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'The Ed Show' for Thursday, May 21

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: Chuck Todd, Tom Harkin, Byron Dorgan, Carl Levin, Heidi Harris, Laura Flanders,

A.B. Stoddard, Jonathan Alter


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.

The president goes after critics of his terror policy and flat-out knocks it out of the park.  The right offers nothing but fear.  Speaking of fear, how many times did Dick Cheney mention 9/11 in his speech today?  You can count for yourselves at 6:30 tonight. 

And can the president get Democrats to come around on Gitmo?

Plus, why I think a little pushback on the president‘s policies is a good thing. 

In my playbook, no more bring ‘em on.  Jonathan Alter is here to compare W.‘s terror talk to President Obama‘s.

Plus, “Psycho Talk,” all that, a great panel and more. 

But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.” 

And obviously I want to speak about the president‘s speech first tonight.  Let‘s set the stage. 

Just what has the president been dealing with in the last week?  You‘ve got the Republicans running around, a party like their head cut off, crying about Nancy Pelosi.  They think that Nancy Pelosi is the big story.  Newt Gingrich is going on every show he possibly can, just clamming about torture and how the president just is not keeping us safe. 

In the meantime, Democrats voted against funding the closure of Guantanamo Bay.  And in the middle of all of this, President Obama walked right into the National Archives where the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence are housed, and took all the hot air out of the room with some real straight talk.  He said the United States does not torture, period. 


BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe.  I could not disagree more. 

They undermine the rule of law.  They alienate us in the world.  They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. 


SCHULTZ:  Got any questions?  I mean, this president hit it right out of the park today.  It‘s about change. 

He was calm, reasonable.  He laid out his views in plain English, and he didn‘t try to scare anybody into agreeing with him—you better agree with me.  And you know what?  This is exactly the demeanor the American people voted for and expect.  Remember, we elected the smart guy, and we trust him to get it done, to protect our country and the Constitution. 

In the meantime, the Republicans are doing everything they possibly can to help build the confidence in this president, because they have no plan.  Listen to the ridiculous talk—and I mean listen closely to this ridiculous talk that was taking place on the Senate floor not long ago. 


SEN. JOHN THUNE ®, SOUTH DAKOTA:  This administration is seriously considering freeing these men inside the United States.  And most outrageous of all, paying them to live freely within American communities and neighborhoods.  The American people don‘t want these men walking the streets of America‘s neighborhoods. 

Mr. President, the American people don‘t want these detainees held at a military base or a federal prison in their back yard, either. 


SCHULTZ:  Now, I want you to know, folks, that we asked Senator John Thune of South Dakota to come on this program tonight and explain that.  I mean, it‘s pretty clear he‘s talking to “Joe the Plumber.”

I mean, it‘s absolutely outrageous.  It‘s irresponsible, it doesn‘t belong on the Senate floor, but that‘s what this argument has been reduced to.  He is totally inaccurate. 

No Democrat, not President Obama or any other liberal out there, wants to release terrorists in your neighborhood.  The FBI just busted a bomb plot up, arrested four guys in New York.  So I‘d like to know, who did we torture to get that information?  The answer is, nobody. 

Here‘s another thing. 

Now, with these detainees—and they‘re going to get deported, and if they don‘t come to the United States, where are they going to go? 

Americans, do you want to send these detainees overseas or do you want justice right here?  I mean, I don‘t know about you, but I don‘t trust foreign courts. 

What do you say we give the Taliban courts a crack at these guys in trying to get some justice for what they did on 9/11, allegedly?  Some of them may be innocent. 

Another thing that I really want liberals to pay attention to is this idea that the president of the United States gets absolutely everything he wants.  He does not. 

Harry Reid put the brakes on the money to close down Guantanamo Bay.  They‘re not going to rubberstamp this.  They wanted a plan, and the Senate majority leader was very clear about that.

So, I think, as an American, we ought to be proud of that.  Bill Frist and Tom DeLay, they never put the brakes on Bush, and you have to scratch your head tonight and think, gosh, we finally have three branches of government again.  I mean, what happened in the last election is we put an end to Dick Cheney‘s campaign that the White House, it was our way or the highway, and that they were going to be the sole source of power. 

America, we took it to that regime, and we didn‘t do it with torture, and we didn‘t do it with fear mongering, and we didn‘t do it with going into wars that were completely miscalculated.  We did it with our votes.  President Obama beat the fear mongering and the cheap attacks as a candidate, and he‘ll bet them as president. 

Here‘s another dose of common sense for you, folks.


OBAMA:  The problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility.  The problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place. 

