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'The Ed Show' for Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Roger Simon, Ron Wyden, John Barrasso,

Ernest Istook, A.B. Stoddard, Bill Press, Markos Moulitsas, Debbie Stabenow

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC HOST:  I‘m Ed Schultz.  This is “The Ed Show.”  Good evening, Americans.  I‘m Ed Schultz, coming to you from Washington, D.C.  tonight.  We‘ll be here for the next couple of nights in the nation‘s capital because the president of course has got kind of a big week.  I‘ll have a special program tomorrow night right here at 11:00 Eastern Time.   But first, I want to talk about what the president said today.  And I want the Republicans to answer one question tonight, how stupid do you feel now?  The president said today to school children all across the America some real basic stuff, pay attention, show up in school, listen to your parents.  So new and innovative, and it still works.  What we saw today was an academic locker room talk that is long overdue from somebody in the Oval Office.  Conservatives, you ought to be loving this because he talked about responsibility. 

Here‘s what the president said.  “At the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents and the best schools in the world and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities.” 

Gosh, that‘s almost like Ronald Reagan, isn‘t it? You conservatives ought to be just loving that.  But what I found interesting is the president said, whatever you resolve to do, commit to it, whatever you resolve to do, commit to it.  That‘s how you‘re going to be successful. 

Well, Mr. President, there‘s your speech tomorrow night.  Tomorrow night, the president has to speak with tremendous clarity.  Hold it right there.  A public option.  How many of you actually know what a public option is?  Now they throw this word in “trigger.” Anybody know what a trigger is?

Here‘s the bottom line.  If the president comes out the way he did on the campaign trail with tremendous clarity, passionate, aggressive, almost to the point of demanding, he‘s going to knock it out of the park.  The Republicans need to know, speaking of schools, that recess is over.  The American people have figured out that all they‘re doing is protecting the insurance industry.  That‘s what the Republicans are doing.  That‘s what they‘re all about.  Premiums in this country have more than doubled from $5,800 in 1999 to nearly $13,000 annually for a family of four -- 13 grand a year. 

Now, how is a working family, two incomes, couple of kids, how do you handle that? You don‘t.  Now, here‘s how—here‘s what you‘ve been paying for, folks.  I‘ve always had this philosophy, you‘ve got to check your own backyard.  If you remember the first show I did on MSNBC, I pulled out my bill and said, gosh, Wendy and I, we got like a 22 percent increase.  How about you?  Well, that started a firestorm of conversation on the prairie in our backyard in North Dakota.  And we found out Blue Cross Blue Shield yanking the rates on us.  Here‘s what we‘ve been paying for. 

It‘s a 101-page report released today by the insurance commissioner‘s office.  How about $15 million in bonuses? Over $1 million of trips to swanky resorts including a $200,000 trip to the Caribbean.  Now, how did Blue Cross Blue Shield pay for that? By raising premiums in a time of recession, I think that‘s disgraceful.  But you ought to check your own backyard because that‘s what‘s happening.  That‘s what the Republicans are defending. 

That‘s what Chuck Grassley says, oh, we can‘t give them any competition.  That would be government-run.  You would see a federal agency, have you ever seen a federal agency deal out about $15 million in bonuses?  How about if the story in your local stations had, gosh, congressman so-and-so just got a $2 million bonus.  How would that go over?  This is what‘s happening in the insurance industry and the Republicans, do you know what they‘re doing?  They‘re protecting it. 

Now a public plan would have real oversight.  The Republicans, they ought to be liking that because that way they can watch every dollar like a hawk.  I‘m all for that, 90 cents of every dollar paid in private premiums in our state of North Dakota goes to Blue Cross Blue Shield.  That‘s right. 

This is not a free market, folks.  This is a monopoly.  Let‘s see, I think Robert Gibbs said something about his state of Alabama the other day, what 93 percent is that‘s what one insurance company has got.  Competition is good for the consumers, that‘s the basic principle of capitalism.  And until you get some competition—you‘re going to get gouged. 

The president is going to say one thing tomorrow night.  If you like your insurance, you can keep it.  In other words, if you like getting gouged, you can keep getting gouged.  But we‘re going to get a public option.  That‘s what we‘ve got to have.  That‘s what I think the president has to do tomorrow night.  He‘s got to very clear, do it the way he did it on the campaign trail, go right to the grassroots.  They‘ll never leave you, Mr. President.  They‘ll never leave you.

Get your cell phones tonight.  I want to know what you think.  What‘s more important for you to hear?  For you to hear tomorrow night on the president‘s speech? “A,” President Obama getting tough on Republicans.  Or “B,” President Obama getting specific on his plan? Text “A” for tough, “B” for specific to 622639.  We‘ll bring you the results later on in the program. 

Now, what‘s going on in the House?  Joining me now is Congressman John Conyers of Michigan.  Congressman, great to have you with us tonight. 

