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The Ed Show for Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Dan Dicker, John Nichols, Shushannah Walshe

THOMAS ROBERTS, GUEST HOST:  Hi, everybody.  Good evening.  Welcome to THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, in for Ed Schultz.

Breaking news, a report from Michele Bachmann.  She has announced that she will make an announcement about her intentions to run for president in June in Waterloo, Iowa.  So, she could announce that she‘s running or she might announce that she‘s not running—which begs the big question: does anyone go to Iowa to announce they‘re not running for president?

Also, tonight, a first for the Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it.  A leading Republican presidential hopeful says he would sign it into law and a former vice president, well, he‘s gushing about Paul Ryan.





DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on.


ROBERTS (voice-over):  The GOP is standing by their man.  Tonight, Barney Frank on the latest developments in the Ryan budget re-launch.

Democrats strike a major blow in the fight for workers‘ rights in Wisconsin.  John Nichols is here with a report on today‘s important court ruling.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NYC MAYOR:  Government either treats everyone the same or it doesn‘t.  And right now, it doesn‘t.


ROBERTS:  One of the most remarkable speeches you will ever hear on equality in America.  You don‘t want to miss today‘s Bloomberg address on marriage equality.

And the first clip of the Sarah Palin documentary is out and conservatives are giving it a thumbs-up.  We‘ll play it for you and let you decide.


ROBERTS:  Good evening once again.  Welcome to THE ED SHOW.

And just when it seemed like this week‘s Republican shellacking had reached its peak, some picture just got worse, in the form of a big old bear hug from former Vice President Dick Cheney.  This is what Cheney had to say about the architect of the GOP Medicare plan beginning with the line that will live in infamy, “I worship the ground Paul Ryan walks on.”


CHENEY:  I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on.  I think he‘s an enormously talented individual.  I think he‘s trying to do the right thing and deserves the support, all of the support we can provide him.  And I hope he doesn‘t run for president because that would ruin a good man.  He‘s got a lot of work to do.


ROBERTS:  It gets the laugh.  But it begs the question if running for president ruins a good man—didn‘t Dick Cheney‘s former boss run for president twice?  Well, we‘ll digress here on the show.

Congressman Ryan seems to agree with Cheney, sort of.  Forget the presidency.  Forget even his own House seat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, what if this destroys your political career?

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  I don‘t care about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, you‘re seen as a rising star, potential presidential candidate.

RYAN:  This is not the time to worry about political careers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What if you lose your House seat?

RYAN:  I will be fine if I lose my House seat.


ROBERTS:  Congressman Ryan has complained the main problem is Republican messaging and he is still trying to revamp it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Democrats have simplified their message saying the Republican plan, your plan, kills Medicare.  What is the shortest, clearest response to that from you?

RYAN:  Obamacare kills Medicare as we know it.  The president‘s plan does not save Medicare.  It allows it to go bankrupt, rations the program and raids the program.


ROBERTS:  But nothing really matches the unvarnished GOP message from Congressman Rob Woodall of Georgia.  Here‘s a reminder of what the congressman said to a constituent who was worried about health care coverage.


CONTITUENT:  The private corporation that I retired from does not give medical benefits to retirees.

REP. ROB WOODALL ®, GEORGIA:  Hear yourself, ma‘am.  Hear yourself. 

It‘s just a difference of opinion.

You want your government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you.  My question is, when do I decide I‘m going to take care of me?


ROBERTS:  Now, later in the same town hall, another constituent challenged Congressman Woodall to give up his own government subsidized health care.  Take a listen.


CONSTITUENT:  All right.  I have a question about taking care of you. 

You get government subsidized health care.

WOODALL:  Yes, ma‘am.

CONSTITUENT:  But you are not obligated to take that if you don‘t want to.  Why aren‘t you going out on the free market in the state where you‘re a resident and buy your own health care?  Answer the question.  Why haven‘t you gone out and done that?

WOODALL:  I‘m sorry.  It‘s because it‘s free.


ROBERTS:  All right.  Since taxpayer money pays for Congressman Woodall‘s health coverage, it‘s free according to him.  And we‘re going to be speaking to Barney Frank later in the show to dissect that coming up.

But other Republicans are trying to show a very brave front with mixed results.  House Speaker John Boehner said that Medicare was only a small part of the reason for the Republican loss in New York‘s 26th congressional district.  He also said, quote, “The only people in Washington, D.C. who have voted to cut Medicare have been the Democrats.”

All right.  So, a quick fact there.  Since 1991, Speaker Boehner has voted to cut more than $800 billion—that‘s right -- $800 billion from Medicare.  House Republicans have voted to cut more than $1 trillion from Medicare.

Meantime, Senate Republicans, most of whom voted for the Ryan Medicare plan, are getting defensive.  Like Senator John Cornyn, quote, “I will say the Republicans do not want to end Medicare as we know it.  That is an intentional falsehood.  That is a lie.”

