The Ed Show
June 23, 2009
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Dylan Ratigan, Linda Douglass, Barbara Mikulski, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Todd
Webster, Tom Tancredo, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Sen. Sherrod Brown
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.
President Obama goes on the offensive for a public plan. He wants competition. He made that crystal clear at his press conference today.
We're going to get White House and Senate reaction. That's coming up.
Some Republican lawmakers are still hammering the president on Iran. And I'll go head to head with one of them who called him a "cream puff" in our second half-hour.
Republican governor Mark Sanford goes into the wilderness. Maybe he was looking for the party. He's gone, and so are his presidential hopes in 2012.
Plus "Psycho Talk," what Sanford actually said before he went out, I guess, on this road trip.
We've got a great panel coming up for you tonight. But first, tonight's "OpEd."
Republican backsides got to be hurting just a little bit tonight because, you see, the president gave them, I think, a pretty good spanking today on health care. The GOP has been running around saying public option is just going to kill the current system, we're going to bankrupt the country. I can't believe they're talking about that. Plus, the government is going to be between you and your doctor.
Folks, that is hogwash. If you take nothing else from this broadcast tonight, just know that's all hogwash. And the fact is the president is finally not backing down.
Today at his news conference, I guess you could say he doubled down on the plan saying that he wants an option. And shutting down the Republican talking points on health care was a key today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For us to be able to say here's a public option that's not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs, and that provides you good quality care for a reasonable price as one of the options for you to choose, I think that makes sense.
QUESTION: But wouldn't that drive private insurers out of business?
OBAMA: Well, why would it drive private insurers out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: This is the most aggressive demeanor on this issue that I've seen the president have, and I'm loving it. He refuses to get cut up on these cheap political talking points.
He speaks his mind. He goes right after it. And he doesn't scare people.
But unfortunately, unfortunately, the Republicans aren't the president's biggest obstacle on reform. It's the Democrats, the ones talking about bipartisanship.
I call these folks, OK, the centrists, but I also call them spineless. They need to get with the program. Can't they read the polls? Don't they know what the American people want?
Now, I want to call them out. Here are the nine senators on the
Democratic side who I say are on the wrong side when it comes to reform:
Lincoln, Carper, Cantwell, Widen, Nelson, Landrieu, Conrad, Hagan and our old buddy Max Baucus.
Now, I don't know how any Democrat in Congress thinks they're going to oppose the president on health care reform. You have got 72 percent of the people in this country who want a public option. But hold it right there.
What kind of public option? Why aren't we seeing any polls when it comes to single payer? I think it would be higher than 72 percent. Let's not get caught up on all these phrases and all this wordsmithing that's going on.
You've got a president with a 58 percent-three-quarters of the-
58 percent approval rating. Three-quarters of the American people like what this guy says. But these Democrats are just throwing out this thing called change that we're really not sure if we can get this thing done or not.
This is the number one problem for the American people. The number one problem. It's the number one kitchen table issue. And you have got some Democrats who aren't really sure about whether this public option is the right way to go or not?
We've got the most popular president in a generation that we've seen in a long, long time. We've got meaningful change on the table. And we've got some people-wait a second. I think I did this show two months ago.
We're still there. We're still there.
No, this isn't a repeat, folks. We're still there. We have the Republican Party at a 25 percent approval rating. This is crazy. You've got people out there ready to commit political suicide if they don't back this president.
Democrats, you've got to wake up. The people are with you on this.
The powder's too dry. I want to know when the fighting's going to start.
When are the Democrats going to start talking like the Republicans used to talk when they had the majority?
We'll, let's go to the White House and find out.
Joining me now is Linda Douglass, who is the communications director for the Office of Health Care Reform.
Now, if you need a fire-up talk over there, just let me know, Linda. I'll come over there in a heartbeat and do it. If you need any Democratic senators that have to get pulled into line tonight, just let me know.
But I want to know, was I imagining this today, or did I see the president become more animated and more aggressive on this issue about public option?
LINDA DOUGLASS, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF HEALTH CARE REFORM:
You know, well, look, the president has always said that he's for a public option, exactly as he explained today, because it does create more choice and competition. As he said, it keeps the insurance companies honest.
Clearly, if you have a not-for-profit alternative for people who cannot afford health insurance, something with much lower administrative costs, it's going to make the insurance companies turn around and say, hey, this is the marketplace. We want to compete in the marketplace. How can we offer more affordable options as well? How can anyone possibly argue with that?