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN:  Always a pleasure to be here. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet, John.  And I tell you what, I don‘t have a stick, but if I did, I‘d hand it to you because I want to you draw that line in the sand tonight.  I know you‘re a single payer guy and you have been and you believe in that.  But would you accept any bill whatsoever that didn‘t have a public option?  Can you give us a definitive on that tonight? Any bill that doesn‘t have a public option, would you sign on to it?

CONYERS:  This is not going to be a long answer, no. 

SCHULTZ:  No? You mean, Barack Obama is not going to get your support unless he has a public option?

CONYERS:  Well, we should be doing single payer but we‘ve compromised on that and what we‘re doing now is we‘re stepping back, but this cannot be called reform of health care if a public option isn‘t on it and so this is down to the crunch time, and Nancy Pelosi has been very definitive on it.  Majority Leader Reid has come out on it. 

The majority of the single-payer people which comprise hundreds of unions, medical people, most doctors are now with us, the nurses, and most of all, the patients, the citizens want it.  So, look, the time has come.  If you do the math, Ed, there are 83 Progressive Caucus members, 42 Black Caucus members, 25 Hispanic Caucus members, 14 Asian-Pacific members, and most of them are public-option people.  Now—

SCHULTZ:  What about, OK, so you‘re saying that you‘ve got the numbers to get the public option.  A lot of people in the single payer—you got the numbers to get the public option.  But I want to hear you say tonight, congressman, that it‘s over for Barack Obama.  Your support‘s gone if he doesn‘t go public option tomorrow night and specifically state this.  Is that correct?

CONYERS:  Well, I wish this could be the first time I‘ve said that, but I‘ve been saying that all the time.

SCHULTZ:  Well, they‘re paying attention now.  More and more Americans are paying attention to this right now.  And this is, I think, a defining moment.  You‘re one of the strongest leaders in the House.  You‘ve been around for decades.  Obviously the president needs you and you‘re saying—you‘re saying tonight that if he doesn‘t talk public option tomorrow night, John Conyers, you‘re out?

CONYERS:  Well, the bill is out in the House.  Now a lot of people are worrying about what the Senate is going to do.  The reason I gave you these numbers, there isn‘t one Republican—now, they‘re voting no for the wrong reason to be sure.  But when you add up the numbers that I gave you and then throw in a half, at least, of the blue dogs of which there are 52, he can‘t get 218 without a public option.  This is simple arithmetic. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, great to have you with us tonight, Congressman John Conyers.  You just drew a line in the sand.  My friend, I‘ve been waiting for that for a long time from the Democrats.  Thanks so much. 

CONYERS:  You‘re welcome, always. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  Joining me now is Congresswoman Maxine Waters, member of the Progressive Caucus.  Congresswoman, you go along with that math? That‘s no representative left behind right there.  That‘s what that is.  Do you go along with that math tonight?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA:  Yes, absolutely.  And I think your question is very, very clear.  You‘re asking whether or not we will support some other alternative to public option.  I want to be very, very clear.  I have said over and over again that any comprehensive universal health care plan must have public option or we don‘t bring down the cost.  We don‘t have any competition.  In order to have competition, bring down the cost and not allow the insurance companies to keep running rampant over the American people, squeezing them for high premiums.  We‘ve got to have a public option.  I will not vote for anything that does not have a public option. 

SCHULTZ:  Amen to that.  This is what people who put Obama in the White House, this is exactly what they want to hear tonight.  It‘s important that the true Democrats stand up and tell it like it is.  Now, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid went over and visited with the president today.  Day one, back to work, he gets the leadership of both houses—the Senate and the House together.  Here‘s what Nancy Pelosi had to say after the meeting. 



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER:  As the president has said and I listened to him very carefully, he believes that the public option is the best way to keep the insurance companies honest and to increase competition.  But he said if you have a better idea, put it on the table and so if somebody has a better idea of how to do that, put it on the table.  For the moment, however, as far as our House members are concerned, the overwhelming majority of them support a public option. 


SCHULTZ:  Well, the only better idea on the table in my opinion is single payer.  And that‘s not going to happen over on the Senate side.  You‘d never get that. 

WATERS:  You‘re absolutely right. 

SCHULTZ:  So I‘m hearing you tell the president, tonight, Mr.  President, this is what we got to have, or you‘re not going to have a deal from House Democrats.  Correct?

WATERS:  Oh, absolutely.  As a matter of fact, I said in my town hall meeting where there was tremendous support for public option, and still some people angry that we didn‘t have single payer, I said Mr. President, it‘s time to fight.  It‘s time to stand up for what you believe in and we know that you want public option.  We know this is what you would prefer.  We know this is what you campaigned on.  Stand up and we‘ll be behind you. 

We got your back. 

Remember that‘s what I said and I continue to say that.  Mr.  President, we are prepared to fight with you to get public option, to get a credible universal health care reform bill.  We‘re not going to go along the usual way.  This is not backroom politics.  This is not politics as usual.  This is real change.  And that‘s what we‘re all about. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Congresswoman Maxine Waters.  I appreciate your support tonight. 