I refuse to pass it on to somebody else.  It is my responsibility to solve the problem.  Our security interests will not permit us to delay.  Our courts won‘t allow it, and neither should our conscience. 


SCHULTZ:  Joining me now is NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. 

Chuck, good to have you with us tonight. 

Did the president accomplish what he set out to accomplish today? 

What do you think? 

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, if the immediate goal was to sort of calm the nerves of Congress, particularly the Democratic senators who voted almost en masse with the Republicans, almost unanimous vote there to deny funding for the current shutdown plan of Guantanamo Bay, I don‘t know if he accomplished anything yet because you‘ve got Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even saying after the speech, look, they still haven‘t seen a plan, they want to see a plan.  The White House press secretary today, Robert Gibbs, after the speech acknowledged that they still need to do that, they still need to get a plan. 

So did they calm some of the fears among Democrats?  Probably.  But in trying to, you know, get that money going and get it started, you know, that still hasn‘t been done.  But buying time from the American public on this issue, which I think the president felt and the White House felt they needed to do, my guess is he did buy some time from the public. 

SCHULTZ:  I thought the president today laid out a very strong foundation of what he believes and where he wants to go, and the detail will come. 

How much detail do the Senate Democrats need?  I mean, obviously, the president wants to close this facility.  Obviously, he wants to move them into facilities in the United States.  How much detail do you think the Senate Democrats need on this? 

TODD:  Oh, I think they‘re going to want a lot. 

Look, the president used a phrase today, Ed, that I‘m surprised, frankly, that we never heard the previous administration use, or others use, which is, look, some of these folks are prisoners of war.  That‘s how he was trying to describe this one group of detainees currently at Guantanamo who cannot be tried in our courts, but also, they believe, are national security risks if they get released. 

So the questions is—and he even called them prisoners of war.  They‘re just like them, and in times of war, these folks are going to be held captive.  But at the same time, the president, obviously, in his speech, pledged that he will continuously look and make sure that they‘re being held captive legally and that there‘s still a reason to hold them captive. 

But because he called them that, then we need to find a facility to hold them.  And I think given how sort of the politics of this played out these last two weeks, Ed, they‘re going to want a plan. 

Democratic senators up for reelection are going to want to be able to tell constituents in their home states, hey, the president said we‘re building this new facility, and it could be an new facility, it could be a current facility, it could be an unused facility.  But they need to be able to say, hey, we have a special facility that the prisoners of war in this war against al Qaeda are being held, and that‘s what I supported, that‘s what I funded.  I think they need to have that kind of specificity to feel comfortable going to the voters—Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  And finally, Chuck, does the White House feel the president took the wind out of Dick Cheney‘s sails? 

TODD:  Well, let‘s remember, they knew in advance that when they scheduled this speech, they would be going on the same day that the vice president was speaking.  They won‘t say this outright, but it‘s clear.

Look, they know the two sides of this debate.  It‘s actually—the American public is actually somewhere in the middle. 

You know, I know the vice president tried to say—the former vice president tried to say there is no middle ground on this, but the public seems to be somewhere in the middle on some of these decisions about, you know, should these folks get released, how do you hold them, et cetera?  But they think he is a terrible face for the Republican Party, and they do embrace this idea that it was Obama versus Cheney, rather than having it sort of be, well, harsh interrogation versus not—you know, getting into the muddle of the debate.  They like the face of Cheney as their opponent. 

SCHULTZ:  Chuck Todd, great report.  Thanks so much tonight. 

Appreciate it. 

TODD:  OK, Ed.  Yes.

SCHULTZ:  For more on this, let‘s turn to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. 

Senator Harkin, great to have you on. 

What did you think of the president‘s position tonight, his speech today?  Did you get convinced that maybe it is time to fund this thing? 

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  Well, Ed, I thought the contrast between Dick Cheney and President Obama today made it very clear.  You‘ve got Dick Cheney, who just wants to pander to fear and wants to continue a war, an endless war.  And yet, you‘ve got President Obama, who looks upon the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as the foundation of our country.  Dick Cheney looks upon the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as something to get around.

I think nothing could be clearer than those two speeches today.  I‘m convinced President Obama wants to close Guantanamo, and we are going to close it.

SCHULTZ:  Are you going to help him close Guantanamo?

HARKIN:  Absolutely.  I introduced legislation two years ago to close Guantanamo.

SCHULTZ:  Now Senator, would you take detainees in the state of Iowa?

HARKIN:  If we have room—I don‘t know if we have a maximum security facility like that in the state of Iowa.  If we did, it wouldn‘t bother me any.

You know, Ed, I live—I have a house out here in Virginia, and Moussaoui, who is one of the conspirators of 9/11, heck, he was held in a jail about three miles from where I live for years.  No one seemed to mind that.