And on the presidential front, another pseudo endorsement of the Ryan plan from GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty saying, “We‘ll have our own plan.  But if I can‘t have my own plan—as president, I‘ll have my own plan.  If I can‘t have that and the bill came to my desk and I had to choose between signing or not Congressman Ryan‘s plan, of course, I would sign it.”

And the bruised GOP is getting the attention of political cartoonists.  Take a look.  Here is running with scissors, that version.  Ouch—if you‘re watching at home and thinking the same thing I am and even more topical than GOP Medicare debacle meets the hangover part two.  Look at the tattoo there.

All right.  So, let‘s turn to MSNBC contributor E.J. Dionne, also a “Washington Post” columnist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

E.J.., it‘s good to have you on tonight.  We want to get straight to it because we mentioned that Paul Ryan, John Cornyn—but they are not the only ones who have blamed the Medicare debacle on the messaging.  And according to “The Hill,” they‘re saying that Ryan is not making his case and they‘re all looking down the road thinking, “Oh my God it‘s coming.”

So, what is it about the messaging?

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST:  I think the messaging is not the problem.  I mean, everybody who has an idea, and this is true of liberals as well as conservatives, when they are losing, they say we‘re not getting the message across.

The problem here is very simple, which is Medicare is a very popular program.  The Ryan proposal is to turn Medicare into—call it what you will—a voucher program, premium support program the term he prefers.  It wants to get rid of the Medicare system as we have known it and the voters just don‘t want to do that.

You know—and then, Congressman Ryan complained about demagoguery.


DIONNE:  And yes, there is some out there though it‘s funny coming from the party that gave us death panels, but I agree with him.  Let‘s argue it on the merits.

Peter Orszag, President Obama‘s former budget director, had a very interesting piece today where he noted the Ryan plan would actually increase spending for health care for the elderly.  Why?  Because Medicare has lower administrative costs than the private insurance companies that would be taking this over, and it also has more bargaining power.  So, yes, absolutely let‘s argue it on the merits.

ROBERTS:  Right.

DIONNEL:  And I think you‘re going to have a problem on messaging because of the merits not because of any great failure in rhetoric.

ROBERTS:  E.J., a lot of people think that what happened in the New York-26 election that we just had the other night was really based on Medicare.  But you believe something else brought in that victory.  What is it?  What is it more than Medicare that really brought everybody to the polls to vote for Hochul?

DIONNE:  Well, no.  I am of the view that Medicare was the core issue but I also think Hochul ran a very good campaign.  Hochul, in a very Republican district, managed to argue that she was very independent.  She separated herself from two previously unpopular Democratic governors in an ad, Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson.  And also she said she was for a higher taxes on the rich.

And she—in her best ad on Medicare linked the issue of cutting Medicare to support tax cuts for the rich.

And I think Democrats ought to learn something from this, that the public favors—all the polls show, that the public believes that one way to bring down the deficit is to go back to the Clinton rates for the rich.  Perhaps go up a little bit more.  They shouldn‘t be as afraid as they are of that issue.

ROBERTS:  E.J., you said it was a good campaign.  But what does it say in New York-26 about the Tea Party?

DIONNE:  Well, I think that the Tea Party is yesterday‘s news.  The Tea Party is the old conservative movement in American politics.  After Obama was elected, they got angrier, they got better organized, they turned out in higher numbers than progressives did in 2010, and I think what the Republicans are doing now both with Congressman Ryan‘s plan and governors like Scott Walker and Rick Scott in Florida and John Kasich are all getting progressives awake again.

And a lot of middle of the road voters are looking at this and say that, look, I wanted to protest the status quo, but I didn‘t count on this.  And I think those kinds of voters were very important to Hochul‘s victory and some other Democratic victories in special elections for state legislatures that we‘ve seen.

ROBERTS:  E.J., your opinion on why do you think Republican lawmakers continue to walk right into the cherished entitlement territory and then expect that‘s going to work out well for them?

DIONNE:  Well, ironically the guy who understood this very clearly was Newt Gingrich.  When he went on “Meet the Press” and said the voters would look at this as—look at this as right wing social engineering—he got burned by Medicare before, by Bill Clinton.  He knew what the danger was here.

And it‘s astonishing to me that Republicans believe that, you know, I think it‘s because they are talking to each other.  They are being—they‘re revving each other up.  They‘re driving out heretics.  They really believe people want this to happen.

But they‘re only listening to about one-third of the people.

ROBERTS:  Right.

DIONNE:  And that‘s a big mistake in politics if you want to build a majority.

ROBERTS:  E.J., while I have you, I want to talk to you about what we learned at the top of the show here, that Michele Bachmann is announcing that she‘s going to be making an announcement coming up in June in Iowa.  What does that say to you especially if she says she is officially getting in?  What does that do to the GOP frontrunners?

DIONNE:  Well, first, it‘s good for columnists and cable television. 

That‘s an obvious fact.

But I think she looks at the field and says what the heck and I think with Mike Huckabee out, there are a lot of religious conservatives loose, many of them would have supported Mike Huckabee if he had run.  And the caucuses in Iowa have a very high proportion of religious conservatives in them.