WATERS:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  And a lot of Americans, let me define public option for you.  All it is is a government-run program that would give the private sector some competition, but pre-existing condition is the key here.  No matter what your pre-existing condition is, you would be able to get insurance. 

Now, I‘m waiting for the press release from all these big insurance companies that have said all we‘re going to change.  None of them have guaranteed that they will start taking patients with pre-existing conditions because they wouldn‘t make the money they‘re making. 

Roger Simon, chief political columnist for “Politico” with us tonight here on “The Ed Show.”  Great to have you with us. 


SCHULTZ:  You wrote a great piece today and I think you drew it in the line.  It‘s not the wacky left that wants the public option, it is the Democratic Party. 

SIMON:  Absolutely.  As you heard from both Conyers and Waters, they think they‘ve already compromised.  They want single payer.  That‘s what the left wing of the Democratic Party wants.  The mainstream of the Democratic Party, the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party wants the public option because they think they‘re never going to get single payer. 

So you have this group of powerful Democrats who say, you want us to compromise more?  Look, the public option is a compromise.  That‘s our line in the sand.  Without it, health care doesn‘t work.  We can‘t pay for it.  We can‘t keep costs down.  So what are we really arguing about?

The second factor is, you know, Obama can‘t trade away—President Obama can‘t trade away people like Conyers and Waters in order to get Republican votes that he‘s never going to get.  Could anything be more clear to him now than the fact that except for two senators from Maine, he‘s not going to get any Republican votes?

SCHULTZ:  Roger, are we witnessing right now a perfect political strategy? The president has brought in the Republicans.  They‘ve been sounding off for months.  He was very patient, moved the deadline back.  We went through August.  He‘s spoken, I think, with clarity in August about all these crazies that are out there.  Now he‘s got everybody‘s attention and now when everybody‘s watching, he‘s finally going to weigh in on this thing.  Are we seeing just a perfect political blueprint here?

SIMON:  We‘ve got to hope.  That‘s the best thing that could come out of tomorrow night‘s speech.  I mean it‘s a very august formal setting.  Congress, the House of Representatives.

SCHULTZ:  Can‘t get bigger than that. 

SIMON:  With all the senators crammed in there.  But, it worries me because we don‘t need a State of the Union speech with flights of rhetoric.  Your suggestion, an address from the Oval Office, in retrospect, we don‘t know yet, might have been better. 

But all right, he‘s going to do it from Congress.  But I think it‘s got to be heavy on specifics, not flights of rhetoric.  None of it has been more private than how Barack Obama truly feels about the public option.  Is it just a silver of a plan? Is it a be all and end all?  Tell us.  Then, take a few minutes to tell us how you‘re going to pay for it.

SCHULTZ:  You bring up the very point.  Was he dangling information out there to get reaction from everybody? And now he‘s got everybody on the web, now he‘s going to bring them in, and now he‘s going to lay it on the line, this is what we have to have to make this thing happen. 

SIMON:  I think it was not unreasonable for him in the beginning to pursue bipartisanship as a general policy.  But when you get Republican after Republican to say well, I won‘t vote for a bill if it has a public option.  Then you say, OK, there‘s no public option.  And they still, oh, I still won‘t vote for it.  So who are you arguing with?

The only bipartisanship going on is within the Democratic Party, is between the moderates and the left wing.  I mean, that‘s where the bargaining is going on in this.

SCHULTZ:  Roger, thanks for joining us.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night, our special 11:00 Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Coming up, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, now he‘s ditched the public option totally.  Now, that‘s not sitting well with everybody.  Two key members of the committee, Senators Ron Wyden and also Debbie Stabenow will join me with their reaction.

Plus, President Obama had better crank it up a notch tomorrow night or the net roots, are they going to leave him? “Daily Kos‘s” Marcos Moulitsas will be joining us later on in the program.

And you won‘t want to miss “Psycho Talk” because doggone it, if the Rushster didn‘t do a double dose today, I‘ll set him straight in “Psycho Talk.”

Stay with us, you‘re watching “The Ed Show” on MSNBC.


SCHULTZ:  Righty obstructionist Chuck Grassley is now moaning about proposed cuts in health care reform.  I say I don‘t care what it costs.  I‘ve said that from day one.  Republican Senator John Barrasso going to go head to head with me on that one at the bottom of the hour.  Stay with us, you‘re watching “The Ed Show” on MSNBC.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to “The Ed Show.”  OK, here‘s the latest.  The Senate Finance Committee‘s gang of six, they met this afternoon and tried to get a deal on health care reform before President Obama‘s big speech tomorrow night. 

Now, committee chairman Max Baucus has finally distributed a plan, not to the White House, first.  Distributed a plan that he thinks can get bipartisan support.  Meanwhile, a new poll suggesting that Americans are heavily divided along party lines on health care.  Gosh, how surprising?  Sixty-eight percent of Democrats want their representatives in Congress to support a reform bill, 72 percent of Republicans want them to vote against reform.  OK, hold it right there. 

