Guests: Gavin Newsom, Howard Dean; Robert Reich, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Mark
Halperin, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Michael Medved
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 says what happens this summer will make or break health care? He met with key Democrats today. Did single payer come up in the conversation? I‘ll ask a senator who was in the room at 6:30.
But first, Mayor Gavin Newsom launched a citywide public option in San Francisco, and it works. I‘ll talk to the mayor and also Howard Dean in just a moment.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the economy is on the road back, but is the average American family seeing signs of recovery?
All access NBC News gets an exclusive look at what it‘s like to work and live inside the Obama White House. That‘s coming up in the playbook.
Plus, “Psycho Talk.”
All that, a great panel.
But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.”
President Obama met with key Democratic senators at the White House today telling the Dems, look, you‘ve got to get your act together on health care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This issue, health care reform, is not a luxury. It‘s not something that I want to do because of campaign promises or politics. This is a necessity.
Soaring health care costs are unsustainable for families. They are unsustainable for businesses. And they are unsustainable for governments, both at the federal, state and local levels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: You know, I hope Max Baucus is listening to that sound bit. The White House is now tying any recovery of the economy to health care reform.
Let me warn you folks, reform is an awfully big word and a big term in this case. Is it an overhaul or is it a tweak?
Now, think of it when you go in to get your car fixed. Do you want an oil change or do you want a brand new engine? And Americans right now are starting to speak out.
This isn‘t the kind of overhaul that they were looking for on the campaign trail. The president was pretty tough on our public current programs today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It is not sufficient for us simply to add more people to Medicare or Medicaid to increase the roles, to increase coverage in the absence of cost controls and reform. Now, let me repeat this principle. If we don‘t get control over costs, then it is going to be very difficult for us to expand coverage.
These two things have to go hand in hand. Another way of putting it is, we can‘t simply put more people into a broken system that doesn‘t work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: All right.
Mr. President, all due respect, but who is driving up these costs that you‘re talking about? It‘s not Medicare and Medicaid that‘s just broken, it‘s a for-profit system that has left nearly 50 million Americans without health care.
He knows all that. He knows about the insurance premiums going through the roof with families. But that‘s what I call broken.
Now, in Montana, where Max Baucus comes from, fly-over country, what are they talking about? They‘re talking about single payer.
And I‘m telling you right now, folks, that single payer is never going to be on the table. I can‘t believe it, but that is the case right now the way this is shaping up.
Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, held—count them -- 20 town hall meetings recently. But you see, he wasn‘t there. He sent a staffer with a videotape message telling his constituents, “I‘m your ranch hand. I‘m working for you.”
Voters gave this guy‘s help an earful throughout this whole meeting of the 20 that were there.
First of all, they were upset that he wasn‘t there. Secondly, they were saying, where is the single payer. Baucus said it was off the table. That‘s not what we want.
The same Senator Baucus who is the biggest taker of medical interests on Capitol Hill.
Well, today he told the president even worse—he told the president that he wants to tax private health care benefits.
He apparently thinks that you and I aren‘t paying enough? He wants to attack the consumer. The people that are getting health care benefits in the workplace, he wants them to pay tax on that? Obama never said that on the campaign trail.
A Democrat who claims he wants reform now wants to reform your wallet?
I don‘t buy it. Time out. We‘ve got to start this thing over again.
It‘s time for the president to draw the line in the sand and say, this is what the American people want, this is what the conversation is going to be, this is how much is costs, and this is where we‘re going.
Now, tonight, in our opening segment, I have got what—in my opinion, these are my two political heroes. And the reason being is that they are willing to push for change in this country, and they‘ve got a record of doing that.
First up tonight, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. He‘s the head of the Mayors Task Force on Health Care Reform. He‘s been working with the White House, and he joins us now.
I bet you didn‘t know that you were one of my political heroes, did you?
MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D), SAN FRANCISCO: I‘m honored, Ed. That‘s an extraordinary thing for to you say. I‘m very, very blessed.
SCHULTZ: Well, you have addressed this problem in San Francisco. You have listened to your constituents. But you‘ve tried to do something different. And I think that that‘s what we have to do with health care in this country.
Tell me—you‘re on this task force, Mayor Newsom. Is the White House listening to what you‘ve been doing in San Francisco?
NEWSOM: Well, I‘m very honored they are. I was on the phone actually with over 100 mayors on a conference call with Valerie Jarrett yesterday. I‘ve been to the White House on now two occasions speaking about health care reform. And we‘re looking forward to organizing mayors of all political parties and stripes across this country in the next few weeks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors around real reform.
But Ed, the point you‘re making is an important one. Let‘s stop talking about this. This is the most talked, least acted upon issue in America today. And it‘s time for real action and resolve and an honest debate, including the debate, you‘re right, about single payer. Not just public plans versus private insurance, but also the idea of a larger overhaul of health care in this country.
