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'The Ed Show' for Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest: Steny Hoyer, Jonathan Turley, Rep. George Miller, Karen Hanretty, E.J. Dionne, Mike Allen, Chuck Todd


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.

Will Democrats get a health care bill by the end of this year?  I‘ll ask Majority Leader Steny Hoyer coming up in just a minute. 

The Justice Department is likely to say no way to a criminal investigation into the lawyers who wrote the Bush torture memos. 

Eric Holder, the ball is in your court. 

A Fox News pollster is writing the Republican script on health care. 

We‘ll take you through that line by line. 

And here she goes.  She‘s back at it again.  Michele Bachmann, she returns to “Psycho Talk.” 

All that, plus a great panel.

But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.”

Who is the leader of the Republican Party?  Anybody know?  I think it‘s Rush.  And I want to talk about Limbaugh tonight to start things out.

He was in Washington last night at a dinner of wealthy right-wing donors to the Heritage Foundation.  Now, at this president‘s dinner, we‘ve got millionaires, we‘ve got millionaire trustees like Thomas Saunders and a Supreme Court justice like Clarence Thomas. 

Limbaugh started bragging about his $400 million contract. 

Good for you, Rush. 

Then he mocked the idea that Americans are suffering, that there is a recession. 

Now, I want to play this exclusive audio from Think Progress for you.  Now, I have to warn you, it‘s very poor quality, so we‘ve provided subtitles so you‘ll get the gist, though.  Here it is.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  But during all this growth I haven‘t lost any audience.  I‘ve never had financially a down year.  There‘s supposedly a recession, but we‘ve got—what is this May?  Back in February we already had 182 percent of 2008 overbooked for 2009.


LIMBAUGH:  So, I always believed that if we‘re going to have a recession, just don‘t participate.


SCHULTZ:  Oh, they‘re just clapping away, aren‘t they?  This is complete arrogance, complete selfishness. 

Limbaugh is the voice of the Republican Party.  There‘s no doubt about it.  He is the pulse, he is the conscience, he is the morality of that party and of the conservative movement. 

But when you see Rush, you think sheer Republican arrogance.  The arrogance is just dripping off of this guy and right into the Republican right-wing agenda. 

Do you think they care about health care?  There is no conservative elected official that is willing to stand up to the drugster.  In fact, they are afraid of the guy. 

Except there was one guy who took Rush to the woodshed earlier—former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday.  Powell told a group in Washington, “I think what Rush does as an entertainer diminishes the party and intrudes and inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that would be better to do without.”

Now, the key is, Powell is not an elected official.  The elected Republicans don‘t have the guts to take on the drugster like that.  Powell is correct.  It‘s sheer nastiness. 

So, Limbaugh laughs off the recession.  Could this guy be more out of touch with average Americans?  He‘s bragging about his $400 million contract with a company that has done what?  They‘ve cut thousands of employees, 12 percent of their workforce. 

Limbaugh‘s, you know, good radio folks, good morning talk show hosts, production staff, program directors, they‘re all gone.  And he mocks the recession?  He‘s mocking a recession which has caused 5.1 million Americans to lose their jobs since December of 2007? 

Folks, let me ask you, are these the people that you want to listen to on health care reform?  These are the people that are going to be looking out for the middle class?  These are the people who you can trust when it comes to funding public education?  And I think it should be duly noted tonight in the crowd, a Supreme Court justice who is laughing away with the rest of them, endorsing this kind of thinking? 

Folks, this is exactly why President Obama has to put a liberal on the Supreme Court.  A liberal on the Supreme Court.  These birds flock together, and they are powerful, and they are going to fight hard against the president‘s nominee.

Now, Judge Thomas, could you disavow and distance yourself from Rush Limbaugh?  Because if you‘re going to solve a problem, don‘t you have to kind of care about it?  There are 10,000 Americans a day losing their health care because of this recession, the one that that crowd was mocking last night. 

Well, here‘s how I feel about this.  You have to care about something.  And you can‘t solve problems if you‘re going to be arrogant to the situations that are facing Americans right now.  So focus on solutions. 

You know, I really don‘t know why the president even talks to the Republicans anymore when it comes to health care.  They have no solutions.  Let‘s focus on the solutions. 

Democrats in the Congress are looking forward to move things forward when it comes to health care reform.  That‘s you.  That‘s your bill, that‘s your doctor.  They don‘t want to put the government between you and the doctor. 

For more on all of this, let‘s go to the man who‘s at the center of this debate and leading the charge, Congressman Steny Hoyer, who‘s the Majority Leader in the House.

Steny, you gave a great speech today on the floor starting to lead the charge on health care reform.  What do you want to do?  What can be done in 2009? 

REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER:  First of all, what we want to do, as you well know, and the president has set forth as an agenda, is to make health care, quality health care, accessible health care, available to all Americans.  It is shameful in the richest country on the face of the earth.