Let‘s see, we‘re divided as a nation on health care.  We won and they lost.  OK, let‘s go.  Looks like it might be time for the Democrats to get her done all by themselves. 

Joining me now, Democratic member of that Finance Committee on the Senate side, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.  Senator, good to have you with us tonight.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON:  Many thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  All right, I want to know about this Baucus plan that ended up on K Street first before it got over to the White House.  Is that any signal at all to you that there‘s really no genuine effort here on a bipartisan agreement? What do you think?

WYDEN:  Ed, first of all, this is just a starting point.  This isn‘t the end point.  There are plenty of areas for improvement.  To me, it starts with the comment that Robert Gibbs made yesterday, the White House communications man.  He said that 180 million people wouldn‘t be eligible for the public option. 

Our figures are that it‘s more like 225 million people.  And we need real choices for the consumer.  That‘s how you‘re going to hold the insurance industry accountable.  That‘s how you get real reform.  And that‘s what I‘m going to get out of the Senate Finance Committee.

SCHULTZ:  OK so you‘re saying that 180 million or 220 million people would not benefit from the public option? Which whatever number it is, senator, at least they‘re going to have a choice.  Right now they don‘t have a choice.  In many respects, it‘s a pre-existing condition.  So why wouldn‘t a public option be the right way to go?

WYDEN:  Well, let‘s make sure people have real choices, Ed, like members of Congress.  And first of all, it‘s a no brainer to me to outlaw these pre-existing conditions. 

SCHULTZ:  Hold it right there.  Senator, hold it right there.  That‘s a key point because I haven‘t seen any insurance executives step to the microphones and say, hey, we‘re taking all people with pre-existing conditions, those are gone.  So how can there be real reform with that one point you just mentioned?  Unless they do that, there won‘t be any reform. 

WYDEN:  Ed, I very much want to make this a bipartisan bill.  But if we can‘t get Republicans to support something, which I call no-brainer consumer protection, then you do have to go it alone.  What we‘re going to hear tomorrow night from the president of the United States is that it is time, these premiums are gobbling up everything in sight.  I do think that the finance committee bill needs to be strengthened in terms of the provisions that will hold people‘s premiums down.  I‘m going to do everything I can to make this a bipartisan bill.  If we can‘t do that, then Democrats are going to generate the support.

SCHULTZ:  So the question is, is the president tomorrow night willing to leave all Republicans behind if they don‘t want to go along the freight train of reform for the American people? And speaking of that, Harry Reid met be the president today and came out and talked about reconciliation after that. 


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  We‘re still approaching this in the form of bipartisanship.  We still, after all these months, have a place at the table for the Republicans.  And we‘re going to do everything we can to work with them.  We want a bipartisan bill.  We do not want to do reconciliation unless we have no alternative. 


SCHULTZ:  Well, I‘ll tell you where the Democrats are.  The lefties in this country they say, heck, yes, go to reconciliation.  Now senator, you‘ve held a couple of town hall meetings.  What did you hear during the recess?

WYDEN:  People are saying, get this done.  They understand that fixing the economy and fixing health care are two sides of the same coin.  The reason people‘s take-home pay isn‘t going up is because it all goes to health care.  Now I think the themes that the president is going to be talking about in the days ahead, particularly more choices for the consumer and also competition.  Those are themes that are going to resonate with the country.  They are going to resonate all across the political spectrum.  That‘s what I‘m going to be building support for with my amendments when we go into the Finance Committee.

SCHULTZ:  OK and I understand that Mr. Baucus has said you‘ve got until 10:00 tomorrow morning to bring any additions to his bill.  So obviously it‘s going to be a big news day again tomorrow.  Of course, the president speaking tomorrow night.  Senator, good to have you with us.  Appreciate your time.  All the best to you.  You bet.

Coming up, the drugster really needs a dose of reality.  He‘s comparing President Obama to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.  I‘ll set him straight in “Psycho Talk.”   


SCHULTZ:  Time for another addition of “Psycho Talk.  And wouldn‘t you know, it‘s the drugster, he‘s back in the zone tonight.  Rush is still taking swipes at President Obama‘s speech to students today.  Hmm, what would Rush know about talking to kids? He doesn‘t have any.  Anyway, most Republicans have backed off their original criticisms of the speech.  They realized that continuing to criticize such an encouraging and obviously nonpartisan speech would make them look flat-out stupid, which they are.  Anyway, Newt Gingrich even endorsed the speech, but not the drugster.  Rush Limbaugh doesn‘t really worry about things like reality, kind of like a certain North Korean dictator. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST:  The original intent of the speech was, you know, a dear leader kind of thing.  Right out of the pages of the pot belly dictator in North Korea, Kim Jong-il.  That‘s what it was going to be.  You‘ve got to think about me all the time.  You‘ve got to write a letter to yourself about how you can help me. 


