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The Ed Show for Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Thomas Roberts, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Wendell Potter, Jim Cantore, Rep. Barbara Lee,

Brian Balthazar

ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  Good evening, Americans.  And welcome to THE ED SHOW from New York tonight.

Thomas Roberts will be here tonight anchoring the program, but first, I want to take some time to offer an apology.

On my radio show yesterday, I used vile and inappropriate language when talking about talk show host Laura Ingraham.  I am deeply sorry, and I apologize.

It was wrong, uncalled for and I recognize the severity of what I said.

I apologized to you, Laura, and ask for your forgiveness.  It doesn‘t matter what the circumstances were.  It doesn‘t matter that it was on radio and I was ad libbing.  None of that matters.  None of that matters.

What matters is what I said was terribly vile and not of the standards that I or any other person should adhere to.

I want all of you to know tonight that I did call Laura Ingraham today and did not make contact with her and I will apologize to her as I did in the message that I left her today.

I also met with management here at MSNBC, and understanding the severity of the situation and what I said on the radio and how it reflected terribly on this company, I have offered to take myself off the air for an indefinite period of time with no pay.

I want to apologize to Laura Ingraham.


I want to apologize to my family, my wife.  I have embarrassed my family.  I have embarrassed this company.  And I have been in this business since 1978, and I have made a lot of mistakes.  This is the lowest of low for me.

I stand before you tonight in front of this camera in this studio in an environment that I absolutely love.  I love working here.  I love communicating with all of you on the radio and the communication that I have with you when I go out and do town hall meetings and meet the people that actually watch.

I stand before you tonight to take full responsibility for what I said and how I said it, and I am deeply sorry.

My wife is a wonderful woman.  We have a wonderful family.  And with six kids and eight grandkids, I try to set an example.  In this moment, I have failed.  And I want you to know that I talked to my sons especially about character and about dignity and about the truth.

And I tell you the truth tonight that I am deeply sorry and I tell them every day that they have to live up to standards if they want to be a successful human being in life.  And I have let them down.  I have never been in this position before to the point where it has affected so many people.  And I know that I have let a lot of people down.

To the staff here at MSNBC, I apologize for embarrassing the company, and the only way that I can really make restitution for you is to give you a guarantee, and the only way that I can prove my sincerity in all of this is if I never use those words again.  Tonight, you have my word that I won‘t.

Laura Ingraham, I am sorry.  Very sorry.  I‘ll be back with you in the day—coming days.



THOMAS ROBERTS, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Paul Ryan is doubling down.


REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  The president and his party have decided to demagogue Medicare.


THOMAS:  Today, the Senate rejected the Ryan plan.  Senator Bernie Sanders is here.

Mitt Romney is twisting himself into knots over his calls to let the American auto industry go bankrupt.

The deadly weather in the Midwest continues to wreak havoc.  We‘ll have the latest.

And Oprah bids farewell.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST:  I won‘t say good-bye.  I‘ll just say until we meet again.


ROBERTS:  We‘ll show you the footage from her unusual farewell show.


ROBERTS:  Hi, everybody.  Welcome to THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, filling in for Ed Schultz.

Last night, Democrats wrote an anti-Ryan budget wave to victory in New York‘s 26th congressional district.  And this morning, Paul Ryan wasn‘t licking his wounds.  He was doubling down on his plan to end Medicare as we know it.

Just a few hours ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid forced Senate Republicans to make an up-or-down vote on the Ryan budget.  The vote failing, 57-40.  All but five Republicans voted for Ryan‘s plan—Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown broke with their party to vote against that plan.

Both Senators Snowe and Brown are up for re-election come 2012.  And while the Ryan budget may prove to be politically toxic for the Republicans come that date this, morning Ryan blamed the Republican failure in New York 26 on the Democrats.


RYAN:  The president and his party have decided to shamelessly distort and demagogue Medicare.  So, we‘re going to see a new medi-scare reform campaign here.


ROBERTS:  This week in defending his budget, Congressman Ryan has been painting the Democratic health care reform as rationing for seniors.  But this morning, he accused Democrats of using scare tactics.


RYAN:  I saw burning people‘s Medicare cards.  If you can scare seniors into thinking that their current benefits are being affected, that‘s going to have an effect.  And that is exactly what took place here.  So, yes, it‘s demagoguery.  It‘s scaring seniors.


ROBERTS:  Now, last week, Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse pointed out the Ryan Medicare plan would indeed begin costing seniors immediately because it would repeal the prescription drug donut hole.


SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  But the Republicans are saying that this won‘t affect seniors now, that the cuts are all off in future years is flat out false.  That solution to the donut hole problem gets repealed by the Ryan budget.  And that will hit home right away to seniors in Rhode Island and to seniors across this country.


ROBERTS:  Still, Paul Ryan is certain that his plan for Americans is right, even though 80 percent of Americans are happy with Medicare and Medicaid as the way that it is.


RYAN:  We want to be on the right side of history, Gretchen.  We want to do what‘s right.  And I believe in a year and a half time, the American people will see the facts, and they will reward the political leader who is actually solving the problem than the demagoguing politician who should making empty promises.


ROBERTS:  All right.  So, polling out today shows if there were to be any kind of cuts to Medicare, that President Obama would get blamed.  And “Politico” is reporting today that polling done in Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota and Montana shows significant resistance to cuts in benefits in these swing states.  Fifty-eight percent of Ohio voters said they were less likely to vote for President Obama if he backed or signed cuts to Medicare and 53 percent said they were less likely to vote for him if he altered the retirement age.

Today, ABC News caught Congressman Ryan discussing the future of Medicare and the election last night with a rather prominent Democrat.

Take a look at that picture.  Former President Bill Clinton told Ryan the Democrats shouldn‘t use New York 26 as an excuse to leave Medicare alone.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  I hope the Democrats don‘t use it as an excuse to do nothing.

RYAN:  My guess is it‘s going to sink into paralysis is what‘s going to happen.  You know the math.  I mean, it‘s just—we knew we were putting ourselves out there.  But you‘ve got to start this.  You‘ve got to get out there.  You‘ve got to get this thing moving.


ROBERTS:  All right.  Joining me now is independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Sir, it‘s good have you on tonight.

I want to ask you first off: do you believe that last night‘s election influenced any of the Republicans not to vote for this budget?  Was it really that big of a deal to them?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  I don‘t think it was just the election last night.  I think it‘s poll after poll and I think it‘s the meetings that senators and Congress people are something with their constituents.

The bottom line is that what the Ryan budget would do immediately in terms of the donut hole in 10 years for everybody else who will get Medicare at that point is to decimate a program that is working very, very well for ordinary Americans right now, converted into a voucher program, charge senior citizens $6,000 a year more as they begin negotiations with a private insurance company.

Most Americans think that that is a very bad idea.  Imagine somebody in 10 years at the age of 65 getting an $8,000 coupon to go out to a private insurance company with an income of $15,000 or $16,000 a year.  What happens to you after your first three days in the hospital?

So the point is in my view, Thomas, clearly we have to move toward deficit reduction.  But we have to do it in a way that calls for shared sacrifice.  What the Ryan budget does is not only end Medicare as we know it, slash Medicaid, which would be a disaster for seniors in nursing homes and for kids, make major cuts in education, environmental protection, et cetera.

At the end of the day, it also, amazingly enough, provides a trillion dollars in tax breaks for the richest people in this country who today are doing phenomenally well.  So, you make drastic cuts for working families and low-income people.  You give tax breaks to the rich.  The American people do not agree with that approach.

ROBERTS:  Sir, Rachel Maddow interviewed Harry Reid today.  She asked him about Democratic support for some cuts in Medicare.

Take a listen to this and I have a question for you on the back side.


RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST:  Steny Hoyer is saying that Medicare must be on the table for discussions about deficit cutting.

Do Democrats have a clear message that they will for this—


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  Yes, Steny would—just reflect back just a few moments ago, we saved one half trillion dollars in our health care plan as it relates to Medicare.


ROBERTS:  All right.  So, sir, there‘s people out there who would say that the only way Republicans can rescue the Ryan budget is for Ryan to actually even run for president.  Is that something you would agree with when—right now at this point in time, it‘s really about saving face?

SANDERS:  Well, I think in fairness to the Congressman Ryan, he has brought forth a very bold idea which represents what Republicans in my view are about.  Tax breaks for billionaires, no cuts in military spending despite the fact we‘ve tripled our defense budget since 1997, doing away with Medicare as we know it and massive cuts for programs that tens of millions of Americans depend upon.

I think, frankly, whether Ryan runs for president or somebody else, I

think the American people should begin that discussion about the future of

our country.  Do we give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and

cut programs that working families need or is there a fairer way to move

toward a balanced budget?  I believe that at a time when we lose $100

billion every year because corporations and wealthy people use tax havens

in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, when you have corporation after

corporation making billions in profits and paying nothing in taxes, when

the richest people today who are doing phenomenally well have the lowest

effective tax rate that they have ever had in the history of this country -

I think there are ways to move toward a balanced budget calling for shared sacrifice in ways that are fair.  And I think this is what the American people believe.