SCHULTZ: You know, there‘s a difference, and I think you‘ve hit the word, reform and overhaul. These are massive words when it comes to not getting an oil change. I mean, this is an overhaul.
Do you think that the Obama administration is going to go that far? And I will say this—if we don‘t go this far, if the administration doesn‘t go this far, if the Democrats don‘t go this far, this is going to be a major political letdown.
Do you view it that way?
NEWSOM: Well, I think it‘s a prospect, and I‘m hopeful that they understand what is at stake here. And I think they do.
Look, all of my private conversations and I think the public statements, they recognize this as a moment in time, an opportunity, Ed. This is rather extraordinary.
I mean, we‘ve been talking about this again for decades. And since the last effort, a lot of folks thought that no one was going to dust themselves off and step back into this debate.
But we do have a president who‘s willing to do that and willing to take the risk of failure. And so you have to give him credit on that basis. But he‘s coming in with no preconditions, and that‘s where people are concerned, but I also think it‘s an opportunity to build support.
Again, the devil is in the details, and we haven‘t seen those details yet. But I‘m hopeful that his commitment and his resolve are there from the finish line, not just in the beginning here, because I think we have until October to make something work.
SCHULTZ: Mayor, how have the folks in San Francisco responded to your efforts and how are you paying for it?
NEWSOM: Well, we‘re very proud. We, in fact, have a single payer plan in San Francisco. We‘ve actually dropped the costs of an average person regardless of pre-existing conditions. We provide universal health care in San Francisco regardless of earning conditions based upon your ability to pay.
It works out to about $280 a month. The least expensive plan in the private sector for insurance is in excess of $388, and most public plans—or, rather, private plans—would be north of $600. So we‘re able to draw down the costs substantially because we‘re not dealing with the insurance industry.
The plan has been overwhelmingly favorably received. It‘s about two-thirds implemented. By the end of year, we should be 100 percent of the way there. And most of it is redirecting existing dollars and drawing down federal moneys, and then there‘s a business mandate for about 15 percent of the businesses in San Francisco that pick up a small amount of the rest of the costs.
SCHULTZ: And finally, the president never talked about taxing health care benefits, and now the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee throws it out there. Is he running it up the flagpole or is he serious about this? I know we‘ve got to pay for it, but how do you think that would fly?
NEWSOM: Well, it‘s ironic, because it was then candidate Senator McCain for president that talked about that and was criticized for that.
Look, I think the president, to his credit, is keeping all options, availing them to the discussion. And he‘s trying to build a big tent here.
And so, to his credit, I think the intention is right. And now, of course, we‘ve got to walk with him to the extent we can support this historic effort and try to get something at the end of the day.
The argument is going to be, Ed, do we make sort of—do we make perfect the enemy of the good? And from my perspective, I want to get something done, but let‘s not make the wrong decision and continue to fund failure by funding the same status quo. And I think “reform,” again, is the operative word.
SCHULTZ: Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco, with us tonight on THE ED
Thanks so much. Keep fighting, my man. You are a charger.
NEWSOM: Thank you.
SCHULTZ: I want to bring in former Vermont governor and doctor Howard Dean, another one of my political heroes. I‘m announcing all these things tonight.
I will never forget this man who said 50-state strategy, that‘s how the Democrats are going to get it done. And everybody said 50 states? Do we have Democrats in 50 states?
He is also the author of a new book: “Howard Dean‘s Prescription for Real Health Care Reform.”
Governor Dean, great to have you with us tonight.
Reform—what‘s your definition of reform, Howard?
DR. HOWARD DEAN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Well, actually, I‘m right with the president on this. There‘s no sense of pouring money into a system we already have. And that means you‘ve got to have a public health insurance option.
Give Americans the same choice that people over 65 have. Let them choose Medicare or public health insurance option. It‘s cheaper, it goes with you wherever you go. You lose your job and you still have it. If we don‘t have a public option, this is not worth pouring $1.5 trillion into, because it‘s the same old stuff and we‘re not going to be able to control costs without a public health insurance option.
SCHULTZ: Dr. Dean, do you view taxing health care benefits that Americans have right now—do you think that that‘s a roadmap we ought to follow?
DEAN: Well, in fairness to Senator Baucus, I think they are not talking about average Americans. I think they‘re talking about executives who have gazillion dollar policies. But I wouldn‘t go that way. But I‘m not going to get in an enormous fight about how to fund this.
The one thing that I think is absolutely important for reform is giving Americans a choice. If they want a single taxpayer system like everybody over 65 has in America, let them choose that. If they want their private insurance, let them choose that.