And so, I think she has a realistic chance of doing well in Iowa and then who knows?  The polling shows Republicans are all divided and really haven‘t rallied behind any single candidate.  So, everybody thinks they have a chance.  Why not?

ROBERTS:  Is it a game of chicken, though, between her and Sarah Palin, of who can throw their hat into the ring first, to say they were the first female GOP candidate to do so?

DIONNE:  I guess maybe there is that competition.  I still don‘t think Sarah Palin is going to run.  She‘s revved up interest in the last couple days partly because we haven‘t—we the broad media, haven‘t paid a lot of attention to her.  And so, she is looking for a little more attention.

But I think—and, of course, these kinds of predictions are wrong all the time—but I think Bachmann is more likely to run than Palin is this time.

ROBERTS:  We got you on the record, though, right here, though.  E.J.

Dionne of the Brookings Institution.

DIONNE:  I‘m stuck with the videotape.

ROBERTS:  You are.  You are.  We‘re going to have it up on the Web site for everyone to watch forever.  Thanks for your time.  Appreciate it.

So, gas prices, food prices, coffee prices, commodities are at record high costs and everyone from the CEO of Starbucks to top oil industry analysts say there needs to be more regulation of Wall Street speculators.

And Newt Gingrich spent the first week of his campaign getting hammered for calling the Ryan plan right wing social engineering.  This week, the former speaker‘s appetite for expensive jewelry has his poll numbers taking a nosedive.


ROBERTS:  Getting your caffeine fix might start costing you more money.  Starbucks announcing today it‘s going to raise the price of packaged coffee sold in stores by 17 percent.  The Seattle based coffee giant says don‘t blame the company for the higher cost, blame Wall Street.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz claims speculators are driving up that price on the day of Starbucks‘ 40th anniversary in March.  Schultz said coffee costs were at a 34-year high despite plentiful supply.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, STARBUCKS CEO:  I do not see any supply or demand issue with regard to coffee.


SCHULTZ:  There is no doubt in my mind financial speculation, hedge funds, index funds have driven coffee prices and other commodities to record highs.  I don‘t think it‘s sustainable.  But I do think it‘s tragic because the coffee farmer and the consumer at the end of the day are suffering.  People who are making money are the people in the sidelines who have nothing to do with coffee.


ROBERTS:  So, if that sounds familiar to you, it should.  Oil industry experts say the exact same people are responsible for the higher prices at the gas pump.  We‘re going to have more on that in just a moment.


ROBERTS: Welcome back.

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, holiday travelers are wondering if they‘re going to get any relief at the gas pump.  But with supply up and demand actually down from two years ago, why is the national average still near four bucks a gallon?

The top oil industry analyst from the brokerage firm Oppenheimer and company pointed his finger squarely at Wall Street.  Fadel Gheit told Bloomberg television that recent memos from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley saying oil prices will rise again are just self-fulfilling prophesies.


FADEL GHEIT, OPPENHEIMER:  These are the people in 2008 that were making a bet on $200 oil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You think Goldman Sachs is wrong in the estimate that we‘re going back up to $130, $120?

GHEIT:  Yes.  I mean, basically this is another form of market manipulation in my view.  This is another form of basically pushing the envelope.  What they are saying or doing is not illegal but they are allowed to do it.  The government has the responsibility to slap them hard.


ROBERTS:  Democratic senators met today with the chairman of the agency charged with regulating speculators to find out why the government hasn‘t slapped them hard.  The seven senators asked the CFTC chairman Gary Gensler why his agency has not enforced aspects of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act that would curb excessive speculation.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said the CFTC is breaking the law by not cracking down on Wall Street manipulation.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: There is nothing that I heard from him, which suggests any sense of urgency about the need to protect consumers or, in fact, to protect our economy.  I was disappointed by the tone of the meeting, the lack of urgency, the lack of specific ideas, and that‘s something we‘re just going to have to deal with.


ROBERTS:  Joining me tonight is Dan Dicker, a veteran oil trader and author of the book “Oil‘s Endless Bid: Taming the Unreliable Price of Oil to Secure Our Economy.”

So, Dan, it‘s good to have you here.  I want to start right off the top with you having to explain the significance of what Fidel Gheit was talking about in that brief clip that we saw there, really saying that gas prices are being driven by these speculators.

DAN DICKER, AUTHOR, “OIL‘S ENDLESS BID”:  He actually used the “M” word, Thomas, which you don‘t use.  I mean, it‘s really not cricket.  You‘re not supposed to call out another broker.

So, Fadel might want to take that back if he had the chance.  But what he‘s talking is the truth and the truth is that we have a number of investment banks, particularly Goldman Sachs, that creates notes for their clients and they‘ve switched around their notes over the last six weeks which is very unusual for them.  Usually they come out with very specific notes that last for a very long time.

So, they call it the market is down and say the market is going up and, in fact, the market does rise.  Not surprisingly, they control billions of dollars on their own desk.  They control billions of dollars of their client‘s money and they influence many more billions of dollars of other speculators who listen to this desk.  So, they say market is going up, market goes up.

