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'The Ed Show' for Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 11pm

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Ron Wyden, Jan Schakowsky, Maxine Waters, Jonathan Alter, Joan Walsh, Chris Van Hollen, Bill Press, Ernest Istook

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, THE ED SHOW:  Good evening, Americans.  And welcome to a special edition of THE ED SHOW.  Tonight, my take:  That‘s the guy I voted for, President Obama knocked it out of the park tonight.  He brought passion.  He brought some heart, some spirit, some desire to the Capitol chamber tonight.  I loved it. 

And I think progressives across this country ought to love it.  His speech, patriotic and practical.  He played to the sensibilities of Americans.  Let‘s get this done.  He showed common sense and I thought tremendous command of the issue. 

You know, he didn‘t look like the professor, all right?  That‘s what he is.  He‘s the president.  He came in tonight to the chamber.  And he came in to lead.  He came in on a mission. 

I can‘t remember a president in contemporary time who gave a speech like this, speaking to the Congress and the American people in primetime in the kind of detail about one issue, about what we‘ve got to do, a moral issue. 

He knows exactly what he wants to do.  He showed tremendous courage in his demands and he hit back hard at his critics, which I loved tonight. 


OBAMA:  Some of people‘s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.  The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. 

Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren‘t so cynical and irresponsible.  It is a lie, plain and simple. 



SCHULTZ:  I guarantee you what happened in households across America when the president said that tonight, “it‘s a lie,” there was screaming across the country, yes!  This is what they have been doing to derail health care reform in this country. 

With that, the president cleared the deck with all of the lies and despicable comments and those crazy town hall mobs don‘t seem to matter much now. 

Let‘s get down to the business.  He explained this plan.  He let the American people know his concerns and where he wanted to go.  And I think Americans are going to respect that big time. 

Finally, the president closed out with the legacy of Senator Ted Kennedy.  And what is really an appeal to our moral sensibilities as Americans, as a country to get this thing done. 

And the thing I loved about it, he called out key Republicans who could move this legislation, people with years of experience in the Senate who had worked with Senator Kennedy like Hatch, McCain, Grassley, and talked about how they had worked with Kennedy in specific terms, in specific legislation that helped people. 

This is all about helping people and addressing what‘s the most important issue of our time.  President Obama‘s parting message to lawmakers, let‘s get this done for the good of the people and for the good of the country. 

Did I get everything I wanted?  No!  But I got most of it because, you know what, I can tell the American people communicating, let‘s see, how can you argue with this, progressives, let me ask you? 

It‘s going to be against the law to end coverage.  It‘s going to be against the law to deny somebody who has got a pre-existing condition.  These things are huge.  Those two things alone are going to bring down costs. 

I want to know what you think tonight.  Get your cell phone out.  Give us a text on this.  I want to know what you think about the speech.  After the president‘s speech, after the president‘s speech, are you more confident about reform?  Text A for yes, B for no to 622639.  We‘ll bring you the results later on in the show. 

Now joining me now tonight is the great senator from Oregon, Ron Wyden. 

I say great because you had something on the table, we‘re not going to talk about that tonight, but you‘ve been working on this for a long time.  This speech, Ron, what did you think? 

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON:  Powerful and persuasive.  The fact is on issues like insurance, I mean, the president is talking about changing the inhumane model of private health insurance, in effect turning it on its head.  It‘s a complicated issue.  He put it in very personal terms. 

This industry will no longer be able to cherry-pick, just go take healthy people, send sick people over to government programs, more fragile than they are. 

SCHULTZ:  He had—did I sense a little bit of anger tonight, a little bit of frustration?  I mean, this is a president that isn‘t known for showing a lot of emotion, OK?  Tonight he did.  Would you agree with me on that? 

WYDEN:  He certainly did, and he said he was going to be on the public‘s side.  He understood...

SCHULTZ:  He said he wasn‘t going to back down. 

WYDEN:  He said, we‘re going to have to take on some very powerful interest groups.  We‘re going to have to take on some of the most entrenched lobbies in the country.  He was going to spend his political capital, his time, he was going to be out on the road fighting for these issues that are so important to our people. 