We went for walks, and I did my jogging and rode my bicycle.  You know, we have maximum security facilities in this country to house these people.

SCHULTZ:  Senator, do you think that Dick Cheney is effective?  I know a lot of people in the Democratic Party think he‘s pretty much a joke, but with the American people, do you think he is still effective?

HARKIN:  I don‘t think so, Ed.  I think more and more people look upon Dick Cheney as someone who just—almost a pathetic figure. I mean, this person must live in fear every day.  What a terrible way to spend your life.  And I think people are moving beyond that now. 

They see we have a President Obama who wants to protect the national security of this country, but who wants to do it on the basis of our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.  and that‘s what the American people want. 

SCHULTZ:  And Senator, let‘s talk about detail for a moment. 

How detailed of a plan do you think the Senate needs?  What would be your comfort level?  And are we talking about maybe an oversight commission, or are we talking about maybe several people in the Senate that would be assigned to see this thing through?  How do you see this working out? 

HARKIN:  Well, Ed, first of all, the money that was in that bill yesterday, that was just in a supplemental bill that only goes to the end of September anyway.  I think that there‘s been a lot of misinterpretation in the press on that vote. 

We are going to have the money in our regular appropriations bill before October to close down Guantanamo, and I have every reason to believe that President Obama will have a plan to us prior to that time on what‘s going to happen to all these detainees.  Some detainees will have to be tried in our federal courts, some will probably be tried in military tribunals, and some may be perfectly innocent and should be let go. 

SCHULTZ:  But the good news is the country is moving off the dime on this, which we have been sitting around for a long time during the Bush years. 

Senator, good to have you on tonight. 

HARKIN:  Thank you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Tom Harkin from Iowa with us here on THE ED SHOW.

Coming up, Dick Cheney pulls a Giuliani.  Let‘s see, a noun, a verb, and 9/11.  Just how many times did Dick Cheney bring it up?  Well, I‘ll talk about that with our panel. 

Plus, Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I‘ll talk to him at 6:30 right here on THE ED SHOW. 

Stay with us.



OBAMA:  As our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult.  These are issues that are fodder for 30-second commercials.  I get it.  But if we continue to make decisions within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes. 


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Yesterday, 90 senators and 50 Democrats voted to block funding to go close Guantanamo Bay.  They asked the president for a plan.  After today‘s speech, are they ready to get on board? 

Joining me now is Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, and also sits on appropriations. 

Senator, good to have you on. 


SCHULTZ:  Are you OK with what you heard from the president today? 

Did he sell you hard enough? 

DORGAN:  Yes.  Well, I think many missed the story here, Ed. 

The story yesterday wasn‘t somebody blocking something.  It was first things first.  The first thing we do, it seems to me, is to develop the plan and then we fund it. 

Look, I think we ought to close Guantanamo.  And so did Senator McCain, and so did Senator Obama, then running for president. 

We should close Guantanamo Bay.  The question is, what is the plan by which we close it?  We just simply asked the president, submit the plan to us, then we‘ll fund it. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you have any criteria that you think ought to be in that plan, anything that‘s paramount? 

DORGAN:  Well, the president the resources to develop a detailed plan.  He talked a little about it.  He didn‘t give us a detailed plan today, but I‘m convinced that he will. 

You know what‘s going on here.  Over 500 people have been released from Guantanamo Bay under the previous administration, but now we have all these folks coming to the floor of the Senate and, you know, a number of others talking about you ought to lock your doors and close your windows, we‘re worried they‘re going to drop them off from a truck on the outskirts of Peoria, Illinois, or something like that.  I mean, that‘s just nonsense. 

Look, the president is going to make certain the American people are safe and secure.  Nobody‘s going to unload the detainees at Guantanamo Bay on the outskirts of some American community. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, there‘s an unreleased report, reported in “The New York Times” today, that one in seven of these that are released and are put back end up fighting us. 

Do you have concerns about that?

DORGAN:  Yes, well that was under the previous administration, Ed.


DORGAN:  You know?  I mean, they released over 500 of them.  None of us were going to the floor of the Senate to say aren‘t you afraid that somebody‘s going to release them in your community? 

Listen, here‘s the deal.  The president said today when we close Guantanamo, some of those will be taken by other countries and so on.  But we have Supermax prisons in this country from which no one has ever escaped.  We have terrorists who are now in those prisons, as you know.  I‘m convinced that when we close Guantanamo, as we should—Senator McCain and Senator Obama agreed during the campaign, and now President Obama‘s going to do it—we‘re going to fund it and we‘re going to do it in a way that provides for absolute security for the American people. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, I don‘t think anybody on the Hill has held and chaired more hearings on waste, fraud and abuse as what is going on with the spending of money in Iraq.  And you held a blockbuster of a hearing just a few days ago.  And I heard testimony that KBR has done some pretty shoddy work. 