ROBERTS:  When you talk about moving toward a balanced budget—as an independent, do you think the 40 Republicans who vote forward the Ryan budget are going to end up paying for it politically in the end?

SANDERS:  Yes, I do.  I think the more—despite what Congressman Ryan says, the more people look at that budget, it is not just Medicare.

ROBERTS:  Right.

SANDERS:  It is not just savage cuts in Medicaid.  You have middle class families today who are seeing a decline in their standard of living, desperately trying to figure out a way to send their kids to college.  Here‘s plan savage cuts in the Pell grant program, savage cuts in nutrition programs, savage cuts in housing.

I think the more people who look at the Ryan budget, the more they are going to understand how bad it is.  And if the Republicans want to defend that budget, I say—go for it.  You do it.

I think they are going to lose badly in the next election if they do that.

ROBERTS:  And all but four Republicans in the House and 40 Senate Democrats voted to end Medicare as we know it now.  So, do you think that they are still going to try to say this was just a first step?

SANDERS:  I‘m not sure what they will say, but at the end of the day, in a moment, Thomas, where our economy is so unstable, where the middle class is in steep decline, where people are so uncertain about the future, they want to hold on to the foundations of our social safety net.  That is Social Security and Medicare, and their right to want to hold on to those programs.  They are working for the American people.

In my view, as I‘ve just said, we can and should move toward deficit reduction very boldly.  But you‘ve got to do it by asking the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations who are making huge profits to start paying their fair share of taxes.  You have to start cutting back on military spending, ending the war in Afghanistan.

There are ways you can move toward a balanced budget without devastating working families.

ROBERTS:  Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont—great to see you, sir, tonight.  Thanks for your time.

SANDERS:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  All right.  The playbook for how the Democrats can regain the House may be obvious.  It is all about Medicare.  And Democrats are focusing on nearly 100 seats held by Republicans.  That‘s coming your way next.

And then the latest update on the extreme weather in the Midwest and what‘s being done in Congress to fund those relief efforts.

Stay with us right here on THE ED SHOW.


ROBERTS:  All right.  It‘s official—Democrats now say they have a strategy to regain the House in 2012.  It IS called Medicare.

Congressman Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, put it starkly, that there are 97 congressional districts currently represented by Republican that are more moderate than New York 26.  So, there are 97 Republican members of Congress who are probably losing a lot of sleep.

Even with the GOP‘s big victory last November, the facts are only 25 seats would have to change from Republican to Democratic hands to end Republican rule come 2012 -- 25 seats out of the 97 seats that Congressman Israel plans to go after.

But make that 98.  Democrats also want to focus on the seat held by the architect of the GOP budget himself, Congressman Paul Ryan.  Congressman Israel said, “We have an excellent Democratic candidate named Rob Zerban, who got into the race largely because he couldn‘t tolerate Paul Ryan‘s leadership on a plan to terminate Medicare while funding tax cuts for big oil companies.”

And the man at the center of the storm, Congressman Ryan, is now going to great lengths to resell his Medicare plan.  But for American seniors, is he already a day late and a dollar short?

That‘s next.


ROBERTS:  It looks like Congressman Paul Ryan understands at leaflet one part of the political reality created by his Medicare plan.  It‘s going to be a big issue in the 2012 congressional elections.  In defending that plan today, he pointed out the year and a half until the next election.


RYAN:  So, so we have a year and a half, and I believe in a year and a half‘s time, the truth will get out.  The facts will be known.  Whenever I do town hall meetings and discuss this with seniors at senior centers, once they understand the facts, they want these solutions.


ROBERTS:  The kinds ever solutions that Ryan is talking about are in his new web video full of highly polished graphics.  But in the video, Ryan doesn‘t talk about turning Medicare into a voucher program.  Instead he uses a phrase for voucher as premium support.

But critics say he doesn‘t explain that either.  He, does however, claim that his Medicare program will provide greater choices for seniors.


RYAN:  Patients will have the freedom of choice from a list of guaranteed coverage options.  The same kind of system members of Congress enjoy today.


ROBERTS:  Let‘s bring in and say good evening to former health industry executive Wendell Potter, also a contributor to “The Huffington Post.”

Wendell, it‘s good to have you on with us.

I want to start with that clip from the Ryan video.  Patients would have coverage options like those enjoyed by members of Congress.  Is that true?  Because if so, it sounds pretty sweet.

WENDELL POTTER, FORMER HEALTH INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE:  Well, the problem is, senior don‘t really want to have choices.  They want to have a program that works for them that helps to control costs and will be there when they need it.

