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The Ed Show for Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guests: Ezra Klein, Hetty Rosenstein, Heidi Harris, Bill Press, Laura Flanders

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

A major victory for the Republicans in New Jersey.  Within the last hour, the assembly passed a controversial budget bill that will make workers pay thousands more for health care and pensions in that state.

The attack on the middle class continues.  The state assembly has sided with Governor Chris Christie and passed the bill that will take away collective bargaining rights and thousands of dollars out of the paychecks of teachers, firefighters, and police officers.  Once again public workers are being turned into public enemy number one.

You know where I‘m fired up on this issue.

This is THE ED SHOW.  Let‘s get to work.



SCHULTZ (voice-over):  Eric Cantor pulled out of budget talks today, because he didn‘t get his way.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Mr. Cantor has made it clear that these conversations could continue if they take the tax hikes out of the conversation.


SCHULTZ:  Now, it‘s up to president Obama and speaker Boehner to make a deal.

For the first time ever most American babies are nonwhite, according to the census.  Wait until the right wing finds out minorities are becoming the new majority.

And in “Psycho Talk” tonight, Rush Limbaugh.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  He‘s a brilliant guy getting bin Laden.  Now, he‘s a brilliant military strategist.


SCHULTZ:  An outrageous comparison between President Obama and Hitler.  He‘s in the zone tonight.


SCHULTZ:  Good to have you with us tonight, folks.

I guess I have to say right off the top that we need to really pay attention to this if we care about the American workers and American middle class.  Workers, first of all, are not the problem in this country.  But once again, a first-term Republican governor is attacking the pocketbooks of middle class workers and silencing their voices in the work place.

Just over an hour ago, the New Jersey state assembly passed a bill which strips collective bargaining rights of public employees on their health care.  The bill will also reduce benefits costing each of those workers thousands of dollars a year.

Now, whether you like Governor Christie or not, no matter what the polls are in New Jersey, the fact is this is a major victory for Christie, it‘s a major victory for the Republicans.  But it is also an example of how the right wing has beaten some Democrats into folding on the middle class.  And we‘re going to get into that later on in this segment.

Where are the Democrats?  Is it true that the Democrats do stand up for the middle class?

There were a number of them in this vote that turned the tables in the assembly.  This is what workers all over the country are talking about.  It‘s not just Wisconsin.  It‘s not just Ohio.  It‘s not just New Jersey and Florida.

This is the attack by the right wing machine.  This is their ideological agenda.

They‘re not going after the corporations, these Republican governors.  They‘re not going after the wealthy.  They‘re giving them the breaks.  They‘re going after the workers.

And tonight‘s vote is a classic of what‘s going down in this country.  Over 8,000 public workers storm the grounds of the state capitol in Trenton, New Jersey, today to protest the governor‘s dark vision for the state.  Other estimates of the crowd range about 15,000 people.  They were passionate and they were spot on.

The New Jersey pension and benefits bill passed the state Senate earlier this week with the help of some Democrats who basically stabbed the public workers in the back siding with the governor.

Today, some Democrats in the assembly I guess you could say twisted that knife.  The new law could cost middle class public employees up to $6,000 a year.  Middle classers getting hit with that kind of bill?  That‘s a real hit for many families.  But it‘s pocket change for a guy who takes the state helicopter to watch his kid play baseball.

Now, take a look at this bill, folks.  The deal eliminates collective bargaining on health care for 550,000 public workers.  It requires workers to pay up to 35 percent of their health care costs and make additional pension contributions.

The bill would also eliminate the automatic cost of living adjustment for retired police officers, firefighters, teachers, and state and local government employees in New Jersey‘s six pension systems.

This is going to be a model for what other states are going to do.

The overall impact of the increased pension and the health care contributions would range from $1,142 a year for a public employee making 25 grand a year, to $6,058 for an employee earning $65,000 a year.

Now, hold it there.  Sixty-five grand a year.  Bills are going up when it comes to education, when it comes to health care, when it comes to energy—just basic kitchen table living expenses.  You make it 65 grand a year?  Are you willing to give up another $6,000 to get some health care in this country?

That‘s the way it‘s going to be for public employees in New Jersey.

Are they getting $6,000 from the wealthy?  No.  They‘re getting the tax cuts.

Where‘s the shared sacrifice and where in the hell are the Democrats?

At the rally today, there were chants of kill the bill.  One union leader put it this way, “This is a war for survival.  We‘re seeing a thoroughly coordinated campaign to destroy America‘s working class.”

Thousands of state employees were at today‘s rally, religious leaders there as well, as well as state lawmakers.  Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Cryan said this, “Some people say this is about the soul of the Democratic Party.  I agree.”