SCHULTZ:  Will he get what he wants?  Does this change the landscape at all with Senate Democrats?  Because there are a few that are hedging. 

WYDEN:  He is going to get his priorities.  And the fact is, I mean, he talked, for example, about consumer choice tonight and competition.  I think we can build on that.  You and I have talked about that. 

I want to see everybody in this country get choices.  That‘s how we hold insurance companies accountable.  But certainly tonight he laid out on an extremely complicated issue what the basics are and he‘s going to get most of it. 

SCHUTLZ:  OK.  Chuck Grassley, who was the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, which you serve, he said this tonight: “The speech could have been pi pivotal for bipartisanship if it had been clear cut in ruling out the prospect of a new government-run plan.  By leaving it up to the Congress, where key leaders in both the House and the Senate support a government-run plan and control the ultimate outcome, the president passed up a big opportunity.” 

How do you take that?  Does that mean they don‘t want it?  They don‘t want to work?  It‘s over for bipartisanship?

WYDEN:  Ed, the president didn‘t draw any lines in the sand tonight.  And I hope everybody on Capitol Hill won‘t either.  Let‘s get out the big issue.  Certainly, there are details.  I just said, I want to make sure a lot more people have choices so we can hold these insurance companies accountable. 

That‘s the kind of issue we can work on in a bipartisan way.  The question of choice, the question of accountability, the question of a competition.  These are issues that can bring people together all across the political spectrum.  Let‘s not draw lines in the sand. 

SCHULTZ:  Will the Republicans, in your opinion, go on board with the pre-existing condition being erased?  This is huge, Ron.  Senator, this means that everybody in America is going to be able to get coverage no matter what your medical condition is. 

Do you really think the Republicans are going to go on board with that? 

WYDEN:  I don‘t see how a member of the United States Senate can go home and defend discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions.  And the fact is, if—when those folks are protected, and they go into a big group so that they have a lot of bargaining power, will hold down their administrative costs, then we‘re going to change the insurance business and we‘re going to hold costs down. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator Wyden, good to have you on tonight. 

WYDEN:  Look forward to doing it again. 

SCHULTZ:  Thanks so very much.  Absolutely. 

Joining me now is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a member of the Progressive Caucus. 

Congresswoman, great to have you on this time of night.  I appreciate your patience and being with us..  What did you think, did the president accomplish what you think he had to accomplish tonight? 

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL), PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS:  I think he absolutely nailed it tonight.  I‘m feeling very, very positive.  I think he really put us on offense.  At least the media has been saying that we have been playing defense and we‘re trying to salvage—they use the word “salvage” his health care plan. 

Now we‘re on the move.  And he was making very clear to the Republicans or all of the naysayers, the train is moving, you‘re either going to get on it or we‘re going to run right over you. 

SCHULTZ:  Congresswoman, he said that if you misinform the people, he‘s going to call you out. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  That‘s right. 

SCHULTZ:  I mean, this is pretty aggressive talk. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  And he did. 

SCHULTZ:  He is sick of the lies.  I mean, it‘s very clear, he‘s sick of the bullet points that are being thrown out there and sick of the obstruction.  But did he satisfy the progressive wing of the Democratic Party tonight, those who have got to have the public option?  Did he go far enough? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Yes, he did.  I thought that when I checked back with some of my Progressive Caucus friends, the people were feeling very positive.  While—you know, I think he made a very clear defense and that he was going to fight for the public option. 

Yes, he said, if you‘ve got an idea and there‘s ideas about triggers and there‘s ideas about co-ops, we‘ll listen to them.  But he said, I will not allow—I will not back down from making sure that there is an affordable option. 

I thought his comparison of private and public universities was a really good one, that there are public universities that are usually of lesser costs and there‘s a—robust private universities working right alongside of them, and we could have—and we could have both.

SCHULTZ:  He did say to his progressive friends that single-payer isn‘t going to happen, OK?  He did say—he did say to the conservatives that, you know, you just can‘t go the private sector.  Did you think that he did a good job of finding the middle ground and where Americans are, the majority of Americans? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Yes.  I mean, you know, kind of put himself totally above the fray, left-right.  But I think the kind of things he said made so much sense.  But the other thing he did, Ed, was that he lifted the whole issue beyond just another program.  At the very end we saw the Barack Obama that was so inspiring to people during the campaign. 

