Guest Host: Cenk Uygur
Guests: Jerrold Nadler, David Winston, Chris Van Hollen, Mark Halperin, Ron
Christie, Bill Press, Steven McMahon, Jonathan Alter
CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening, and welcome to THE ED SHOW.
I‘m Cenk Uygur, in for Ed Schultz.
These are the stories that are hot tonight.
The president does a flip-flop on the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. My commentary challenging him on that, plus response from Manhattan Congressman Jerry Nadler in just a moment.
It‘s an election year, which means the Republicans are pushing the same old scare tactics about Social Security. They‘re flat-out lying, and I‘ll show you why.
And the right won‘t stop with their disgusting Obama/Hitler comparison. Now a Wall Street billionaire says raising his taxes is just like the Nazis invading Poland. I‘m going to rip him to shreds later.
But we start tonight with the battle over the so-called Ground Zero mosque.
On Friday, the president came out very clearly in favor of religious freedom in the country and the right to build a mosque near Ground Zero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Then on Saturday, that commitment got shaken a little bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: What, me? Did I say I was in favor of the mosque? Mosque?
This is classic Obama. Thread the needle, try to find the political middle. He found a way to cover himself with the people that say they have the right to build a mosque there, and at the same time, cover himself with the people that say that they shouldn‘t build a mosque there.
Now, let me tell what you Obama should have said. He should have said, Did I stutter? Yes, I said they have the right to build a mosque right there. You want to know why? Because we‘re better than the people who attacked us on 9/11.
They do hate our freedoms, one of which is the freedom of religion.
They don‘t want people to have a choice in religions. We do.
Remember, it‘s in our Constitution, a document that conservatives claimed to love before. Now conservatives have conveniently forgotten, and today Newt Gingrich said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Nazis don‘t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There‘s no reason for to us accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: They took it a step further in “The New York Times,” saying, “It‘s like putting a Nazi sign next to a Holocaust Museum.”
That‘s just disgusting. He just compared the entire Muslim religion to Nazis.
Can you imagine if he did that with any other religion? Can you imagine if anyone argued that the Jews shouldn‘t be allowed to build a temple somewhere because their entire religion is guilty?
How about if we didn‘t allow a church to go up anywhere the Olympic site in Atlanta because fundamentalist Christian Eric Rudolph did the Olympic bombing there? Remember, he also bombed abortion clinics in Sandy Springs, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama, based on his fundamentalist views. The same with Scott Roeder, who killed abortion provider Dr. Tiller in Wichita, Kansas.
They were both fundamentalist Christians who did it for religion. Should we not allow any churches to be built in Birmingham or Wichita because of what Rudolph and Roeder did in the name of their church?
I know what you‘re thinking—but, wait, that isn‘t my belief, that isn‘t my church, that isn‘t my view of Christianity. Why should you punish me or my church for what some crazy person did? Exactly.
Muslims today are thinking the same exact thing—why are you putting us all in the same boat as these crazy al Qaeda terrorists? What did we have to do with their bombing?
An average Muslim mom has about the same in common within al Qaeda as you do with Eric Rudolph. The problem with the people fighting against this mosque is that they‘re assuming that all Muslims are guilty. They seem to be assuming all mosques must agree with al Qaeda, when the founders of this mosque say they‘re doing the exact opposite, trying to foster better understanding between the religions.
If you shut them down, what does that say about what you think of all Muslims, any Muslim? Are they all guilty? How can they prove their innocence to you?
How would you like it if you were judged like that? And remember, these people are not foreigners. They‘re just as American as you and I. If you get to judge their religion, does someone else get to judge yours?
I thought conservatives in this country claimed to care deeply about religious freedom. Did you mean just your religion?
Do you understand that‘s exactly what the founders were trying to avoid? They wanted to build a society where anyone it can practice their religion, whether we agree with them or not. That‘s at the heart of what it means to be an American.
So, if you don‘t believe that, how American are you? Because this isn‘t about what you think of Islam. This is about what you think of our country and what we stand for.
Do you believe in the promise of America or don‘t you? Do you believe in our Constitution or don‘t you?
Now we want to know what you think. Tonight‘s text survey is: Do you think President Obama flip-flopped on building the mosque near Ground Zero? Text “A” for yes, text “B” for no to 622639.
I‘ll bring you the results later in the show, and I‘m looking forward to them.
Now joining me, Congressman Jerry Nadler. His district includes Ground Zero.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. Now, a lot of people are saying that you shouldn‘t build this mosque here. Across the country, there‘s a Republican out with an ad now in Florida.
You represent Ground Zero. The people of Manhattan have been polled and they say they‘re in favor of it.
What business is it of anybody else‘s where you‘re going to build a mosque in Manhattan?
NADLER: Well, I think the key point is that it‘s no business of anybody‘s to tell Christians or Jews or Muslims where they can build their mosque or their church or their synagogue. The Constitution grants us religious freedom and protects the right of anyone subject to local laws and ordinances and zoning and so forth to build any house of worship. And the government must protect that right, and that‘s what we‘re trying to do now.