But this choice ought not to be made for them by insurance companies, conservatives, senators and congressmen. This choice ought to be given to the American people. The American people know what the smart way to control cost is, and they will choose that way to do it.
SCHULTZ: Dr. Dean, give us your quick definition of a public option. There‘s a lot of Americans out there that are upset that single payer is not getting the serious discussion that it deserves. Public option, what kind of public option are we talking about?
DEAN: Well, a public option essentially is a single payer.
DEAN: Medicare is a single payer.
SCHULTZ: But I‘m told that single payer is off the table.
DEAN: Well, I think that was an unfortunate choice of words by a number of people. Of course single payer is not off the table. We have a single payer already for people over 65.
I think what people really mean is a mandatory single payer. And I think that‘s a tough sell.
I think there are people who like their private health insurance, and they ought to be able to have it if they want it. But if—and every system, including even the Canadian system, has a private insurance option.
So, I‘m not in favor of taking people‘s private insurance away from them if they don‘t want to give it up. I think that‘s the beauty of President Obama‘s plans, you get to choose.
SCHULTZ: Are you for everybody in, everybody pays.
DEAN: For a mandate?
DEAN: I personally don‘t think it‘s necessary. But again, I‘m not going to fight to the death on that one.
DEAN: I think the most important thing is, let the American people choose whether they want a public health insurance option or not, because I think a lot of them will find that‘s the right thing for them. Some of them won‘t. That‘s fine.
I think the other thing is, everybody has got to be insured. And the president is on that case. He gets that there is going to have to be some subsidy here for hardworking people and for small businesses, and I think that‘s a good thing.
SCHULTZ: And finally, Dr. Dean, do you actually trust the insurance companies, the HMOs, the manufacturers of medical equipment, and all the people that have been at the table that they are going to be honest brokers and they‘re really going to work to bring down costs in this country?
DEAN: Well, they will if there‘s a public option...
SCHULTZ: There you go.
DEAN: ... because they‘ll be out of business. That‘s the insurance policy. And this idea that we‘re going to have a public option that kicks in if they don‘t do the right thing, that‘s ludicrous. That‘s what I call the fake public option.
This idea that this should be run by the public—by the private insurance companies, but it will be public money, that‘s what I call the fake public option. A real public option is a public option run by the government for people, which is universal and allows people to choose. That‘s what a real public health insurance option, that‘s what Medicare is.
It runs much, much more cheaply.
You know, I‘m not in favor of doing what I‘m about to say, but if you really wanted to save costs, you‘d put everybody on Medicare...
SCHULTZ: There you go.
DEAN: ... because that...
SCHULTZ: I‘m all about it. Everybody gets covered. Everybody in, everybody gets covered.
DEAN: And if you do that, the rate of inflation in Medicare is still high as the rate of inflation, but it‘s about half as much as private sector health insurance goes up. Now, I‘m not in favor of that. I think people that have private insurance and they like it, they should be allowed to keep it. But they ought to pay for it and not everybody else. And I think the people of this country deserve a system...
DEAN: ... that you can get into and take wherever you want. Whether you lose your job or not, you still have it. And that make us competitive.
Remember, other countries are eating our lunch economically...
SCHULTZ: Yes, they are.
DEAN: ... because their companies don‘t have to pay for health insurance and ours do. And that is a big problem for our economy. And I think the president has got his finger on it, but the president has got to be tough.
We need the public health insurance option. We need it now. And if we don‘t have it, we shouldn‘t waste $1.5 trillion trying to fix a system that‘s broken.
SCHULTZ: Dr. Dean, always a pleasure. Great to have you with us tonight on this subject and so much more. Thank you.
DEAN: Thanks, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Coming up, it‘s report card time. How is the president‘s economic recovery plan working for regular Americans? I‘ll ask Robert Reich 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, yes, our old buddy, a regular in our “Psycho Talk” zone tonight.
Mr. Dick Cheney, Shooter, is fighting back.
In Sunday‘s “Washington Post,” former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke took aim at the former vice president. Clarke wrote, “Top officials have ignored warnings from the CIA and the NSC staff that urgent action was needed to preempt a major al Qaeda attack.”
Well, you know Shooter. He didn‘t like that. So what does he do? He plays the blame game.
Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, Cheney turned it around and pinned the blame for 9/11 on Clark. Listen up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, Dick Clarke—Dick Clarke, who was the head of the counterterrorism program in the run-up to 9/11, he obviously missed it. The fact is that we did what we felt we had to do, and if I had it to do all over again, I would do exactly the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Oh, Shooter, throwing people under the bus.
Well, he obviously missed this one. Now, let‘s refresh his memory a little bit.
Some of Clarke‘s e-mail warnings have been printed in a book called “The Commission.” Now, here are just a few of Mr. Clarke‘s e-mails.