Six weeks ago, they say the market‘s going down, market goes down.  Three days ago, they said the market is going up, and sure enough it started to rally back again.

So, these are guys who have a tremendous amount of influence into the oil market and you‘d call it irresponsible at the very least, and you might even use the “M” word if you were thinking like Fadel was.

ROBERTS:  Well, I want to see if he‘s going to say it again because I want you to hear what another sound byte from Gheit, had to say and get your reaction.  And if it is the M word, boy, we‘re in trouble.


GHEIT:  Commodities speculation is now a big driving force in Wall Street.  So, everybody wants to do it.  It‘s not illegal but it is not well-supervised.  I mean, like the speeding over the speed limit—I mean, if the cop doesn‘t stop you, and you get away with it, you‘re going to continue to do it.


ROBERTS:  All right.  We‘re safe out of that one.  He‘s basically saying that we can‘t blame the banks for doing this.  But the blame going to our government for not reinforcing what‘s really already established?

DICKER:  Well, that‘s true.  We have the Dodd-Frank bill which actually mandated that the CFTC have rules in place for these speculation additives to come out of the market by February.  They haven‘t done that because they‘ve had pushback from obviously a lot of the industry, the FIA, SIFMA, all the big banks, major funds including PIMCO and Fidelity—all the large funds including Oppenheimer Funds if we‘re going there.  Every one of them have an interest in the speculation that‘s in the oil market and they don‘t want to see that erased.

ROBERTS:  But if the CFTC is breaking the law and that was brought up by Senator Sanders, by not enforcing the Frank-Dodd law and they can get away with it, how can they do it and is everybody just shrugging their shoulders in D.C. saying who cares?

DICKER:  The problem is that the CFTC, they‘re an organization that tries to do the right thing.  So, they‘ve opened up these rule making ideas for commentary.  Now, they‘ve been buried by the comments from industry sources.  So, they say that they have to go through all the commentary in order to write a rule.

The truth is that what happens is the bottom line is it gets watered down and watered down and in the end, Fadel also made the point that nothing really significant changes.  This is a replay of what happened in 2008 when we saw prices go to $147, where the major investment banks made up $3 billion, $4 billion, $5 billion a year trading oil.  And we‘re just getting this replay and the people who are getting hurt are the ones at the pump.

ROBERTS:  Yesterday, we reported on the CFTC filing these two energy companies lawsuits against them for manipulation.  Do you think this is going to do anything to put a chink in their armor to curb the manipulation?

DICKER:  Well, Bart Chilton said that there is more coming.  To assume this is the end of it, I don‘t think is right.

But this is a very—what should get people mad is that it took them 3 ½ years to find anybody in a market that looks so obviously built on a speculative bubble that went from $147 from $60 to $147 and then back to $32 and it took them three years to find even one small case of manipulation, not even in the financial markets.  This happened to come from the cash markets.

ROBERTS:  As you brought up in 2008, though, if they don‘t take the levels back to that really obnoxious level—is this something that they just think, hey, we can get away with it?  We‘ve done it so far, as long as we don‘t go back to the ugly levels #of 2008 where it is almost five bucks a gallon in California?

DICKER:  There isn‘t a lot of—the problem with gas consumption here in the United States and basically around the world is it‘s not very flexible.  People need a certain amount to get back and forth to work.  There‘s not a lot of extra room to play there.  So, in fact, whatever prices get charged people unfortunately have to belly up and pay.

ROBERTS:  And a lot of people go ahead and do the psychological thing where I‘m only doing 20 bucks today and then they realize 20 bucks isn‘t getting me anywhere, and they‘re back at the pump all the time.

DICKER:  But we should remember that this money gets built up and goes into certain people‘s pockets, and the people‘s pockets that it goes into besides the big investment banks and big hedge fund traders are people who don‘t like us very much, the people at OPEC and people in those areas.

ROBERTS:  Right.

DICKER:  I mean, this is really a scourge on this nation and we should do something a little bit more than we‘re doing right now.

ROBERTS:  Dan Dicker, the author of “Oil‘s Endless Bid”—thanks for joining us tonight.

DICKER:  Thank you.

ROBERTS:  Good to have you here.

Coming up: a sneak peek at the Sarah Palin documentary.  You do not want to miss this.  It‘s authorized.

And it‘s one of the more remarkable speeches defending equal rights that you may ever see.  We‘re going to play you Michael Bloomberg‘s speech at Cooper Union today.


ROBERTS:  According to Gallup, support for marriage equality is at an all-time high in this country.

In New York, politicians are trying to capitalize on that consensus.  The New York governor, the new one, Andrew Cuomo, has made marriage equality a central issue to his legislative agenda.  “The A.P.” is reporting that Governor Cuomo has been pushing the legislature to make gay marriage legal.  But well-funded conservative and religious opposition have been pushing back hard.