UYGUR: But Congressman, Harry Reid seems to be backing away a little bit from this. His spokesperson said, “The First Amendment protects the freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”
“If the Republicans are being sincere,” he says, “then they would help us pass this long overdue bill to help the first responders whose health and livelihoods have been the devastated because of their bravery on 9/11,” I should say. And “Rather than continuing to block this much-needed legislation.”
So, there‘s two issues there. One, the Republicans actually doing something to hurt 9/11 responders, which I know you care a lot about.
NADLER: Well, in fact, that 9/11 health bill is sponsored by Carolyn Maloney and me, and the two of us have been working on it for eight years. And we had a vote in the House last week, and all but 12 Republicans voted against it. And I find that frankly disgusting.
It says that they don‘t really care about helping bind up the nation‘s wounds, helping bind up the wounds, as Lincoln said, of him who shall have borne the battle. These people are survivors from the neighborhood, they‘re first responders who rushed in, and who are sick because of the toxins that were in the atmosphere. And they need this help.
Now, frankly, I‘d be much more respectful of the sincerity of the Republicans who are opposing the mosque in the name of the sensitivities and the feelings of the first responders—or not the first responders, of the survivors—if they would support legislation like this. It seems to me that otherwise, they‘re simply being political.
Now, whether the mosque should be there or not is up to the people in that congregation. The Muslims who want to build the mosque there, if they decide to move it, that‘s their business, but government should not pressure them to do so.
Now, the Republicans, for the last few days, until today or yesterday, were saying that the government should stop them from building the mosque. Now they seem to be admitting the Constitution—government can‘t stop them from doing that, but they want the government to use its power to pressure them to move the mosque. And that would be equally wrong.
UYGUR: Congressman Nadler, let‘s talk about the politics for a second.
As you saw there, Harry Reid backing away from supporting the mosque. It seemed like the president did a bit of a flip-flop on Saturday. You‘re standing exactly where you were before.
Do you think they‘re wrong in backing away from this issue?
NADLER: Well, I don‘t want to characterize anyone else, but I think that the president took the position that government has to protect the right of people to build a mosque there or anywhere else. And I don‘t think he backed away from that.
I think that it‘s up to the people—he didn‘t take a position whether the mosque should be there. And I think that‘s proper, because that‘s up to the people in the congregation. Government shouldn‘t tell them the mosque should be there or be anywhere else, but should protect their right to put it over there if that‘s what they want to do.
UYGUR: All right. Thank you, Congressman Nadler. We really appreciate you joining us.
All right. Now joining me, David Winston, a Republican strategist and former director of planning for House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Well, let me, David, read you the quote again of Newt Gingrich. He said, “It‘s like putting a Nazi sign next to a Holocaust Museum.”
Those are very harsh words. Do you agree with that?
DAVID WINSTON, FMR. GINGRICH STAFFER: No. I mean, they are harsh words.
And look, what Newt was trying to do—and he was talking about the Holocaust Museum here in Washington, D.C. What he was trying to sort of reflect here is, look, Ground Zero is a historic site for this country. Right? And there are certain things that go along with that and there are certain sensitivities that should exist.
And he maybe took the metaphor a little too far, clearly, in terms of describing, but his point is basically well taken, and that is that this is a unique site not just for New Yorkers, but for all Americans, and there needs to be a sensitivity in terms of what happens around it that is just unique to it. And so I think that‘s what he was trying to define there.
UYGUR: He did it a little too far with the Nazi reference. OK.
WINSTON: Well, bear with me. And there‘s a—I think, actually, Chuck Todd said this earlier, as a matter of fact. And you‘ve watched Dick Durbin do this, you‘ve watched Rick Santorum do it. When you start doing Nazi analogies, you end up not necessarily making the point you thought you were making.
UYGUR: Right. But David, do you get why it‘s even more deeply offensive? Because you seem to be comparing the entire Muslim religion to Nazis.
WINSTON: No. But, you see, I think what Newt was doing was he was referring to, like, how important a place this was and the particular contrast there wasn‘t good.
But I also think—look, I think there‘s another element here that I think is important. And I would agree with Congressman Nadler that, look, legally they have the right to build there. But that isn‘t the issue. The issue here is the sensitivity in terms of look, Muslims have a unique opportunity here.
UYGUR: No, David. I‘m going to stop you right there.
UYGUR: What do you mean sensitivity? I mean, you‘ve now said it two or three times.
WINSTON: No, because—
UYGUR: Hold on. Should all Muslims like steer clear of Ground Zero? You know, Muslims also died on 9/11. They died in the building, they died in the planes. They‘re Americans, and they got killed.
So what do you mean sensitive? Why are you comparing the Muslims to what al Qaeda did? How does that make any sense?