May 26, 2001: “Bin Laden‘s network plans advancing.”
June 23rd: “Bin Laden‘s attacks may be imminent.”
June 25th: “Bin Laden and associates making near-term threats.”
June 30th an e-mails—how about this one? “Bin Laden planning high-profile attacks.”
Now, if you can‘t read them, you are a child left behind. And those are just a few. Many more out there.
It looks like it was Cheney who missed the warning signs, not Richard Clarke, who is undoubtedly a highly professional person and a great American.
Dick Cheney blaming 9/11 on the people who actually tried to actually warn the higher ups about an imminent attack by al Qaeda is “Psycho Talk.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: And I think that people should be much for confident today based on the impact of the programs we started to put in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
That was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner this morning. He says the United States economy is on the road to recovery.
I applaud the president for the economic programs that he‘s put in place, but I want to do a reality check in fairness.
One billion foreclosures since January. Every 13 seconds, a new foreclosure is filed.
By 2012, the Center for Responsible Lending is projecting nine million people in America will lose their homes. Economists project unemployment will hit 9.2 percent in May. Those official numbers aren‘t out as of yet, but that‘s what they‘re saying.
Small businesses have had a heck of a time getting credit. They need to grow.
The economy may not be in a free-fall, but Americans are getting a little antsy. And you have to ask the question, are they getting the help they need?
Joining me now is Robert Reich, former labor secretary and professor of public policy at UC Berkeley.
Mr. Reich, great to have you with us tonight.
Give me some good news, will you? I mean, some Americans out there, we‘re losing our patience on this.
ROBERT REICH, FMR. LABOR SECRETARY: Boy, Ed, I‘ll tell you, If I had good news, I would share it with you. I wish the economy were really turning around.
It‘s very hard to find those green shoots that everybody is talking about. I mean, as you said, people are losing their homes.
Unemployment, unfortunately, I don‘t see any great data. I think people are still losing their jobs. This is going to take some time to turn around.
SCHULTZ: Could the president call for a moratorium on foreclosures?
Jesse Jackson has thrown that out there. Would you advocate that as well?
REICH: Yes, I would. I did not before.
I think it is time for a moratorium on foreclosures, because you see there are so many people who are or were good credit risks before they lost their job, and now they simply can‘t go on. They can‘t keep their homes. They are now in danger of losing their homes. And a lot of these people, you know, did nothing wrong at all.
We‘re going to see foreclosures all over the country unless there is some sort of moratorium.
SCHULTZ: Now, Robert, did you take Mr. Geithner for his word? Do you believe that what he said just a moment ago is correct, or do you think he‘s painting a pretty picture that really isn‘t there yet?
REICH: Well, Ed, I believe that he believes he‘s correct, and I think a lot of people who are in the policymaking community—you know, in Washington, they want to believe. A lot of people on Wall Street, a lot of people in business, everybody wants to believe the economy is doing better, everybody has a stake in believes it‘s doing better.
Also, you know, people remember Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” A lot of this has to do with confidence.
We want the people to feel confident so they go out and they buy. But let‘s be realistic. You said we have to have a reality check. The reality check is things are still unfortunately very bad.
SCHULTZ: Well, another reality check by the numbers, manufacturing is really dropping off in our economy. And with this green job effort, you have to wonder, is that going to be the ticket to turn it around?
In ‘53 it was 28 percent of the economy. In 2000, 17 percent. That number continues to fall. It‘s dropped three percent in the last nine years.
What are we going to do to rebound this back and get this back going again? Many people feel that the green job sector is going to do that.
Do you agree with that?
REICH: Well, the green sector I certainly hope is going to be—account for a lot of jobs in the future. There‘s a lot of money going into it. The federal government is probably going to have to spend even more money.
Now, a lot of conservatives, a lot of Republicans, don‘t like the sound. In fact, a lot of people—they don‘t have to be a conservative Republican—don‘t like the idea of the federal government spending more money.
But I‘ll tell you, Ed, this is very important. When consumers are not spending because they cannot spend, when businesses are not spending or investors because there‘s no consumers out there to buy their goods, the federal government has got to be the spender of last resort. And it‘s got to continue to pump money into the economy to keep the jobs we have.
SCHULTZ: Well, I tell you what, they can loosen up the purse strings on the credit, that‘s for sure.
Mr. Reich, great to have you with us tonight on THE ED SHOW.
REICH: Good to see you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Up next, what did President Obama tell Senate Democrats at their big health care meeting today? I‘ll ask Sherrod Brown from Ohio, a senator who was right there at the table.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. President Obama says what happens this summer will make or break health care reform. He met with key Democrats on the Health Care and Finance Committees today at the White House. Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio, member of the Senate Health Care Committee, he was at the meeting with President Obama today. He joins us here on THE ED SHOW tonight. Senator, good to have you with us.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Always good to be with you.