That‘s the man we needed to see tonight, the man who had that steely determination of we‘re going to get it done.  I don‘t know if you could tell when you saw him, in the room you could really feel him staring down those Republicans as much as saying you‘re either going to offer something constructive or we‘re going to do this anyway, because we need to do it. 

This is who we are as a people and we‘re going to get this done.  The Kennedy thing was just magnificent, I thought. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I was going to ask you about that.  He played the issue to the American people that this plays to our moral sensibilities, it‘s a moral issue, talked a lot about Ted Kennedy, and I thought a very striking moment where he really had to grab the American people and I thought he did that so effectively. 

Will that have an effect on a lot of Americans in your opinion? 

SCHAKOWSKY:  I think it will.  This notion that we‘re all in this together, that any one of us could be in the position of going bankrupt or not having health care or having someone we can‘t take care of, yes, I think it will make a difference.  It sets a definitely different tone, a new tone for the real work of getting it done now in the Congress. 

SCHULTZ:  Congresswoman, thanks for joining us tonight. 

SCHAKOWSKY:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Jan Schakowsky, you‘re on record saying that the Progressive Caucus should be pretty satisfied with that performance tonight.  I appreciate that. 

Coming up, Maxine Waters of California.  She had some pretty high expectations and some demands.  We‘ll find out her thoughts when we come back here on this special edition of THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.



OBAMA:  There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants.  This, too, is false!  The reform—the reforms I‘m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. 


OBAMA:  That‘s not true.  And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up, under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place. 


SCHULTZ:  That was one of the ugliest moments I think we‘ve seen in politics in a long, long time, if ever.  Republican Joe Wilson of South Carolina calling the president a liar on national television.  He did put out a statement tonight saying he apologized.  He also called Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and apologized. 

But I have to think that that‘s in his heart.  It was an honest reaction.  All of these congressional members had a copy of the president‘s speech tonight.  They were ready for that. 

Maxine Waters joins us tonight. 

Congresswoman, thanks for your time. 


SCHULTZ:  Are you satisfied?  Did the president do what you wanted him to do?  Did he go far enough? 

WATERS:  The president hit a home run.  He was forceful.  He was Barack Obama the educator.  He laid out the facts.  He talked directly to the senior citizens to try to help allay their fears about the lies that had been told to them about death panels. 

He confronted it head on, and he laid out what it was, what the bill is and what it is not.  He did a great job, and he talked about this business about government takeover.  He dealt with that and he dealt with the cost and let people know that it would not be deficit spending.  He did a complete and thorough and forceful job. 

SCHULTZ:  He covered all bases? 

WATERS:  He covered all bases. 

SCHULTZ:  It seemed to me, Congresswoman Waters, that he set the table for a public option to be passed in the House. 

WATERS:  I think so. 

SCHULTZ:  I mean, what do you think the Blue Dog response to this is going to be? 

WATERS:  You know, I don‘t know, but he made a special appeal to them as he talked to the progressives also, and I think they‘re going to have a hard time just ignoring the president.  They don‘t have a good reason for not wanting competition.  Why would they not want competition?  What is wrong with competition? 

SCHULTZ:  Special interests, they got a wake-up call tonight. 

WATERS:  Yes, I think so. 

SCHULTZ:  The special—and I mean, now it‘s really—it‘s either going to go one way or the other.  It‘s not going to stay the same.  It‘s either going to get nastier and a lot tougher, or the president is going to get had some things that he wants and he‘s going to get some people working with him.  Which way do you think it‘s going to go? 

WATERS:  I don‘t know, but the fact that he showed that he‘s willing to get tough, I think may back some people down.  I think some people were taking him for granted. 

SCHULTZ:  Might motivate some folks, too. 

WATERS:  I think so.  So I think we‘re going to get it. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Where do you think the progressive movement is going to be?  I mean, you‘re, you know, in the Progressive Caucus...