WINSTON: No, no, but what I‘m saying is, look, first off, 70 percent of this country doesn‘t like this idea. There‘s a unique opportunity for Muslims to show, look, we understand Americans have difficulty with this and we‘re willing to move somewhere else. There‘s just a sense of like, look, if we‘re going to cooperate and get along and things are going to work, people have to understand the concerns that other folks have.
UYGUR: So you‘re saying two things from what I‘m hearing. One is, if 70 percent of the country is ignorant, we should back that up.
WINSTON: They‘re not ignorant.
UYGUR: If they don‘t know the Constitution or they think Muslims are the same as al Qaeda, we should back that up?
WINSTON: What I‘m saying is that there‘s a real concern here about this particular issue. There‘s a sensitivity understanding what it symbolizes, rightly or wrongly in terms of how you—but I think in this case correctly—what it symbolizes, there‘s an opportunity here for Muslims to say, look, we understand where the country‘s at. We understand we have the right to do this.
UYGUR: So they should know their place?
WINSTON: No. I think they should just show some sensitivity here.
I think this is a real opportunity to really create some relationships here that would be positive. But instead, look, 70 percent disagree. So if you‘re going to insist on doing it, you‘re going to sticking your finger in the eye of the American people. If that‘s what your goal is, then you‘re achieving it.
UYGUR: Well, I think—no, no, no. The problem is that you guys bait the American people. Oh, my God, the Muslims are coming, they‘re going to take over Ground Zero, et cetera. And, of course, usually the Democrats, with the obvious exception there of Congressman Nadler and some others, go, OK, OK, like Harry Reid did today.
OK, OK, OK. Please, let‘s not support the mosque. And then that‘s why you get 70 percent of the country believing this ridiculous thing.
I mean, do you really think that this mosque is some sort of a statement by Muslims worldwide?
WINSTON: You just said you‘ve got Harry Reid and Newt Gingrich agreeing on something. What does that say about political consensus in terms of where the country is at and what it believes at this point? And so that‘s why I‘m saying, look, you need to have some sensitivity.
This is a unique, historic site on American soil. And you just need to show some sensitivity about that.
UYGUR: All right. You asked me a question, so I‘m going to answer it.
UYGUR: I think what it says is that Newt Gingrich is a terrible—not in this case a race-baiter, but a religion-baiter, and that Harry Reid is scared, as usual. And so he backs away, as usual.
That‘s what I think it says.
WINSTON: Well, I‘m obviously going to debate you on that first point in terms of Newt is not like that. Having said that—
UYGUR: But he just called all Muslims Nazis, and you can‘t even back that up. So how is that not a religion-baiter?
WINSTON: But that‘s not what he was doing. What he was doing was comparing, you know, like, Pearl Harbor as a historic site to 9/11 as a historic site, Ground Zero. And that‘s what he was doing.
You‘re making the contrast that he‘s comparing it to Japanese or Nazis. He‘s comparing it as a historical site and the sensitivities that go along with that. That was his point.
UYGUR: Right, except he mentioned Nazis a couple of times. But I guess he was unclear about that.
All right. Listen, David, it was a good conversation. I want to thank you for joining us.
WINSTON: OK. Pleasure. Thanks for having me.
UYGUR: All right.
Now, coming up, what Rush Limbaugh said on the Ground Zero mosque isn‘t outrageous. It‘s hilarious. You don‘t want to miss that.
And President Obama just hammered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying their new slogan for midterms should be “No, we can‘t.” I‘ll get “Rapid Fire Response” on that.
All that, plus a private equity billionaire compares President Obama to Hitler. Here we go again. Yes, he compared raising his taxes to genocide. Wait until you find out how much he pays in taxes.
You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Some Republican leaders in Congress don‘t seem to have learned any lessons from the past few years. They‘re pushing to make privatizing Social Security a key part of their legislative agenda if they win a majority in Congress this fall. That agenda is wrong for seniors, it‘s wrong for America, and I won‘t let it happen. Not while I‘m president.
I‘ll fight with everything I‘ve got to stop those who would gamble your Social Security on Wall Street, because you shouldn‘t be worried that a sudden downturn in the stock market will put all you‘ve worked so hard for, all you‘ve earned, at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: President Obama came out swinging this weekend, as you just saw, on Social Security. But in spite of his insistence that the 75-year-old program is here to stay, panic mode has set in about its alleged insolvency.
The Deficit Commission will likely recommend cuts to Social Security. And Republicans like House Minority Leader John Boehner and Indiana Congressman Mike Pence are talking about raising the retirement age. Other Republicans are still on the privatization bandwagon.
But the so-called financial problem of Social Security is one big giant lie. Let me prove it to you.
Did you know that Social Security actually has a $2.5 trillion surplus right now? How come nobody ever talks about that? It will pay out 100 percent of benefits with zero problems until 2037.
Does that sound like something we should panic over now? And critics claim that, well, it goes insolvent 27 years from now. That‘s also not true at all.