We‘ve got 46 million Americans who, if they get sick, are not sure exactly where they can get treatment or get advice from a doctor.  And they get really sick, they go to an emergency room, which is the most expensive place to go to get health care.

So we‘re about the business of making sure that every American is in our health care system has access to quality health care.  We think that makes good sense for them, it makes good sense for our country, and it makes good sense for our economy. 

SCHULTZ:  Steny, how much help are you actually going to get from Republicans?  I have in my hand tonight—this story was broken by the Politico—the language of health care 2009 by Republican strategist, pollster, whatever Fox guy, Frank Luntz.  And it says here “The 10 Rules for Stopping the Washington Takeover of Health Care.”

Now, if this is what they are circulating, what do Americans have to look forward to, to any kind of bipartisan support?  What do you think? 

HOYER:  Well, I‘m hopeful, Ed, that we‘ll have bipartisan support. 

And we‘re going to work on getting bipartisan support. 

After all, the most conservative people in America, the most liberal people in America, and everybody in between, gets sick.  They need health care.  So this ought not to be a partisan issue. 

Frank Luntz is a very talented guy, by the way, at spinning things, at how to talk to people and have them give a response.  In this case, he wants a negative response because he wants his party not to be perceived as being against health care reform.  So they may talk well, but they can‘t walk the walk. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I‘ll tell you what, Congressman Hoyer, you‘re the majority leader.  I will document later in this show tonight how some Republicans are actually quoting from this already.  It didn‘t take very long.

Now, this is going to be a battle.  And I believe that this plan is to do everything it possibly can to help the Republicans derail any kind of health care reform in this country. 

Do you think they‘d be up to that?

HOYER:  Let me say something about that, Ed, because, frankly, I think democracy works.  And I would help that the American public that really believes that we need health care reform, they believe that everybody ought to be in the system, they know full well that their premiums on average are $1,100 more per year because those 46, 47 million people. 

They are paying their insurance.  Those people ought to be in the system.  They understand from a cost standpoint it‘s good for them, but certainly from a standpoint of having a healthy nation it‘s good for them.  They want their children sitting next to healthy children in school. 

SCHULTZ:  It just signals to me, and I think to a lot of Americans, that they would rather be obstructionists than to sign on to anything successful that this president and the Democrats want to get done when it comes to health care reform. 

HOYER:  You know, Ed, let me tell you, the Speaker and I are both reaching out to our Republican colleagues asking for their thoughts.  We‘re hopeful that they will participate with us. 

We believe that this is a very, very critical effort for us, not only in terms of individuals, but bringing down the cost of health care for Americans and, frankly, for the government as well.  We spend $2.4 trillion on health care in this country and it needs to be reformed fully inclusive and cost-effective.  We hope our Republican colleagues will join us in that effort. 

SCHULTZ:  You know, Steny, Majority Leader, I‘ve got to tell you, a friend of mine, we talked a lot about this in the past.  And I appreciate you coming on and being so direct. 

You know, if the Congress doesn‘t do anything else this year and just does this, it‘s a victory. 

HOYER:  I agree with that. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s a victory.

Steny, thanks so much.  Good to have you with us tonight.

HOYER:  Thank you, Ed.  Congratulations on your show. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet, my man.  Thank you very much. 

HOYER:  All right. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So there you heard it.  The Majority Leader right there wants to do something about health care, but folks, we‘re going to document for you later in this program the sound bites, that they are singing it already. 

All right.  Now let‘s go to the White House. 

NBC News Chief White House Correspondent chuck Todd with us tonight. 

Chuck, do we have any response tonight?  Is there any response tonight from the White House with this playbook that‘s floating around on how to defeat health care reform? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, there‘s not.  And, you know, it‘s funny.  With frank Luntz, it is one of those things where if you talk to a lot of Republicans, they will say that the Democrats put more—end up hyping up Frank Luntz‘s memos more so than actually Republicans on the Hill read from them. 

I mean, he certainly has his supporters.  And I know that you‘re going to have some folks that you‘re noticing already taking some of his advice.  But he is a—let‘s just say he‘s a very polarizing figure, even among Republicans, on the various aspects of advice that he gives.

SCHULTZ:  Chuck, does the White House believes the Republicans are sincere about doing a deal on reform and health care? 

TODD:  Well, it‘s interesting.  You know, Ed, this afternoon—and here we are in the middle of this summit with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  And the president, though, had lunch with the Senate Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus, and the ranking Republican there, Chuck Grassley.  And the conversation was almost entirely about health care and figuring out how to get reform out of that finance committee, because Ed, those are the two guys—if it‘s going to have any bipartisan support, those are the two guys to do it. 

And I think when you see what the president is doing, he‘s trying to surgically go after even some conservative Republicans like Chuck Grassley from Iowa, Republicans that he believes he could win over on this specific issue.  Chuck Grassley was big on S-CHIP.  He had broke from President Bush on that last year when this came up. 