You know what?  So do I.  That‘s because some Democrats crossed over to join Republicans in support of the bill both in the Senate and assembly.  It‘s a huge problem.  Any Democrat siding with Governor Christie and the Republicans on this issue is not good for the rest of the country because this sets the template.

But let‘s not lose sight of Mr. Shared Sacrifice himself, the governor of New Jersey.  He was the first one—and give him credit.  I mean, if you‘re a righty, you got to love this guy.  This is why these people came in from Iowa and wanted this guy to run for president.  This is why the righties in this country want this guy, because he doesn‘t back down.  And he finds a way to get some Democrats onboard to go after middle classers in this country.

Forget the polls in New Jersey.  If this doesn‘t set the table for 2012 for middle class workers in this country, I don‘t know what will.

It‘s Ohio, the Senate bill five there.

It‘s Wisconsin, all the things going on.

It‘s down in Florida where Governor Scott is going wild on the middle class.

I mean—is this the America you want?  Middle classers, do you feel like you have a say?

2012 is about your financial survival.

Get your phones out.  I want to know what you think.

Tonight‘s survey question is: should unions punish New Jersey Democrats who are siding with Governor Chris Christie?  Text A for yes, text B for no to 622639 and, of course, you can always go to our new blog at Ed.MSNBC and comment there.  We‘ll have the results later on in the show.

Staying with New Jersey, let‘s go to New Jersey state director for Communication Workers of America, Hetty Rosenstein.

Hetty, great to have you with us.  I appreciate your time.

Let‘s talk about the politics first before we talk about the workers.

Why did the Democrats side with Governor Christie on this if it‘s going to take $6,000 away from somebody who‘s making 65 grand a year?  Where are these Democrats?

HETTY ROSENSTEIN, COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA:  Well, it‘s a really horrendous thing we have in New Jersey.  We actually had a Democrat sponsor this bill.  We have a group of Democratic leaders who come—who are controlled by a machine in south Jersey and they came out with a vengeance.  They collaborated with Chris Christie and they attacked us.

It is a very sad day in New Jersey.  In fact, we had 16 Democratic heroes in the Senate who opposed this and 32 in the assembly.  They fought all day very, very hard, but they couldn‘t overcome this collaboration of 14 Democrats.

SCHULTZ:  Are you shocked at the Democrats—are you shocked at the behavior of the Democrats?

ROSENSTEIN:  I‘m horrified.

SCHULTZ:  I mean, it‘s not like this story hasn‘t gotten national attention.  It‘s happening in all of these states where there are Republican governors and give Christie credit.  This is a major victory tonight for him.

Are you shocked at this?

ROSENSTEIN:  It‘s a huge victory.

We are horrified by it.  And we can‘t believe the Democratic leadership in Senator Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Oliver would want to give the governor this kind of a victory.  The fact is the governor‘s numbers have been plummeting in the last several weeks, but these two Democrats and a few, a handful of their allies, now have boosted the governor up for no good reason and in the—and our members thousands of workers are—and their families are going to be harmed terribly.

Yes, we‘re pretty horrified.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  Now what this means, folks, just because you have the right to collectively bargain doesn‘t mean that you‘re going to get everything you want.  What this does is it silences the voices of those who were public employees, the teachers.  They can‘t negotiate anymore for their health care benefits.

So, they are now going to be possibly victimized financially further on down the road.  They‘re going to be dictated to exactly what kind of a package they‘re going to have.  And I mean—talk about fairness in the work place.  This is not good for American workers.  And this is the template that the Republicans want to follow when it comes to balancing state budgets across this country.

Now, what is the pushback on this for 2012?  Does this change the thinking that Democrats aren‘t going to get the union support?

ROSENSTEIN:  Well, in New Jersey, these legislators are up for election in 2011, in November.  And I think there is no question that there is going to be a major pushback against supporting any Democrats that supported this bill.

SCHULTZ:  Hetty, tell us, what does this bill do to someone making $25,000 a year?  I mean, we said it with just over $1,000 and expenses, someone at $65,000, it‘s $6,000.  You want to talk about disposable income going right out the door—I don‘t know how the hell the economy is going to recover in the state of New Jersey if this is the way it‘s going to be.

But tell us, what does this really mean to the workers?

ROSENSTEIN:  Well, it means a couple things.

First of all, everyone will pay 2 percent more paid towards their pension.  We already pay 5.5 percent of pay toward our pension.  That equals about 60 percent of the cost of the pension.  This will add 2 percent more.  So, we‘ll be paying 75 percent of the total cost of our pension.