Social Security can still pay 78 percent of its benefits indefinitely after that. That‘s a small problem, not the bankruptcy of the system that they‘re peddling.
So why are they pushing this lie? Because they already spent the $2.5 trillion on tax cuts for the rich and endless wars. You put your money into that retirement fund, but now they don‘t want to pay you because they already spent your money which they weren‘t supposed to touch.
Look, let me tell you this in no uncertain terms. They‘re coming for your Social Security. Don‘t let them do that under any circumstance, whether it‘s the Republicans who always wanted to kill it or President Obama‘s Deficit Commission. They‘re both lying. Don‘t believe the hype.
Now, for more, let me bring in DCC Chairman Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Congressman, you guys are putting together a new campaign highlighting how the Democrats protect Social Security, but apparently the American people are not quite buying it. We‘ve got a poll here says that only 30 percent of the country believe the Democrats stand up for Social Security, 26 percent say that Republican do, they do a better job with Social Security.
How in the world is this t that close?
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well, that‘s a very good question. That‘s why it‘s important that the president is talking about it and that‘s why we‘re going to keep talking about this issue, because the fact of the matter is the Republican Leader in the House, John Boehner, the guy who wants to become the next speaker of the House, was a strong advocate for the Bush plan to privatize Social Security. That‘s what he stands for.
Their point person on the Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, has put together the so-called roadmap plan which would privatize Social Security along with Medicare. And what these guys essentially want to do is hand over a good chunk of people‘s retirement savings and give it to Wall Street.
I might add that John Boehner, the Republican Leader, wants to repeal the recently passed Wall Street reform bill. So they want to repeal the Wall Street reform bill which is designed to rein in Wall Street, and then they at the same time want to hand more of our seniors‘ retirement money and our future retirement money over to Wall Street so they can gamble with it as we saw in the financial meltdown.
That‘s irresponsible. And we need to get the word out, because that is what they plan to do, just read their own roadmap.
UYGUR: I understand that, Congressman, but what I noticed from President Obama and from what you just said is that you guys are arguing against privatization, which I get it. That makes sense. But you‘re not saying you won‘t cut Social Security. And I‘m afraid the reason for that is because that Obama Deficit Commission is going to come in and they‘re going to say cut Social Security.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, the Democratic Caucus was very clear. We had a big gathering on the side of the Capitol just before we left to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Social Security. And it was very clear that the Democrats do not support cuts to Social Security. That is the position of the Democratic Caucus. So --
UYGUR: All right. Let me get you on the record then.
VAN HOLLEN: -- the American people—yes?
UYGUR: Let me get you on the record then. If the Deficit Commission comes out and says cut Social Security or raise the retirement age, will you fight against it and say it‘s dead on arrival?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, look, here‘s the issue with the retirement—the commission, right? They‘re going to come up with recommendations across the board. I mean, Social Security, Medicare, tax policy.
I certainly would oppose the provisions that we‘re talking about if they were to cut Social Security. The question is going to be the package as a whole. And anybody I think has to say we‘ll wait and see what the package as a whole says.
But I oppose cutting Social Security benefits. I want to be very clear about that.
And the fact of the matter is the Republicans not only want to cut Social Security, but they do want to privatize it. And the privatization component is a very important argument, because they have a clear motivation for doing it, which is that all the financial interests on Wall Street, the same guys who clapped when John Boehner said he was going to repeal the Wall Street reform bill, stand to make hundreds of billions of dollars through Social Security privatization.
And it‘s coupled with their proposal to privatize Medicare. And that‘s just not a statement they‘ve made. They actually voted. The Republicans in the House voted last year on a plan to both cut Medicare by 75 percent over a period of time, and turn it into a voucher program, so you, a senior citizen, gets your voucher, it diminishes in value, and you‘ve got to go out on the private insurance market and find a policy in contrast to today‘s policies where Medicare guarantees your treatment.
So both on Medicare and Social Security they want to privatize.
UYGUR: But Congressman, I know exactly where the Republicans stand, but I wasn‘t clear on where you—I didn‘t get that pledge out of you. That‘s what I noticed. I‘ll be honest with you.
VAN HOLLEN: Well, you know what?
UYGUR: So we‘ll see what happens when they actually bring the bill.
VAN HOLLEN: No, wait. No, you‘re asking for a pledge on something that goes way beyond. The vote is not going to just be on Social Security. If there is a vote at all, it‘s going to be on a big, big package. And—
UYGUR: The problem is you guys already spent the $2.5 trillion. There‘s no reason to touch Social Security at all. It has a surplus. It has a surplus.
VAN HOLLEN: And I agree with you. And I agree with you on that.
UYGUR: OK. Well, I hope that is—
VAN HOLLEN: But there‘s a debt commission that‘s looking at a much broader area. I hope you wouldn‘t say what you were going to do --
UYGUR: I hope that is shown in the votes. I hope your agreement is shown in the votes.
VAN HOLLEN: I hope you wouldn‘t‘ say what you‘re going to do on something you haven‘t even seen yet.