Now, with respect to the president's tone, you know, as he said today in his news conference, he's reading these letters every day from Americans who are struggling with the high cost of health care, people who thought they had insurance, discovered that the insurance didn't cover that serious illness, didn't cover that operation. People who were discovering that they thought they had insurance, but had they changed jobs, their child has asthma, maybe the mom had breast cancer, so they've got a preexisting condition. They can't get health coverage, they can't afford health care.
These are the things that really get to the president. They weigh on him. And that's what you heard today.
SCHULTZ: Well, apparently it's not weighing on about nine or 10 Democratic senators, because they're so afraid about the money. They're so afraid about the political backlash. They've totally misread the public on this.
So when is the fighting going to start? I shouldn't be asking a very professional woman such as yourself this, but that's kind of where I think the American people are right now. They're ready for this fight, they're ready to smack down the Republicans on this, and all they hear is a group of Democrats running around saying, well, you know, we've got to be bipartisan on this.
The fact is, no, we don't. We don't have to be bipartisan on this.
When are we going to get to that point?
DOUGLASS: Well, I know you're looking for a fight, Ed. And you know, that's what we love about you, Ed. But what the American people really want is health reform that's going to lower their costs. It's going to provide affordable options for Americans who cannot afford to get health care now, who might lose their job, or whose employer is starting to cut down on the benefits they're providing to people at work, making them pay more out of pocket every single day.
We put a report out today, by the way, that shows that families now with health insurance are paying about $4,000 nearly out of pocket. That is what the America people want.
And senators of both parties want that as well. They're trying to lower costs. They're trying to pass the right legislation that will protect the choice of doctors and plans and, you know, guarantee some sort of affordable health insurance for every American, certainly provide access to that. So these senators are all working very hard to try to come up with provisions that they can all agree on.
And we've already seen a bill come out of the House of Representatives. They're having hearings now that is very much built upon the president's principal that I've just outlined here. The House bill was commended by the president.
Both of the Senate committees are working very, very hard with bills that have all of those principals in them. So we're confident, really, that the president's going to have health reform for the American people to sign in October.
SCHULTZ: Well, let's-now, October, that's another thing I want to bring up. You know, first we heard, you know, this was going to happen before the break in August, and now we're pushing it back to October. I think some political realities are setting in here.
I just don't think that this is that much of a heavy lift. You've got the American people with you. I know you're on the right track, but I think the Democrats are being too nice on this. And I...
DOUGLASS: Let me interrupt you for a second...
DOUGLASS: ... just so that, you know, your audience out there understands what the timetable is.
We expect the House to pass a bill before the Congress goes on the recess in August. We are hoping and expecting that the Senate will pass a bill in that same timetable before they go on the recess in August.
And as you know from covering Washington for all these years, they come back after that August recess. There's a House bill, there's a Senate bill. Put the two together, pass the whole thing, the president signs it.
SCHULTZ: And in the middle of all that, what I'd like you to do is exclude all the Republicans, because all they want to do is obstruct. I just thought I'd throw that in, Linda. Thank you. Good to have you with us.
DOUGLASS: Thank you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: I'm serious. I mean, I'm waiting-you know, we've got 10 Democrats out there who, you know, aren't really sure about this public option thing or single payer. I want the 10 Democrats who are really hardcore about the public option, you know, like single payer, so you don't have the middle man in there, you don't have the insurance company just gouging the heck out of you and doing the double-digit profits year after year, and rate increases and such stuff as that.
When you ask the question, folks, about public option, ask the question about single payer. Ask your neighbor. Say, "What do you think about this single-payer thing?" I guarantee you that the majority of Americans are on board with this.
The Republicans are irrelevant at this point on health care. They've never had a plan except tax cuts for the top two percent. They've never wanted to help anybody out when it came to health care before. And I think it is very admirable of the president of the United States to take it upon himself and say, you know, I really want to work with you, and I've got a couple in my flock that aren't doing the right thing, but I'll be patient with them right now.
If the Obama administration doesn't deliver on this, there's going to be a political falling out, I think, for a lot of people, and I'm crossing my fingers right now.
Thank you, Linda, for joining us tonight. I appreciate it.
It's my soapbox. I apologize.
Joining me now is Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski. She's a member of the Senate Health Care Committee.
Senator, thank you for joining us tonight.
Maybe you can explain to our audience all this bipartisan love that has to take place if we're going to get health care reform in America.
What about that?
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: Well, Ed, I think what we want to be able to do is try and have a framework that shows that all of America is united behind health reform. But right now we've got two mono parties, and one has mono vision, which is the Republican Party.
So we're going to continue to reach out for them. That's the Obama way. That's the new Democratic way.
If they want to come and find that sensible center, we welcome them.
But in the meantime, we're plugging away.