Last week, the National Organization for Marriage pledged $1.5 million to fight the marriage equality movement in New York.

Today, Mayor Bloomberg, a vocal supporter of marriage equality, used his bully pulpit to rally opponents to his side.  Speaking at New York‘s Cooper Union, Bloomberg invoked the Stonewall protest of 1969 in his plea for equal rights.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK:  In our democracy, near equality is no equality.  Government either treats everyone the same or it doesn‘t.  And right now, it doesn‘t.

Tonight, two New Yorkers who are in a committed relationship will come home, cook dinner, help their kids with their homework and turn in for the night.  They want desperately to be married, not for the piece of paper they will get, not for the ceremony or the reception or the wedding cake, but for the recognition that life-long commitment they have made to each other is not less than anyone else‘s, not second class in any way.  They want it not just for themselves but for their children.  They want their children to know that their family is as healthy and legitimate as all other families.

And that desire for equal standing in society is extraordinarily powerful and it has led to extraordinary advances in American freedom.  It has never been defeated.  It can‘t be defeated.  And on marriage equality, it will not be defeated.

The time has come for us to fulfill the dreams that exploded into Sheridan Square 42 years ago, to allow thousands of men and women to become full members of the American family and to take the next step on the inspiring journey our Founding Fathers first began. 

Together we can work across the aisle to pass a bill allowing all New Yorkers to walk down the aisle and lead our state and country toward a more perfect union.  This is something that we have to do.  And we have to do it right now. 

We are Americans.  And this is what America stands for.  Thank you very much. 


ROBERTS:  Richard Socaretes, the former adviser to President Clinton and now president of Equality Matters, said today‘s speech by Bloomberg is, quote, “evidence that all the stops are being pulled out for marriage equality in New York.” 

Governor Scott Walker‘s anti-collective bargaining law was rejected by a circuit court judge on the same day the Wisconsin governor signed one of the strictest voter I.D. laws in the nation.  John Nichols is going to be here to break down a busy day from the Badger State. 

And the Sarah Palin documentary, it debuts in Iowa next month.  We have the exclusive sneak peek.  Well, sort of.  That‘s coming up.


ROBERTS:  Hi everybody.  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was dealt a major setback in his quest to strip public employees of their right to collectively bargain today.  Back on March 9th, you may remember, Senate Republicans amended Walker‘s bill to get around the fact that 14 Senate Democrats had fled to Illinois. 

Now on that day, Senate Republicans announced a conference committee hearing after 4:00 p.m. and convened the meeting at 6:00 p.m. that night.  The only Democrat at the meeting, Representative Peter Barga (ph), objected because Republicans violated the open meetings law. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Representative Barga, if there is any doubt, the clerk will call the roll. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Listen, it says if there is any doubt as to whether good cause exists, the governmental body should provide 24 hours notice.  This is clearly a violation of the Open Meetings Law. 

You‘ve been shutting people down.  It is improper to go forward while this is a violation of the Open Meetings Law. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is wrong. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re not allowing amendments and that is wrong. 


ROBERTS:  Today Dane County Circuit Court Judge Mariann Sumi ruled that Barga was right and the Republicans violated the law.  Under the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law, the public should be given at least two hours‘ notice for any public meetings.  And on June 6th, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on whether that was the case and whether to take the case. 

Currently, the Wisconsin supreme court has three liberals and three conservatives.  And the conservatives could gain one more after the Government Accountability Board certified Justice David Prosser‘s win over Joann Kloppenberg earlier this week. 

But Wisconsin Republicans might not wait for a supreme court ruling.  “The Nation‘s” John Nichols has learned the Wisconsin legislature might take up Walker‘s bill and try to pass it again.  Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board cleared the way for recall elections of three Senate Republicans on July 12th

The recall elections will look different from any vote in the history of the Badger State after Governor Walker signed a voter I.D. bill earlier today.  This new law will require Wisconsin voters to show a photo I.D. in order to cast a vote in the July 12th recall elections. 

For more on all of these stories, we want to be joined now by John Nichols, Washington correspondent for “the Nation.”  John, a lot to go over here but let‘s start with what it looks like the fate of Governor Walker‘s anti-labor bill, still up in the air.  How do you think that one is going to turn out? 

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”:  Well, the law is null and void at this point.  That is a very big deal, because here you have a governor who won last November, had control of both houses of the state legislature.  And yet more than three months after he proposed this assault on labor unions, he still hasn‘t been able to implement it. 

And there‘s two key things to think about here.  First, a very respected jurist has said they violated the law.  That‘s a big deal.  An equally big deal is the reinforcement of the message here that these Republicans seem to be so determined to get this through that they‘ll stop at nothing. 

That‘s a significant concern and a significant issue going into the recall elections. 

ROBERTS:  John, as you say, stopping at nothing.  Can‘t the Senate Republicans just redo the bill right now?  It‘s deja vu all over again? 

NICHOLS:  Sure.  That possibility exists.  And both the Senate and the Assembly would have to pass a new bill.  Or they could insert this language into the budget bill.  And that‘s probably the most$6 likely initiative that they‘ll attempt. 