You know, we‘ve had some soldiers who have been electrocuted, and then, of course, from work that KBR had done.  And then they were paying out bonuses. 

Now, what‘s the story here?  Did this really happen? 

DORGAN:  It did.  I mean, I‘ve done 19 hearings that I‘ve chaired.  The greatest waste, fraud and abuse in the history of this country, contracting in Iraq.  Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown and Root, the subsidiary, got the bulk of the contracts.  And what we discovered is they improperly wired military bases.  We‘ve had soldiers dying while taking a shower. 

SCHULTZ:  What‘s the recourse? 

DORGAN:  Well, and you know what?  By the way, this company got award fees from the Pentagon for excellent work, despite the fact that testimony yesterday from people that used to work for the company said 90 percent of the work was shoddy.  I mean, what we need to do is get the Defense Department to own up to this, and we ought to kick contractors off of the contract if they‘re not doing the job. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator Dorgan, good to have you on tonight.  Thanks so much.

DORGAN:  Thanks.  Good to be with you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Next up on THE ED SHOW, “Psycho Talk.”  Call the Health Department?  Please. 

RNC Chairman Michael Steele has identified a new deadly threat.  His “Psycho Talk” is coming up next on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us. 


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

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

It‘s time for “Psycho Talk.” 

Oh, just the dandies keep coming.  Don‘t they?

This time, Michael Steele checks in to the “Psycho Talk” zone tonight. 

The RNC chairman just keeps putting his foot in it. 

Now, this past weekend, Steele declared, “liberalism will kill you.”  “Liberalism will kill you.”  Steele spoke to the delegates of the Georgia Republican Convention on Saturday. 

Now, according to Think Progress, he said this: “Like a bad diet, liberalism will kill you.  It‘s a drug we don‘t need to be hooked on.”

You know, what is it with these righties that keep talking about drugs and addictions?  Now, last week, the drugster, Rush Limbaugh—see that, Rush?  You‘re still good copy (ph) -- he compared Democrats‘ governing style to his own drug addiction. 

Now—but let‘s get back to the world “liberalism,” you know, the word that Steele likes to demonize.  Here‘s a definition of liberalism.  See if this kills you.

Liberalism means individual freedom.  How about that one?  Liberalism is also the belief in the essential goodness of the human race, the protection of political and civil liberties. 

Now, those sound a lot like American ideals to me. 

The demonization of the word “liberal,” I‘m sorry, Mr. Steele, you‘re in the “Psycho Talk” zone.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Tonight, we saw a tale of two speeches today.  President Obama went to the home of the Constitution and talked about protecting America while preserving our values.  He made a smart and reasonable case for his policies. 

Right after that, Dick Cheney went over to the neo-con think tank and suggested the president doesn‘t care about keeping his safe, the only thing he cares about is whether the Europeans are going to stand up and cheer for him.

Well, joining me tonight is Senator Carl Levin of Michigan.  He is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Levin, good to have you with us tonight on THE ED SHOW.  I appreciate your time. 

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  Good to be with you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  I feel like the country turned an ugly page today.  How effective do you think the president was today in his delivery? 

LEVIN:  I think it was very effective.  I‘ve read parts of his speech. 

I think he actually said exactly what needs to be said. 

Number one, we have a bunch of folks in Guantanamo who we need to try for crimes against Americans.  You only can try them for federal crimes in a federal court, which means they‘ve got to be brought to America to be tried—or for their alleged crimes.  That‘s number one.

Number two, we already have over 300 people who have been convicted of terrorist acts against us in American prisons.  So this is not like we‘re starting something new. 

Third, when courts issue orders, we‘re going to abide by those orders.  We‘re not going to ignore or go against what courts order us to do.  We are a nation of laws.  And I thought the president was exactly right in focussing on that. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, was he detailed enough tonight?  There‘s a number of Democrats, about 50 of them, that voted not to fund the closing of Guantanamo Bay.  Did that change after this speech today?  What do you think? 

LEVIN:  I don‘t know about that, but that is something where a lot of my colleagues felt that there should be a plan first, number one.  Number two, that the funding can come later in the year.  There‘s not an urgency right now, because that was a vote on next couple months‘ funding.  That runs out at the end of September, and then there is going to have to be funding for the next fiscal year, as we say.  It‘s not needed to transfer people in the next couple months. 