And then people will be paying somewhere generally on average 22 percent of the cost of health care and the really horrifying aspect of the bill, people are going to—our retirees, it eliminates their cost of living adjustment for 30 years.

We have many retirees who have retired on pensions of $10,000, $12,000, $15,000.  You‘re 65 years old.  You‘re going to get that same $10,000, $12,000, $15,000 until you‘re 95.

So, this is a terrible bill.  It has a horrible impact on middle class families.  And there is no reason for it.

The fact of the matter is, five unions came forward with a plan to save hundreds of millions of dollars through collective bargaining and through cost containment and they had no interest in that plan.  They really just wanted to union bust.  They just wanted to eliminate our collective bargaining rights and they wanted to hurt us.

SCHULTZ:  Well, there is an election as you said coming up in 2011, in November.  It is going to be a big one in New Jersey.  And I think it sets the table as well for the 2012, big one, in this country, because this is really what we have been talking about for the last six months on this program and this is a big victory tonight for the right wing and a big victory for Governor Chris Christie.

Hetty Rosenstein, thank you for your time tonight.

Now, there is another story out there related to the middle class in this country where they continue to keep fighting wages and collective bargaining rights and in states where Republicans are really having difficulty passing laws that attack wage earners, what they‘re doing is they‘re attempting to rig elections with voter ID-type stuff.

Democratic Governor Bev Purdue was the last line of defense on voting rights in the state of North Carolina.  She vetoed the attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise voters in that state.  The bill would have required voters to show a picture ID in order to vote.  For those who didn‘t have one, they would have to fill out a provisional ballot and prove their eligibility later on.

This disproportionately hurts the elderly, poor, and students—obviously, who tend to vote for Democrats.  North Carolina is one of the many states across the country that have voter ID bills before the legislature.  This is how the right wing is playing the game.

Remember to answer tonight‘s question right there at the bottom of the screen.  I want to know what you think.

The bipartisan talks on the debt ceiling came to an abrupt halt today in Washington and House Speaker Boehner might have been thrown under the bus by his own party.  One thing has never gone away during these months of squabbling over the budget—the need for health care for every American.

We‘ll tell you about a free clinic coming up in New Orleans on August 29th.

Stay with us.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW.


SCHULTZ:  The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a resolution tomorrow to limit the funding of military action in Libya.  Congressional sources say the resolution has the votes to pass originally House leadership proposed two resolutions, one to continue the mission and one to end it.  But after a closed door meeting yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner was forced to change course due to pressure from GOP critics of conflict.

Congressman Tim Mahoney of Florida won out with a resolution that restricts funding but also allows for several loopholes.  Funds are permitted for search and rescue missions, surveillance and operational planning among other exceptions.  The resolution doesn‘t have much chance in the Senate where senators John Kerry and John McCain have a bipartisan proposal supporting the mission that is likely to pass.

Meanwhile, Republicans walked out of the debt ceiling talks today. 

We‘ll tell you why that‘s bad news for the speaker, next.


SCHULTZ:  Good to have you back with us.

Negotiations over a deficit reduction deal were killed by House Republicans today and in doing so, Eric Cantor left John Boehner—I guess you could say—holding a ticking time bomb.  The House Republican leader Cantor pulled out of the deficit talks led by Vice President Joe Biden.

Cantor announced on Twitter, “Regardless of the progress made the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue.  The House doesn‘t support tax increases.”

By leaving the talks, Cantor, I guess you could say, punted responsibility to House Speaker John Boehner who will have to work with President Obama on a final deal.  Boehner needed to maintain a strong anti-tax stance today to appeal to the Republican Tea Party base.  He said tax increases on the super rich and on mega-corporations are off the table.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  A tax hike cannot pass the U.S. House of Representatives.  It‘s not just a bad idea.  It doesn‘t have the votes and it can‘t happen.


SCHULTZ:  But spending cuts alone won‘t make much of a dent on the deficit.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says short-term spending cuts will actually harm the recovery and cost more jobs.  The Republican (ph) Budget Office agrees and says the best way to manage the national debt is to implement the Obama health care plan and let the Bush tax cuts expire.

Why didn‘t they do that back in December?

Here‘s a chart showing what would happen if the Bush tax cuts are phased out.  That‘s the blue line.

The rising red line is what would happen to the national debt if we continue with our current tax policies and that‘s exactly what the Republicans want.

Joining me tonight is “Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC political analyst, Ezra Klein.

Ezra, great to have you with us tonight.

What is—why did Cantor walk out today?  What, is this a stunt? 

Is he upset with Boehner?  Was this the plan al along?  What about it?