SCHULTZ:  ... would you go back to your constituents and say, we‘re not going to get everything but we‘re going to get a lot, and he went far enough tonight?  Would that be your message? 

WATER:  What I‘m going to go back and say is the president made a commitment to public option.  He said, I‘m going to stand up for public option.  He said, I‘m also going to leave the door open.  I will entertain others who want to come talk to me, who may have good ideas.

And so what he did was, he said, my preference is, this is what I‘d like to do.  But he also said, I‘m not closing off any ideas, I want to hear them.  I don‘t think there‘s anything better than public option.  When you talk about trigger, that‘s just about played itself out. 

SCHULTZ:  Sure, sure. 

WATER:  When you talk about co-ops, that—nobody can tell you what a co-op is.  They can‘t adequately describe what it would do. 

SCHULTZ:  You‘re going to have to go public option now because if you‘re going to force—have a bill that says pre-existing conditions...

WATERS:  That‘s right. 

SCHULTZ:  ... there‘s not an insurance company on the face of the earth that‘s going to go along with that. 

WATERS:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.

SCHULTZ:  And am I overplaying that?  I mean, what—I‘m waiting for the press release from the insurance companies to say, hey, we love this bit about pre-existing conditions being gone.  We can‘t wait to get into that market.  It isn‘t going to happen. 

WATERS:  It‘s not going to happen.  And if we don‘t have cost containment, they‘re going to charge, the premiums are going to go up.  They‘re going to say, oh, these pre-existing conditions, we have to pay a lot more money to cover all of these sick people with cancer and all of these diseases. 

So, I mean, if we don‘t have public option to keep the costs down, people can forget it.  They won‘t be able to afford it. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, let‘s see, it‘s just a reminder now, the Republicans were against the stimulus package. 

WATERS:  Yes. 

SCHULTZ:  They didn‘t want to help the bailout. 


SCHULTZ:  They fought the Wall Street thing. 

WATERS:  Yes. 

SCHULTZ:  They‘ve been against everything this president has wanted to do. 

WATERS:  They‘re not going to support the health care reform either. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes, even when the market went to 10,000, that wasn‘t good enough for them. 


SCHULTZ:  They‘re obstructionists. 

WATERS:  Yes. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you expect them to be that way throughout? 

WATERS:  Absolutely.  I don‘t expect them to come around at all, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  So tonight was solidifying the base and moving forward. 

WATERS:  Yes, that‘s right. 

SCHULTZ:  Congresswoman, thanks for your time. 

WATERS:  You‘re so welcome.  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Maxine Waters with us here on a special edition of THE ED SHOW tonight.

Coming up, tonight the president solidified the base with the facts, reminded the country what he‘s all about when it comes to health care.  Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter going to be joining us along with‘s Joan Walsh.  That‘s next right here on THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.  Stay with us. 


OBAMA:  Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. 


OBAMA:  As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick. 




OBAMA:  Some have suggested that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies.  Others have proposed a co-op for another nonprofit entity to administer the plan. 

These are all constructive ideas worth exploring, but I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can‘t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. 


SCHULTZ:  A choice, absolutely.  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW, a special post-speech edition tonight.  And joining me to talk about that comment and more, Jonathan Alter, senior editor, Newsweek magazine; and also, Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief, 

Well, Jonathan, you and I have gone back and forth on what is legislatively achievable here.  Did the president smooth the waters a little bit tonight?  What do you think? 

JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, NEWSWEEK:  Well, I think he did pretty much what we‘ve been talking about all along, Ed, is he laid—he set the table for constructive compromise.  He was very, very firm that the status quo, when it comes to options in these so-called health exchanges, will not continue. 

There will be options.  And whether that option is a public option or some kind of a compromised public option or some kind of a souped-up co-op that really has teeth, we don‘t know yet. 

But that is the principle that he laid out tonight, and I think it‘s a constructive one to move forward towards passage of a bill.  The great news tonight is that this bill is on track for passage, historic change is coming to the United States. 

SCHULTZ:  Joan Walsh, did he go far enough with the liberal left tonight?  I mean, I know there‘s a lot of folks out there that want single-payer.  He‘s going for something that‘s politically achievable.  But did the president go far enough to solidify the base and satisfy the base to move something forward? 