SCHULTZ:  Pot belly dictator.  That really seems more like the drugster than President Obama.  Right wing crazies have blown this letter writing issue way out of proportion.  The president wanted to engage students to give them a writing exercise that they would be able to express themselves, you know, composition, English composition and really say what they would do to contribute to their country.  Any logical person could see that. 

But as usual, the drugster managed to take something positive and inject in his own evil way, some real negative stuff.  And then during the same show, Rush said the President Obama speech to students was, quote, “100 percent conservative in its message.” 

Now let me get this straight.  First the president was originally going to deliver a socialist message but then all of a sudden it ended up to be something completely different like a conservative speech? Even by the drugster‘s standards, that is “Psycho Talk.”

Coming up, the gang of six, Republican Senator Mike Enzi says he‘s pretty sure health reform is going to fail.  I want to know who he‘s speaking for.  Would that be all Republicans?  His colleague, John Barrasso, goes head to head with me coming up in just a moment.

Plus, the net roots stood behind the president and got him into the Oval Office.  If he turns his back on a public option, they may turn their backs on him.  Markos Moulitsas will join us in my “Playbook.”

Coming up on THE ED SHOW right here on MSNBC.  Stay with us.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry.  They should be free to make a profit but they also have to be fair.  They also have to be accountable.


SCHULTZ:  That was President Obama speaking to labor unions yesterday on Labor Day.  He‘s got to remember what they want.

He wants to hold insurance companies accountable.  That‘s not being socialist or anti-capitalist.  They‘ve got a monopoly.

Now let‘s go to my backyard, ok, 90 cents of every dollar in the private premiums in the State of North Dakota goes to Blue Cross-Blue Shield.  So tell me where is the competition?  That‘s not a free market when consumers don‘t have a choice.  Premiums have really more than doubled, but families can‘t go elsewhere to get a better deal.

Democrats want to protect the American families from price gouging that appears to be the Republicans want to protect the insurance industry‘s profits.  Tomorrow night both sides will make their case to the American people.

President Obama will deliver what I hope is a fiery speech to the Congress with some passion, with some real directness to those who have been lying on a campaign trail.

Now, Louisiana Congressman and Dr. Charles Boustany will deliver the Republican response.  Keep in mind this is an elected official who still believes there are questions about whether the president was born in the United States.

For more, let me turn to Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming; he is also a doctor.  I‘ve cooled off since the last time you and got into it, Senator.

So we‘ll start but let‘s make one ground rule here tonight.  Don‘t tell me that—don‘t tell me that a government agent is going to get between me and my doctor.  Let‘s just put that off limits for this conversation.

Now, I want to point out, today, the president was speaking to school kids and a kid got up and asked him this question.  Here‘s the question from the school kid.  Here it is.


SEAN, STUDENT:  Hi, my name is Sean.  And my question is currently 36 countries have universal health coverage, Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been paid for by the United States.  Why can‘t the United States have universal health coverage?


SCHULTZ:  Senator, I‘d like you to answer that question.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, ® WYOMING:  Well, you take a look at universal health coverage.  People come to the United States for health care if they can afford it.  People come here because our survival rates for cancer are the highest in the world.  People come here because we have the highest quality of care.  And we need to do more to get the cost down for insurance cost, for American families, for small businesses.  We need to get the cost of care down.

But this is still the best place...

SCHULTZ:  Now, how do we do that?

BARRASSO:  ...well, you could do a couple of things.

One, is you were starting to talk about insurance companies and the lack of competition in North Dakota, Ed.  The reality is that people ought to be able to shop across state lines to buy health insurance.  They‘ve got to do it just the way we do it—you see ads for Geico and other insurance companies, why not for health insurance?

But President Obama when he was in the senate voted against that.  Why should we penalize people who buy their own insurance?

SCHULTZ:  Senator you‘re telling us or you‘re telling our audience tonight that it is against the law for state employees or should I say residents of some states to go buy insurance in other states.  Right, is that right?

BARRASSO:  That‘s correct Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Senator that‘s not true.

BARRASSO:  You can‘t shop across state line...

SHULTZ:  Senator, simply that is not true.  That is not true; you can get health insurance where you want in this country.

BARRASSO:  No you can‘t—you can‘t shop around.  If you‘re living in Maine and you‘re a 30-year-old man it‘s going to cost you $725 for your health insurance because of the—Ed but if you‘re a 30-year-old man that‘s healthy in New Hampshire it‘s only going to be $222.  Those young men in Maine want to buy health insurance in New Hampshire and they‘re blocked from doing it.

They have to pay $500 a month more, $6,000 a year more because of the Maine plan compared to New Hampshire plan.


BARRASSO:  ...people would love to be able to shop around and look and see what they want to buy and what they don‘t want to buy.  You can‘t do that now in this country Ed.

SCHULTZ:  I know that‘s not true but for the sake of moving the conversation on, is there anything that you would go along with, with a government-run insurance plan when the American people want it?  The American people want it.  Why not just let the president have what he wants?  If you like your insurance, you can keep it.  What‘s wrong with that?