I don‘t think that any senior citizen wants to think that when they are sick, when they are really needing to make decisions about what Medicare provider to sign up with, if they are going to be having to face that choice.

What Ryan is talking about is really privatizing the program, turning

it over to private insurance companies, many of which are now for profit

insurance companies that have shown over the past several years they have -

they are simply not capable of controlling health care costs.


ROBERTS:  Wendell, in interviews lately, Ryan has claimed the voucher program or as they call it in this plan, premium support, is not really a fair way to describe his plan.  So, break it down for us.  Is it fair?  What does it really do when we talk about it to the Medicare system?

POTTER:  Well, I think he‘s trying to get us into a game of semantics. 

What it is, is a plan that would begin privatize the program.  It would—

the government would pay premium dollars to private insurance companies—

premium dollars coming and also coming from American taxpayers.  They would

be capped at a certain amount so over the course of time, you‘d be facing -

that senior citizens would be paying far more out of their own pockets than they are now.


ROBERTS:  So, the congressional budget office is saying Ryan‘s plan would do less to contain the growth of health care costs than leaving it as it is because private plans—they have those higher administrative costs than Medicare.  So, if they‘re all about cuts, all about savings, how does this fiscally make any sense when it comes to the bottom line?

POTTER:  It doesn‘t make any sense.  It‘s just the whole idea they are trying to sell that if it‘s privatized, private industry, private companies can do a better job than the government.  But that‘s just simply not true.

And I think he‘s right.  I think when the public starts to look at his plan and also take a look at what the private insurance industry has not been able to do, I think they will realize that his plan does not save any money and it will actually lead to a big nightmare for a lot of senior citizens.

ROBERTS:  Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says Ryan‘s plan threatens another benefits of the Affordable Care Act.  Can you explain that to us?

POTTER:  Well, the Affordable Care Act for the first time requires the Medicare program to cover preventive care.  That would go away if the Affordable Care Act is done away with and replaced with Ryan‘s plan.  It also begins to close a donut hole.  It begins to make sure that people in the Medicare program get coverage for drugs and don‘t have to pay so much out of their pockets over time.  That will go away.

So, it will—it would mean a program that would take away a lot of the gains that senior citizens have achieved and are achieving through the Affordable Care Act.

ROBERTS:  Politically speaking, should Ryan be hanging his head on this?

POTTER:  I think he‘s foolish if he does it.  But he really thinks and I think he‘s got some reason to think he should get it and that is support from the private insurance industry.  They want this plan.

So, they‘ll be putting a lot of money into trying to help him educate, if you will, the American public to see things their way.

ROBERTS:  Doesn‘t that make him look store bought then?

POTTER:  It should because it certainly will be that he would be store bought.

But it is a store bought plan from the beginning.  It is a plan that the insurance industry dreamed up.  They would like nothing more than to have the entire program handed to them and having premium support in the way of premiums that go from the government to the private insurance industry.  It‘s a dream come true for the private insurance industry—as I said before, a nightmare for senior citizens.

ROBERTS:  Wendell Potter, author of “Deadly Spin”—Wendell, great to have you on this evening.  Thanks for your time.

POTTER:  Thank you, Thomas.

ROBERTS:  Coming up: Mitt Romney is trying to take credit for the auto bailout that he once said would destroy the industry.  And Democrats are calling him out on it.

And next, the government agency is taking two energy companies to court.  We‘re going to tell you what it could mean for the price that you are paying right now at the pump.


ROBERTS:  The government agency charged with regulating futures markets is taking oil speculators to court over the unreasonably high cost of gasoline.  And U.S. Commodities and Futures Trading Commission filed a suit against two companies, Parnon Energy and Arcadia Energy, alleging manipulation of gas prices in 2008. 

The suit marks the first specific instance of speculators contributing to the high price of gas.  Now in a statement, the CFTc said, “according to the allegations the defendants conducted a manipulative cycle, driving the price of oil to artificial highs and then back down to make an unlawful profits.” 

The suit is just the latest indication that today‘s high gas prices are being driven by unregulated oil speculation.  Last month, Goldman Sachs told its investors that speculation could account for a fifth of oil prices.  The CEO of Exxonmobil, Rex Tillerson, testified in Congress this month that without speculation, oil would be at 60 or 70 bucks a barrel, not above 100 dollars. 

The Secretary-General of OPEC, Abdula Saleen al Badri (ph), told “the Wall Street Journal,” quote, “the best thing to do to lower oil prices is to curb some speculation and also reduce taxes.” 

Just last week, House Republican Leader Eric Cantor told speculators in Chicago that Republicans in Congress would do their part to lift regulations on energy speculation. 


REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, OHIO:  We want to help you continue to lead for America.  That means we‘ve got to do our part when you see the implementation of Dodd/Frank coming at you like a barreling train.  We want to help control that and—so that we can get some sensible—sensible follow-up to that legislation that‘s very troubling. 


ROBERTS:  Earlier this week, House Republicans revealed how they may try to exert some of that control.  The House Appropriations Committee released a bill for fiscal year 2012 that would slash the CFTC funding request by 44 percent.  CFTC officials have repeatedly said they need additional funding in order to implement the new requirements mandated by the Dodd/Frank legislation, including oversight of commodities speculation. 

Well, more deadly storms are in the forecast unbelievably throughout the Midwest tonight.  We‘re going to tell you how the devastated areas are coping and whether they are getting the proper needed relief funding. 

And no celebrities, no giveaways.  Today‘s Oprah show finale, it was just her, just Oprah.  We‘ve got the highlights that you don‘t want to miss coming up.


ROBERTS:  Welcome back, everybody.  At least nine people in the Oklahoma City area are dead after three tornadoes barreled through the state capital.  That brings yesterday‘s death toll from the storms to 15 people in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas. 

And the survivors continue to sift through debris.  Forecasters say that more severe storms are expected throughout the Midwest tonight.  The Weather Channel‘s Jim Cantore filed this report for “NBC Nightly News.”


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a killer tornado.  An absolutely killer tornado. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Look at the debris.  That‘s a roof.  It‘s taking roofs. 

JIM CANTORE, THE WEATHER CHANNEL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As a series of tornadoes swept through central Oklahoma Last night, this one in Chickashay (ph), they ripped through everything in their path, killing eight people. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a trailer house. 

CANTORE:  One twister rolled through Shawnee, seen here crossing I-40. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a half mile wide.  It‘s right here. 

CANTORE:  NBC station KFOR was on the air and on the ground near Elreno.  Meteorologist David Payne was in the middle of it. 

DAVID PAYNE, NBC METEOROLOGIST:  Across highway 81 is where it intensified and it almost got us. 

CANTORE:  While in the air, reporter Jim Gardner described what he saw. 

JIM GARDNER, NBC REPORTER:  Look at this tornado.  This is just unbelievable.  Get off I-35 now because you won‘t be able to see this tornado.  And this thing just keeps growing and growing.  It‘s just pulling everything in. 

CANTORE:  left behind, a path of destruction and homes flattened right down to their concrete slabs. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s their house.  It‘s just gone. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wait a little bit until you quit seeing ambulances. 

CANTORE:  In northeast Piedmont, a frantic search for survivors. 

Emergency workers quickly found a mother and two of her three children. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We suspect they were in the bathtub. 

CANTORE:  This morning, the 15-month-old child died while the search continued for the missing three-year-old.  In Arkansas, three were killed.  And another tornado whipped through central Kansas.  The violent storm uprooted and blew an enormous tree over on to a van, killing the two people inside. 


ROBERTS:  Just amazing images.  Our thanks to Weather Channel‘s Jim Cantore for that report. 

Controversy over funding the disaster relief effort in Joplin, Missouri, has not died down.  Democrats in the House and Senate today criticized House Republican Leader Eric Cantor for insisting that any federal aid to Joplin be offset with spending cuts. 

Let‘s bring in now Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, representing California‘s ninth district.  Congresswoman, good evening.  It‘s nice to have you on with us. 

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA:  Good evening.  I‘m glad to be with you, Thomas. 

ROBERTS:  You were on the House Appropriations Committee have approved the money for Joplin after making cuts yesterday.  So how did the committee go ahead and decide what to cut?  And I also want to get your opinion about how you feel about that process. 

LEE:  First, let me just say that my thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the victims in the communities who have just been really traumatized by these terrible, terrible natural disasters.  And it is just such a horrible time. 

And as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I want to tell you, I want to do everything I can do to help these communities and these families and these children and mothers and fathers rebuild and move forward.  And I wanted to see an appropriations bill that would fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency adequately. 

But what happened yesterday in the Appropriations Committee, the Republicans cut these budgets by three billion dollars.  And I felt very, very sad, first of all, about that process, because this should not be partisan.  This is a humanitarian crisis and disaster. 

We should do everything we can do to help fund what—the disasters and what is taking place.  First of all, they cut first responder funding.  They cut assistance to communities with—at high risk of terrorist attacks.  They cut our firefighters‘ training programs. 