EZRA KLEIN, WASHINGTON POST:  He threw Boehner and frankly the country‘s credit rating under the bus a little bit.  Boehner needed Cantor in there because Cantor is Boehner‘s emissary to the Tea Party.  If the deal had Cantor‘s imprimatur on it, Boehner would be able to bring his conservatives along and also, he wouldn‘t be the guy holding the bag for it.

And Cantor brought it all the way up to that final point.  He got the spending cuts done.  He said that the deal was going great.  They had $2 trillion in spending cuts on the table, the administration.

And sort at the last minute, he releases this very weird statement.  He doesn‘t say the negotiations have broken down.  He says John Boehner will have to be the one to handle the taxing.

So, at the very last minute he pulls out and says, no, no, I‘m not going to be the guy to sign on to tax increases.

And so, now, John Boehner is stuck with the choice.  Does he let the debt ceiling cave in and the country go into an economic catastrophe or destroy his support among the Tea Party and open himself up to a challenge by Eric Cantor down the road by being the guy who conceded to the Democrats on tax increases?

SCHULTZ:  And where is Vice President Biden on this?  Where is President Obama on this when it comes to holding the line to get more revenue into the Treasury?  Are the Democrats a step behind in this negotiation in your opinion?

KLEIN:  To a degree that surprised me a little bit what this implied was that they are holding the line.  I had heard that revenues were not going to be a serious part of this deal and maybe they frankly still weren‘t and we‘re dealing with token revenues the Republican Party won‘t accept.

But the fact they‘ve got Cantor walking and McConnell and Boehner and Kyl screaming about tax increases suggests they were calling for some significant tax increases.

What was specifically under discussion today or supposed to be was a trigger that in 2014, if we have not the budget on a sustainable path, would begin making either just spending cuts or spending cuts and also tax increases to force Congress to revisit it.  Obviously, Republicans don‘t want taxes and the administration did, and it looks like Eric Cantor thought they‘d stand firm on that.

SCHULTZ:  And, Ezra, what about the drawdown?  The announcement of drawdown of troops in Afghanistan?  I call it a troop shift.  I don‘t think it‘s much of a drawdown and I don‘t believe it‘s going to have a huge impact on the budget.

But expenses is the name of the game at this point.  How does this play into it?  Does the troops drawdown Afghanistan factor into these spending cuts at all?

KLEIN:  Hugely.  The Congressional Budget Office says if you do a pretty reasonable draw down in Iraq and Afghanistan by 2015, you can save $1.4 trillion.  Now, that isn‘t against what would actually be spent.  It has to do with weird accounting rules in the CBO that they won‘t score your wars ending until you essentially pass legislation saying your wars are ending.  But that was the spending cut the two sides could agree on because it would reduce the deficit in the eyes of the market and at the same time, it was policy the Obama administration wanted to implement anyway.

SCHULTZ:  How much progress do you think Vice President Biden has made in al of these talks?  I mean, how close are we to a deal here?  Are we so close to a deal that Cantor walks out because he‘s afraid he‘s not going to be able to satisfy the base?

KLEIN:  We were very close to a deal from all accounts and people in both parties said what was happening in the room was very positive, that people were being more serious.  They were being more thoughtful about it, that they understood the issue as well.

Cantor made sure the first sentence or two of his statement today to praise the vice president.  So, Biden has been doing a very good job running these negotiations.  The question is whether or not the Republican Party can overcome its own internal dynamics and eventually support some level of revenues in the deal.

But what nobody quite knows is if they can‘t, what‘s their end game?  At some point, either we‘re going to stop sending out Social Security checks and then default on the debt, or going to default on the debt.  And if we have to do this when the market is already panicking given this economy, it‘s just going to be a disaster and it‘s going to be a disaster for everyone, particularly for Republicans if they get blamed.

SCHULTZ:  “The Washington Post‘s” Ezra Klein—thanks for joining us tonight.  Good insight on all of this as always.  Thanks so much.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

SCHULTZ:  Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is picking up steam in the 2012 race.  She is within spitting distance of Mitt Romney in a new poll out in Florida.  Three of the most opinionated talkers I know will join me to chime in on the Republican field.  It‘s a dandy.

For the first time ever, white babies make up less than half of all babies born in the United States.  The face of America is still changing.  Next.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

For the first time ever, most babies being born in the United States are nonwhite.  Non-Hispanic white children under age 2 make up less than half according to the Census Bureau and other statistics.  Babies of a racial or ethnic minority, when combined, make up more than half.

By the middle of this century, racial and ethnic minorities will together become the majority in America and nonwhite Hispanic whites will be in the minority.  It‘s a huge shift happening and one that has been long predicted.