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SALON.COM:  You know, I think as for tonight, he really did, Ed.  I think that he sounded very strong on the public option.  He did leave the door open for compromise, as Jonathan said.  He did say, if you‘ve got ideas, I‘m going to listen, bring them to me. 

And think I think he needed to say that.  And you know, if somebody comes up with a great idea in the next few months or weeks, I think you, Jonathan, and I will want to listen to it as well. 

So, you know, I was pleased by the talk of the public option and the way he clearly explained it.  The way that he framed it as choice when, you know, Republicans had made it sound like this coercive, bureaucratic nightmare.  That was excellent. 

The other thing that I think was excellent was something you talked about earlier.  He sounded like a fighter.  He came out fighting. 


WALSH:  He called them on lies.  He called them on bogus claims.  He said we will call you out if this continues.  This was a slightly different Barack Obama, still kind, still conciliatory, but there was more fire there and I think a lot of liberals were particularly pleased to see that.  I know I was. 

SCHULTZ:  I agree with you. 

ALTER:  Absolutely.

SCHULTZ:  And I think we had a little town hall hangover going on in there tonight... 

WALSH:  We did. 

SCHULTZ:  ... with Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina.  He mopped it up quick.  Within an hour he put out a statement.  Here it is.  “This evening I let my emotions get the best to me when listening to the president‘s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill.  While I disagree with the president‘s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable.  I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”

He also called Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff, and apologized. 

Jonathan, it would seem to me that he had to get out there on this because the Republicans didn‘t want to be defending this tomorrow.  But have you ever seen anything like this? 

ALTER:  Yes, that was truly pathetic.  But what was great about the evening for Obama was that the setting was so perfect.  You know, he did it very well in February to the joint session then.  He did it again.  What he does is he uses the joint session as a party-building activity. 

Because the Republicans look sour.  They‘re sitting there grimacing, you know, tossing insults, looking at their BlackBerry the way Eric Cantor was.  And the Democrats jump up and cheer and it provides a kind of a peer pressure on Democrats to get with the program. 

Look, the bottom line here, Ed, is that if you‘re not for this bill, you‘re not a Democrat.  I don‘t care whether you‘re a Blue Dog or a very liberal Democrat, if you‘re going to somehow cast aside all of what the president talked about tonight, all of these historic changes in ending discrimination against sick people in this country, ending the threat of medical bankruptcies, all of these other great things in this bill, if you can‘t vote for that under some kind of compromise, what kind of a Democrat are you? 

SCHULTZ:  No doubt. 

And, Joan, have we—can you compare this speech to any other president, any other big issue?  Lyndon Johnson on civil rights and on Medicare?  But I mean, I can‘t think of a contemporary time a president taking one issue and being so effective with it. 

I think he  politically is going to get a big bump out of it, but I think that there are a lot of novice consuming news folks out there across the country that are saying, you know, that guy is talking sense to me tonight.  I‘m kind of going along with this.  But the way he did it, what would we compare this to? 

WALSH:  You know, the only thing I can think of, and it‘s kind of a stretch admittedly, is the George Bush speech after 9/11 on September 20th where the country was in such a different state.  I mean, that was just a real emotional and genuine crisis. 

But the reaction that he got, I mean, that was the finest moment of his presidency.  I think we can all agree.  And he built real political capital there.  This is a different situation, but Obama was on the brink of a really profound loss of momentum for his young administration. 

And he came out and he both articulated a vision that he hadn‘t before.  But I think what Jonathan said is really important, he—the Republicans really don‘t matter.  They do have a great majority in the House.  They have 60 votes, we hope, in the Senate.  They have got to pay attention to each other. 

And what has to happen tomorrow is for the president to go out and begin to talk to the Blue Dogs and members of his own party and... 

SCHULTZ:  That is the key. 

WALSH:  ... and begin to exercise and enforce some party discipline.  Because Jonathan is right, you can‘t be against this bill and be a Democrat. 