It is going to be needed, however, to transfer some of these people to America, so they can stand trial for alleged crimes against the American people.  What some of the folks who are railing against this ignore is—what are they saying?  Let these people off the hook?  Not try them for crimes against America?  If you don‘t bring them to America, you can‘t have a criminal trial with a jury.  You can‘t move the jury and a jury panel down to Guantanamo for all the people you want to try for alleged crimes against the United States. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, all of a sudden, a discussion has broken out across America as to whether we should bring them to the United States and would you want them in your backyard in a facility.  Would you have any problem with some of these detainees being put in a maximum facility in Michigan? 

LEVIN:  We have already in the United States as a whole over 300 convicted terrorists.  That‘s number one.  Number two, to me it‘s important that we bring these people to the United States to stand trial, and with the approval of state governors and local people, I can support having additional folks brought to our states. 

But we have to involve the governors and local people, giving their approval on that.  There are states already apparently which have.  So I don‘t think we can just simply say we‘re not going to have any more people or any people come from Guantanamo here.  If you believe that folks should be held accountable for crimes against Americans and have to be tried, as they are, in federal court, you‘re going to have to bring some here. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, one final question tonight, what do you make of Dick Cheney, this PR war that continues on?  He follows up with a speech right after the president today?  What‘s his agenda, in your opinion? 

LEVIN:  It‘s the same agenda that he‘s always had, to make these charges, trying to suggest that Democrats are not as loyal, patriotic as he is.  I don‘t think his message has carried much weight anymore.  He‘s misled the American people too often, too long to have much credibility.  When he said the other day that we imposed on our own people, for instance, the techniques—the so called SERE techniques, which techniques of mistreating and abusing detainees—and he said we used the exact same techniques on our own people to train them, that was a flat-out falsehood.  We have never used the exact same techniques against our own troops?  That would be unthinkable.

So, again, you have these kind of misleading statements by the former vice president.  I think he lost his credibility long ago, and I would think the Republicans ought to be shy in using him as their front. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, good to have us with us tonight.  Thanks so much. 

LEVIN:  Take care, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Let me ask this: if the Bush-Cheney policies were so correct, if Americans are really with Dick Cheney on this, then why do we have a Democrat in the White House?  And why do we have the House and the Senate?  This crowd, they‘re just not innovative.  They don‘t get it.  Dick Cheney is still reading from the same old defeated script, a noun, a verb, and 9/11. 


CHENEY:  September 11th—terrible harm -- 9/11 -- attack—devastating—strike—bombing—killing—attack—murder -- 9/11 -- harder strikes—higher casualties -- 9/11 -- on 9/11 with weapons of mass destruction -- 9/11 -- bunker -- 9/11 -- bunker—weapons of mass destruction -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 --

September 11th, 2001 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- 9/11 -- past killings—future killings. 


SCHULTZ:  I guess that‘s our Halloween special early this year; 24 times in one speech?  Unbelievable.  Now, for more, let‘s bring in our panel tonight, Laura Flanders, author of the “Blue Grits” and host of  Also A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of “The Hill,” and Heidi Harris joins us tonight, host of “The Heidi Harris Show” on 720 KDWN in Las Vegas. 

Laura, what do you make of this? 

LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV.ORG:  I don‘t know about the detainees, I want Dick Cheney out of my backyard.  How did this happen?  There‘s no question, you‘re right.  The people voted.  The intentions are clear.  The details are where the issues are.  We need to get off this Cheney right whining talking point and get to work. 

Frankly, I don‘t know why we‘re broadcasts his speeches in live time. 

We never broadcast Al Gore‘s when Bush became president.

SCHULTZ:  Is he relevant? 

FLANDERS:  I think that this is really playing according to a right-wing talking point, you know, notebook that is not doing this country any good.  We have serious stuff to deal with.  We need to get off their talking points.

SCHULTZ:  A.B., does he deserve the coverage he‘s getting?  What do you think on this? 

A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”:  I actually agree.  It was a little unseemly to watch him wait until the president finished, long past his scheduled start time over at the American Enterprise Institute.  Wait and then make a joke about the president.  Obviously, he mocked him.  At times, he was sort of insulting.

But actually, I thought his speech was forceful and it actually could have sort of a potent effect.  He is answering—people are still very scared about the threat that we continue to face, and will continue to face.  He‘s stoking that anxiety.  We will see—there‘s recent polling that shows that President Obama has managed to sort of erode the doubts people have about his ability to take care of us, with regard to our security.

But we will see, after this Gitmo explosion in the Congress and how much the Republicans have moved the debate, whether Cheney was heard today. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, the president, I thought, was very effective today.  We‘ve had this conversation break out across America.  You certainly don‘t want these terrorists in your backyard.  This has reached the Senate floor.  This is senator John Thune on the floor not long ago really scaring America.  It‘s not just Dick Cheney. 


