trouble.
SCHULTZ: Fellows, let`s look at some numbers here. President Obama`s
health care plan; 33 percent of the American people think it`s a good idea,
26 percent a bad idea. Jamal, this is a high number; 34 percent, after we
go through this exhaustive of finding who`s going to be the president of
the United States, we`re 100 days in, and people don`t have any opinion of
his health care plan? Are they communicating it well?
SIMMONS: Ed, if you have heard anything about the health care plan in
the last two months, I`d like for to you let me know what it is. I don`t
think we`ve been talking about it very much. There are a lot of other
things on the plate.
You`ve had to foreign trip, one to Mexico and -- or in South America,
the Caribbean, and one to Europe. You`ve got the economic crisis. You`ve
had problems with cabinet secretary. All sorts of things have been going
on. There hasn`t been a lot of health care talk since they first announced
So they`ve got to do a much better job. I think they probably
purposely haven`t really been talking about it very much. Now that we`ve
got Kathleen Sebelius finally getting to HHS, maybe we can get on the ball
and start moving health care.
SCHULTZ: That`s right. Fellows, stay with us, we`re coming back to
you. Panel great tonight. Jamal is right. Just earlier tonight, Kathleen
Sebelius, in case you missed it, has been confirmed as the secretary of
Health and Human Services. We`ll have Tom Daschle on this program tomorrow
Up next, if you can`t beat them, join them. That`s right, Chrysler
workers are about to own a major stake of their own company. Is this the
answer to turning around the automobile industry? That`s next in my
playbook. Stick around.
SCHULTZ: In my playbook today -- hold it right there, I have to get
this out. Who is the knuckle head that approved this one? Whose head is
going to roll for allowing one of the president`s plane to joy ride over
New York at, I might say, a low altitude? I`d like to know. How about
Who is going to lose their job on this one? Look at the reaction of
New Yorkers. This is video we got from cell phones. New Yorker`s, what
did they do? They panicked. That`s right, they looked up and they saw one
of the president`s plans, official planes, winged by a fighter jet, flying
over lower Manhattan, of all places.
It was like a nightmare replay of September 11th. People evacuated
buildings. Dispatchers were inundated with calls. You just have to
wonder, how could this happen? For what, a few pictures?
All they had to do was warn the public. The news outlets, TV and
radio did not do that. Mayor Bloomberg said he didn`t even know about
that. He was furious, saying poor judgment would be a nice way to phrase
it. This might be President Obama`s worst moment in his first 100 days in
office. The president said today he didn`t know anything about it either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a mistake, as
was stated. It was something we found out about along with all of you.
And it will not happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Uncomfortable moment for the president. The president did
not answer a follow-up question of whether the director of the White House
military office is the right man for the job. I think he should be
answered this way: that man, Lewis Caldera, well, he took blame yesterday
for the incident. All I know is somebody ought to lose their job over
this. This is really outrageous.
Back with me now is our panel, Jamal Simmons, Ryan Lizza and John
John, how do you take this? Somebody joy riding with the -- one of
the planes that carries the president around? It would seem to me that
somebody is not guarding the fort?
FEEHERY: I actually look at this a little differently. I think it
could have been an inspirational moment. You see this plane flying across,
people could have cheered. Instead of keeping it secret. They should have
let everybody know. That was there big mistake on their part, I think.
SCHULTZ: So it could have been a good promotional moment. People
could have seen the airplane close.
FEEHERY: Get inspired by Air Force One right by the Statue of
Liberty. They just didn`t do that.
SCHULTZ: Ryan, what do you think of this?
LIZZA: I agree with you, Ed. I you can`t muster enough outrage out
of how ridiculous this is. I had friends that were downtown, totally
freaked out when they saw this. It`s like you couldn`t have written a
script like this. People wouldn`t believe that the government would do
this. And, look, I don`t know if Caldera is the right person to go down
for this. But it`s -- you`re right, someone should be held more
accountable and there should be a little bit more than an apology.
SCHULTZ: For promotional pictures. Jamal, how do you tell the
American people that you`re fiscally responsible when you`re playing around
with an airplane for a few pictures for 68,000 dollars an hour for flying
SIMMONS: I don`t know. I think this was one of these things
obviously wasn`t done -- wasn`t in good taste. It wasn`t done with the
most forethought. But people make mistakes in their jobs. I don`t know if
someone should be fired for this, whose job it is to manage the military
for the White House, the White House communications, the military office,
whatever else it is that Caldera manages. But this certainly is something
that is not going to look good in a progress report for the year.