And so I think they do think there are specific Republicans they can go after, at least in the Senate.  They don‘t need a lot of Republican support in the House, and we shouldn‘t get—you know, that‘s something that‘s going to blur this a little bit.  House Republicans can throw a lot of bombs; they get nowhere.  It‘s Senate Republicans that could actually either make health care happen faster or possibly stop it. 

SCHULTZ:  No doubt about it. 

Chuck, got to ask you about Arlen Specter.  Does the White House think that he‘s in the family? 


TODD:  Well, I tell you, they want to stay away from it today, but Harry Reid seems absolutely speechless at some points today with the various comments. 

Look, Arlen—you know, they did go into this with their eyes wide open.  This was not—unlike the Jim Jeffords switch, the Republican who became an Independent but gave Democrats control of the Senate, they didn‘t need him to sort of reorganize.  So they didn‘t have to make him a promise. 

And the difference, when I‘ve talked to Democrats today, the difference is, Ed, Specter came to them and said, hey, I‘d like to become a Democrat because I think it‘s the only way I can keep my Senate seat.  So the problem Specter has, he doesn‘t have a lot of bargaining power. 


TODD:  Not the same amount that Jeffords had.  And frankly, not the same amount that Joe Lieberman had, because he was the 51st senator there at the time when he went from Democrat to an Independent Democrat from Connecticut.

SCHULTZ:  Chuck, let me ask you about the story that you‘re following today about Afghanistan.  Congressman Obey pretty much put it out there. 

TODD:  He sure did. 

SCHULTZ:  You‘ve got to fish or cut bait, and he wants to talk about a deadline.

His that being received at the White House? 

TODD:  Not well at all, Ed.  And in fact, if you noticed, Speaker Pelosi today seemed to—who rarely crosses Congressman Obey in public like this, she said that was off the table, they wouldn‘t do strings like that. 

That was potentially something that when you talk to folks like Richard Holbrooke, General Petraeus, that is not the conversation they wanted to have with the president of Pakistan or the president of Afghanistan today.  They could have that conversation about benchmarks in a couple weeks.  The timing of it certainly seemed to upset the apple cart here. 

SCHULTZ:  NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd.

See you in the front row. 

TODD:  All right, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you. 

TODD:  You bet.

SCHULTZ:  All right.

Up next, the torture memo probe.  No charges expected for the lawyers who wrote the memos?  Does this mean that Bush and Cheney are getting off scot-free?  Well, not necessarily.

We‘ll talk about it next on THE ED SHOW.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

No charges on torture.  The Justice Department is wrapping up an internal investigation into the Bush administration torture memos. 

Now, the department is expected to recommend professional sanctions for the lawyers who actually wrote the memos but no criminal prosecution?  But that doesn‘t mean it‘s over. 

President Obama still can put this in the hands of the attorney general, Eric Holder.  The question is, did these Justice Department lawyers decide to cook up, I guess you could say, a defense for waterboarding? 

Another case of a few bad apples on the team?  Just maybe overzealously acting on their own?  Or is it more likely that they were acting under pressure from the Bush White House? 

Joining me now is Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University‘s law school.

Mr. Turley, great to have you with us tonight. 


SCHULTZ:  This—I‘ve got to start out with a partisan question here

this wreaks of political calculation, doesn‘t it? 

TURLEY:  Well, first of all, you have to understand that this investigation, which has taken five years, began with the Bush administration investigating itself.  Not only is this the Justice Department investigating itself, it‘s the Bush Justice Department investigating itself, and it‘s continued over to the Obama administration.

And it was ridiculed at the time as an effort to try to diminish calls for prosecution.  And what‘s curious about this is why refer them to the Bar?  What are they being referred to for? 

If they are being referred to the Bar because of their involvement in a torture program, in the commission of a war crime, then that‘s not exactly a purely disciplinary offense.  That‘s a criminal offense.

And if you don‘t believe they participated in a war crime, then why are you refer them at all?  You don‘t refer lawyers because of shoddy analysis. 

What both the Obama and Bush administration is having a difficult time with is that nobody in either party wants to deal with the war crimes, because it will be politically unpopular.  And the evidence that war crimes were committed is remarkably strong.  And the people that would be responsible are ultimately George Bush and Dick Cheney, George Tenet, Alberto Gonzales, the highest ranking officials in our government. 

SCHULTZ:  No doubt about it.

Now Jonathan, what about professional sanctions?  When the American people hear that, what are they supposed to think?  What are the ramifications here? 

TURLEY:  Well, professional sanctions could include disbarment, which would be particularly interesting in the case of Jay Bybee, who‘s on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  If he gets disbarred, I would hope that at least then he would resign.  I believe that he should resign now for what he did in this case.