UYGUR: OK. All right. Let‘s see what happens. I thought we elected a Democratic president. Let‘s see what happens.
All right. Congressman Van Hollen, thank you for joining us. We appreciates it.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right.
Up next, Rush Limbaugh weighs in on building a mosque near Ground Zero, and the analogy he made brings stupidity to a whole new level.
I‘m schooling him up in the “Zone” next.
UYGUR: In “Psycho Talk” tonight, Rush Limbaugh added his voice of insanity to the right-wing anti-American chorus against building a mosque near Ground Zero. And like all the other righties, he had a crazy religious analogy ready to go. But what Rush came up with is even more ridiculous than the rest of them.
How is that even possible? Well, let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Let‘s suggest that we build a Hindu temple right next to the Arizona Memorial out at Pearl Harbor. Why? We want outreach, show we have no hard feelings. Put a Hindu temple there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: A Hindu temple? What did the Indians ever do to Pearl Harbor?
Did they meditate over it?
It doesn‘t take an elite liberal education to know that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and their predominant religion is Shinto, not Hindu.
Congratulations, Rush. That‘s a new record in ignorance.
Well, after someone told him what an idiot he was during the break, he came back and tried to backpedal out of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: I need to make a correction. I said that Buddha—I said a Hindu temple at the Arizona Memorial. I meant Shinto shrine.
The Hindus are Indian. Buddhists in Japan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Buddhists in—I don‘t know, whatever it was. Yes, that makes sense. Every time I try to say “Rush,” I accidentally say “idiot.” Honest mistake. They sound so alike.
Weighing in on a heated religious issue when you don‘t even have the basic knowledge of world religions is the definition of ignorant “Psycho Talk.”
Coming up, Robert Gibbs, well, he annoyed me last week by slamming the professional left. And now the establishment media is piling on. I have a message for all of them in the Battleground. I‘m coming for them.
All that, plus President Obama just blasted Mitch McConnell. You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
UYGUR: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW. I‘m Cenk Uygur in for Ed Schultz. Now, for the Battleground story tonight. The establishment media is in a frenzy because many activists and bloggers do their jobs better than they do. And they‘re in danger of losing their price position as the fourth estate in this country. Maureen Dowd, a marquee columnist for the country‘s most established newspaper is the latest to do a hit job on the so-called professional left. In her latest Op-ed, down echoes Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. The writing progresses as, quote, “radical and extreme.” Also saying, quote, “On the republican side, the crazies often end up helping the republican leadership. On the democratic side, the radicals are constantly sniping at Obama expressing their feelings of betrayal. FOX built a republican president. MSNBC is trying to make its reputation by tearing down a democratic one.”
No, the difference between MSNBC and FOX News is that we actually use our minds. We don‘t follow the president like robots. We are not authoritarian by nature and apparently unlike Maureen Dowd, we‘re capable of using independent judgment. The establishment press loves to protect the government. They‘ve forgotten entirely that they‘re supposed to do the opposite, challenge the government. Just because I think the right wing movement in this country has lost its mind doesn‘t mean I should lend mine out to President Obama. Here‘s what the millionaire mainstream press doesn‘t get. We unlike you actually understand policy. And yes, guilty as charged, we care about it. I can give you a million examples but I‘ll just give you one for tonight. President Bush made a deal with the drug industry so that the government could not negotiate drug prices. He also blocked the importation of drugs.
That effectively set up an unnatural monopoly for drug companies to charge us whatever they want. You know what President Obama did? The same exact thing. He also made a deal with the drug industry allowing drug companies to keep their patents for 12 years. So, their monopoly lasts even longer. So, if I hated it under Bush, why should I love it under Obama? What‘s so radical or stream or deranged about sticking with the same position you had before? That used to be called unbiased. If anyone in the establishment media says they don‘t understand that, then I‘m not sure I could help them. If you‘d like, I could talk slower. Maybe you‘ll understand it then. This isn‘t about taking down a democratic president. It‘s about holding him accountable. That‘s what I thought the press was supposed to do.
Joining me now is Mark Halperin, editor at large of “Time Magazine” and a senior political analyst for MSNBC. Mark, what do I wrong? What am I missing here? How am I deranged?
MARK HALPERIN, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Could you redo the lead-in but talk slower? Because you said you would.
HALPERIN: No, look.
UYGUR: I can do that.
HALPERIN: The example you chose in your overall perspective I think is fantastic for democracy. Holding the government accountable. Holding all powerful interests accountable is the highest responsibility of old and new media. I think what Maureen Dowd and Robert Gibbs were talking about was a different set of issues. On which in the view of Robert Gibbs and I think some other people in the White House, the left blogosphere and other voices are unrealistic in their expectations about the difference between what‘s possible and what‘s not possible. But the example you gave and countless others, I think you‘re right on.