ALTER:  And he had a great message for the Blue Dogs.  He really laid down the line to them.  And he‘s going to meet with them tomorrow.  He basically said, look, a lot of you guys voted for these Bush tax cuts for the rich, you voted... 

SCHULTZ:  Oh, he laid it on them, yes. 

ALTER:  You voted for the war, which cost a lot more than health care.  Don‘t come at me and say that you can‘t vote for this for reasons of fiscal discipline, that just makes you a hypocrite.  He called them out already.

WALSH:  Right.

SCHULTZ:  Jonathan Alter, Joan Walsh, thanks so much for joining us tonight.  Great insight, as always. 

WALSH:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Joining me now is Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is in charge of getting Democrats elected. 

You got a boost tonight. 



SCHULTZ:  But now you‘ve got to get these Blue Dogs squared away.  Did he connect with the Blue Dogs, and do you think he recruited some of them to the cause tonight? 

VAN HOLLEN:  He did.  I think what was really important about this speech is that Democrats are united in the goal of getting health care reform done this year.  But we still have our differences, and what the president did tonight was left every Democrat in the room leaving, saying, we are going to get it done. 

I spoke to Blue Dogs afterwards.  I spoke to progressives.  People have a new energy.  This speech was delivered at just exactly the right time in order to get the process jump-started. 

And this was the opening bell in round two, and we‘re going to get it done.  We‘ll get the bill to the president‘s desk by December.  I think there was a really great feeling in the room that now is the time to bring ourselves together, just get the job done. 

SCHULTZ:  Did he give enough definition, in your opinion? 

VAN HOLLEN:  He did.  I mean, look, he did a couple of things.  First of all, he put to rest, I hope once and for all, a lot of the myths that are out there. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘m glad he did that. 

VAN HOLLEN:  I mean, he just went...

SCHULTZ:  I mean, I‘m just—I‘m sick and tired, the Frank Luntz stuff that‘s out there. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Exactly. 


VAN HOLLEN:  I mean, the Republican talking points that have created so much misinformation out there, that have been a deliberate attempt to mislead people, he set it straight and he was firm about that. 

He says, you know, listen, I‘m not going to allow you people to mislead the American people on these issues.  But then he very clearly laid out why this was good for the American people, both people who have health insurance today and those who don‘t, and how we‘re all in it together. 

SCHULTZ:  What about Ted Kennedy?  I mean, he played on the legacy of Ted Kennedy.  There were tears across the country tonight.  My wife was in tears. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Right. 

SCHULTZ:  It was a jerk moment for me, too.  I mean...

VAN HOLLEN:  It was. 

SCHULTZ:  ... it was a grabbing moment.  It was beyond giving a good speech.  It was really to the heart and soul of who we are as Americans. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, that‘s what he did, Ed.  You know, he spent the first part of the speech laying out in some detail why we needed to do this. 

SCHULTZ:  A moral issue. 

VAN HOLLEN:  But then he ended the speech—he ended the speech by bringing us together on a much larger scale and a much larger sort of sense of purpose and who we are as a people that we have to rely on personal responsibility but there are some things we have to pull together and get done as one people. 

SCHULTZ:  Chris Van Hollen, here is the key question, I think, for the Blue Dogs.  Are you willing—as a Blue Dog Democrat, are you willing to go back to your district and tell your constituents, I have to vote my conscience, I have to do what is morally correct for this country, and I have to vote with the president on this and support him and give him what he wants on this? 

Do you think they‘re willing to do that?  Do you think there are Blue Dogs that are willing to say that to their constituents, not worried about the results of the next election but to move health care reform forward? 

VAN HOLLEN:  Yes, I have no doubt that the Blue Dogs are prepared to do it.  I think that they are even more prepared after the speech to come together.  I think there are some on all parts of the spectrum within the caucus who were saying, you know, I had to have it 100 percent my way, who now are saying, look, the president has now come out, he has provided a way forward, I‘m not going to get 100 percent of what I want on any particular issue. but the president has sort of set forth the path here.

And, as you said, the president is going to be meeting with the Blue Dogs.  They‘re going to be a number of meetings today.  The Democratic leadership met with the Progressive Caucus, with the New Democratic caucus.  Tomorrow will also be meeting with the Blue Dog caucus.  There will be other meetings. 