They cut funds for port security and rail security.  They cut disaster relief.  I can‘t for the life of me understand how the Republican priorities really come to grips with where the American people are, because I know the American people would want us to fully fund any type of disaster relief, any type of emergency preparedness, and make sure that our firefighters and our first responders have the resources that they need. 

It‘s about priorities.  And I am very, quite frankly, sad about this. 

It was horrible.

ROBERTS:  Congresswoman, as we continue to watch the forecast for the area, deadly storms continuing to affect the south, multiple states.  Will the House continue to insist that funding for these disasters be offset by spending cuts?  For all of us at home that are watching the process of what you guys do in Washington, is this just really a big bait and switch? 

LEE:  Well, let me tell you, Democrats are not saying this.  That is -

what has taken place is an emergency.  We should not tinker around the edges.  We should not insist on spending cuts for disasters. 


This is an emergency.  And I just can‘t understand why it is being politicized, because these people need a lot of help.  These communities need a lot of help. 

I come from California.  I come from a state where we have earthquakes, fires, floods.  I know exactly what is taking place in these communities.  And I know good and well that they are looking to our federal government for assistance.  They need us to help. 

And so to cut by three billion dollars these budgets in the midst of this—my God, I think this is very cruel.  And I think it‘s wrong.  And, believe you me, there are many of us who are going to continue to fight to make sure that these communities have the resources they deserve and that they need, especially in this time of crisis. 

ROBERTS:  I‘ve been a resident of California, a resident of your state, so I know about earthquakes, fire, floods, mudslides.  I‘ve also been a resident of Nebraska, where I know about the damage that can come and the heartbreaking damage that comes after a tornado can come in and take your home away. 

So how are your Republican colleagues who have constituents that are affected directly, right now, by the storm situations that we‘ve been watching across this country?  How are they responding to their constituents?  How can they look them in the face and tell them that relief is on the way when it‘s being held hostage almost in Washington, D.C.? 

LEE:  I don‘t really know how they can do that.  But I do know in the Appropriations Committee yesterday, the compassion and the words were said.  But then the actions did not follow the rhetoric.  And so I don‘t know how they explain this to people that they are cutting three billion dollars from a budget. 

Democrats, myself included, are fighting very hard to try to find out how we can fix this and restore this three billion dollars, because people deserve this. 

This is an emergency.  They should not play politics with the lives and the responses that these people are going to have to deal with.  They‘ve got to pick up the pieces now.  There‘s a lot of trauma, a lot of death and destruction, a lot of pain and suffering. 

And so I, for the life of me, don‘t know how anyone can look their constituents in their face and say that we‘ve cut funding to help you adequately respond.  I don‘t know how you can talk to our firefighters. 

ROBERTS:  In your professional opinion, though, speaking—federally speaking, on a scale of one to 10, what do you think the federal response has been, you included? 

LEE:  Well, based on yesterday‘s vote in the Appropriations Committee, I think it‘s pretty dismal.  But I‘m going to tell you myself, I voted not for what they did.  All of the Democrats opposed what the Republicans did yesterday. 

And so we‘re working very hard to figure out a way—because given the fact that we‘re in the minority, of course, in the House, the Republicans don‘t want to work in a bipartisan way to try to help move this forward.  So we‘re fighting very hard to try to determine a way that that we can restore this three billion dollars without allowing this to be politicized. 

This is about people‘s lives, about people‘s communities.  And we‘ve got to help and help immediately. 

ROBERTS:  And as we see, you are still late at work this evening. 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, thanks for joining us tonight. 

LEE:  Thank you. 

ROBERTS:  Mitt Romney once said that President Obama‘s attempt to rescue the auto industry would virtually guarantee its demise.  Now that U.S. car companies are rebounding, he‘s saying the bailout was his idea all along.  We‘re going to have a refresher in modern automotive history next.  Stay with us.


ROBERTS:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts.  This week with Chrysler paying off its federal loans six years ahead of schedule, proponents feel there‘s little doubt that President Obama‘s decision to rescue the auto industry was a success.  However, that success puts Republicans like Mitt Romney in a tough spot. 

For the record, Romney thought the auto bailout was a terrible idea.  In a 2008 op-ed, he called it “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” saying, he wrote, “if General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American auto industry good-bye.” 

But now the American auto industry is rebounding.  And Romney and his people are singing a much different tune, claiming credit for the success of the bailout.  His spokesman said “Mitt Romney had the idea first.  You have to acknowledge that.  He was advocating for a course of action that eventually the Obama administration adopted.” 

But according to the record, he wasn‘t advocating for it back in 2009. 

Take a listen. 


MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS:  This is a real sad day.  I mean, I am a son of Detroit.  My dad was an auto executive.  You know, I drive American cars.  I love American cars. 

My heart bleeds for the people in Michigan and Detroit for all those auto workers.  This is a very, very sad circumstance for this country.  It‘s really tragic a lot of respects. 

And it has not been well played, either in my view by the Bush administration or by the Obama administration. 


ROBERTS:  After Romney‘s attacks on the auto bailout, Democrats aren‘t letting him get away with taking credit for its success, including former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.  She said “Mitt Romney is doing circus-like contortions to get out from under the damaging words that he uttered in 2008.  Had this country been under the leadership of Mitt Romney in 2009, 1.4 million jobs supported by the American auto industry would be lost.” 

While Romney contends with the fallout from his damaging words, fellow 2012 candidate Tim Pawlenty has to deal with a damaging decision that he made as governor of Minnesota.  It‘s pretty eye opening.  We‘ve got the details for you next.


ROBERTS:  Tim Pawlenty is just in the beginning stages of his presidential bid and he‘s already making some bold promises.  Here‘s what he had to say on Fox News earlier this week. 


TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA:  I‘m going to campaign on telling the truth. 


ROBERTS:  However, Pawlenty may not be so eager to share the truth about a guy from his past named Jeremy Giefer.  In 1993, Giefer plead guilty to statutory rape after impregnating a 14-year-old girl.  Now he did serve jail time.  But later down the line, he married his victim.  Fifteen years later, Giefer asked the Minnesota Board of Pardons for something called a pardon extraordinary. 

The reason?  His wife and former victim wanted to open a daycare center next door to their home.  Giefer‘s sex offender status got in the way of that small business proposal.  As governor, Pawlenty got a vote in the matter on this.  And not one to stand in the way of small business, Pawlenty apparently agreed to pardon this sex offender. 

Just like that, Giefer‘s record was wiped clean.  That is until last November when Giefer was charged with 11 counts of sexual misconduct.  His victim this time around, so sadly enough, his own daughter, the very child Giefer fathered with his previous victim turned his wife.  It took place in Giefer‘s home next door to the day care center. 

Giefer‘s daughter told local prosecutors that Giefer sexually assaulted her hundreds of times.  And according to the complaint, “Giefer had been raping his daughter for six years when Tim Pawlenty granted him a pardon.” 

She revolutionized the talk show world.  She transformed the book publishing industry.  You know exactly who we‘re talking about.  So how come she can‘t get anyone to watch her basic cable network OWN?   Ryan Balthazar is here to analyze everything Oprah coming up next.


ROBERTS:  So as “the New York Times” put it, she is the woman who introduced Anna Karenina and Spanx to the masses.  And this afternoon, millions of her fans surely went into the ugly cry as Oprah Winfrey signed off for the last time. 

It‘s been a quarter of a century.  Oprah has created so many of our pop culture moments from rolling out—remember this -- 67 pounds of fat to commemorate her weight loss, to providing a comfy landing spot for a love-struck Tom Cruise—jumping all around. 

She‘s interviewed everyone from a sitting president to a reality TV star and Facebook fan.  Oprah‘s multimedia empire has made her billions of dollars in this process.  But she certainly liked giving a lot of stuff away. 

And one lucky audience found that out just a few years back.  Remember this? 


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST:  All right.  Open your boxes.  Open your boxes.  One, two, three. 

You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  You get a car!  Everybody gets a car!  Everybody gets a car!


ROBERTS:  And that‘s how that catch phrase was started.  Nobody knew probably what that key was to in the very beginning. 

After two days of star-studded spectacles going on in Chicago‘s United Center, today‘s finale was pretty low key.  For the entire hour, it was just Oprah. 


WINFREY:  So today there will be no guests.  There will be no makeovers, no surprises—really, no surprises.  You will not be getting a car or a treat.  This last hour is really about me saying thank you. 


ROBERTS:  “The New York Times” characterized it as, quote, “something between a graduation address and a Sunday homily.”  Oprah began by recalling her very humble beginnings. 


WINFREY:  As you can see from my first day on am Chicago at WLS, I had no publicist—no publicist advising me, no stylist.  There was no hair and makeup team.  Just a Jerry Curl and a bad fur coat. 


ROBERTS:  And after sharing a few more than pearls of wisdom, it was time for her to say good-bye. 


WINFREY:  I thank you for tuning in every day along with your mothers and your sisters and your daughters, your partners, gay and otherwise, your friends and all the husbands who got coaxed into watching “Oprah.”  And I thank you for being as much of a sweet inspiration for me as I‘ve tried to be for you. 