My assumption is that the faculty of Berkeley if John Yoo was disbarred would probably feel compelled to review whether he should remain on the faculty.  But I don‘t think that they are likely to move for disbarment.  What I think is being suggested between the lines here is some type of reprimand, like they commingled client and personal funds, when we‘re really talking about participation in a war crime. 

SCHULTZ:  Jonathan, are we to take that maybe Eric Holder, attorney general, is going to back off on this and the Obama administration is just going to look to the future and just say, well, we shouldn‘t have done it, it was a mistake?  That‘s the word the president used the other night at the press conference.  He wouldn‘t admit it‘s a crime, he said it was a mistake. 

What did you make of that? 

TURLEY:  Well, it‘s very clear that President Obama does not want to see anyone prosecuted for war crimes.  And you have this sort of performance of Hamlet on the Potomac as they stare at this crime, which is well defined. 

You have Bush officials who have admitted they tortured people.  The Red Cross said they tortured people.  And yet, Holder and Obama are still saying we‘re still looking at it. 

They need to appoint a special prosecutor.  The idea that the Justice Department could investigate itself on an issue of this kind, let alone these other high-ranking officials, is absurd.  It is a rejection of the most basic ethical standards governing conflicts of interest. 

SCHULTZ:  Jonathan Turley, always a pleasure.  Great to have your insight tonight on THE ED SHOW.  Thanks so much. 

TURLEY:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

Next up on THE ED SHOW, “Psycho Talk.”  Michele Bachmann says President Obama wants to shackle America‘s children?  Come on.

Well, she said it.  She‘s crazy.  She‘s back at it again with a prediction for the future, next in “Psycho Talk.” 


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Have you heard some of the crazy things that are being said by conservatives? 

That‘s right, it‘s time for “Psycho Talk.” 

Oh, she‘s the queen bee, huh?  Michele Bachmann makes her weekly appearance in to the “Psycho Talk” zone tonight.  She‘s up to her old ways, fear mongering and implying President Obama is looking to enslave Americans. 

Think Progress brought this one to light.  Bachmann spoke to the conservative Northern Radio Alliance Network on Monday.  The congresswoman tells the radio show she‘s concerned for the youth of the country because of all the debt. 

Let‘s listen. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Well, I‘ll tell you what I am concerned about are the current 19-and-20-year-olds that are going to hold this debt.  And it‘s the mother of all ironies, John and Brian (ph), that the kids who voted en masse for Barack Obama are the ones being fitted with shackles and chains.  And they‘re going to wake up one morning and find out that their tax rate is 65 percent or higher. 


SCHULTZ:  First of all, where does Bachmann get her numbers?  Does she just make them up?  Let‘s throw out 65 percent and see if it sticks. 

No one has ever used that number.  But you see, as for her shocking and insulting choice of words, Obama‘s policies are fitting 19-and-20-year-olds with shackles and chains, it‘s not the first time that Bachmann makes the reference to the president enslaving Americans.

We told you last month where she claimed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act could lead to reeducation camps for young people.  Michele Bachmann, making references to slavery when talking about the policies of America‘s first black president, that‘s not only inappropriate and insulting, it is absolutely “Psycho Talk.”  


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Rush Limbaugh attended a dinner in D.C. last night for the wealthy donors and supporters of the Heritage Foundation.  You heard me talk about it in the opening of tonight‘s program on the op-ed.  It was at this dinner Limbaugh bragged about his 400 million dollar contract and mocked the idea that Americans are suffering in a recession. 

He noted the fact, “I‘ve never had a financially down year.  There is supposedly a recession.”

All right.  That is absolute sheer arrogance when you look at how many people in the radio industry have lost their jobs.  How out of touch can this guy be with the American people?  And he is the voice and he is the leader for the Republican party. 

It‘s true, no one will stand up to this guy who is an elected official.  And Colin Powell spoke up against Rush.  The key is he‘s not an elected official.  He has nothing to lose. 

Joining me now, Carlos Watson, MSNBC anchor and political analyst, Karen Hanretty, who is a Republican strategist, and E.J. Dionne, columnist of the “Washington Post.”

All right.  Off subject quickly tonight, Sanchez to the Jets, good pick?   

CARLOS WATSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I say great pick.  Big pick at number five.  Ed and I love a great quarterbacks.  This is guy is not only going to be great.  He‘s going to be a celebrity.

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Back to business here.  What about Limbaugh talking like this?  What does it do for the image of the party, when we‘ve got 10,000 people a day who are losing their health care, and he‘s mocking the recession? 

WATSON:  Not only that, the company that paid him this money, Clear Channel, has either filed for bankruptcy or is on the edge.  Right?  So if he hasn‘t had a day without a meal, I sure tell you what, his company has. 