Over on the Health Education Committee, we've been working all week long to move our bill forward. We've been advocating a structure where we can save money and save lives by changing the way we actually do health care, by promoting wellness, by promoting prevention, by eliminating medical errors and administrative simplification. We believe we can save lives and save money.
I personally had to beat off 50 Republican amendments. Tom Harkin's right down there now doing black belt legislation. He had 172 amendments against prevention. How can you be against prevention?
But we're fighting because we want to, at the end of the day, be able to move health reform forward. The American people have mandated that.
SCHULTZ: They have mandated it. I don't know how much more ammunition the Democrats need on this.
You can go scorched earth policy on this and say to hell with Republicans and get this done. But why is there so much hesitation on the part of the Democrats, Senator, to really circle everybody in on this and then just charge for the American people? I'm a little taken by how nice the Democrats want to tap dance around all of this. Or maybe I'm wrong.
MIKULSKI: Well, Ed, first of all, what you need to know is that the American people wanted us to change the tone. They did want us to try to be civil. They did try to want us to reach out across party aisles.
We are trying to do that. But while they're trying to stymie us or throw sand in the gears, we're also moving ahead.
I can assure you that by the time we get to the end of the week, we will have, in the Health Committee, that is really chaired by Senator Kennedy and being run by Senator Dodd in his absence, we'll have two-thirds of a bill done. And when we come back in July, we'll be able to do it. And we're pushing for a public option, a public option that is reliable, undeniable, promotes administrative efficiency, and yet leaves room for innovation and delivery so that people can get the health care they need and actually get better.
SCHULTZ: Senator, good to have you with us tonight. Thanks for speaking the truth here, and keep going on this issue.
Coming up, I don't know about you, folks, but I'm really sick and tired of hearing about how we're going to pay for health care reform. I'll tell you how we're going to pay for it. I'll tell you the truth. You raise the taxes. I'll tell you exactly what taxes you ought to be raising.
When are the Democrats going to give us some straight talk on this? I'll lay out my plan with MSNBC's new host, Dylan Ratigan, when we come back right here on THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.
I have always been a believer the great thing about America is competition. We have a system set up where we compete.
Americans love to compete. Americans love to win. We love to win at stuff.
You don't go into something and say, well, I think I'm going to try to be four, five, six, 10 or whatever . We want to win.
The latest poll that's out there says that Americans are actually willing to have their taxes go up to pay for health care. That's how bad they want it. That's how bad they want it.
Well, we're living in an age of record debt, record deficits, record foreign debt, record forever. And we don't want to pay for anything. But I need the majority party to step up. And I think the American people should be demanding this. Tell us how you're going to pay for this reform, this change.
I'll give them a plan. You know what you've got to do? You've got to repeal the Bush tax cuts. Oh, that hurts! There goes my wallet.
Yes, do it.
You have to raise taxes on cigarettes again. You have to go after soda pop because that ain't all that healthy. I mean, let's face it.
We've also got to go after the gas tax. One cent a gallon. Why do I love sales tax and gas tax? Because it generates fast revenue, and we need money fast in America right now to pay for this.
And finally, and I'm going to bring in my man on this one, Internet tax. Why is it that commerce is not taxed on the Internet? That hurts the little guy down the street who is doing what? Paying local property taxes, employing people, being involved in the community, and he's not off in cyberspace somewhere and not doing his fair share for the local community.
This man has got a show coming up starting on Monday right here on MSNBC, Dylan Ratigan. It's the new show called "MORNING MEETING."
My man, we can have a big meeting on this.
DYLAN RATIGAN, HOST, "MORNING MEETING": Believe me, I'm sure it will come up on the first show, because let's talk about your tax ideas for a second here. And I think that the most important point that you made is that if you look at the polls-and again, I'm skeptical of these types of polls because I can poll for anything in health care because everybody's in favor of health care and no one's in favor of paying for it. My whole sort of point on health care, it's fun to give away, but who's going to pay?
Your point is well made, which is the polling suggests there is a willingness to pay for it...
RATIGAN: ... that is not being exploited to the benefit of this system. I understand that.
But before you get there, and before you ask the American people to pay more in taxes, I believe that the American taxpayer must first demand from whoever comes up with a solution, Democrats, Republicans, Mickey Mouse or Martians, that they deal with three things before we get to who pays for it.
One, rationing. Not everybody in America is entitled to the most expensive health care for every single person quite simply because we can't afford to pay for it. No one wants to talk about it. But just because General Electric...
SCHULTZ: Why not?
RATIGAN: Because we can't afford to pay for it.
SCHULTZ: Well, no. Sure, we can.