Just to give you an idea of how big a shift this is, 80 percent of seniors, 65 years of age or older, are white; 73 percent of Americans age 45 to 64 are white.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of shift that causes fear among some Americans.  Fear is about race and fear is about immigration.  It helps perpetuate cruel laws against immigrants.  There are even those who want to revoke birth right citizenship for some even though it‘s in the Constitution.

Some people are afraid of change in this country, but the truth is, the only thing normal is change.

A health care clinic from the National Association of Free Clinics is coming to the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 29th.  It‘s vitally important for a lot of people down there and we‘ll talk about it next.

And Rush Limbaugh needs new material.  He‘s back comparing President Obama to Hitler?  Buddy, you are in the zone.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

The National Association of Free Clinics is holding a free clinic in New Orleans on August 29th and we need your help.  The donations made through MSNBC over the past two years have helped stage these clinics and provide health care for those who simply have no health care at all.

I‘ve seen it first hand.  It has been life saving in some instances.  In February of last year, back when I was doing the 6:00 hour, I broadcast from a free clinic in Connecticut.

Here is part of my report from the site after seeing first hand the personal devastation of some Americans.


SCHULTZ:  You can‘t come to these free health clinics without being moved.  And I don‘t know what they‘re doing in Washington.  I don‘t know what they‘re doing in the House and the Senate, there‘s proposal here, a bill here, these committees here—but I know that‘s happening here.

And I know that there aren‘t any House members here and there aren‘t any Senate members here.  And I can tell you one piece of information here in the state of Connecticut where the House and the Senate passed universal health care for every citizen in Connecticut and the governor vetoed it.

The public option in this state overwhelmingly polls well, but in Washington, Joe Lieberman not only is he not here tonight, but he‘s against the public option and any kind of competition for the private sector.

So, as a broadcaster I‘m confused.  I don‘t—I don‘t understand the disconnect.

But I did understand that lady today when she looked at me in the eye and said, “I just want to thank you and MSNBC for being here because if I didn‘t get this lump in my neck checked out, I don‘t know what would have happened.”

Now, Americans, we can give all the analysis in the world about what happened in Massachusetts.

I‘ll tell you what‘s happening in Massachusetts and it‘s happening here in Connecticut and is going to happen all over the country.  Washington better get it.  I don‘t care if you‘re a Republican or Democrat.  If you don‘t do something, Washington, to help the majority of Americans who were seeing their insurance premiums go through the roof who have got a pre-existing condition and can‘t see a doctor because they can‘t get coverage—if you don‘t fix that, Washington, all of you will be gone and they will hire the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.

But, oh, wait a minute.  We‘ve got this new Supreme Court ruling that says the corporations can give unlimited money to the senators that want to deny the very people that came in this hall today.  I don‘t need a script to tell you the truth.  I saw it.  And there‘s no politician here with Ed and team from MSNBC seeing it.

Oh, they hear 47 million don‘t have insurance and we got to fix this and we got to fix that.  Get down here with the folks who are standing in line to see a doctor.  Talk to the professionals in the medical profession who say, just a simple checkup could save hundreds of millions of dollars if we just have free clinics to help people so they can get some quick diagnosis.

It almost makes you ashamed to say that, “Hey, America is a great place.”  We do a lot of things right in this country.  We offer a lot of great opportunities to people in this country.

But somewhere along the line, we have missed it totally when it comes to health care for all Americans.  And I can only remember the words that Senator Ted Kennedy said when he was fighting for minimum wage on the Senate floor.

We asked the other side, what is it that you want?  What is it that you want from these working men and women?  What is it?  Why do you have such a disdain for the working people of America?  How many more billions of dollars do you want?  Where is the line going to be drawn?

But you see, we‘re in the age of apology.  We‘re in the age if we say something that someone doesn‘t like—oh, we have to run to a microphone and we have to apologize.  Who‘s apologizing for the condition for these Americans?

A doctor who‘s running this clinic today told me he said, “Ed, you know, a lot of Americans swallow their pride to come in here and do this.”  It‘s hard for ‘em.  They‘ve known work all their life and now they‘re in a middle aged crisis and they don‘t have a job and they‘ve been out of work for 16 months and they don‘t want unemployment benefits.  They want a job.

And they don‘t have health care—and it doesn‘t affect just the dad and the mom.  It‘s the kids.  It‘s the kids who get harassed at school because your dad doesn‘t have a job.  You don‘t have health care?  We have health care.

We have two Americas.

Now, I‘m sure I got to take a commercial break in a few minutes and we got to interview people.  I could go on for hours on this.


SCHULTZ:  Yes, I could go on for hours on this, because it matters to every American family, maybe more than anything else in our economy.