This is the time, you know, to really get together and merge those three House bills, all of which have a public option. 

SCHULTZ:  Chris Van Hollen, great to have you on tonight.  I appreciate it.  One detail you and I are going to have to talk about, that is how to pay for this.  He talked about the savings in Medicare and Medicaid.  But personally, I don‘t know how you‘re going to do it without repealing the Bush tax cuts.  That‘s a story for another day. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, that‘s another issue.  And we‘ll get to that. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Thanks, Chris. 

I think the president really changed the game tonight.  I‘ll get reaction from Bill Press and former Republican Congressman Ernie Istook.  And what is America going to be talking about tomorrow?  Did the president really knock it out of the park?  How do you feel about it?  We will take your e-mails at 

The game-changer, that‘s next on THE ED SHOW, stay with us. 



OBAMA:  Add it all up and the plan I‘m proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years, less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. 



SCHULTZ:  Now where have I heard that before?  I make that point every day on this program.  Get rid of the Bush tax cuts and you might even have to go further than that to make sure this thing works, but don‘t touch the middle class.

If want reform in health care, you‘re going to have to explain to the American people how you‘re going to pay for it.  Joining me now is nationally-syndicated radio talk show host Bill Press; and also former Congressman Ernest Istook of Oklahoma. 

Gentlemen, good to have you with us.  Tonight, by the way, we just have breakfast, two eggs over easy and hash browns coming up in about 15 minutes. 


SCHULTZ:  All right.  Bill, how are we going to pay for this?  I mean, the president really tonight did not get in major detail.  He gave us the number but this is going to be the heavy lifting, is it not? 

BILL PRESS, NATIONALLY-SYNDICATED RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Oh it is, yes.  And you know one thing, I think what is very important though, Ed, and I‘m glad you played that clip, because a trillion dollars, we keep hearing this, a trillion dollars, that‘s a lot of money, right? 

But a trillion dollars in Iraq in a year, this is a trillion dollars in 10 years to provide health care for every single American.  I mean, that is a worthwhile investment. 

I think you‘re right.  I mean, the easy way to do it and the quick way to do it is to repeal the Bush tax cuts.  Look, they‘ve had a free ride for eight-nine years, the president didn‘t repeal them ahead of time, he was just going to let them expire.  That‘s the way to get the money.  Plus the savings in Medicare.

SCHULTZ:  Ernie, why not just give the president what he wants? 

ERNEST ISTOOK ®, FORMER OKLAHOMA REPRESENTATIVE:  Why not have a dictatorship?  Sure, it‘s easy. 


SCHULTZ:  A dictatorship? 

ISTOOK:  If you give the president what he wants just because he‘s the president. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, this issue, I mean, it‘s—look, if it doesn‘t work, there will be other sessions of Congress that will tweak it or change it or maybe eliminate it.  But your side is saying that this is going to eliminate the private sector. 

ISTOOK:  Well, first of all, remember, we‘ve got 250 million, 260 million Americans who have health care coverage and they don‘t want to be the guinea pigs for this experiment. 

PRESS:  They‘re going to fine.  They‘re going to be fine.

ISTOOK:  Well, no, you say they‘re going to be fine, they don‘t believe they‘re going to be fine, I don‘t believe they‘re going to be fine. 

PRESS:  But they are going to be fine.

SCHULTZ:  How will they not be fine? 


ISTOOK:  You don‘t get that choice.  If you get your insurance coverage through your employer, your employer makes that decision for you.  If your employer has the incentives to drop the coverage, which would be created by the legislation that has come through the House and probably by Obama‘s legislation, too, then you don‘t get the choice of keeping your coverage.  Someone else makes that decision for you. 

SCHULTZ:  But, Ernie, in the incremental parts of this, the 180 million people that have their insurance, they‘re not going to be eligible for the public option.  The public option isn‘t going to be for everybody. 

It‘s going to be for people with preexisting conditions.  It‘s going to be with people that know they‘re not going to get dropped once they get into this public option.  It‘s going to give some real security.  And it is going to force the insurance companies to get progressive and aggressive when it come to doing different plans. 