I think the reality is the Republicans have this big gaping hole.  And the longer they leave it opened, the more Rush is going to fill it until Mitt Romney or a revitalized Bobby Jindal steps forward and says, I not only want to run, but I‘ve got real plans.  They are going to be in trouble. 

SCHULTZ:  Karen, let me ask you, has there ever been any elected official who was stood up to the power of Limbaugh and his audience on the radio?  And does he create a problem for the Republicans? 

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I don‘t think Rush is a problem for the Republicans, but I also don‘t think he‘s the leader of the Republican party.  Look, let‘s look at some of the qualifications for what past leaders have done.  They have been in touch with elected leadership in the parties.  They‘ve been in touch with—in helping recruit candidates and raise money for candidates and build a policy platform for them to run on.

I don‘t think those things can be said about Rush Limbaugh. 

WATSON:  But Ed, when Rush said jump—I was on the air with him this morning.  He says how high.  Michael Steele says how high.  They all say how high.  With all due respect to Karen, the reality is right now, in this vacuum, Rush Limbaugh is the guy.

SCHULTZ:  It seems like, Karen, nobody wants to debunk what he says, no matter what the issue.

HANRETTY:  Debunk what?  No one denies that we‘re in a recession.  I don‘t if Rush has ever had a down year in a recession.  We know he used to be a poor guy who could barely scrape together two dimes.  And now he‘s got his 400 million dollar contract. 

Well, good for him.  But as far as the Republican party, here‘s where I‘ll agree with you, Carlos, I do think there‘s a vacuum of leadership right now.  There‘s no single voice that is coming up with fresh ideas.  Eric Cantor is on the right track with Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.  But Rush Limbaugh is the not the leader of the Republican party. 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t see anybody debunking what he says.  They almost genuflect to the guy.  E.J., what is your take on all of this? 

E.J. DIONNE, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You know, I was thinking about that old REM song, “It‘s the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel Fine.”  I think what you‘ve got in the Republican party are some folks, Limbaugh is a leader of them, who basically say it doesn‘t matter that the deregulatory policies didn‘t work; it doesn‘t matter that the Bush tax cuts didn‘t lead to the prosperity we said they would.  We just have to keep doing the same thing and say it louder. 

Now, the fact is, Rush Limbaugh can continue to be successful because he doesn‘t need a majority.  If he gets 10, 20 percent, that‘s a huge victory and he can keep making all of that money.  But the Republicans have to build a majority.  And right now there are only a handful of Republicans willing to challenge the old view and say, we need new ideas.  Governor Huntsman, I think, in Utah is trying to do that.  Columnists like by friend David Brooks or Ross Douthat are trying to do that.

But I think most Republicans just don‘t want to challenge any of the old ideas. 

SCHULTZ:  OK, let‘s talk about Arlen Specter, because has made a very interesting comment to the “New Yorker.”  He made the comment that he wants Norm Coleman to win the United States Senate seat.  Now, I know enough about Al Franken to know that probably made him pretty hot under the collar.  It‘s interesting, the vice president met with Al Franken today.  Carlos, your take on all of this, is Arlen Specter in the family? 

WATSON:  You know, I think Arlen Specter is off to a rocky start.  I thought that Congressman Joe Sestak on my radio show not too long ago, and he sounded like a guy who is running.  The more time that goes by and the more you see Democrats in the Senate, and the more he goes against the president, especially if he waits too long to come along on health care, your issue, I think he‘s going to face not just one, but two or three primary challenges. 

SCHULTZ:  Karen, would he actually go back to the Republicans now that he‘s lost his seniority on these committees? 

HANRETTY:  I tell you what, Ed, he is all yours.  Enjoy.  Have a great time with him. 

SCHULTZ:  Some of the numbers—


DIONNE:  I was going to say that he just got rid of a Republican primary by switching parties.  And in about two or three days, he‘s creating the potential of a raucous Democratic primary.  I think Joe Sestak really does want to run.  And I think Democrats are inclined to vote for him if they think that he can win.  These new polls that came out that showed Governor Ridge only three points behind Arlen Specter are going to give Democrats real pause, I think. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s interesting, E.J., because Mr. Sestak said on this program, when I asked if Arlen Specter‘s a good Democrat, he said, let‘s wait and see.  Less than 48 hours later, we found out that he wants the wrong guy, at least as far as the Democrats are concerned, to get to the United States Senate.  How can Joe Sestak not jump into that primary thing?  What do you think? 

DIONNE:  If I were to get guess, I think he‘s going to do it.  I think he wants to do it.  I think that there is room there in a primary.  I think Specter‘s main arguments are going to be Obama is for me and I guess Ed Rendell is for me, but we‘ll see if that lasts.  The other is I‘m the strongest candidate.  It‘s not yet clear that he is the strongest candidate to hold that seat.

SCHULTZ:  Carlos, Al Franken has got to be sitting there saying, what is going on here?  This might not go my way, although we‘ve got the votes counted and we‘ve got all kinds of legal—

WATSON:  He said put me in, coach. 