I won‘t say good-bye.  I‘ll just say until we meet again. 


ROBERTS:  She then walked across the stage for a last time embracing her longtime love Stedman and bowed good-bye before exiting the studio.  As the credits rolled, she greeted her staff that were waiting for her in the production studio of Harpo that she created.  The show‘s last scene shared with a good friend. 


WINFREY:  Sadie, we did it.  We did it.  We did it.


ROBERTS:  Joining me now is editor of, an Oprah fan, Brian Balthazar.  Brian, good to have you.  We talk about Oprah‘s humble beginnings.  I have to give a shout out to my peeps back in Baltimore because we had her first. 

Richard Share was in the audience.  He was her co-host.  I don‘t know if people saw that today.  I‘m giving off my Oprah-ite knowledge here.  But I need to ask you, what did you think of the last show? 

BRIAN BALTHAZAR, EDITOR, “POP GOES THE WEEK”:  I thought it was very appropriate.  I thought it was inspirational, motivational.  And it was somewhat solemn.  I think she gave her diehard viewers what they needed, some pearls of wisdom, kind of telling them it‘s going to be OK. 

It was all about what Oprah is herself, which is trying to be the best possible version of yourself.  And throughout the hour, she told everyone about the lessons that she‘s learned over the years.  And that song by Paul Simon he wrote for her for this show. 

ROBERTS:  Looks like when Oprah was turning, and you were in the two box there, like she was talking to you. 

BALTHAZAR:  Me and Oprah together.  It was bound to happen. 

ROBERTS:  When we talk about the fact that Oprah had her longevity, but she gradually changed her direction when she was competing with Donahue, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Sally Jessie, Geraldo.  Is it the fact that she changed direction to talk about spirit and faith and ah-ha moments that really made the difference? 

BALTHAZAR:  I think it was part of that connection with the viewers and realizing that there‘s something more.  I think she‘s very much in touch with her spiritual side.  And she thought that there‘s more to this and what she‘s here to do.  She talked about it today.

She talked about God a lot today, which she hasn‘t done as much.  She even mentioned it.  She doesn‘t talk about God a lot.  But today she did.  She thinks it‘s her calling and she encouraged all the viewers to find their calling today. 

ROBERTS:  I think that it was kind of like a master class.  Her last one that she was just speaking directly to everyone who has been a fan or felt like they‘ve gotten something out of the show.  When we talk about the career success that she‘s had as a talk show hostess, also creating a huge sensation in the book publishing world.  She has her own magazine.  Why do you think she‘s not getting the Oprah send-off on the OWN network so to speak. 

The launching pad of having her own cable network, you would think, would be a voluminous success out of the gate. 

BALTHAZAR:  It‘s not a coincidence that the most popular show on the network is her behind the scenes of her talk show.  It‘s difficult to run a network and be the vision of this OWN network and have a talk show.  I think what we‘re going to see is come 2012, we‘re going to see a lot more Oprah and viewers are going to go to find her there. 

Right now, it‘s been very shaky. 

ROBERTS:  Do you think it‘s going to be a big hit tomorrow come 4:00? 

BALTHAZAR:  I don‘t think so.  It‘s going to take time.  I don‘t think those things happen overnight.  You need to see more Oprah to appreciate that network. 

ROBERTS:  What do you think were some of the big moments over the last 25 years.  Because today‘s show she tried to encapsulate a couple of things, but really couldn‘t hit every chord. 

BALTHAZAR:  There are so many.  Certainly people struggled—watched her struggle with her weight and see her evolve to a more comfortable version of herself.  In 1987, she went to Forsythe County, Georgia, and interviewed people who didn‘t want African-American people in their town. 

And so she stood there very poised and had that interview.  That was a defining moment for her as well. 

But getting people to read, getting a nation to read—you can‘t underestimate people opening up their minds to literature and new ideas just through reading.  That‘s a powerful thing.

ROBERTS:  One thing, though, that we both agree on in the final show from the United Center was the fact when the guys from Morehouse came out that she had educated.  That was a cool moment. 

BALTHAZAR:  If you look under your chair, you‘ll find something special. 

ROBERTS:  Do I get a car? 

BALTHAZAR:  You get a car.  In New York City, you don‘t even need one.  Brian, it‘s good to see you.  Brian Balthazar, editor of  We appreciate your time tonight.

BALTHAZAR:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  That‘s going to do it for THE ED SHOW.  I do appreciate your time.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, sitting in for Ed this evening.  You can catch me at my regular hour on MSNBC tomorrow morning at 11:00 Eastern time. 

And “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell is starting right now.  So keep it right here on MSNBC.



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