SCHULTZ: What is this now or never talk? What is going on here? Am I reading this right? We‘ve got about a 60 to 80 day window to get health care reform done?
BROWN: I think you need to set a deadline. I think the president has done that. He wants a bill by the first week in August to come out of each House. And then we break for August, come back in September, the conference committee meets and we do this.
Otherwise, you don‘t want to give the drug companies, the insurance companies, the people who are against this—you don‘t want to give them more time to organize and more time to try to dream up all kinds of ways to defeat this plan.
We know what we need to do. We need to get to work. We need to move on this. We‘ve been in meetings all day, first at the White House, later our committee today to begin the real work on this.
SCHULTZ: OK. Where‘s the president on single payer? On or off the table? We hear all kinds of stories about that. You were in the meeting today. Where does it stand?
BROWN: The single payer is not really on the table. I know a lot of people like it. I think Medicare for all makes sense in this country. But that is not something we would be able to pass. But what is on the table, what is meeting overwhelming support in this meeting for public plan option, which means give the public the opportunity. They can go in and choose a private insurance plan, or they can choose a public option, a public government plan.
And, frankly, the public option will keep the insurance companies more honest. And we will end up with a much better health care system as a result.
SCHULTZ: You‘re going to get more than 50 million Americans without health care that are going to be flooding into the public option, because the premiums are going to be better, are they not?
BROWN: Well, it‘s not clear. I think if you make—it‘s a little bit like the student loans. The college student loan, until the ‘90s, were all private sector bank loans. It wasn‘t an efficient program. They didn‘t treat their customers, the students, right. The costs were too high.
President Clinton implemented basically a public option, a direct loan, and everything got better, including the private sector. The banks behaved themselves a lot better. We put a public option in and it keeps the insurance companies, who typically are one step ahead of the sheriff—the insurance companies always find a way to insure you, Ed, but not the guy next to you, because it can‘t make money on him.
This will make the system work better to give the public that option. Then private plans will get better, and people, in some cases, will choose private, some choose public.
SCHULTZ: All right, we‘re getting straight talk from Senator Sherrod Brown tonight of Ohio. You say, senator, that single payer is off the table. And we‘re starting to hear that more. That‘s not what we heard a few weeks ago. But it‘s off the table.
With that, where do you stand on the comment by Max Baucus who says that we better consider taxing health care benefits? Would you go along with that? Is that a possibility?
BROWN: Here‘s why I don‘t like: when I look at workers in my state, particularly union workers, they gave up money today in wages. During their contracts, they gave up money and wages in order to have health care benefits, in order to have retirement benefits later. They are willing to take less pay in order to negotiate those benefits. They did that under the plan, under the system the way it is today.
So I think taxing those workers, especially middle income workers, is the way to really hurt the middle class.
SCHULTZ: Well, I think it‘s attacking the consumer. I think it‘s really wrong headed to go down that road.
Sonia Sotomayor made her first visit to Capital Hill today. This is what Senator Leahy had to say after he had a visit with her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I‘ll tell you one thing that will motivate me to go sooner rather than later, when you have vicious attacks, when leading Republicans call her the equivalent of the head of the Ku Klux Klan, and call her a bigot, totally false and outrageous charges. And there‘s only one place she can answer those charges, would be in a hearing.
I want her to have a chance to answer those charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Senator, what‘s your take on all of this?
BROWN: My take is that if the Republicans go after her, that they are not really—they are not fair and they are not smart. I think that it‘s a lot of Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh attacks on her. Most senators—the last time I checked, Gingrich and Limbaugh don‘t vote on Supreme Court nominees. I‘m hopeful that my Senate colleagues, they question her, probe her background, look into her record. They criticize when deserved, but keep away from the personal attacks. Keep all the kind of ad hominem sorts of attacks to themselves.
Let‘s do this on substance. Let‘s do it and take a couple of months and really learn about her. I don‘t know enough about her. I‘m almost certain I‘ll be voting for her, but I want to know about her for sure before I cast that vote.
SCHULTZ: Contentious hearings coming up, do you think? Going to be aggressive?
BROWN: I don‘t know. I hope that they are not—I hope they are aggressive but fair, but not name calling and not nasty about it. Let‘s do this right. A couple of months from now, we vote on her and see what happens.
SCHULTZ: Senator, good to have you on tonight.
SCHULTZ: Sherrod Brown, Ohio, with us here on THE ED SHOW. For more on Sonia Sotomayor, let‘s bring in our panel tonight, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who is editor of “The Nation,” Mark Halperin, who is the senior political analyst and editor at large of “Time Magazine.” He writes “The Page” log on Time.com. And Michael Medved with us tonight, nationally syndicated radio talk show host and author of the book, “The Ten Big Lies About America.”