SCHULTZ:  I mean, really, what is he doing meeting with Biden today? 

WATSON:  Clearly, they expect that this is ultimately going to work out well.  You had this whole conversation on your program.  It may take another couple of weeks, but ultimately this thing is going to work out. 

I want to go back to Arlen Specter.  He actually is going to have a summer audition, I think.  I think when you look at Employee Free Choice, which Harry Reid said he wanted to find an alternative that Specter could once again support, when you look at the Supreme Court nomination, and when you look at some of Obama‘s spending on health care, he‘s got a chance to prove himself a good Democrat.  That may scare Sestak out of the race, no matter what he‘s saying right now. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, if I‘m Al Franken, I would want to meet with somebody as high as the vice president, asking the question, you guys still want me or not?  Somebody ought to come back and just blast Specter on this. 


SCHULTZ:  What do you think, Karen? 

HANRETTY:  I‘ll be curious—when Franken, if and when he gets seated

and I‘m pretty sure he will be seated—it will be interesting to see how he‘s treated in relationship to Specter.  Will he be given more seniority?  Will he be given perhaps some better seat on a committee?  This will be a fantastic dynamic to watch.  I think that will be fun to watch, because if Specter is pushed to the side for Al Franken, as he emerges into the Democratic caucus, I think that will just be fun to watch.  I know Republicans will be enjoying it. 

SCHULTZ:  All right, panel, stay with us.  Up next, what‘s my line?  Republicans are reading from the script on health care.  It‘s next on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us. 


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  In my playbook tonight, the Republicans are finally talking about health care reform, but they don‘t have a plan to solve our health care crisis.  What they do have is a 28 page talking point memo, written by Frank Luntz.  Here it is.  It‘s called “The Language of Health Care.” 

Let‘s see.  “The ten rules for stopping the Washington take over of health care.”  Now, here‘s what they are trying to do.  They are using this to destroy any health care reform effort put out by the Obama administration.  This is what it is. 

The number two Republican in the House, Eric Cantor, seems to have memorized it.  Page one, big bold headlines, acknowledge the crisis.  Quote, “if you‘re one of the millions who can‘t afford health care, it is a crisis.” 


REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, VIRGINIA:  If someone doesn‘t have health insurance in this country, that person is facing a crisis. 


SCHULTZ:  Page one also advises Republicans to humanize and personalize when talking about health care.  Page 21, personalization, OK, personalizing it; it‘s just about the individual Republicans should emphasize children and elderly parents.  Did Cantor do that?


CANTOR:  The working moms of this country, what are they thinking about this morning?  They want to make sure that they will continue to have the ability to choose their pediatrician, to make sure they can choose the care for their elderly parent. 


SCHULTZ:  They‘ve got the playbook down, don‘t they?  Joining me now is Mike Allen.  He is the chief White House correspondent for “Politico.”  “Politico” had the exclusive on this story.  Good work, Mike.  I talked to some folks on the Hill last night, a couple of senators, and they are furious about this, because they really think this is going to be a road block to try to get anything done. 

What do you think the mission is here, to send out a pollster like that, and go out and circulate it among the Republicans? 

MIKE ALLEN, “POLITICO”:  Good evening, Ed.  My take away from this was that health reform is popular.  People want it.  That‘s why you hear them acknowledging a crisis, acknowledging the need for reform, and a very instructive line in this, Ed, is that they say not to oppose Barack Obama, that if you make it an argument between free enterprise and Barack Obama, where the country is right now, they are going to take President Obama. 

So they warn them, don‘t use the old things about free enterprise.  And they way don‘t even talk about how much more it‘s going to cost the government, because people want the government to help them pay for it right now. 

So instead you talked about the government take over at the top, denial of care, bureaucrats; that‘s the kind of scare story that they are proposing that Republicans exercise. 

SCHULTZ:  Oh, there‘s no doubt, Mike.  They are trying to make the government the boogie man in all of this. 

ALLEN:  Rationing.  You‘re going to have to wait in line.  Canada.

SCHULTZ:  That‘s right, the Canadians are just flocking the American system because it‘s so bad up there.  Here‘s the deal, you have got someone behind the scenes trying to derail a health care reform effort by this administration.  Do you read it that way? 

ALLEN:  No, I wouldn‘t go that far.  There is a line in the document that talks about getting constituents to support the current situation, which is what you might call the status quo.  And the recommendations here are that lawmakers at their town halls asked them, would you rather have the care that you have now or to have to wait to have care? 

But I think, Ed, what this does do is it illustrates the box that opponents are in, that the critics of the president are in.  Because unlike the situation in the Clinton administration, now most of the natural opponents, including business, including the biggest voice of business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are at the table.  They are up there every week negotiating.  They‘re not opposing any bill.  They recognize where the trade is going.  They are trying to affect the bill. 