BARRASSO:  I don‘t believe that is what the American people want.  And I‘ve been having town hall meetings, five different states; lots of meetings listening to people.  And I‘ll tell you, people show up because they are absolutely concerned about their future, their health future, also the future of the country.

As James Carville said, it‘s the economy stupid.  People are worried about this incredible amount of spending, the incredible amount of debt.  All of these government takeovers...

SCHULTZ:  But they‘re also worried...

BARRASSO:  And I think that the government—go ahead, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  But senator they‘re also worried about pre-existing conditions.


SCHULTZ:  Now, are you willing to tell us tonight that this reform that‘s going to take place is going to have insurance companies all of a sudden get down on bended knee and say, gosh, we‘ve been making a mistake, we‘re going to take everybody who‘s got a pre-existing condition, because Obama wants us to.

Do you really think that‘s going to happen?  It‘s not going to happen.

BARRASSO:  If you can shop across state lines they should.

But if you take a look at this 1,000-page bill, Ed, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services says don‘t be distracted by the details.  You had Representative Conyers on earlier that said, read the bill, why should I read the bill?  It takes two days two lawyers to explain it to me.

SCHULTZ:  Well now senator...

BARRASSO:  You need to know what‘s in the bill.

SCHULTZ:  And senator, you‘re a medical doctor.

BARRASSO:  One of your previous guests said, Maxine Waters, you saw it from the Representative of Congress, I don‘t think the American people want a universal plan, if a plan where you have Canadian or British health care.

SCHULTZ:  Sure they do.  Absolutely they do.  And those folks north of the border are very happy.  Now, as far as reading the bill—it was your colleague, it was your colleague Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma said, he wasn‘t going to read it because he wasn‘t going to vote for it anyway.

So I mean, we‘re getting—but wait a minute.  You are a medical doctor.  Now, I know that you‘ve read books that are over 1,000 pages long.  So I mean, this is what you guys in the Congress are paid to do is to read the bills.

And it shouldn‘t take you—you ought to be able to go on vacation for three days.  You just had a month.  And go down there and read the bill.  So I can‘t accept you saying, well, it‘s too long, we can‘t read it.  You know that Senator?

BARRASSO:  Well, that‘s what you guest Representative Conyers said.  I say people ought to read the bills because the detail is in the bills.  Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services says don‘t be distracted by the details.

This is a personal thing for every American.

SCHULTZ:  And you bet it is.

BARRASSO:  Their lives are at stake.  And you better believe that they want to know what the details are of the bill and they are going to be distracted by the details.  And that‘s why I‘m hoping that people vote “b” on your question tonight.  I hope people will check “b” that the president ought to be specific with his plan.  Because that‘s what I think the American people want to hear.

And that‘s certainly what I want to hear.

SCHULTZ:  Senator John Barrasso, great to have you with us tonight.  I appreciate your time.  Thank you so much.

BARRASSO:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s bring in our panel tonight: Bill Press, nationally syndicated radio talk show host; also A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of the Hill; and Ernie Istook, a former Congressman Republican from Oklahoma and a distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Ernie, don‘t tell me that a government agent is going to get between me and (INAUDIBLE) I don‘t want to hear that.  You know that‘s not true.

ERNEST ISTOOK, HERITAGE FOUNDATION:  Well, the idea of government having an insurance company that competes with private insurance companies is like putting a rabbit in a cage with a wolf.

SCHULTZ:  What is it right now?

ISTOOK:  That‘s not when you too work it out.  The government has...

SCHULTZ:  Ernie, what it is right now?  And you‘ve got an—you have got obscene profits, you‘ve got gouging going on.  A little competition could change that.  The insurance industry isn‘t going to reform itself.

ISTOOK:  Well, if you look at the profits, the average profitability of health insurance companies is something like three and half percent return on investment.  It‘s way down the list if you look at “Forbes” or “Fortune” with the list of most profitable companies.

And there are a lot of tricky statistics have been used.  But let‘s not do this by attacking the insurance companies.

SCHULTZ:  Oh yes.

ISTOOK:  The big difference is this: 260 million Americans have health care insurance and they don‘t want it to be jeopardized.

SCHULTZ:  Ok, where not—the president says you can keep it.

ISTOOK:  Well, you don‘t put that choice—your employer picks it for you.

SCHULTZ:  All right, we could do hours of shows on this.

A.B., what‘s the president got to do tomorrow night?  Does he have to be direct?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  Well, I think, Bill has made the case to me that he—that he—I was asking earlier about why he‘s going to continue to straddle the public option even though it doesn‘t looks like he has the votes for it in his own party.  And they can‘t make it into a final bill that becomes law.

I guess he‘s going to still say he supports that.  He has to be very specific, I think, about a tax increase.  What is going to be the driver that pays for any...

SCHULTZ:  We‘re going to tax Ernie.  We‘re going to tax Ernie, he should give us the top 10 percent.

STODDARD:  Because Ed, the members of the House are very concerned about—the Democrats are very concerned going into next year‘s elections about supporting tax increases that won‘t make it into a final bill or through the senate.