SEN. JOHN THUNE ®, SOUTH DAKOTA:  This administration is seriously considering freeing these men inside the United States.  And most outrageous of all, paying them to live freely within American communities and neighborhoods. 

American people don‘t want these men walking the streets of America‘s neighborhoods. 

Mr. President, the American people don‘t want these detainees held at a military base or a federal prison in their backyard, either. 


SCHULTZ:  Heidi Harris, do you agree with that, Senator Thune? 

HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I‘m so glad he beat Tom Daschle.  I‘m so proud of him.  Listen, I don‘t want these people loose.  They don‘t need to be on American soil.  If they come here, some ACLU lawyer will find some way that they can get out jail.  I don‘t want the risk.

What‘s the benefit to America, really, Ed, of bringing these people to America?  Their own countries don‘t want them.  Why should we take them?

SCHULTZ:  Well, for justice.  Laura?  I would want it for justice.

FLANDERS:  What are the National Prison Guards Association in this country making of what is happening in this country right now?  I expect to see the Corrections Association union speaking out.  Who do you think we are?  What kind of job do you think we‘re doing?  How come you don‘t believe the statistics that super-max prisons have not seen any escapes? 

Is it just fine to have Timothy McVeigh be detained, but we couldn‘t have anybody else?  This is baloney.  This is those talking points. 

SCHULTZ:  Heidi, what about the immigration laws?  They‘re not going to get turned on the street if they go through the judicial system and they‘re found innocent?  They‘re going to be turned back to their countries.  They‘re not going to be on the streets selling ice cream.

HARRIS:  You know what?  I don‘t know, Ed.  I would like to think so, but, you know what, the reality is some liberal lawyer is going to try to get them off the hook.  I‘m not talking about them escaping. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, they certainly deserve a defense, something that the Bush administration hasn‘t given them, habeas corpus.  But the fact is the conservatives, A.B., they‘re making the case that, hey, they‘re going to be living down the street and, you know, walking the streets.  And by the way, we‘re going to be paying for them? 


STODDARD:  No one has said that and that‘s not a responsible thing to say.  But it is the truth that the Democrats joined with the Republicans in the Senate to vote this down, because they don‘t want them in their own backyard.  And that is—I mean, that is unfortunately what he‘s facing.  Those members of Congress, they represent their own constituents.  They are not elected to help the Democratic president, the president from their own party.  They‘re elected to protect and serve their own constituents‘ interests.  And they don‘t want to take this on. 

SCHULTZ:  Heidi, is it the 30-second on the campaign trail?  Joe Smith brought terrorists back into our state.  You don‘t want to vote for him.  Is that what it‘s all about? 

HARRIS:  Of course.  I‘m just wondering why anybody thinks these terrorists deserve to come back to America.  We‘re already spending money to keep them in Guantanamo.  They‘re getting three squares a day, but the reality is—

SCHULTZ:  Because we can try them in a federal court.  That‘s what it‘s all about.  I just had three senators talk about that tonight.  We want to give them justice.  We want to bring them through the system.  Do you want to try them overseas? 

HARRIS:  I don‘t want them on the soil.  I really don‘t.  I don‘t think we should have brought that Somali pirate back here, either. 

FLANDERS:  How do we expect in this country for other nations to take some of these detainees if we‘re saying we won‘t?  This is baloney.  And the Democrats just lost their heads last night.  What we‘re hearing is, I hope at least, they might have been hearing some sense tonight. 

HARRIS:  They‘re smarter than we are.  That‘s why they won‘t take them back.  They know who their kinsmen are, and they don‘t want them back.  And we‘re dumb enough to try to take them.  How crazy is that?

SCHULTZ:  All right, we will continue.  Stay with us, panel.  Great shots tonight. 

Coming up, Dick Cheney criticizes President Obama for not using the phrase war on terror.  This president isn‘t talking about evil-doers and crusaders.  I think that‘s a good thing.  We‘ll talk about that when we come back here on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, I want to look at the way the past administration talked about security versus the way the current administration is talking about security.  Joining me now for all of that, and analysis, Jonathan Alter, senior editor “Newsweek,” MSNBC analyst, and my friend. 


SCHULTZ:  You were great on the radio today.  Way to go, guy.   

ALTER:  It was fun. 

SCHULTZ:  We‘re word-smithing this back and forth.  Who is winning this war of words, in your opinion? 

ALTER:  I think the president is.  You would think because he‘s not talking in sound-bites with sharp edges that he would lose in our crazy sound-bite culture, but look at the numbers.  He‘s over 60 percent.  Approval rate for Dick Cheney, as one White House aide told me, it‘s fluctuating between the old drinking age and the new drinking age.  He‘s down around 20 percent. 