But remember, doing that is a very controversial act.  The majority leader of the state senate, Scott Fitzgerald, has already said he is worried about it for two reasons.  Number one, he‘s worried that, as he says, 70,000 people will show up to protest the day he does it.  That‘s a very real possibility. 

But second, he‘s also concerned, and many Republicans tell me this, about the possibility that some members of their own caucus might object.  Because if you‘re facing a recall vote in July, you don‘t really want to vote for an unpopular law in June. 

ROBERTS:  Well let‘s talk about that recall vote coming up in July.  How is the voter I.D. law going to be accepted in Wisconsin?  And what are your predictions come July 12th

NICHOLS:  It‘s going to create confusion.  And that is really the goal of this law.  It won‘t all be implemented before the elections in July or August, depending on when they‘re scheduled.  But the confusion related to the law will make it more complicated. 

And some elements will be put into place.  There will be a longer waiting period to qualify to vote in a precinct, things of that nature.  It‘s going to be problematic.  But the passion in the state on the ground, particularly the passion among the people who are angry about what the governor has done, is so intense that I don‘t think it‘s actually going to turn people away from the polls. 

ROBERTS:  John, so far there are three senators up for recall.  Are we going to see more? 

NICHOLS:  Yes, absolutely.  You‘ll see three more Republican senators be hit with recalls.  And there is a possibility that three Democratic senators will take the hit as well.  We could easily have as many as nine recall elections going on at the same time, really the equivalent of a statewide referendum on Governor Walker‘s agenda. 

ROBERTS:  Speaking of which, has the governor taken a big hit in the polls? 

NICHOLS:  A brutal hit.  There‘s a new poll that came out yesterday that showed his approval rating was around 42, 43 percent.  That‘s a drop of, you know, roughly more than ten points from last November.  The other thing about these polls that have come out is they suggest if he faced a challenge from a Democrat, either the Democrat who he beat last November or someone like Russ Feingold, and the election was held today, he would be blown out of the water, defeated in a landslide. 

ROBERTS:  John Nichols of “the Nation” magazine, nice to see you tonight.  Thanks for your time. 

Democrats in Congress send their strongest message yet that they want out of Afghanistan.  Meanwhile, in the Senate, a battle of ideologies over the Patriot Act results in a race against the clock. 

And then later, the odds that Sarah Palin is actually running for president just got better today.  We bring you a sneak peek at the new documentary about the ex-governor of Alaska.



ROBERTS:  The war on terror took center stage on Capitol Hill today.  First the House narrowly defeating a measure calling on the president to speed up the process of pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.  But even though it failed, the vote was closer than expected.  And it was the strongest evidence to date of Democratic solidarity on that issue. 

Twenty six Republicans joined 178 Democrats in support of that measure.  It failed by just 11 votes. 

Meanwhile, in the Senate members battled it out over the Patriot Act.  Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has been single handedly blocking a vote to renew several provisions of that act, which expires at midnight tonight.  Paul was stalling the bill to try and force votes on several amendments, including one that would forbid federal officials from searching the records of gun dealers in order to track potential terrorists. 

Now the delay led to a very heated exchange between Rand Paul and the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who made it clear how he felt about Senator Paul‘s amendment. 


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER:  He is fighting for an amendment to protect the right not of average citizens, but of terrorists to cover up their gun purchases.  It‘s all dealing with a gun amendment, Mr. President. 

It‘s hard to imagine why the senator from Kentucky would want to hold up the Patriot Act for a misguided amendment that would make America less safe. 


ROBERTS:  Rand Paul immediately hit back. 


SEN. RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY:  I rise in response to a scurrilous accusation.  I‘ve been accused of wanting to allow terrorists to have weapons to attack America.  To be attacked of such a belief when I am here to discuss and debate the constitutionality of the Patriot Act is offensive.  I find it personally insulting and I think it demeans the body.


ROBERTS:  Under pressure from the director of national intelligence to extend the Patriot Act before it expired, Senator Reid ultimately agreed to bring the amendment to the floor, allowing Paul to make one last defensive stand. 


PAUL:  Just because we believe in procedural protections, just because we believe in the Constitution, doesn‘t mean that we don‘t want to capture terrorists.  We just want to have some rules. 

I‘ll give you an analogy.  Right now, you‘ve been to the airport.  We‘re taking this shotgun approach.  We think everyone‘s a terrorist.  So everyone‘s being patted down.  Everyone is being strip searched.  We are putting our hands inside the pants of six-year-old children. 


ROBERTS:  Despite his colorful analogy, Paul‘s amendments failed with wide opposition.  And the Patriot Act provisions passed the Senate with a vote of 72 to 23.  The House following suit, passing the bill with a vote of 250 to 153, just hours ahead of that midnight deadline.



BOB SCHIEFFER, ABC NEWS ANCHOR:  Did you owe a half million dollars to a jewelry company at one point? 


SCHIEFFER:  What does that mean? 