SCHULTZ: The word is that the president was furious about this. And
I think he should have been. A very embarrassing moment. Fellows, thanks
for joining us tonight, Ryan Lizza, Jamal Simmons, John Feehery. Thanks so
Final page in my playbook tonight, Chrysler may soon have a deal with
its union holders and debt holders. That`s right, the deadline is Thursday
for Chrysler to restructure and form an alliance with Fiat. Let`s start
with the worker deal. The UAW will have a piece of the action, which is
good under the agreement.
The union will own 55 percent of the company, a piece of the action,
not bad. It would get representation on the board of directors, and
Chrysler`s stock could be traded publicly again. In exchange, Chrysler
would pay only half of the 10 billion dollars it owes to the worker`s
health care fund.
On Monday, union leaders voted unanimously to recommend approving the
deal. Ratification votes should be completed by tomorrow.
There are also reports Chrysler lenders have reached a tentative
agreement with the Treasury Department to cut the company`s debt. The deal
would wipe out 6.9 billion of the auto makers debt, in exchange for two
billion dollars in cash. Reports say the deal has yet to be approved by
all of the debt holders. Now bankruptcy is still an option.
Up next, the Democratic party gets Senator Specter. What does it
really mean? The Republican party gets smaller. Is the GOP becoming the
party of tea parties and torture? We`ll talk about it when we come back
here on THE ED SHOW.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. Let`s put it this way, Arlen
specter has never been a great Republican. He`s crossed the aisle on some
key votes. He voted with the Democrats on the stimulus package, only one
of three in the Senate. He says he supports health care reform. What does
that mean? What kind of Democrat is specter going to be?
Are Pennsylvanians going to be OK with this? Will there be a
Democratic primary in Pennsylvania? Folks, the man who can answer that
question the best is Democratic Congressman, former admiral Joe Sestak.
Joe, we wanted to bring you on tonight to talk about torture, and we`re
going to get to that, but this story developing has been the story of the
I`ll ask you straight up. Does this change your thinking of possibly
running for that Senate in Pennsylvania and jumping into a primary?
REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It`s interesting. I have, as I`ve
been saying not made up my mind, because I have to determine what is best
for my district, as well as potentially Pennsylvania. All of that said,
no, it absolutely should not change anybody`s mind. You don`t get into a
race to run against anybody. You get in to run for something.
So this is what`s very interesting. Arlen found it hard -- too hard
to run against somebody. So he got out of the race because he thought it
would be easier. So the question is, what is he running for? He also
somehow failed to use his leadership to shape the Republican party to be
towards he believes in. So he`s now going to shape the Democratic party?
The final analysis is, would he have done this if an election wasn`t
pending? Because we in Pennsylvania tend to not want to have something
that has to do with politics, by what the future is about, rather than
SCHULTZ: Congressman, I`m hearing you leave the door open tonight.
SESTAK: I haven`t made a decision. I think this shows that every day
is a new day in politics. And tomorrow is a new day. And if anything,
politics is interesting. But really, Ed, this is about what are the ideals
and principles that people have sent us down here to Washington to take
care of? It`s not about keeping one`s job at all cost. And I think that`s
what people are a bit tired about.
SCHULTZ: Well, Congressman, I`ve got to tell you, I`ve gotten a lot
of e-mails this afternoon saying that the Democrats should not embrace
Arlen Specter because he`s not a true Democrat and you can`t count on him.
Now, it sounds to me like you would get a lot of support if you were to
step up and say, you know, I`m going to run for the Democratic party, the
Senate position in Pennsylvania.
SCHULTZ: I`m not so sure you wouldn`t win that thing. Why not?
SESTAK: You know, I learned exactly what you said when I made an
announcement -- I was about to run for the Democratic nomination in my
district. I got out of the military. Then I didn`t know what DCCC,
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, stood for. When I called
them, because I was told I had to to inform them, they said, we don`t want
you in the race. They called me back the next day and said the same thing.
So the Democrats that really matter here is really not the leadership.
It`s what do the Democratic voters believe? Let`s find that out. And I
believe that`s going to be important.
SCHULTZ: Congressman Joe Sestak with us tonight, former admiral.
Your military experience, what should we do about torture? What should
President Obama do? What should the attorney general do? What is your
SESTAK: Let me tell you what I`m for. I`m for something that I
learned in the military. It`s that I was responsible for taking men and
women into harm`s way in a war, but I was also accountable for how I did
that within the rules of law.
This Congress of ours, and the executive branches -- you can even ask
Senator Stevens and the Justice Department -- is almost beyond the pale in
partisanship. We want to correct that.
That said, what we should do is go to the third branch of government,
the Judiciary Branch, find some retired judges, have them look at a panel
where there is immunity to find out, how did we do this? Why didn`t
Congress have the right oversight? What happened that we felt we couldn`t
go with traditional intelligence, as many members have said would have
worked. And what`s the lessons learned?