Mark, let‘s start with you. News of the day, obviously, Sonia Sotomayor on Capitol Hill. Was it a big day? Did she make an impression?
MARK HALPERIN, “TIME MAGAZINE”: It is a big day. People will remember that Harriet Myers, when she went up to Capitol Hill and had these courtesy calls, she kind of fumbled around and did damage with herself. Look, the only danger with her is if Democrats have a problem with her. I think when you saw the White House come out at the end last week, and the president and the nominee, through Robert Gibbs, walk back a little bit something that she said, I bet you they heard from Democrats, that they were concerned that that would not sit well.
As long as Democrats are happy with these visits, she‘ll be confirmed.
It‘s just a question now of how many Republicans vote for her as well.
SCHULTZ: Katrina, how aggressive will they be on this judge?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”: Well, if they do anything like your colleague, Pat Buchanan, did on HARDBALL, or will do tonight, it‘s going to be very ugly for the future fate of the Republican party to do some race baiting around Sonia Sotomayor, who is a woman in the mainstream in many ways of judicial work and decisions, and is someone of great intellectual expertise and background, and a woman with a compelling life story, and from a constituency which the Republicans are losing, and it‘s the future of this country demographically.
I think the Republicans are in big trouble. On the Democratic front, I understand Sonia Sotomayor will be meeting with Senator Kennedy, which will be an emotional and compelling meeting as well. And I can‘t imagine, and I think Mark would agree, that the Democrats are going to have any problem with her.
SCHULTZ: Michael Medved, is she in the mainstream, or would you describe her as what kind of judge?
MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, she‘s in the mainstream of a Democratic tradition. Look, it‘s one of those things where I think Republicans ought to take a look at what did they expect from President Obama? Elections have consequences. I think there are far worst appointments he could have made that Republicans would have resisted far more strenuously.
This is an opportunity for people who believe in strict construction of the Constitution, who do not believe in an activist judiciary, to make those points and to talk about issues. But I would agree with everything that‘s been said here. I think it‘s a terrible disaster to compare her to the Ku Klux Klan, or to attack her as a racist. Not to attack her personally, but to challenge, at least, some of her ideas and some of her decisions and some of her judicial thinking.
SCHULTZ: Well, that challenge is probably going to come from the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. That, of course, is Jeff Sessions from Alabama. This is what he said about the judge before the meeting today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS ®, ALABAMA: You will get a fair hearing before this committee, a respectful hearing. I think we can all learn from it. I hope we will enjoy it. That will be my commitment to you.
I believe the American people want a judge, want Supreme Court justices who understand that they are subordinate to the law, that they are servants of the law, that they are appointed and not anointed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Mark, is he saying all the right things?
HALPERIN: Well, he is. He‘s in a delicate position. This is his first time in the top slot in the minority. Republicans are in a little bit of pressure. Their base is coming out and saying, we want to be more aggressive. They don‘t think Sessions has been aggressive enough. On “Meet the Press” he was kind of soft and squishy on whether he would be for a filibuster. He doesn‘t foresee that.
If there is no filibuster, then Republicans have nothing to rally around. Again, it will just be a choice for them: Do they want to vote against her to send a message? Do they want to vote against her to try to send a signal to the president about his next nominee? It won‘t matter. She‘ll be confirmed.
SCHULTZ: Katrina, I find it interesting over the weekend that a lot of these Republican leaders in the Senate did not distance themselves too far from the unbelievable comments that have been made.
HEUVEL: I think you‘re watching Senator Sessions dial back right now. And I think you‘re seeing, against the backdrop of Sonia Sotomayor‘s judicial nomination hearings, the future fate of the Republican party, who‘s going to go where. Who is going to side with whom? Is it going to be Newt and Rush and Cheney and the ugly language? Or is it going to be a more tolerant party in the making around—and it will go—
They can use this nomination hearing to show that face. And it may be they are thinking hard back there, because they are not doing a good job in showing a tolerant face, a reasonable face in a country that deserves two modern, reasonable, tolerable parties.
SCHULTZ: Michael, you broadcast on a very conservative network on radio. that‘s the Salem Radio Network. What has been the overriding take by the majority of the broadcasters on the radio network about this? How aggressive will all of you be on Sonia Sotomayor?
MEDVED: Well, we‘ll be aggressive on ideas. For instance, I think that the overwhelming majority of Americans do not favor race-based or ethnicity based quotas or timetables.
SCHULTZ: Then why did McConnell distance himself from that? Why didn‘t McConnell really distance himself from that? He said he didn‘t want to be the verbal police chief or something like that. You know, calling her a racist is a pretty strong stuff.