RATIGAN: No, we don't. We don't have the money.
SCHULTZ: Dylan, we'll get to money.
RATIGAN: From where? From my children? From your children? From the Chinese? Where's the money coming from?
SCHULTZ: Every human life is important.
RATIGAN: Fair enough.
SCHULTZ: You shouldn't have any better health care than me.
RATIGAN: Fair enough.
SCHULTZ: I shouldn't have any better health care than you.
RATIGAN: We'll come back to that. I'm going to need a lot of money from your children and I'm going to need a Chinese banker, but we'll get that done.
Here's the other thing-and this is one of the myths of health care.
The myth is if we spend more, it means we care. If we spend more...
RATIGAN: ... it means we care. And yet-let me finish-and yet no country gets a lower yield for its health care dollars than this country does.
SCHULTZ: There you go.
RATIGAN: We have an abusive medical system, overtesting, overprescription. We have an abusive patient system, overconsumption, abuse of chronic care that need not be applied.
We have no one willing to have the rationing conversation, and I refuse to get into a conversation of who's going to pay for what until I see a health care system that deals with medical abuse, overtesting, overprescription, patient abuse, and rationing. And if you do those three things, Ed, then I'll have a tax conversation with you.
SCHULTZ: But here's the deal, Dylan. We have got a system right now that is set up to deny coverage where Americans are dying.
RATIGAN: I know. We have a terrible system.
SCHULTZ: They're dying. All I'm asking for is...
RATIGAN: No contest.
SCHULTZ: ... some competition.
RATIGAN: So how about this...
SCHULTZ: Get some competition in the market and everything changes.
RATIGAN: But who most cares about your health care? I'll give you three choices.
SCHULTZ: I care about it.
RATIGAN: You care the most.
SCHULTZ: But I care about yours. And your forcing my health care to go up.
RATIGAN: Let me give you three choices. For your health care, you can either go to the government for your health care, you can go to your employer, NBC Universal, General Electric, for your health care, or you can rely on yourself.
RATIGAN: Who do you trust the most to look out for your interests, you, the government or your employer?
SCHULTZ: I do not believe that the government's going to get between me and Dr. Glad (ph). I don't believe that.
RATIGAN: Who do you want making decisions? You want you first, right? You want you first?
SCHULTZ: I trust my instincts, and my instincts are I'm getting ripped off by the insurance companies.
RATIGAN: And you're right. You're right. No contest.
SCHULTZ: I'm getting ripped of by big pharma, I'm getting ripped off across the board. So government...
RATIGAN: The problem is well established. I disagree.
SCHULTZ: ... has to intervene and level the playing field.
SCHULTZ: You're going to have a great show because I'm going to be on it.
RATIGAN: Here's the thing, Ed. The government's job is to set rules, not to provide services.
SCHULTZ: All right.
RATIGAN: And the U.S. government has failed to establish effective rules.
SCHULTZ: Well, give them a chance to do it. But the fact is, they're going to level the playing field.
RATIGAN: I can't give them a chance to do it if they're going to...
RATIGAN: It's so easy to give it away. It's so much fun to give it away.
SCHULTZ: We're not giving it away.
RATIGAN: Oh, we are.
SCHULTZ: We're going to pay for it.
RATIGAN: No. With my children's money.
SCHULTZ: Dylan, you're going to have a-no, not with your children's money. That's what Bush did.
RATIGAN: Then with a Chinese banker.
SCHULTZ: All right.
Just a reminder. Dylan's new show coming up Monday morning, it's "MORNING MEETING." It debuts Monday, 9:00 a.m., right here on MSNBC.
Next up, "Psycho Talk." We're not going to replay this segment.
Stay with us. We're right back.
RATIGAN: I thought that's what this was.
Thank you. A pleasure.
SCHULTZ: You bet.
RATIGAN: All right. Cool.
SCHULTZ: Oh, here we go. You can call this one, can't you?
"Psycho Talk" tonight, we honor the missing governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. He's been found.
You see, he called in to check in with the chief of staff this morning. His spokesman says the governor was surprised by all the interest in his secretive hike through the Appalachian trail and is going to be back to work tomorrow.
So good of him with so many jobless people in this country, he's going to go back to work.
The governor disappeared Thursday following a tough legislative session. On June 4th, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered the governor to accept the $700 million in stimulus cash.
Before disappearing, he threw this one out. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Generational accounting says what is the imputed tax for a young person born in America today? And remarkably, that number is 82 percent, which ain't all that far from a thing called slavery, because if you're giving away 82 percent of every dollar you earn every day and every week and every month, A, it's not a good deal. And B, it collapses the capitalistic system because nobody has any initiative to work at that point. And C, it really isn't that far from slavery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: I'll tell you, it's getting to become a fraternity, isn't it? Governor Sanford joining our old good friend from "Psycho Talk," a regular, Michele Bachmann.