UYGUR: Mark, when you go to actual examples though, I don‘t see any of their points because look, what did he have to do, Robert Gibbs made up one. He said all these liberal who want to get rid of the Pentagon. Really? Name one. You couldn‘t name one in the country. So, where is the left being deranged? Just give me one example.
HALPERIN: Well, deranged is not a word I would use. I think what frustrates Robert Gibbs and other people in the White House is as I take, for example, health care. There‘s an issue where the president and a lot of democrats had great political expense which they knew going in. They knew that if they passed health care the way it came out, that they would, you know, pretty good chance they‘d suffer political costs. They passed what they felt and I think they were right, was given the way they went with democrat only votes the best bill they could. There are a lot of democrats who complain that it‘s not single pair. There‘s no public option and there‘s more focus and energy on complaining about the way the bill came out, including as you pointed out making a deal with the pharmaceutical companies. Their legislative strategy required making that deal from their point of view. They would like to se more appreciation and energy for the midterms on the overall passage of a historic act on health care rather than complaining that the bill is not perfect from the point of view from someone on the left.
UYGUR: All right. Let‘s say that this is really important. And by the way, Ruth Marcus of the “Washington Post” said that it‘s the deranged left that wants things like the public option. Now look.
HALPERIN: You‘re talking fast again. You‘re talking fast. Slow down.
UYGUR: All right. So now let me explain it really clearly. What we had was originally President Obama saying he was for a single pair. And then after he won the election, single pair? I got no interest in that, right? Not even close. Then all we wanted was a tiny, tiny thing, a public option. Just to introduced competition in any way. Instead of President Obama did is he left the system exactly as it is. We have to go to private insurance. We don‘t have a choice. Is that clear? Why is that crazy or radical to worry about that?
HALPERIN: You know why he did that? He did that because they could count the votes. They engaged in what I considered to be.
UYGUR: They never tried, Mark.
HALPERIN: .one of the shrewdest legislative. No, they tried with all their might.
UYGUR: No, they didn‘t. That was not true. Every report out of the
White house said that they did not try for the public option. They never wanted the public option. The easy answer is oh, I don‘t have the votes. Oh, what can I do? How about you try.
HALPERIN: You know what? Let me say this slowly.
UYGUR: One last question.
HALPERIN: They didn‘t have the votes. They tried and they won. Ask it slowly.
HALPERIN: Yes, sir.
UYGUR: Did Bush or Cheney ever whine about not having the votes or did they just get whatever they wanted whether it‘s the Iraq war or the largest tax cuts in history with a much narrower majority if any majority at all in the Senate?
HALPERIN: Well, they didn‘t have the problem that this president has had with Ben Nelson or Evan Bayh or Joe Lieberman getting bills through the Senate. They‘ve found a way around to do that. That doesn‘t mean this White House isn‘t trying as hard. It just means the makeup of the body and the discipline was a little different on the republican side, in part I think Robert Gibbs would tell you was because the institutional right was more supportive of reinforcing the mission of the Bush White House than the institutional left is of professional left is of supporting this president‘s agenda.
UYGUR: Then you‘re saying, Drug deals as Bush does, we‘re supposed to support them why? Bow our head, why? No, I didn‘t like that deal under Bush. I don‘t like it under Obama. Mark, it‘s been a good conversation.
HALPERIN: And I think it‘s fantastic that you have that point of view on issues like that. And I bet Robert Gibbs does too.
UYGUR: All right. I‘m not so sure about that, but thank you, Mark.
All right. Now, let‘s get some rapid fire response from our panel on these stories.
President Obama made a bold statement about the mosque at Ground Zero.
I think he backtracked the next day.
And President Obama stepped up his attacks on congressional republicans today, accusing them of pushing a “no, we can‘t” agenda.
Republican Senator Bob Corker has a plan to stimulate the economy.
Stop all the reform bills and extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
With us tonight, Bill Press, nationally syndicated radio show host and Ron Christie, a republican strategist. So, Ron, let me start with you on the mosque. Well, you know, if we‘re saying that they can‘t build the mosque there, aren‘t we saying all Muslims are guilty even if they have nothing to do with Al Qaeda?
RON CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Cenk, of course, not. I mean, that is an absurd argument. I think what people are saying is that they have a fundamental constitutional right and they have the ability under the New York zoning code to built a mosque at Ground Zero or very near it. That‘s not the issue here. The issue here is, is it the right thing to do? Is it the proper thing to do to put a center that ostensibly is to bring people of different faiths together and they have a reconciliation and a dialogue is putting it near Ground Zero the right thing to do? And I think absolutely not. And a majority of the American people say absolutely not. But to suggest that this is a religious argument or a constitutional argument, it‘s false. Is it the right thing to do? That‘s what we‘re grappling with.
UYGUR: All right. Bill, what do you say?