MEDVED: It is strong stuff. The point about this is that you asked about the base out there, the people that I talked to every day on the radio. The people want Sonia Sotomayor challenged on some of her ideas. And by the way, this has already born fruit.
I think Katrina has been way too hard on the Republicans. President Obama has already himself acknowledged that Judge Sotomayor is going to try to explain that comment about the superior wisdom of a Latina justice. That‘s not acceptable. It was a misstatement. So, fine, she‘ll have an opportunity to do that in the hearing.
I do believe that the hearings are probably going to be interesting for their substance, but not because of political theater or because of gladiatorial combat. There‘s a chance to do that, by the way, on health care. That‘s the big issue that I think conservatives really do care about most deeply.
SCHULTZ: Well, it‘s going to be a long, hot summer with these hearings coming up and also health care. Panel, stay with us. We‘ve got a lot more coming up.
Next up, team Obama up close and personal. What‘s it like to work in the Obama White House? And do the secretary of state and president of the United States really get along? NBC News got an all access pass. It‘s next in my playbook. Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: In my playbook tonight, a rare look at the White House playbook. How about 150 hours of video, 23 camera crews, access to the West Wing, East Wing, Oval Office, cabinet room, meeting rooms, and the presidential limo.
Over the next two nights, NBC‘s Brian Williams will continue an NBC tradition and take us inside the Obama White House.
Joining us now is Mark Whitaker, NBC News Washington bureau chief. Mark, thanks for joining us tonight. I understand we‘re going to have some pretty surprising moments coming up in this documentary, I guess you could call it. What are we going to see that maybe we haven‘t seen in other NBC productions?
MARK WHITAKER, NBC NEWS: Well, as you say, we got unprecedented access. I‘ll just give you a couple of tidbits. First of all, probably the most hostile White House official to this project was Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, really didn‘t want us there. It turns out that he‘s going to be one of the most compelling figures in these two hours. And you‘ll really want to see that.
The other thing that I think your viewers will be interested in is we see in real-time the White House plotting its crisis management as the GOP starts to label Judge Sotomayor as a reverse racist. They start the day not thinking that it‘s going to be—thinking that it‘s going to be a slow day on the confirmation front. And as the day goes on, they realize that they‘ve got a real issue. They‘ve got to punch back. And you see Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod doing that. And it culminates with their deciding to allow the president himself to address the issue in his exclusive interview with Brian Williams.
SCHULTZ: Here‘s an excerpt from what‘s coming up the next couple of nights. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You have said before, Mr. President, sometimes you just want to pick out the shaving cream. You want to pick out and not have to describe.
OBAMA: You don‘t want to have somebody else to do it.
And it gives you—you know, there‘s a certain rhythm of life.
OBAMA: Of, OK, you know, it‘s Saturday morning. I walk my dog, run some errands, do some things to make my wife happy.
OBAMA: I‘m going to take my kids to a museum and then I‘m going to, on the spur of the moment, take them to have some ice cream, because they had a good game. Those kinds of rhythms are thrown off in ways that are tough.
But, look, Michelle and I are pretty darn lucky and we know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Mark, you told us about Rahm Emanuel. It seems that the president didn‘t mind this intrusion too much. What do you think? Did he go along with it?
WHITAKER: Well, he was good natured about it. You see a few things about the president. First of all, he likes working above the company store, and being able to see his family after all those months of campaigning.
He‘s very much in command. He is very confident in his role as president. But he also chafes the bubble. He doesn‘t like that aspect of it. And you‘ll see he makes an escape out of the White House during the day with Brian.
SCHULTZ: All right. Much like Bill Clinton used to do. He used to
go across the street and get a hot dog every now and then. We‘re looking
forward to seeing that
WHITAKER: There is food involved.
SCHULTZ: Thank you, Mark.
You can check out the full NBC News special. Brian Williams reports inside the Obama White House on NBC. It airs tonight and tomorrow night starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on NBC.
Coming up, President Obama is headed to Egypt, where he will speak directly to the Arab world. This is what change looks like. Will it be a watershed moment in the peace process? That‘s next on THE ED SHOW. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I wouldn‘t suggest that somehow I‘m uniquely positioned to deliver this speech. And I also don‘t want to load up too many expectations on this speech. But I am confident that we‘re in a moment where in Islamic countries I think there‘s a recognition that the path of extremism is not actually going to deliver a better life for people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. That was President Obama telling Brian Williams about what he hopes his trip to Egypt and Saudi Arabia will accomplish on Thursday. He gives a major speech in Cairo. President Obama is extending his hand to the Muslim world. But 75 percent of Egyptians still disapprove of the American president. That‘s an improvement from a year ago, when 94 percent disapproved of President Bush.