If a crime by the Justice Department is discovered as they go through
their ethics, they could pass that over to the court system. We have to
understand that accountability is important, but no witch hunt. We need to
move on. That`s why I recommend a judges who are retired to look at
lessons learned. The accountability can be transparency to the public for
Congress and the executive branch in how we must do this better.
It`s about what one believes the ideals of America are about. It`s
not about being tortured and I`m convinced of that.
SCHULTZ: So admiral, I`m hearing get the politics out of it. But
move forward and find out what really happened?
SCHULTZ: Appreciate your time tonight. Congressman Joe Sestak,
Pennsylvania, here on THE ED SHOW.
SESTAK: Thank you for having me, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Democratic majority continues to grow, while the Republican
minority is shrinking. A new poll out this week shows that only 21 percent
of Americans call themselves Republicans. Moderates, like Specter, are on
Let`s bring back our panel, Jamal Simmons, Ryan Lizza and John
Feehery. John, I`m not so sure that if Joe Sestak decides he wants to be
the senator from Pennsylvania he wouldn`t get it.
FEEHERY: He might. I think Arlen Specter is on thin ice. Any time
you switch parties, you`re on thin ice.
But let me address the other subject, which is a lot of these
Republicans are now saying that they are independent because they don`t
like the Republican brand, but they still like some of the ideas behind the
Republican party. I think that`s the real challenge for the Republican
party, is brand their good ideas as Republican again. Get those
independents back in the party.
SCHULTZ: Ryan, your take on Joe Sestak. I mean, this guy talks about
what the people want. You run for something, not against somebody else.
If that`s not a populist comment, I don`t know what is.
LIZZA: Ed, the plot thickens. He sounded like a candidate right
there. In the very least, he wants folks like us to say that he`s thinking
about the race. Very interesting development. Sestak was a big favorite
of Rahm Emanuel when Rahm Emanuel was running the DCCC. And I think we
need to know a little bit more about what kind of deal the White House cut
SCHULTZ: Oh, you hit the nail on the head. You hit the nail on the
LIZZA: Obama has said that -- is Specter going to be the Obama
Democrat in that race or not? Is he going to raise money for Specter.
SCHULTZ: Jamal, was there a deal cut? We`ve got to find this out
now. Is he untouchable or what`s happening?
SIMMONS: We do have to find it out. Again, I think the question is
whether of not the deal was cut in Washington. But that doesn`t mean the
deal was cut in Pennsylvania. So there may be some folks in Pennsylvania
who are looking to run against Joe Sestak. And I can`t imagine that all --
I mean, run against Arlen Specter. I can`t imagine that all the labor
unions are going to be happy with Arlen Specter, with his position on Card
Check, or the Employee Free Choice Act.
There are going to be some questions here. Looks like the Republican
tent is getting smaller. The Democratic tent is getting bigger. We`ll
have to see what happens in this exciting race.
SCHULTZ: Fellows, here`s a great opportunity tonight for the
Democrats to step up and say, hey, competition is a great thing in America.
We love competition. I think it`s going to be some people, John, in
Pennsylvania, that are calling Joe Sestak, saying hey buddy, you`ve got to
step up and get after it. We don`t have a good Democrat in Specter. What
do you think?
FEEHERY: I hope that Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are looking at
this very closely. If you decide to switch parties, you might not get a
free ride, no matter what deal you cut in Washington, DC. That`s a lesson
to learn. Don`t switch parties. All these moderates, stay Republican.
SCHULTZ: Ryan, you`re take?
LIZZA: And the truth is, from the White House`s perspective, to have
some pressure from the left on Arlen Specter from someone like Sestak may
help keep him in line in the Senate a little bit more. So, it may not be
the worst thing in the world for them to say, hey Specter, don`t worry,
we`re on your side. But by the way, Sestak is going to be primarying you.
You better be careful how you vote.
SCHULTZ: Ryan Lizza, Jamal Simmons, John Feehery, great to have you
guys on tonight. Thanks so much. That`s THE ED SHOW. I`m Ed Schultz. Be
sure to tune in tomorrow night. I`ll be down in Washington, DC for the
president`s news conference. Full coverage here on MSNBC.
If you`d like to send me an e-mail or get more information, go to
Ed.MSNBC.com, or check out my radio website, WeGotEd.com. Our next town
hall meeting, Buffalo, New York, June 13th.
Get text alerts about THE ED SHOW sent to your phone. Just text the
word Ed to 622639. Chris Matthews is next on "HARDBALL."
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