So when this administration is out talking about preserving the care that you have, adding choice, adding flexibility, those are Republican terms.  So that‘s what makes it very difficult to oppose. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I tell you what, if I‘m over on the Democratic side of the Senate, I‘m thinking there‘s a game plan to knock off anything we want to do.  Quickly, maybe we‘re giving Luntz too much credit.  What do you think? 

ALLEN:  No, Frank Luntz is very wise about this.  He‘s very clever about the use of words.  And this is circulating very widely among Republicans.  As you can see, they are listening. 

SCHULTZ:  Good to have you on, Mike. 

ALLEN:  Likewise.  My pleasure. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you so much. 

The U.S. suffers its first Swine Flu casualty, a teacher in Texas.  Up next, what‘s being done to prevent another deadly outbreak.  That‘s next on THE ED SHOW.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Schools across the country reopened their doors today, after the CDC said Swine Flu is not as deadly as they feared.  But health officials now think the Swine Flu will hit harder this fall. 

Joining me now is Congressman George Miller, chair of the Committee on Education and Labor.  The committee holds a hearing tomorrow to look at how schools and workplaces will handle a future pandemic. 

Before—George, before I get to that, thanks for joining us tonight.  There are some Americans out there who are thinking that this whole Swine Flu thing was like yelling fire in a crowded theater.  Do you subscribe to that?  Did we overplay this?  What do you think? 


don‘t think we over-played it.  I think maybe the constant repetition in the media might have lead to a little bit of a sense of panic for a while.  But what the scientists have told us, you know, in the early days, you don‘t really know the definition or the characterization of how big this problem can be. 

Influenza is very deadly.  Thousands and thousands of people die of it every year in the United States.  If you get a strain that you‘re not familiar with, that you can‘t immediately identify, you‘ve got to have very serious concerns about protecting the American citizens.  So they really have no choice in the early days of taking the most precautionary steps. 

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s talk about protections.  What protections do you think need to be taken from this point on, if the CDC is saying we are going to get nailed with it this fall? 

MILLER:  Well, I think, clearly, we want them to continue the great work that they have done in trying to isolate the strain, to try to develop a vaccine, so we‘ll be in a position to perhaps provide a vaccine, if there‘s enough time to do that. 

But we also want to know, how do institutions respond.  Schools all over the country were closed.  Hundreds of thousands of kids were sent home.  Families weren‘t prepared.  Communities weren‘t prepared.  The schools weren‘t prepared for that kind of decision that they were closed.  Health workers were taxed.  Hundreds and thousands of people showed up at hospitals, emergency rooms, community clinics, trying to find out if they had the Swine Flu, when they didn‘t. 

We see now that we have a number of health care workers, front line first responders, who have been infected, possibly infected, several dozen of though those. 

What we‘re trying to do tomorrow in the hearing is learn from the Center of Disease Control, from state superintendents of schools, from Occupational Health and Safety, how do we protect the workers and how do we prepare so it doesn‘t become even more disruptive to families, to our economy, to places of business, and to the safety of the American people, if health care workers aren‘t also protected. 

SCHULTZ:  And finally, Mr. Chairman, do you think the administration is going to recommend the production of a new Swine Flu vaccine or do you don‘t think they will go that far, or will they? 

MILLER:  I don‘t know.  But I think that we are getting more and more information that should we want to make that decision, that they be in a position to do that.  But, again, we‘re trying to learn from—we‘ve got a test here, even with the tragic deaths we had, we escaped a great deal of jeopardy.  But there‘s some history that this could come back.  It could be more virulent in its next iteration.  We‘ve got to have the lessons learned from what happened these last months, and what we need to do to prepare for it.  But I don‘t know whether they will make that call or not, or whether they‘re prepared to. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you Chairman Miller.  Appreciate your time tonight. 

MILLER:  Thank you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  Time to bring in our panel again, Karen Hanretty, and also E.J. Dionne and Carlos Watson.  Karen, I want to get back to this playbook that Luntz has been put together for the Republicans to fight back on health care.  How credible is this?  Do you think Republicans on the Hill are going to pay attention to this and actually use it?  We‘ve heard some sound bites earlier in this program tonight.  It sure looks like Mr.  Canto has got it down.  What do you think? 

HANRETTY:  First of all, I think this isn‘t a story.  Frank Luntz has been writing message books for Republicans for at least 15 years that I know of.  I‘ve been doing it since the 1994 Contract With America.  I‘ve sat in multiple focus groups with him.  I‘ve had his little message book.  He wrote a book, for crying out loud.  And I bet if you bought it online today, the stuff he says about health care is exactly the stuff that he‘s put out there in this breaking news item from “Politico.” 

There‘s nothing new here.  And this is probably nothing new to what Frank Luntz is saying, which is why it‘s not going to get Republicans anywhere. 