Will President Obama be able to convince Muslims he is sincere about changing the US/Mid-East relationship? Time to bring back our panel tonight, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Mark Halperin, and also Michael Medved.
Mark, when 75 percent of the people don‘t like you, you have a good chance of improving things. Don‘t you? How important is this?
HALPERIN: It‘s very important. Look, the president said he doesn‘t want to put too much on this one speech. Too late, there‘s already a lot on this speech. It‘s been built up. It‘s something he promised to do during the campaign. He has a lot going on, appealing to the broader Islamic world, trying to make long-term progress on America‘s image in the world.
But there‘s also Iran, Israel, and the Palestinian issues. Those are two big real world problems right now. He was criticized during the campaign by Hillary Clinton, just words, she said. This speech will just be words, but he‘s got to use to leverage forward, to actually deal with the real world problems.
SCHULTZ: Does he have to strike the perfect tone here in this environment? What do you think?
HEUVEL: He‘s already struck some good tones in his Inaugural Address, talking about a new way forward based on mutual respect and trust. But he does need—this is a speech, as Mark said. He is so brilliant at the rhetoric. What people in Egypt and around the region are looking for are the policies that will follow.
I would say there are three key policies. One is engagement with Iran, which it‘s going to have election soon. You may see a reformist emerge there. The other is to argue that a solution, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the cornerstone to Middle East stability, and talk maybe about how he is pushing Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel to halt the expansion of settlements.
And, three, to draw down, as we‘re doing, to continue to Iraq, and to make clear that we don‘t have designs on Iraq‘s oil or that we will have permanent military bases. He will signal that there are policies he will move on if he speaks clearly. No clash of civilizations either. Partnership of civilizations.
SCHULTZ: Michael Medved, does the president run the risk of being too cozy in the Arab world? What do you think?
MEDVED: I don‘t think he really does. The United States policy has been fairly clear. What he does run the risk of doing is losing focus on what the real problem is regarding the Israeli/Palestinian struggle. The real problem right now is that there is no one that can negotiate for the Palestinians. President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has no control and no influence on the 1.3 million people who live in Gaza, who are pledged openly to the destruction of Israel.
Before there‘s any discussion about settlements or about new negotiations, there must be some reconciliation between the two halves of the Palestinians polity, who are shooting at each other, and killed six of one another over the weekend.
HEUVEL: I think, listen, Obama said very clearly that to be a friend of Israel means your honest. And if he can push hard to stop the expansion of settlements, he is in a better place to bring a concession from Iran, and also for the Arab country who have to play a role, as Obama understands and they do, in bringing pressure on the Palestinian to come together.
MEDVED: Katrina, what does stopping settlements do?
HEUVEL: A lot.
MEDVED: When you take a look at—
HEUVEL: Because it‘s in violation of so many UN and other international law conventions.
MEDVED: It‘s removal of settlers from Gaza, forcible removal, led to 7,000 rocket attacks from a radical organization that took over in Gaza.
SCHULTZ: Is he going to address all of this?
HALPERIN: Remember, the Bush administration concept of going into Iraq was shake everything up, get the board all moving around and hope everything ended up in the right place.
He‘s coming in pulling out of Iraq, not completely, not as fast as Katrina would like. But he does have a chance to say to all of the parties, clean start, fresh start. But Michael is right, the problem is, you can be as tough as you want on the Israelis, there still have to be somebody to deal with on the other side.
HEUVEL: Can I make one larger point?
SCHULTZ: Go ahead.
HEUVEL: I think Barack Obama is showing himself to be a realist.
It‘s very interesting. It‘s restoration, in some ways, of George H.W. Bush‘s policy, not George W. And I think that goes a long way at this time and place in history. To be a realist is to say to these countries, we need to find a way to solve some of these conflicts, which are going to ravage your country, as well as stability for the US and central players.
SCHULTZ: Michael, quick take, what do you think of the Iranians being invited here for the Fourth of July?
MEDVED: Great. I hope they enjoy the hot dogs. I hope they provide hot dogs out of the halal meat.
HALPERIN: And some Beach Boys music. If you can get the Beach Boys around the world, I think we can all get along.
SCHULTZ: You know—
HEUVEL: The Iranians to July Fourth, you said?
HEUVEL: Well, the interesting thing is the reformist candidate is campaigning with his wife, which I find really interesting, because in Iran, you are not even supposed to shake a woman‘s hand if you don‘t know her. So you‘ve got women out there.
MEDVED: I‘m all for Hossein Mousavi too.
SCHULTZ: All right. Thank you, Michael, Katrina, Mark. Thanks for being here. That‘s THE ED SHOW. I‘m Ed Schultz. We‘ll be back here tomorrow night, same time, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. For more information on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com, or check out the radio website at WeGotEd.com. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now.
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