BILL PRESS, SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW HOST: Let me tell you something, first of all, we‘re not talking Ground Zero, right? Let‘s get that straight. We‘re talking two blocks from Ground Zero. There are apartment buildings there. There‘s a Catholic Church there, there‘s a pizza parlor there. There are hotels there. God know, there might even be a porn shop there. This is not a sacred site. This is all about religion and the opponents, there‘s only one reason to oppose this mosque. And that is to paint Islam as an evil religion and to paint all Muslims and equate them with a 19 terrorist who flew into that building. It is wrong. It is un-American and the people against it ought to be ashamed of playing a cheap political trick.
CHRISTIE: Bill, this absolutely has something to do with a sacred ground. Why? Because the landing gear from one of the airplanes actually damaged the building in question that we‘re talking about. So, you can laugh and scoff. But the fact that this building was damaged by an airplane that was flown into the World Trade Center.
CHRISTIE: I think the question is, do they have the right to build it there? They do. It is the wrong thing to do, Bill.
PRESS: Ron, there were dozens of buildings that were damaged in those attacks. Let me tell you something, this was a Burlington Coat Company Department Store. A sacred site? Jesus! I mean, let‘s get straight with our definitions here and not make it up. This is all about hatred of Islam and hatred of Muslims. Let‘s stand for what America really stands for, which is freedom of religion for all, Ron, for all.
UYGUR: Ron and Bill, your points are very clear on that. I‘ve got to go on to McConnell. Now, Bill, let me stay with you for a second. McConnell says that his job is obstruction. Isn‘t he right if he‘s the opposition party? Shouldn‘t he obstruct the president‘s agenda?
PRESS: No, no, that‘s not what the opposition party is there for. You know, I remember the days of the Howard Baker and Robert Dole, when they were majority leader or minority leader. The job of the Congress is to solve the problems facing their country. You know, what about jobs? What about global warming? What about the environment? What about more stimulus money? What about the 99ersers? I think it is stunning for the minority leader to say, in the most—the least effective Congress probably that we‘ve ever seen certainly in the Senate for him to say, I wish we could have done even less. That‘s not why they send people here to Washington to do nothing.
UYGUR: Ron, how about that? I mean, if the republicans want to block everything, what‘s their bright ideas? And please for the love of God, don‘t say taxes, don‘t say though tax cut. Because that‘s the only thing they‘ve ever got.
CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, I think, I do agree with Bill on one point. I think elective representatives come to Washington to do the will of the American people. And I think we‘ve seen the democrats to control the Congress since 2007. This administration has been in the White House since 2009. I think, they have governed far from the left, I think they‘ve governed far from the will of the American people. The Republican Party in addition to standing for tax cuts is very much in favor of a strong national security. We want to have a strong and vibrant free trade. We have several free trade agreements with Colombia, with Panama, with South Korea that I think could stimulate the economy and get people back to work. We can make these investments in infrastructure. We can make these investments in the American people, but having one party be at the republicans or democrats bully against the will of the American people is the wrong thing. And I think, that‘s why the democrats are going to take a beating this November.
UYGUR: Ron and Bill, we got to go. Great points, guys. I appreciate it. Although Obama being on the far left is very amusing. OK.
PRESS: He‘s a far leftist.
CHRISTIE: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: Hold his is feet to the fire. That‘s our job. All right.
Up next, the campaigner in chief on the road stumping this week. He‘s fired up. But can he convince anyone? Steve McMahon has the answers, next.
UYGUR: Let me know what you think. Tonight‘s text survey question is, do you think President Obama flip flopped on building the mosque near Ground Zero? Text A for yes, text B for no to 622639. The results are coming up.
UYGUR: In the Playbook tonight, President Obama will hit five states in three days, stumping and raising money for democrats in the mid terms. The president says he‘s, quote, “pretty good at politicking.” But independent support for democrats has eroded. Only 32 percent of unaffiliated voters say they want democrats to keep control of Congress, according to a new associated press poll. I think the president hasn‘t made his case clearly enough. He‘s let the republicans run all over him in an effort to be bipartisan and inoffensive. Forget about trying to convince conservative that you‘re a swell guy. They‘re not going to vote for you anyway. Here‘s what the president should do instead. Energize his base so they show up to vote and make a forceful case to independents.
Joining me now is democratic strategist Steve McMahon. Steve, what do you think? Am I overstating the case? Has the president been bold in stating his case and rallying the troops?
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think he‘s been busy trying to right the economy and get things done here in Washington. And now as we turn to campaign season, I think you‘re going to see him do exactly what you suggested. He needs to remind people what it was he walked into which was an absolute unmitigated mess. He needs to remind people of what he‘s done including his base, what he‘s done that they care deeply about the progressive base of the Democratic Party has been fighting for national health insurance and for health insurance reform and health care for 50 years or longer. And it‘s been the most important thing to that base. And he got it done. First president ever to tackle it and get it done. He‘s got to remind people of the things he‘s done. And finally, he‘s got to suggest to independents what might happen if the republicans get control of things again. Because independents left the Republican Party in 2006 and 2008 for very good reasons. And if he reminds them of what those reasons were, I suspect that he can get them back.