SCHULTZ:  Karen, respectfully, I can match the sound bites up with what is in this report. 


SCHULTZ:  So it is a story because the Republicans are quoting right from it.  And it‘s titled “The Ten Rules for Stopping Washington Takeover of Health Care.” 

HANRETTY:  Let me get this straight.  You think that there‘s not a Democrat pollster out there who is writing message points for Democrats? 

SCHULTZ:  We‘re for health care reform.  We‘re not anti.  We‘re trying to get something done.  Go ahead, Carlos. 

WATSON:  Ed, I‘ll tell you what Luntz‘s big idea is right now.  Luntz‘s big idea is perhaps the way to restart the GOP engine, is to cooperate.  And it actually may not be a bad idea.  I‘m not saying they cooperate forever.  But the way to stay relevant and to reengage and become part of the conversation—health care is big.  It‘s important.  Engage, offer a couple of big ideas.  Make that happen.  It‘s going to happen anyhow.  Then be able to move on and be able to distinguish themselves as they head into the 2010 elections.

SCHULTZ:  E.J., what if the Republicans don‘t sign on with the Obama administration on any of this?  They were against the stimulus package.  They‘ve been against everything so far.  Now, all of a sudden, they are going to see the sunshine and say, what do you say we do health care together? 

DIONNE:  Well, I think health care is a particular problem for Republicans in a way it wasn‘t 15 years ago, when the Clintons tried to do it.  This time, as Mike Allen suggested, you‘ve got interest groups that were fighting it the last time who are now negotiating, business in general.  But you‘ve got the drug companies saying, maybe we can get something out of this.  You‘ve got the insurance companies at the table.  I think, as long as there‘s the perception that something is going to pass, these groups are not going to be negotiating or organizing to kill the thing.  They‘re going to be trying to get what they can out of it.

I think right now the momentum is with health care, and I think a lot of smart Republicans know that.  Then, I should spend the rest of this giving you sound bites about my elderly mother-in-law and health care for my children.

SCHULTZ:  I hear you.  OK, I want to quickly switch gears to the financial sector, because there‘s not very good news out there for some of the banks.  Carlos, can the president go back to the well again and ask the American people to fork out more tax dollars for these banks? 

WATSON:  He can, but the question is: is that the best way to spend his political capital right now, when we know that there will be more difficulties elsewhere.  I think ultimately the real question is, will he allow some of these banks to fail, if even after they need more money—remember, they‘ve got six months to come up with the money.  If by the end of the year they haven‘t come up with the money, would they allow someone to fail?  That‘s the big question. 

SCHULTZ:  Karen, what do you think of the situation, for instance, with Bank of America?  What do you think? 

HANRETTY:  I don‘t think he goes back to the American people and asks for more money for banks if he wants to pay for his expensive health care plan. 

SCHULTZ:  Actually, it‘s not going to be expensive, because, in the long haul, we‘re going to be saving a lot of money on health care, with information technology and preventive care clinics and stuff like that. 


HANRETTY:  We‘ll see if the moderate Democrats agree with you.

SCHULTZ:  I tell you what, and I honestly believe this, Karen, and Carlos and E.J., that if the Democrats don‘t get health care reform done, and if they get a couple of spokes in the wheel and keep this thing from turning—I‘m telling you, the Democrats need to get something done on health care.  And I mean all of them need to get on board with this.  E.J., I think there‘s going to be a big political fallout in the midterm if they don‘t get it done.  What do you think? 

DIONNE:  I totally agree.  I think when you go back to ‘94, there are a lot of reasons why the Democrats lost that election.  One of the big ones is they not only didn‘t get health care done, but they couldn‘t even hang the failure on the Republicans.  It was a crime where there was no weapon on the scene. 

And so I think they‘ve got to get it done.  I think they know that. 

And the person who really knows that is Barack Obama. 

WATSON:  I bet you we‘ll see more Republicans come aboard, because what Republicans don‘t want to have happen—forget what Democrats don‘t want to have happen, because now we‘ve got the reconciliation threat.  What Republicans don‘t want is 1934 all over again, when FDR picks up seats in both houses of Congress. 

HANRETTY:  The good news is that Democrats have the majority.  You can do it without Republicans.   

SCHULTZ:  I think we can and I think we will. 

HANRETTY:  We‘ll see. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘m just for the reform.

HANRETTY:  I wouldn‘t bet on it. 

SCHULTZ:  You wouldn‘t bet on it? 

HANRETTY:  No, I wouldn‘t bet on it. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  I‘m going to come back and talk about that later on.  Thank you for joining us.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information or to send me an e-mail, go to or check out my radio website at  Got a townhall meeting coming up in Buffalo on June 13th.  Hope you can make it.  To get text alerts about THE ED SHOW sent to your phone, just text the word Ed to 622639.  We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night, 6:00 Eastern time.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is next. 



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