SCHULTZ:  The president today addressed the issue of fear, fear-mongering, and also the word-smithing of all this. 


OBAMA:  Too often, our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight.  That all too often, our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.

In other words, we went off-course. 


SCHULTZ:  Trimmed facts and evidence.  Pretty strong. 

ALTER:  Well, it‘s the truth.  I mean, this is the thing about this guy, is he will cut to the chase.  He tries to do it without being offensive, without having too sharp of an edge.  But he calls it the way he sees it, and he does it in a judicious fashion.  Even if you don‘t agree with all his calls, you‘ve got to give the president credit for bringing a lot of thoughtfulness and common sense to this debate. 

SCHULTZ:  Did he score a big one today in your opinion? 

ALTER:  I think for people that bothered to listen to some of the speech, I think it was very convincing.  Does this end the debate?  Does it convince these—some of these bubble-headed senators to let prisoners go into super-max facilities?  Probably not.  But it does advance the debate and it lets the president come back and continue to try to reason with people down the road. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, the president, I thought today, put a nice foundation to the whole thing.  The climate of the country right now, do you think that he will get Guantanamo closed by the end of the year?  That is the goal.  Do you think he can get it done?

ALTER:  That‘s a tough one.  He set himself a one-year deadline.  It‘s really complicated legally.  So I‘m not sure he‘s going to meet that deadline.  But I think he‘s quite clear that I thinks it‘s a net minus for American security, because it‘s such a recruiting poster for al Qaeda and the other people who hate America and the world. 

So he‘s very determined to get it done as soon as possible.  Whether he meets that January deadline or not, I‘m not sure. 

SCHULTZ:  Jonathan, what do you make of Dick Cheney saying, well, we kept you safe for seven and a half years?  He‘s playing that big.

ALTER:  Here‘s the thing; this is a pint that nobody seems to be making, or at least not very much.  They stopped the torture in 2005, right?  So for the entire second term of the Bush administration, they were not using these so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.  In other words, Dick Cheney, by his own standards, was not keeping us safe in the entire second term of the Bush administration, because others in that administration had won the debate. 

So not only is he on the wrong side of Barack Obama, he‘s on the wrong side, as the president pointed out today, of many people in the Bush administration who had their way in the second term and realized that these techniques were not making us safer.  So he‘s going to try to play pin the tail on the donkey with the Democrats on this, and make the Democrats look weak.  He‘s got to look inside his own administration first. 

SCHULTZ:  And a lot of the pundits out there are saying that the president has reversed course on this; he‘s changed his mind on some things.  I thought he was very clear today.  There might be a few deals with releasing of papers and what not, but this guy made it very clear today, we are going to shut this thing down, and we are against torture. 

Now, the response from the Republicans on this, is this going to help them come back? 

ALTER:  I don‘t think so.  I think they have gone to the well one too many times in trying to say the other side is weak.  A bigger problem for the president might be the liberals.  You know, some of the civil libertarians—

SCHULTZ:  But he‘s tough. 

ALTER:  They got an earful from him.  He was a little irritated by their attitude.  One of them wanted, according to my colleague Mike Isikoff, wanted a so-called trophy prosecution.  The president didn‘t respond well to the idea of making an example of somebody in the Bush administration. 

He wants to move on.  I‘m not sure he‘s right about that, but at least we can have a reasoned debate. 

SCHULTZ:  Finally, I want to play this sound bite of the president today, President Obama talking about the one argument that seems to be propping up quite a bit. 


OBAMA:  Let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can.  We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security.  Nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people. 


SCHULTZ:  Quick reaction to that. 

ALTER:  The thing that gets me is you have Republicans saying, oh, Barack Obama, he‘s such a liberal; he‘s going to let everybody free.  It‘s the Bush administration that released some of these guys.  One of them now is back leading the charge for the Taliban, somebody George W. Bush released from prison. 

So they should stop pointing fingers at Obama.  He hasn‘t released anybody yet.  And I don‘t think he‘s going to, because they‘re looking much more closely at these cases and not making some half hazard mistakes that could cost us. 

SCHULTZ:  Jonathan Alter, “Newsweek,” MSNBC, great to have you with us tonight.  

ALTER:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, I don‘t know why anybody is still listening to Shooter, but is it possible that some Americans are being swayed by his fear mongering?  We‘ll look at some poll numbers when we come back with our panel next on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us. 


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  By a two to one margin, Americans think Obama‘s policies are making us more secure.  The president has turned the national security gap that Republicans love to take and put upside down; he‘s turned it around.  He‘s doing it by following through on his promises.  He promised to close down the museum of torture at Guantanamo Bay, and he‘s going to close it down. 