STODDARD:  And they want specifics on that.  What is the revenue raiser?  How are you going to...

SCHULTZ:  Repeal the Bush tax cuts, to get $800 billion over the next eight year.  I mean, that‘s the bottom line.

Bill, what does the president have to do?  Because we have Maxine Waters and we have John Conyers on here tonight they drew their line in the sand.  What do you think?

BILL PRESS, RADIO SHOW HOST:  Look Ed, the way I see it, I mean, foreplay is over, right?  We‘re getting to the main event now.  And I think the president yesterday said it‘s time to decide, it‘s time to act.  I‘d add, it‘s time to take charge.  It‘s time for Barack Obama to take charge and get up there.

You know what I want to see tomorrow night?  I don‘t want to see this guy that looks like a president.  I‘d like to see the guy that we saw at the labor union yesterday.  Roll up his shirt sleeves and say, let‘s get to work and get this done.  And here is what I want and here is what I‘ve got to have and put the public option plan out there and say that this is—we need the public plan option if we‘re really going to cut costs.

If we‘re going to get the low-end cost from private insurance plans and public insurance plans.  This is the only way to do it.  Emphasize the cost.  And I‘d love to hear him say “And I‘m not going to sign a bill unless you give me a public plan option.”

He‘d get a standing ovation from the Democrats.  And screw the Republicans.  They‘re not going to vote for it.

SCHULTZ:  What about that Ernie?

ISTOOK:  Well, I think the president‘s base is looking for him to breathe a little bit of fire and I agree with Bill they are looking for that.  The problem is, of course, you‘ve got some other Democrats that don‘t want that plan.

SCHULTZ:  They‘ll lose next year.

ISTOOK:  Well, the—well, like you said, that‘s another debate there, Ed.  But I think the president is going to show the passion.

PRESS:  Well, here‘s the problem and I think...

ISTOOK:  Yes that was just set up.

PRESS:  Here‘s the problem that I got with those Blue Dog Democrats.  When they say, oh, we‘ll have a problem if we go out there and we vote for this.  Yes, well then you go out there and you say I voted for the status quo.  You go out there and say I voted for nothing.

STODDARD:  They don‘t want the status quo—they don‘t want the status quo.  No, I think in fairness to the Blue Dog Democrats who aren‘t going to lose primaries and general elections next year and then the Democratic Party will not be in the majority.

ISTOOK:  I don‘t buy that.

STODDARD:  They represent most of the marginal districts.  One in 06‘ and 08‘ particularly they are at risk.  I—you‘re wrong about them not wanting health care.  They actually want a bill.  They want a consumer protection bill and they want to force Republicans‘ hands on a consumer protection bill.  They don‘t want a public option.  But they want a bill.

PRESS:  Final point I would just say.  You put the test to them and you say you‘re going to have to vote for this or it‘s nothing.  They‘ll vote for it.

SCHULTZ:  All right.

PRESS:  They are going to vote for it.

SCHULTZ:  Great panel, great discussion.  Obviously you‘re coming back with us.

Next up, after the tough summer he‘s had, President Obama has got to hit one out of the park tomorrow night.  I wish I could write the speech.  Anyway, if he does, it will ignite a net root firestorm that will help blaze the path to real reform.

The founder of the Daily Kos will join me in my “Playbook” coming up.

Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  It‘s still not too late to see what you think about this issue.  Tonight‘s text survey is what most important thing the president can do in his speech tomorrow night?  “A,” percent say get tough on Republicans; “B” percent say be specific about the plan.  Text “A” for tough, “B” for specific at 622639.

The results are coming up stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  In my “Playbook” tonight, you‘re supposed to dance with the one who brung you, right?  It‘s that old country Western saying.

Well, the Net roots went to bat for Barack Obama big-time.  The Obama campaign ran the biggest most sophisticated Internet operation seen in American politics.  It was built on the base of the liberal blogs.

Now it seems they‘re being told their priorities have to take a back seat to what Blue Dogs and Republicans want.  I don‘t buy it, don‘t like it.

Joining me now is Markos Moulitsas, who is the founder and the publisher of “The Daily Kos.”  Markos, is the online community going to stay with Barack Obama if he does not go strong for a public option tomorrow night?

MARKOS MOULISAS, DAILY KOS:  Well, I got to say that right now what we‘re hoping is that Obama simply delivers on the promises he made during his campaign, promises that are good policy, are still very popular with the American people and were endorsed by the American people in the way of a historically large Congressional and White House majority.

I mean, the American people delivered on the message of change that they could believe in, they‘ve delivered on the message of reforming the health care system.  And now...

SCHULTZ:  But where do you think the pulse of the progressive community is?  There‘s got to be a level of expectations for tomorrow night.

The recess is over.  The Republicans have said who they are, what they are and what they don‘t want to do.

It‘s time the fisher cut bait, I mean, I know there‘s got to be expectations out there in the progressive blogosphere.  

MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILY KOS:  We‘re tired of waiting, I‘ll tell you that much.  There‘s no doubt about that.  I think there are people who sort of hope that Obama does the right thing and some of them that expect Obama to do the right thing.  We all—at the end of the day we want Obama to do the right thing.

But we‘re not very hopeful given the last couple months, given the sort of lack of message discipline from the White House, given the vast number of Democrats who are willing to compromise against each other.  They‘re not even negotiating with Republicans.  They‘re negotiating with each other.  It gets really tiresome.

Really when you have a campaign and a presidency that was built on hope and on getting rid of cynicism, there would be no greater return of cynicism than to show that the lobbyists in the insurance companies have won this debate as opposed to the American people who would most benefit from health care reform.

SHULTZ:  But don‘t you think, tomorrow night, if he comes out tomorrow night and points to the Republicans and says, you‘ve been lying to the American people—maybe not that—that would be Ed talk.  That‘s not President Obama talk.  But, I mean, to really nail them on how the disinformation campaign has mixed up a lot of people in this country.

The only way we‘re going to get this thing taken care of is to make sure the pre-existing condition is gone.  It would seem to me that the blogosphere would turn on the president if he doesn‘t do that.

MOULITSAS:  It would be pretty ugly.  I can‘t say otherwise.  This is sort of the defining issue outside of the war in Iraq.  This is the defining Democratic issue.

If you cannot deliver on health care, even though you have these incredible large historically large majorities in Congress and the White House and this large public mandate, if you still cannot deliver on basic reform—we‘re not talking what we really wanted.  We really wanted single payer.  We already compromised from our position.

This isn‘t a question of taking the least of the bunch of options—we already gave up on a preferred option.  I think the public option at this point is sort—it is sort of our Waterloo.  This is where we stand and this is where we fight.  

Marcos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of “The Daily Kos.”  Good to have you on tonight.  Thanks so much.

MOULITSAS:  Thank you very much.

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, there is no state in the nation that feels the economic crisis more than the state of Michigan.  Senator Debbie Stabenow joins me next.

Stay with us.

SCHULTZ:  Big news today: Majority Leader Harry Reid says he doesn‘t want to use reconciliation of the Senate unless there‘s no other alternative.  Joining me now is Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Senator, good to have you with us tonight.


SCHULTZ:  Can your folks in begun been wait another three, four maybe five years for a public option?  I mean, President Obama has talked about the urgency of now, the sense of urgency to get this thing done.  Can your folks in Michigan wait that long to get something done on health care?

STABENOW:  Well, Ed, no.  We absolutely can‘t.  We have to get something done.  I would broaden the discussion though to say we have to stop the bad insurance company practices, we have to have lower costs, we have to give people more choices, we have to create a real safety net for low-income people.  There‘s a lot of things we need to do.  A public health choice is a very important part of that.

You know, Ed, you‘re looking at somebody who would vote right now for Medicare for all Americans.  I start from a very different position.  It is broader than just an option that is a public option even though I support it strongly.

SCHULTZ:  Ok.  What about reconciliation?  What if it comes down in the caucus and you‘re all there.  You know where the Republicans are.  They don‘t want to do it.  Are you ready to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, “Harry, we have to go for this?”  Are you going to be online to go with reconciliation?  Would you advocate for that?

STABENOW:  If we have no other choice, if we can‘t get the whole package we want, then, yes, as far as I‘m concerned, we need to use reconciliation if we need to.

But here‘s what I‘m worried about, Ed.  I‘ve been looking very seriously at all of the details on reconciliation.  We can add coverage for people under this process, but we can‘t necessarily get—we know we can‘t get the insurance reforms and we know we can‘t get a full exchange for people to buy low-cost insurance.  I‘m not sure we can get a public option under reconciliation.

So, that is my concern.

SCHULTZ:  The question begs now, you‘re on the Senate Finance Committee.  You‘re in there with Max Baucus.  You‘re in there with Chuck Grassley.

Do you trust Chuck Grassley?  Do you really think Chuck Grassley wants to reel in the insurance companies and stop gouging the American people?  Do you believe the Republicans on your committee, senate finance, that they are genuine about this? 

SCHULTZ:  Ed, we‘ll find out tomorrow if there is agreement.  I think we‘ll know by then.

I will say two things.  One, I do believe that there has been a good faith effort, a very thoughtful effort of trying to come together.  I believe, also, I also believe the majority of the Republicans are in a position of just wanting to vote no.

The special interest, the insurance companies, the drug companies, all the folks that back them, they‘re much more interested in protecting their interests.

SCHULTZ:  Senator, thanks for your time tonight.

STABENOW:  You‘re welcome.

SCHULTZ:  Debbie Stabenow from Michigan.

Earlier in the show I asked you what‘s the more important thing the president can do in his speech tomorrow night?  52 percent said get tough on the Republicans.  48 percent said be specific about the plan.

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  We‘re back tomorrow night from the nation‘s capital and also with a special show tomorrow night 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is next right here on MSNBC.



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