It doesn't matter what it is, stimulus money, the national service plan. Obama is out to enslave Americans? Yes, right.
Just one question for the governor from South Carolina. Why wasn't he out there accusing Bush 43 of enslaving Americans when his tax cuts for the wealthy drove our nation from a surplus into a massive deficit?
Here's some good irony for you. You know that trail Sanford has been hiking on the last few days, the Appalachian trail? That same trail will get $650,000 of-you got it-stimulus package money.
Now, that is "Psycho Talk."
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. Our president, you know that he doesn't use the scare tactics of the Bush administration. But he's coming right up front. The president is going to talk straight to his fellows in the Congress. He is going to address these talking points. He's going to put pressure on Congress. And that's what he said today on health care at his press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our position is that a public plan makes sense. There are a whole host of other issues where ultimately I may have a strong opinion. And I will express those to members of Congress as this is shaping up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: All right. You can't get any clearer than that. The president wants a public option, probably because he knows the public overwhelmingly supports one.
Joining me now is Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who is a member of the health committee, which is Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. All right, senator, I know you're not going to let us down on this issue. That exchange I just had with Dylan Ratigan, that's the kind of action I want behind closed doors. I want you senators going at it and fighting for this public option.
But I need you to define at this moment what this public option is.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Well, public option is pretty much a Medicare look-alike. It won't exactly be that, but a public plan that competes with the insurance industry.
You know, the insurance industry's always sort of one step ahead of the sheriff. They want you in their plan if they make money on you. They don't if you've got a preexisting condition. We're going to change the rules for insurance companies, but we also want this public plan option, so they can keep the insurance companies behaving better.
And so a customer has-or a patient can say, I want to go on the private plan or I can go on the public plan. It's their choice. We're just providing an additional choice. But it's a public choice. It's a government-run choice, that will welcome many people, and others will choose otherwise.
SCHULTZ: OK. This is what the president had to say today when it comes to drawing the lines. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs, and that it has to provide relief to people who don't have health insurance or are under-insured. Yes, those are the broad parameters that we've discussed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Senator Brown, when do we draw lines in the sand to Republicans that have said it's a non-starter? That's their verbiage. It's a non-starter when it comes to public option.
BROWN: Well, unfortunately, one committee seems to be-the Finance Committee seems to be looking-working-in my mind, their goal seems to be-the chairman has said his goal is to have a bipartisan plan. The Health Committee, my committee, Senator Dodd's, Senator Kennedy's committee, is frankly more focused on we want a really good plan. And a really good plan's got to include a public option. It will save dollars, as the president says, because it will keep the insurance companies more honest.
And it also-it will mean that places there might not be a decent private insurance plan, the public option's there. And it gives much better choice. It will help the single parent who's not been able to get insurance, because it costs too much or because she might have a disabled child. It will help the small business owner that can't get this kind of quality of insurance that she wants for her business, whatever.
And so all across the board, it will make sense. And we're working on it on the Health Committee. We had a markup today. We're about halfway there in terms of the legislation we're putting together. We have more to do and we're going to get the public option.
SCHULTZ: Senator, I want to switch gears with you here, if I can, because the other big story today that the president addressed were the events that are unfolding in Iran. Are you comfortable with the action this president has taken? Has he been aggressive enough? And do you think he should do more? Where do you stand on it?
BROWN: I think he's been about right. And I don't agree with everything the president's done on everything, but on this one I do. Yet I think that what people that want to talk tougher, like John McCain, who said the president's got to talk tougher and talk about the democracy movement, and kind of identify himself with certain leaders in Iran-what we have to understand is when an American leader identifies with a certain group of people in a Middle East country, it doesn't necessarily help that group of people go in the direction they want to take the country, because, you know, we're not necessarily the most popular kid on the block there.
And we always want to stand for democracy and freedom, but oftentimes we need to stand a little bit back, let it play out.
BROWN: And move forward at the right time.
SCHULTZ: Senator, good to have you with us tonight.
BROWN: Thanks, Ed. Thanks.
SCHULTZ: You bet. For more on this, let's turn to our political panel tonight. Katrina Vanden Heuvel is the editor of "The Nation." Todd Webster, Democratic strategist, and Tom Tancredo, former Republican Congressman from Colorado.