I am a universal health care advocate.  I believe that every American should have universal health care and I believe we could do it.  We do have the right to a health care system that will definitely make our lives better.

Let‘s put the information up one more time.  Please remember that just how vital this is to the people who go to these free health care clinics because of your donations.  The next one is going to be on August 29th in New Orleans.  It‘s a mission of MSNBC to help out people.  I‘m going to be broadcasting from there on August 29th and I‘m really looking forward to it.

And I want to know if things have gotten better in America since we passed the health care bill.  We just—we‘re not going to see it for a lot of Americans.  This is the story that we‘ve got to keep out in front of America.  And we will do it.

And I appreciate your donations and that‘s how you can help us out tonight.

Rush Limbaugh is ripping President Obama‘s decision on Afghanistan.  He has no idea how military leadership works in this country or how much it actually costs.  I‘ll explain.

Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

More evidence Americans—they just cannot stand Paul Ryan‘s, the congressman from Wisconsin, they can‘t stand his plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

Here is a new number that‘s out.  A poll shows 57 percent of the people say they‘d be worse off under Ryan‘s plan.  Only 34 percent said they‘d be better off.  And 55 percent said Republican candidates are less attractive if they support the Ryan Medicare plan.

As for Ryan himself, a slight majority of people aren‘t sure what to make of him.  But among those who do have an opinion on this guy, Ryan had the third highest net unfavorable rating behind only Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.  Although he has a long way to go before he is disliked as much as those two.

The bottom line here is, folks—the American people are clearly not buying Paul Ryan‘s disastrous Medicare plan.


SCHULTZ:  And in “Psycho Talk” tonight, Rush Limbaugh—well, he‘s all worked up about President Obama‘s decision to pull 33,000 troops out of Afghanistan by the end of next summer.  He called the president‘s address last night a campaign speech and then he brought the Nazis into it.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  What better way to fire up the Democrat base than to announce you intend to lose the war in Afghanistan?  That‘s what the Democrat base wants.  So, Obama essentially says, I‘m out to lose, and the Democrat base is happy.  They‘re all excited about it.

You know, what do General Petraeus and Gates, the defense secretary, what do they know?  They were both opposed to Obama when he made his gutsy call.  Don‘t you remember that?  Only Obama knew how to go out and get bin Laden.  He‘s a brilliant guy getting bin Laden.  And now, he‘s a brilliant military strategist.

You know, Hitler‘s generals tried to argue with him, too—fools.


SCHULTZ:  I think Limbaugh is the fool here.  Apparently, Rush doesn‘t understand how civilian leadership works in this country.  You see, our civilian president has the final say on military decisions and that‘s not a recent development, Drugster.

You see, you can‘t blame that one on progressives.  It‘s in the Constitution, Article II, Section II talks about civilian power over military.  It says, “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.”  Pretty straight forward—even Rush should be able to understand it.

And as for Limbaugh‘s bizarre criticism of the president‘s decision to take out bin Laden—it‘s not up for debate.  Bin laden is dead.  President Obama‘s decision was right.  End of story.

And whether or not Rush agrees with the president‘s strategy in Afghanistan, to compare him to Hitler is ignorant.  Outrageous “Psycho Talk.”

Coming up, I‘m bringing together a group of TV and radio folks to duke it out on the top stories of today.  These guys always have something interesting to say, and so do the ladies.  And it‘s going to be a dandy.

Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  Democratic Congressman Barney Frank teamed up with Republican presidential candidate, Congressman Ron Paul, today to make history, politically.  They‘re about as far apart as you could possibly imagine, but today, they introduced a bill that would expand state rights by letting states legalize marijuana.

Ron Paul, of course, is a libertarian.  He couldn‘t get any other Republicans to cosponsor.

Barney Frank could only get a handful of Democrats.

So, the bill is not going to pass.  But along with George Schultz and Paul Volcker calling for an end to the war on drugs, the Frank/Paul bill could give momentum to legalizing efforts at the state levels.  Schultz and Volcker made their position known around the same time the Global Commission on Drug Policy called the war on drugs a big failure.

So, why do we still have a war on drugs?  Here‘s a clue.  The Justice Policy Institute reports that private prison companies are spending millions to lobby and campaign for lawmakers to increase prison sentences.

And what crime helps make America one of the top countries for the number of citizens behind bars?  Drugs.

In a sea change—is a sea change coming in the war on drugs?  Stay with us.  We‘ll get some answers.

We‘re right back.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Quite the discussion coming up.  I told—just told you about Congressman Barney Frank and Ron Paul reaching across the aisle on a very controversial bill to allow states to legalize marijuana.  We‘ll see if my guests can come to a consensus on that story, as well as some of the other big stories that we‘ve been talking about this evening.