ISTOOK:  Well, I hear what the president said about that about that tonight, which of course does not match up with the legislation that has been moving through Congress.  Maybe we‘re going to have some totally new things put out with details by Obama so people can read it and compare the rhetoric with the reality.  That‘s important.

SCHULTZ:  But there is no government takeover.  There is no government takeover.  Aetna, UnitedHealth, all of these people are still going to be in business. 

ISTOOK:  You‘re saying they‘ll be in business for how long?  How long does it take to push them out? 


PRESS:  As long as they can put out a good product and make a good profit.  And if they can‘t, they don‘t deserve to do business.  But, Ed, I‘ve got to say...

ISTOOK:  Then the government shouldn‘t...


PRESS:  ... what is really important I think tonight, you‘ve been stressing this, the game has changed tonight.  The situation now, the question is now no longer are we going to do something?  Now the question is, we know we‘re going to do something, are you guys going to be part of the solution or are you going to sit on your hands and vote no?  That‘s the answer.  That‘s the question.

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Here‘s the president tonight.  I thought this was a very important excerpt from his speech.  It was about choice and competition.  Here it is. 


OBAMA:  My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a government takeover of the entire health care system.  As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government, just like Medicaid or Medicare. 

So let me set the record straight here.  My guiding principle is and always has been that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. 


SCHULTZ:  Ernie, what‘s wrong with that? 

ISTOOK:  Well, first of all, we‘ve got to be able to see what he is actually saying.  So far what the president is saying is not matched up with any piece of legislation that we‘ve seen.  If you look at his allies in Congress, they‘ve given a totally different thing.  It differs in some major areas. 

So if President Obama wants to say that he disagrees with the things that are in the House plan or the Senate plan, he ought to say so.  But he didn‘t say that. 

SCHULTZ:  So what is the strategy going to be for the Republicans right now?  Because it—you know, Chris Van Hollen just told us tonight that some Blue Dogs are coming on board.  The strategy for the Republicans would be what?  Go tell the Blue Dogs, don‘t go with the president, this is going to be a bad deal? 

I mean, what is your play right now? 

ISTOOK:  Well, one, I‘m not speaking for the Republicans. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I know, but just strategically. 

ISTOOK:  Oh, sure.  But I think right now the president‘s purpose tonight was to unite his party and buy his party time to stop the hemorrhaging, to stop the desertion by some people in his party so that his administration and the Democrat leaders in Congress can work on them or work with them, pick your term, however you wish there, to try to bring them around.  I think that was his big... 

SCHULTZ:  Bring them around...


ISTOOK:  ... audience. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s going to be hard to bring Republicans around.  They‘ve been saying he‘s not an American.  They‘ve been saying...

ISTOOK:  He‘s trying to bring Democrats around.

SCHULTZ:  ... he shouldn‘t talk to school kids.  I mean, you know what I‘m saying. 

PRESS:  Ed, I think this is an historic moment for this country.  And the president put in it context tonight.  Social Security and Medicare, this is the third wave, if you will. 

I think, Ernie, your party has got a serious problem, if I can suggest that.  You voted against the stimulus, you voted against the “Cash for Clunkers,” and you‘re going to stand up and vote against universal health care for Americans?  It‘s going to happen. 

And you‘re either going to be part of the party or you‘re not.  And I think if you‘re not part of it, you guys are going to be in deep trouble for years to come.  I think it is at a very serious...


ISTOOK:  You could have fought the Iraq War with that stimulus money if you had wanted to, it was that much. 

But remember, this is too big for most people to swallow.  Break it up into parts...

SCHULTZ:  Well, we‘re going to have to...


SCHULTZ:  Gentlemen, good to have you. 

Earlier in the show I asked you for your thoughts.  After the president‘s speech, are you more confident about reform?  Nineteen thousand of you responded, 93 percent of you said, yes, 7 percent of you that no.  I‘ll have a lot more on this on THE ED SHOW from New York tomorrow night right here on MSNBC, 6:00 Eastern time.  Join us then.  That‘s it for THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz, we‘ll see you tomorrow.



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