We want to talk about health care. We want to talk about Iran. Let's get to the health care. Katrina, did the president make any headway today? It appeared to me that this was the most animated and the most aggressive he's been, saying we're going to level the playing field with the insurance companies.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, "THE NATION": Yes, I mean, it was a contentious press conference. You had some of those reporters sounding like they were ventriloquists for the insurance, big pharma or Frank Luntz. But I think he gave the most spirited defense of the public option we've heard him say.
But he's not ready to bang heads yet. You've got those timid, cautious, centrist Democrats, who are probably still on the fence. Not Sherrod Brown, but I think that's going to require leadership on Obama's part. And this is about his legacy. If he can get a public plan through in a universal affordable health care plan, that is something we haven't seen in 40 -- no Democratic president has been able to do.
SCHULTZ: Tom Tancredo, it would make political sense to make sure the Republicans derail the Obama effort, because this could really torpedo his presidency. Then you can hang on the label on him that he couldn't get it done. What about that?
TOM TANCREDO, FMR. CONGRESSMAN: Well, yes, I hope so. The fact is that it looks to me, frankly, listening to what is happening, listening to the president today, the kind of aggressive nature-and by the way, because a reporter asked him a question more than once, we're talking about reporters in the pockets of the insurance company; oh, my god. It just goes to show you how deep in the pockets of Obama the whole media press corps is.
But, going back to the question, the fact is that he was aggressive today. You know what it tells me, Ed? It tells me the wheels are coming off the train. You've got Democrats in the Congress bailing out, saying oh, I'm not so sure about this anymore. When I get an OMB report of a trillion-dollar costs, we say, never mind that, let's get the CBO, because they're on our side. CBO comes in, a little over a trillion dollars. Everybody goes, you know, maybe we'd better think this over again, because when the president says, we've got to control costs, and he's going to put in a program that's going to cost over a trillion bucks, it doesn't really play that well in Peoria.
SCHULTZ: How do you sell the price tag, Todd Webster? What do you think?
TODD WEBSTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, look, the health care lobby-people talk about the NRA being the most popular lobby in Washington. The health care lobby, the medical lobby is extremely powerful and compelling. The fact is that we're not even debating a single-payer option, which does make the most sense, which would cover everybody, which would cut out the obscene profits being made by the health insurance company.
SCHULTZ: That's because the Democrats got weak-kneed on it.
WEBSTER: My question is what is the value add of an insurance company? You go to the doctor. You see a nurse. You go to a hospital. The insurance companies are not providing any value, and yet they make hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars on profits every single year. It makes no sense.
The public option is a half-measure by comparison, is the middle ground by comparison.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Todd's right. I mean, the single payer's been off the
table. We are now left with a public option. It should not foreclose
further reform. But the key is to get these private insurers out of the
way and let people have the choice. And Barack Obama did speak well today --
SCHULTZ: He did.
VANDEN HEUVEL: -- about disciplining the insurance companies. And Todd is also right. Last I checked, Ed, there are six lobbyists for big pharma or insurance companies to every member of Congress, which means-and we spoke about this last week-Barack Obama should get out of Washington, D.C. and rally the people, the wind behind his back.
SCHULTZ: He's got the people with him. Panel, stay with us. We're coming back with a lot more. Hang on. Republican lawmakers call President Obama a cream puff on Iran. I'll take them on right here on THE ED SHOW next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions. And I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: In my playbook tonight, those were the strongest words yet from President Obama condemning the Iranian regime's actions. Was it enough for the antis? We'll see. We've had the likes of Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham come out criticizing the president. They say he isn't speaking tough enough. He's not supporting the protesters enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the president needs to appreciate the historical moment we're in. And I'd like to see my president, our president, speak up boldly and loudly.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: The Iranian people need to have our moral support now. We don't-I'm not talking about sending arms. I'm not talking about anything except showing our moral support and our belief in human values. And I don't think that should be hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Wow! What do you want him to do? I'm just astonished at the rhetoric that's being thrown around by the right wing. They just can't get enough confrontation. Today, the president brushed aside all of his critics, saying, only I'm the president.
Was it enough for the critics? Let's find out. Joining me now is Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California, the congressman who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chairs the Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus.
Congressman, good to have you with us tonight. Quickly, outline for us, what do you want President Obama to do at this point, or did today make any difference in your opinion of him being, quote, a cream puff?
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER ®, CALIFORNIA: Well, first and mother foremost, the president should not just say I am going what the Mullah dictatorship is doing, but say that the dictatorship is itself wrong and immoral, and we are on the side of people who want real democracy and human rights in Iran.
ROHRABACHER: He can't get himself to condemn the fundamental nature of this, yes, evil mullah dictatorship.