GINGRICH:  It means we had a revolving fund.  That—it was a—

SCHIEFER:  Who buys a half million dollars worth of jewelry on credit? 

GINGRICH:  No.  It‘s a—go talk to Tiffany‘s.  It is a standard, no interest account. 

SCHIEFFER:  How long did you owe it? 

GINGRICH:  I have no idea.  But it was paid off automatically.  We paid no interest on it.  There was no problem with it.  It‘s the normal way of doing business. 


ROBERTS:  Newt Gingrich‘s normal way of doing business is being put under a jeweler‘s eye by the national media.  Multiple times this week, the former speaker has been asked about the interest free revolving credit at Tiffany‘s.  Now Tiffany‘s is denying reports that they gave any special favors to Gingrich and his third wife. 

Tiffany‘s spokesman Carson Glover put out a statement today, in it saying “there is nothing unusual or extraordinary about the credit extended to Speaker Gingrich.  Last year, Tiffany & Company extended credit to over 1,000 customers on identical terms.” 

Tiffany‘s also responded to a report by Jeff Stein in “Spy Talk” claiming the company lobbied the House Agriculture Committee on mining while Gingrich‘s wife Callista worked there during that time.  The report claims the jeweler provided the Gingrich‘s a no interest loan. 

Glover said “we had no reason to lobby the Agriculture Committee and we did not.  Nor did anyone at Tiffany and Company ever speak to Speaker Gingrich or Mrs. Gingrich about either of these matter.” 

Now Tiffany‘s denials are coming at a perfect time for Gingrich.  His poll numbers with Republican voters have been dropping ever since he threw his hat into the ring.  According to Public Policy Polling, Newt‘s favorability number with GOP voters has dropped 14 points in one month, from 52 percent in April to 38 percent today. 

In another bad sign for the former speaker, he comes in fourth place in the most recent Gallup poll of 2012 GOP contenders.  Gingrich comes in at nine percent, just one percent higher than former Godfather‘s Pizza CEO Herman Cain. 

Well, her bus is ready to roll into a media market near you.  That‘s right.  Sarah Palin taking the show on the road.  We tell you all about it next.



SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  Yeah, the fire in the belly, it‘s there.  That‘s kind of my problem. 


ROBERTS:  You betcha.  Not only does she have a fire in the belly. 

She‘s got a film in the works and a promotional bus ready to roll. 

Despite all this, Fox News says that Sarah Palin will remain on air as a paid contributor.  Palin‘s One Nation Bus Tour will depart this Sunday.  The first stop?  The Rolling Thunder Biker Rally in D.C. 

Now the bus will then make its way through the East Coast media markets, promising pro-America events while visiting historical sites.  Meanwhile, the “New York Times” reports that Palin has purchased a 1.7 million dollar home in Arizona. 

Sources speculate a home base in the lower 48 will make a presidential run easier.  Then there is the authorized documentary called “the Undefeated.”  The film follows Palin‘s half term as governor of Alaska.  The two-hour film will make its debut in the politically important state of Iowa next month.

Directed and financed by right wing film makers, it will portray, quote, “Palin as a Joan of Arc like figure.”  As Real Clear Politics report, Palin is not interviewed directly.  Instead, pro-Palinites Andrew Breitbart and Mark Levin will provide commentary. 

The director did, however, secure the audio rights to Palin‘s memoir “Going Rogue.”  The ex-governor‘s voice narrates parts of this film. 

Sean Hannity got his hands on the top-secret infomercial.  Here is our exclusive of his exclusive. 


PALIN:  For the 22nd time, Exxonmobil submitted its plan to begin drilling in the Point Thompson unit but still had not drilled. 

Point Thompson is considered the largest undeveloped oil and gas field in North America.  In 1977, Exxonmobil signed a lease agreement with the state to explore and drill in this field. 


ROBERTS:  All right, a small part there.  Then take a look at the latest Gallup poll numbers showing Palin neck and neck with Mitt Romney.  They both trail the GOP front runner, none of the above. 

Let‘s talk more about this.  Joining me now is co-author of “Sarah From Alaska,” Shushannah Walshe.  She also a contributor to “Newsweek.”  Welcome.  Good to have you here. 

Let‘s get straight to this.  We have the bus tour.  We have the film.  Does all of this—any of this really give the tip of the hat to a real presidential run? 

SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, “NEWSWEEK”:  I think absolutely.  I think these are our first real strong indicators that she is going for it.  She‘s never really said she wasn‘t.  She‘s always given these little hints throughout since when she stopped—when she ended the—when she lost to Barack Obama, she went to Alaska and said if the door is open, I‘m going to go for it. 

She has continued these hints and now these are the first major indicators. 

ROBERTS:  You were a producer, also a reporter over at Fox News.  What do you make of the fact they are keeping Sarah Palin on the air?  They suspended other people that were putting their feelers out, trying to see if they wanted to go at it or not.  But Palin still remains on the payroll. 