The president said today that in a democracy, someone must always watch over the watchers.  That‘s what we‘ve been missing for the last eight years.  Finally this is country, we‘re back in the business of having a real democracy and debate again. 

Time to bring in our panel again, Laura Flanders, A.B. Stoddard and Heidi Harris.  You think the president took a big step forward today? 

FLANDERS:  I think hoe took a big step forward in November when people voted for him.  Really, like the guy I met coming over here.  He said, Dick Cheney messed up the country, shot his friend; why are we still listening to him? 

Did he take a step forward?  Yes.  But this is where we have to go next.  You talked about it, Ed.  You can‘t both hold up American ideals like the timeless ideals of American values, and also hold up timeless detention.  You can‘t talk about equal rights for everybody, but juries for some and not for others.  There are some real issues in the Obama plan.  That‘s what we should be talking about.

SCHULTZ:  I think we also have to point out that in a recent poll done by CNN, former Vice President Dick Cheney, his poll numbers are actually going up.  Is he effective?  He‘s got an approval rating of 37 percent.  That‘s gone up eight percentage points since he left office.  Heidi, is he effective?  What do you think?

HARRIS:  I think he is.  I think the reason the left is freaking out is because the right is so wimpy most of the time.  You know, you guys choked his chain.  You‘re getting what‘s coming to you?  You‘re the ones who threatened to bring him before a truth commission, sue him for war crimes.  He‘s fighting back.  And I love the fact that he‘s fighting back. 

Believe me, he would rather be fly-fishing somewhere.  I really don‘t think he wants to have to defend himself.  But I‘m proud of him for defending himself.  The American public appreciates his spunk and they respect that.  I think that‘s why his ratings are going up. 

SCHULTZ:  A.B., do you put any stock in that latest number? 

STODDARD:  I think it is interesting.  He‘s now really the face, the voice of the Republican party.  And he is doing it to defend the Bush record.  But I think there are a lot of people obviously in the Republican party that are happy he‘s out there, because they agree that they think Obama is not going to keep us safe. 

The problem, Ed, always is the middle.  Does the middle listen increasingly in the next few years to Dick Cheney.  I don‘t know where this Gitmo debate is going to go, but his own party is going to make sure it lasts a while. 

This is something that he didn‘t have to do to himself.  He imposed a deadline of a year.  It was a huge mistake.  Nothing easy is done in Washington in a year.  By saying January 22 of 2010, Barack Obama placed closing Gitmo alongside managing an economic crisis and two wars, and then trying to totally reorder the industries of health care and energy. 

He set the Congress up, didn‘t consult with them.  They‘re furious about this.  Even after his speech today, no plans, they said.  As long as this debate is out there, Cheney will keep talking about it. 

SCHULTZ:  But, A.B., it doesn‘t come as any surprise that this man was out on the campaign trail for two years saying he would close down Guantanamo Bay.  So you‘re saying—


STODDARD:  I‘m not talking about the promise.  I‘m talking about the deadline.  You can come into office and same I‘m going to keep my promise.  I have three blue ribbon commissions working on this right now.  When you say one year—


SCHULTZ:  All right.  Laura, what about that? 

FLANDERS:  We‘re approaching Memorial Day.  And on Grit TV today, we talked to families who have lost people in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of them, who will be remembering those lost and very damaged people this coming Monday.  For Dick Cheney to be able to get up there and talk about keeping people safe—I want him to talk to those families.  He didn‘t keep those families safe.  We need to get off this and get serious about keeping safe in this country and around the world.

SCHULTZ:  What do you think, Heidi?  Today, Dick Cheney, when he gave his speech, this is what he had to say --  and I want you to respond to it. 


CHENEY:  The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism.  If liberals are unhappy about some decisions and conservatives are unhappy about other decisions, then it may seem to them that the president is on the path of sensible compromise. 

But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half measures keep you half exposed. 


SCHULTZ:  Heidi, quick response to that tonight, please. 

HARRIS:  He‘s absolutely right.  You can‘t mess around with terrorists.  They don‘t respond to anything other than strength. 

SCHULTZ:  Where have we been weak?  Where has Obama been weak on fighting terrorism?  We picked up four last night in New York. 

FLANDERS:  Ed, one thing, do you notice how when Dick Cheney was speaking today, it said terrorize right behind him? 

SCHULTZ:  Great panel tonight.  I wish I had more time.  We‘ll bring more of you back, obviously.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information you can go to THE ED SHOW.  Go to or check out my website at  Chris Matthews is coming up next with “HARDBALL” right here on the place for politics, MSNBC. 



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