SCHULTZ: What would that do? I mean, the president has been accused of all he does is give speeches, and words don't matter, and everything else. And now, when this situation comes up, he disengages and says, look, we're supporting the people who are doing the protesting, but the Iranian people have got to basically figure this thing out. And for once, we've got a president who's not doing any intervention or any saber rattling. What's the down side of that, Congressman?
ROHRABACHER: We're not talking about-using the word saber rattling
no one is advocating that we're going to threaten our U.S. military action. But a president using strong language, rather than weak language, or apologetic language, they can get something done. Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War by making it very clear to both the oppressed people behind the Iron Curtain, as well as their Communistic oppressors, that we were on the side of the people who wanted democracy, freedom and human rights.
This president hasn't articulated it. Thus, unlike Ronald Reagan ending the Cold War by being tough, this president will not end the war with radical Islam, because they will think that we are weak.
SCHULTZ: So you want, I guess, the president to go over there and give us a Ronald Reagan tear down this wall moment. You're basically saying that the president's not talking tough enough to the world community on this and not encouraging more.
ROHRABACHER: Tell me what you mean by tough enough. We're not talking about tough as in we're going to beat you up, and we're the tough guys. I'm talking about being strong in one's advocacy of those principles of human rights and democracy, which the mullah regime and radical Islam is exactly on the other side of, just like the Communist bosses were. We didn't have any fear about the communist bosses might get upset and think we're belligerent.
SCHULTZ: Do you think President Obama fears the situation in Iran?
You think he fears this?
ROHRABACHER: I think that he has in his mind that we're going to make the Mullah dictators upset if we come on like we're on the side of the people who oppose them. We should be on the side of the people who oppose them, and not worry about the dictators, because they're murderers. They're gangsters. And the people of Iran don't want them.
SCHULTZ: OK. So the president made no headway at all today at his press conference; is that what I'm hearing?
ROHRABACHER: Let me put it this way, he ratcheted up the language a little bit, but if he would have been talking even a little bit tougher a few days ago, we might not have seen the violence and bloodshed of this repressive regime in Tehran in the last two days.
SCHULTZ: Let me-Congressman, let me get this straight. You're saying that if President Obama had talked tougher, there wouldn't have been deaths in the streets in Iran? Am I hearing that?
ROHRABACHER: Let me tell you something, the North Koreans and the Iranian mullah dictatorship-yes, when the president talks tough with them, they are less certain of themselves, and less likely to commit these acts of violence against their own people.
SCHULTZ: So you're blaming President Obama for what's going on in Iran?
ROHRABACHER: No, I'm not blaming-I'm blaming President Obama for not doing what he could have done. I'm blaming the death and destruction on the mullahs there. It's our job to make sure those people know that we're against them.
SCHULTZ: But I thought I just heard you say that if President Obama had spoken out stronger earlier, there wouldn't have been the deaths in the streets.
ROHRABACHER: Well, that doesn't mean he's responsible for that. He's responsible for his own actions.
SCHULTZ: So have he could-so you think that President Obama-you think that President Obama could have curbed the action, is that right?
ROHRABACHER: His own-his own actions and his lack of a tough statement early on gave them the impression of weakness, which emboldened the dictatorship. I think we should have been-it would be like Ronald Reagan going to the Berlin Wall and saying, Mr. Gorbachev, that's your business over there. We don't have any business doing this. Of course, Gorbachev wouldn't have permitted the wall to come down then.
SCHULTZ: OK. Congress Congressman Rohrabacher, great to have you on the program tonight. I appreciate your time. Please come back. We want to chew the fat on this again. Thanks so much.
And our panel's going to have a lot more to say about this when we come back. Stay with us. You're watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: All of us share a belief that we want justice to prevail. But only I'm the president of the United States. Members of Congress, they've got their Constitutional duties. And I'm sure they will carry them out in the way that they think is appropriate. I'm president of the United States, and I'll carry out my duties as I think are appropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. That was President Obama today at his press conference, responding to his critics on Iran, saying that the buck stops here. I'm the commander in chief, and ultimately, I'm in charge.
Time to bring back our political panel, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, also Todd Webster with us tonight, and former Congressman Tom Tancredo. Katrina, was this a good moment for President Obama today? Did he clear the deck, and was he strong enough in dealing with this Iranian situation?
VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, Ed, all along, I have thought that President Obama has shown the right moral realism, allied with a respect for the courage and independence of the Iranian protesters. Deplore the violence, but do not take sides.
And his speech in Cairo spoke eloquently about how does real democracy come about? It doesn't come about by another system imposing its system on another country. It comes about when people inside, Iranian human rights activists, who respect what President Obama is doing in staying out of their country's politics. They have a better chance to build their own democracy, not through American meddling.