Let‘s go to nationally syndicated radio talk show host Heidi Harris

is with us tonight, and also, Bill Press.  And hopefully, they won‘t scrap it out because, Bill, I think you probably would lose that one.  Bill is also the author of “Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right has Poisoned America‘s Airwaves.”  And we also have Laura Flanders with us tonight, who is the host of GRITtv and Free Speech TV.


Always great to have all of you with us here tonight for this discussion.

You know, I want to go back.  I have some friends from high school who smoked a lot of pot.  And not to pick on them but they‘re like zombies today.  I mean, the stuff that‘s in marijuana today, I‘m told, is far worse than it was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

What—why are we even thinking about legalizing marijuana?

Heidi Harris, you first.  Is this a good or bad idea?

HEIDI HARRIS:  I think it‘s a bad idea.  Now, if the argument is made that if you legalize it, that will reduce crime—well, that‘s a stupid argument.  I mean, they repealed prohibition, and the last I heard, there was still criminal activity in America.  So, it really may eliminate that crime, but it‘s not going to eliminate other crime.  I don‘t see the point.

And if you‘re a parent, I don‘t know what you tell your child about pot if it becomes legal.  I think it‘s a bad idea.

SCHULTZ:  What do you think, Bill?

BILL PRESS, RADIO SHOW HOST:  I tell you what you tell—what you tell your kids.  You tell your kids you shouldn‘t be drinking alcohol.  You shouldn‘t be smoking cigarettes.  You shouldn‘t be smoking pot.

At the same time, Ed, I want to get on your list of friends of yours who smoked a lot of pot when they were in college, because I did and I think I made out pretty well.  It is not a gateway drug.  It is—we spend too much money chasing people who are just using marijuana as a recreational drug.

It‘s the number one cash crop in California.  We make more money in California selling pot than selling grapes.  But all of that money is under the able.

And so, I say, legalize it.  Let the states do it which is what Barney Frank is saying, and Ron Paul, let the states do it and make some money on it.  Tax the hell out of it.

SCHULTZ:  Laura Flanders, would this pass in some states you think?

LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV:  Yes, I think it would and I think Bill is generally right.  I mean, I‘m not a pot smoker, never have been.  It makes me incredibly dreary and asleep.

But I think that what we‘re seeing around the country is police people saying this is insane.  This is a rollercoaster of criminality, criminalizing all of the wrong people, sucking up the money we don‘t have.

What we need to talk about in this country is treatment for drug, real drug abuse.  We need to talk about how do we create jobs.  This is the way—yes, bring in some revenues, make our criminal justice system a little saner and a little bit fairer, because let‘s remember—who is going to jail for marijuana when who is getting away for much more serious stuff down on Wall Street?

HARRIS:  Well, I would agree with that.  One other thing to think about is when you talk about how much marijuana you can have in your system, there really hasn‘t been an established amount.  In other words, THC can be in your system for much longer than it actually affects you.

And so, if you‘re going to test people for driving, you know, while under the influence or jobs are going to drug test, which they do here in Las Vegas in the casinos, I‘m not sure if they figured that part of it out.  If pot suddenly became legal, that‘s a whole other issue.

FLANDERS:  This is a policing issue.  Go ahead.

SCHULTZ:  Go ahead, Laura.

FLANDERS:  No, I was going to say, talk to the police.  I mean, they will say there is a sane way to go about it and the way we‘re going right now is opposite of sane.

PRESS:  Look, there are a lot of serious drugs out there and crime out there and police are wasting their time, the first ones to tell you, Laura is right, chasing people who have a joint.  I mean, give us a break.

HARRIS:  Nobody goes to jail because they have one joint.


PRESS:  Yes, they do.

HARRIS:  All my pot friend are against legalizing pot.  Everyone one of my friends and I know a lot of cops, they‘re against it.

FLANDERS:  OK, all of Heidi‘s friends, I‘ll go with that one.

PRESS:  Probably.

HARRIS:  But I have had, in fairness, Laura, people on my show who are police officers who are for repeal of the pot laws.  So, I understand there are people on both sides.

I‘m telling you people I know who are narcotics are not for it. 

They think it‘s a bad idea to legalize it.

FLANDERS:  We‘re not talking about getting rid of all regulations on all drugs.  We‘re talking about rationalizing our system and not criminalizing the wrong folks and addressing the problem that isn‘t essentially a criminal problem but is creating a population problem.  A problem of a slew of folks disproportionately in low income and people of color communities who are being criminalized for—well, for things that other people are getting away with and it is affecting their entire lives and that‘s affecting our society.