WALSHE:  It‘s interesting because the other people they suspended, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, their movements were more modest.  We know that they are running for president, but at that time they were more modes modest.  They weren‘t huge bus tours and rallies. 

It will be interesting going forward how much longer they can really keep her.  Obviously she gets them very high ratings, so they‘re going to want to go as long as they can. 

ROBERTS:  Right.  What do you make of this new home purchase in Arizona?  Be closer to John McCain? 

WALSHE:  Well, also, it would be impossible to run a presidential campaign from Alaska.  You really can‘t get to New Hampshire and Iowa from Anchorage.  It‘s just too far away.  So Arizona, the trip is a lot easier.

And she has—there‘s a lot of Tea Party support in Arizona.  Her daughter Bristol lives close by.  So it makes a lot more sense than trying to run it from Alaska. 

ROBERTS:  What is going on with Bristol‘s decision to live there and then also be on a reality show with the guy she that was on a reality show with, “Dancing With the Stars,” and that Sarah is not too happy about that? 

WALSHE:  Well, it‘s a lot of rumors going on. 

ROBERTS:  Right. 

WALSHE:  What really the problem with it is that it makes Sarah Palin look unserious.  And if she is running for president, which I think she is, all of this drama and gossip I think could hold her back. 

ROBERTS:  But her daughter has a right to make her own career.  She is a young woman, young mother. 

WALSHE:  Sure.  And children of presidential figures, presidents have made their own decisions throughout history. 

ROBERTS:  Right.  But the grand baby will probably be the first grand baby of a presidential contender to be on a reality show. 

WALSHE:  Possibly. 

ROBERTS:  Possibly.  All right, I‘m making firsts up here in my head. 

So Republicans not too happy with the 2012 prospects.  There is a “Washington Times” op-ed that readers will probably remember from 1992.  President George H.W. Bush had great poll numbers and a foreign policy victory.  Also the big Democrats at the time, they shied away from running. 

So in your estimation, when an unknown government—governor from Arkansas emerged, stormed on—so your estimation is Obama‘s strength really narrowing the field, that maybe a dark horse GOP front runner is going to emerge? 

WALSHE:  I think right now there is definitely an opening for that.  You talked to Republican party leaders or just your average voter in the early states, and they are still holding out for that person.  Sarah Palin wants to be that person.  She wants to jump in and rally the Tea Party support.  We‘ll see if she is able to do that.

But it‘s clear that a lot of whether it be your average voter or donors are still hoping for that other person, that—maybe a governor from a red state or a current governor from a red state. 

ROBERTS:  Real quickly on the back end here to talk about this, I want to jump into Michele Bachmann, because we had at the top of the show the fact that she is going to make the announcement to make the announcement about running coming up in June in Iowa.  Our argument was no one goes to Iowa to say that they‘re not running for the presidency. 

What do you make of the fact that—who wants to be the first woman to throw their hat in the GOP ring?  You know it‘s going to come down to talking about who was the strongest candidate, but also it‘s a lot about first and propriety of saying I was in the ring first. 

WALSHE:  It does.  But tonight, Michele Bachmann said that it won‘t be part of her decision if Sarah Palin decides to go for it.  Also Sarah Palin can wait longer because of her widespread name recognition.  Everybody in the country knows who she is.  So I think that she‘ll wait longer and it looks like Michele Bachmann will make her decision—announce next month. 

ROBERTS:  Do you think that that lends support to Michele Bachmann doing that, because Sarah Palin does have that name recognition?  That is a double edged sword. 

WALSHE:  Right. 

ROBERTS:  Maybe for Michele Bachmann, it‘s a different feel. 

WALSHE:  A lot of people in Iowa, they like to see their voters.  Somebody told me today that because Sarah Palin hasn‘t been out there knocking on doors, people are upset.  But really, I think they‘re under estimating how much Sarah Palin can go in a really rallying masses of people. 

Does that mean she‘ll win Iowa?  I‘m not sure.  But she can really get in there and get a huge amount of people energized and out in a way that I don‘t think any other candidate can. 

ROBERTS:  In your estimation, though, if Sarah Palin does officially do this, officially announce, do you think she‘s going to subject herself to the lamestream media? 

WALSHE:  It will be interesting.  I really—I‘ve been thinking about this whether she‘ll have press on her plane, whether she‘ll have the press conferences, the small ones, the big ones.  I can‘t imagine that.  I think that is one reason why she brought up—this documentary will be helpful to her.

But that can only go so far.  At some point, you are going to have to take questions from the press.  Really in the past—that‘s what is highlighted in this movie—she used to really get along with the press.  The Alaska press really loved her. 

If she could get that back, it would really help her.  But I guess we‘ll see. 

ROBERTS:  That remains to be seen.  Great to see you. 

WALSHE:  Thank you. 

ROBERTS:  Co-author of “Sarah From Alaska”  We appreciate your time tonight, as always.  That is THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Thomas Roberts, filling in this evening for Ed Schultz. 

You can catch me at my regular hour on MSNBC tomorrow morning at 11:00 eastern.  THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now on MSNBC.



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