Our history in that country is not one that you want to use as a foil, as the President Obama has said, for the mullahs to use against the human rights activists.
SCHULTZ: Tom Tancredo, do you take issue with the president in how he's handled this so far?
TANCREDO: Not really. I take issue with my good friend Dana Rohrabacher, believe it or not. The fact is, I actually think the president was right in the way he was handling the issue. I don't think there was an awful lot he should have said. In a way, I was disappointed that he seemed to cave into the pressure he was getting to actually speak more harshly about this in his press conference.
I think he was on the right track. Now, here's what he should do, from my point of view, anyway.
TANCREDO: And I sat on the international relations committee with my friend Dana, and I really do respect him immensely. But I have to say this: in this case, I think less talk and more of a different kind of action. Sort of a different way of looking at Teddy Roosevelt's thing about speak softly, carrying a big stick. Here's what he could do: don't use the rhetoric, because I think that would inflame things inside Iran. I think it would give the mullahs the ability to say hey, look, the Americans are the ones fomenting this.
But there are all kinds of people-there's the NCRI, the National Council for Resistance In Iran. There's the Mujahadeen al-Khalq (ph). These are the people-there's a camp in Iraq. They want nothing more than to go back into Iraq (sic). They want to overthrow the mullahs. They want to establish democracy, a non-sectarian democracy. They're on our side on all these issues.
We could, in fact, use them. The president should take them off the terrorist watch list. The only reason they're on there is because Clinton wanted to cut a deal with the mullahs, and the mullahs wanted them on. Let these people go. Give them some help.
SCHULTZ: Do you disagree?
TANCREDO: Do it clandestinely. We don't have to do it out loud. Get them in there. They can do more than we ever could.
VANDEN HEUVEL: This has led to bloodshed in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and it would in Iran. This is insanity.
SCHULTZ: Todd Webster, is the president winning on this for the Americans-hold on, Tom.
WEBSTER: Watching Dana Rohrabacher, I said to myself, thank god the neocons are no longer running the country, and I'm finished taking my foreign policy lessons from the neocons. It's crazy. This was a perfect-pitch press conference, expressing his support and solidarity for the Persian people, that they ought to be defining their own future, as should every people throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world.
At the same time, he's restoring America's sense of moral leadership and respect for human rights. And that's the message that was sent to the rest of the world.
SCHULTZ: I don't understand why Mr. Rohrabacher is so confrontational. If Democrats had been that way when Bush was around, we would have been anti-troops and labeled anti-American and everything else. Of course, you know, words do matter.
VANDEN HEUVEL: They do matter. And the Cairo speech, again, Ed-we had a correspondent in Iran who was talking to a wide range of people in Iran. That speech electrified the country. It played a role in what we're seeing around these elections.
But I also think that, you know, you've seen the failure of neocon foreign policy. And that's what we heard from this Dana Rohrabacher. It's a political football for these people who would be the first to suppress dissent in our country if they had more of their own way.
TANCREDO: The leadership in Iran today, the mullahs, have got to be deposed. Do you really want them to have the nuclear weapon? Do you really want them to continue to foment chaos all over the Middle East, support for Hezbollah and all the rest? They've got to go. The way to do it is not to do it rhetorically, confrontationally. There are plenty of other options. I'm just suggesting the president should look at those options.
SCHULTZ: Todd, what do you think?
WEBSTER: Like letting the Persian people define their own future. That's what-that's exactly what he did today. We're not going to go invade them.
TANCREDO: How do you do that?
VANDEN HEUVEL: You take regime change off the table.
TANCREDO: Oh, yes, right.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You do, because that has led to nuclear proliferation and a mass of other problems, Representative Tancredo. The idea of regime change has led countries to get nuclear weapons or nuclear programs in order to fight U.S. intervention. We need to have a different approach. And letting Iranians define their own future leads, as it did in other countries, to a more stable democratic process and future.
TANCREDO: How can they define their future with a government that's willing to shoot them in the street? Give me a break.
HEUVEL: What we're seeing now-
SCHULTZ: -- procedure when it comes to a revolution, Tom. I mean, that's how revolutions-I mean, there's always violence in every country where there's revolution and change. The question is, what should the president of the United States do? Hot topic. We'll have to come back to it on another day.
I appreciate the panel being here tonight. Thanks so much. That's THE ED SHOW. I'm Ed Schultz. For more information on our program, go to Ed.MSNBC.com or check out our radio website at WeGotED.com. Town hall meetings coming up in Madison, Washington, on July 19th, and also Portland, Oregon on July 31st. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now on MSNBC.
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