UYGUR: But he is constantly talking on the circuit now about how the republicans left the car in the ditch and we don‘t want to give them the keys back. That‘s a very good point. Why did he wait until right before the election to do that? Why hasn‘t he been saying that all along, so he can say, hey, listen, your other option is terrible, you‘ve got to do financial reform, et cetera. Why didn‘t he take the fight to them and before the elections rolled around?
MCMAHON: Well, you know, what happens here in Washington a lot of times is you have your governing phase where Congress and the president and everybody tries to get whatever they‘re going to get done done , and then everybody splits down and goes out and campaigns. I agree with you that it would have been good for the president to remind people more regularly what it was he walk into, what he inherited and what a mess it was. And people, you know, they forget that because their head hurts, that when you stop beating your head against the wall, your head still hurts but you‘re not doing any more damage.
And that‘s pretty much what the economic stimulus package did, taking over the auto industry and saving it and bringing it back from the brink. America makes things today. It was something that the president didn‘t want to do, but he did. And he should be praised for it. You know, he did all that bailout for Wall Street. And tax payers have reaped billions of dollars because he did it in a way where he attached strings and it had to be paid back. And taxpayers were repaid with interest and dividends. That‘s a good stewardship of the economy. It‘s totally different than what we saw for eight years under George Bush.
UYGUR: I‘m not sure I agree with that last part about us getting paid back. There‘s a lot of indirect bailouts, et cetera. But I‘m going to leave it right there. You get the last word on that Steve, and thank you for joining us. I really appreciate it.
MCMAHON: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right. Up next, one of the richest men in the entire world just declared war on the Obama administration. He compares the president to Hitler over taxes. I‘ll explain the class warfare that the rich have started on the middle class. Jonathan Alter joins me next.
UYGUR: The worst of the Tea Party rhetoric has made its way to the mouths of big business. The CEO of private equity firm, The Blackstorm Group, Stephen Schwarzman had this disgusting comparison. While talking about the tension between President Obama and private equity firms over the administration‘s effort to increase taxes he said, quote, “It‘s a war.” It‘s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” What a ridiculous comment comparing Obama to Hitler invading Poland.
Now, let me turn to MSNBC political analyst and “Newsweek” national affairs columnist Jonathan Alter. Jonathan is also the author of the book “The Promise: President Obama, Year One.” Jonathan, he‘s so worked up about Obama‘s plans on raising taxes. What is he going to raise it, to 90 percent or something? What does Stephen Schwarzman pay now in what they called carried interest?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, when I was working on this story for “Newsweek” which just came out today about Schwarzman, I found that not only did he say this, he said it to a non-profit group. Now, the person who first told me about this did so with the understanding that I not identify which non-profit, but talk about an outrageous comment. Basically, the issue is this. Right now, if you are in that business, if you‘re a hedge fund manager, you pay at 15 percent instead of 35 percent. You‘re paying at a lower tax rate than your secretary, your chauffeur, and these are folks who are making hundreds of millions of dollars. Steve Schwarzman is worth $8 billion.
And they‘re very upset and aggrieved and feel victimized that they‘re being asked to pay taxes like any other person would pay. Now, there is an additional tax matter that you know is debatable. And that‘s the thing he‘s upset about right now that would require you to not get favorable capital gains rates if you were to sell your investment partnership. That affects many other people. So, but let‘s set aside of the merits of their arguments on the taxes. And just look at the rhetoric here. And it‘s a window into the sense of entitlement and just completely disconnected from reality. And that sense on Wall Street that they feel aggrieved like they‘re victims. It‘s pathetic.
UYGUR: John, that‘s why I talk about a war, right? I mean, I think, they‘ve already started that war. The wealthy have got a 15 percent rate in this case. And they did that by capturing the government and they‘re still not happy about it.
ALTER: Well, this has been going on for many years. And Obama promised in the campaign to do something about this issue. It‘s called carried interest. And so far, he‘s been stymied on it. He‘s trying. But there have been some miscalculations on the part of the administration. It hasn‘t gone through. There are other mistakes Obama has made. He has not been as diplomatic as he might be with Wall Street. You and I disagree.
UYGUR: He needs to kick their ass more.
ALTER: You and I disagree on this.
UYGUR: Right. Definitely.
ALTER: Getting into some sort of a war with Wall Street is not sensible for a president. But for Wall Street to say.
UYGUR: Jonathan, we got to go.
ALTER: .he‘s waging war when he‘s not is really pathetic and offensive.
UYGUR: Well, I agree with that last part. No question. Thank you, Jonathan.
ALTER: Thanks a lot, Cenk.
UYGUR: Tonight in our text survey, we asked you, do you think President Obama flip flopped on building the mosque near Ground Zero? Twenty five percent say yes, look at that, 75 percent say no. OK. The people have spoken. That‘s THE ED SHOW. I‘m Cenk Uygur. Thanks for watching.
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