So this is the issue we have to deal with at the core, I think, at the root.  Instead of just putting a Band-Aid on the problem that around the world people are saying this makes no sense.

SCHULTZ:  Bill, I‘m surprised you‘re in favor of it because, you know, you start smoking pot again legally you get the munchies, you‘re going to be 400 pounds.  You know how that stuff works.



PRESS:  It‘s been long since I had a joint, Ed, but I enjoyed it when I used it.  I‘ll be the first to admit it.

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Let‘s get the take from all three of you on the president‘s speech last night, his announcement to draw down.  I say it‘s just a troop shift.  I don‘t think it‘s an exit strategy.

Heidi, what‘s your take on this?

HARRIS:  Well, I think it was a campaign speech to a certain extent.  But he started talking about infrastructure at the end.  I don‘t know what‘s got to do with Afghanistan.

But the reality is, we have to make a decision—either we are in Afghanistan and it‘s logistically beneficial to us to be there because we can chase bad guys more easily in Pakistan and that kind of thing, or we‘re going to try to nation-build, which you cannot do.

Nobody has ever been able to nation-build in Afghanistan and we won‘t be successful either.  They‘re going to never have anything that resembles democracy.  So, if that‘s the goal, let‘s get out now.

PRESS:  Let me tell you something, I don‘t think it was a campaign -

if it were a campaign speech, the president would have said this war is over now.  That‘s what the American people want.  It was a good speech.


I don‘t think it was nowhere near enough.  We ought to have at least 30,000 troops out this year and end that war tomorrow.

And, Heidi, the reason the president was talking about infrastructure is because we can‘t wait another three years to start nation building in America.  We got to rebuild the bridges and the schools and highways here.  And stop building them in Afghanistan now.

HARRIS:  Like the (INAUDIBLE) in the ‘90s and they‘re broke.  You know, he talked last night about ending the war responsibly.

PRESS:  You can‘t spend a trillion dollars in Afghanistan or a billion dollars a week and ignore the problems here at home.

HARRIS:  I agree.  But you can‘t end the war responsibly any other way than victory.  You don‘t responsibly end by just leaving.

PRESS:  We‘ve won.

SCHULTZ:  What is victory?


SCHULTZ:  Let Laura in there.  Laura Flanders, what is—Laura Flanders, what is victory in Afghanistan at this point?

FLANDERS:  You know, we‘ve drawn down responsibly many places many times.  And as you point out at the very beginning this is just a drawdown to still more troops in the country than there were when Barack Obama took office.

PRESS:  Double.

FLANDERS:  If you‘re going to talk about campaign speeches, let‘s talk about where the country is.  You‘ve got 56 percent of Americans polled by the Pew Corporation this week saying they were for immediate withdrawal.  I mean, obviously, that means in a responsible way over time, but therefore, withdrawal, complete withdrawal of all troops, including I think it was 43 percent of all Republicans.

SCHULTZ:  You know—

FLANDERS:  That‘s double what it was last year.  If you‘re looking for votes, you need to go much further than the president went.

PRESS:  Exactly.

SCHULTZ:  What about the money?  What about the money?

FLANDERS:  Three-point-three billion a week.

SCHULTZ:  Yes, expenses alone would be enough for the president to step up and make the case to the American people, you know what?  We might not be done but we got to save our economy.  We‘re going to get the hell out of there.  I mean, that‘s what I want to hear.


FLANDERS:  I wanted to hear more about our economy, I wanted to hear more also about the Afghan economy and building up that civil society.  We made promises about building that society.

HARRIS:  That‘s not going to happen.

FLANDERS:  And that‘s not even mentioned in the speech yesterday.  I think that‘s a disappointment to everybody.

HARRIS:  Let‘s save money in Afghanistan and spend it in Libya. 

That‘s what we‘re doing now.

FLANDERS:  We want justice and we want peace in that country, we‘re going to have to build up and help folks there actually survive.  You know, we made promises.  We‘ve got to stick with.  Otherwise, we‘re going to see a backlash building, brewing even more strongly in Pakistan than we have now.

PRESS:  Let me throw in two other points quickly.  One, Osama bin Laden is in the morgue.  Two, Hamid Karzai is calling us occupiers and trespassers.  That‘s a sign we ought to get out of there fast.

SCHULTZ:  We got to get out.

Heidi Harris, Bill Press, Laura Flanders—great to have you all with us tonight.  Thanks so much.

And tonight our survey—I ask you, should unions punish New Jersey Democrats who are signing—siding with Governor Chris Christie?  Ninety-four percent of you said yes.  Six percent of you said no.

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  You can listen to my radio show at Sirius XM channel 127, Monday through Friday, noon to 3:00.

“THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now.  Have a great one.



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