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SCHULTZ: OK. In the meantime, let"s look at the other side. The Republicans are on the offensive. With who? John McCain, cutting robocalls aimed at independent voters in Arkansas and Nebraska, where they"re vulnerable. McCain got creamed by Obama, at least I thought he did, who campaigned on health care reform. Will Lincoln and Nelson really stand with the president? Or are they going to stand with John McCain and use him as back up in their own backyard trying to get reelected. They might consider it a badge of honer if they go down that road and can kill health care reform.
Let"s go to Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who told me on this program about a month ago that he was for a strong public option. Those are words I would love to hear tonight. Senator, great to have you with us.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Ed. I continue to be for a strong public option. You"ve raised so many issues in the last couple of minutes that I"ve heard standing here waiting for my turn. And I"m told I have four minutes on this segment. There"s a lot to respond to.
Let me start at the beginning. We"re working on a health care bill. And the people whom you have identified have views of their own, and they"re entitled to their views. But we"re trying to work it out. And I believe we will end up with a public option.
Can I guarantee that? No, I can"t.
Now, you have what Senator McCain has done, and is trying to take credit for it, on his campaign for re-election. And let him do whatever he chooses to do. But the cold fact is that the AARP, the most prominent spokesman for the senior citizens, rejected John McCain"s amendment. He makes the contention that 500 billion dollars is being cut from Medicare benefits, and it simply is not true. There are projected savings on Medicare to maintain this financial stability, but those savings are on over-payments by insurance companies, on programs which have not worked. And the AARP has flatly said Senator McCain is wrong. And they"re the best objective viewer that you can look to as to what the facts are.
SCHULTZ: How about the fight back on this, Senator Specter? I appreciate your position on this. Do you think the Democrats should do robocalls in states where maybe we can get a Republican on the public option?
SPECTER: Well, it"s a free country. Robocalls are permitted. Let them do whatever they choose to do.
SCHULTZ: Would you do one?
SPECTER: It depended on the circumstance. If I thought I was being unfairly attacked by a robocall--it"s lawful. It"s done. I prefer to be on your show, Ed.
SCHULTZ: I like that.
SPECTER: Where people see me, and you have an opportunity to question me. People are accustomed to robocalls. This is not exactly something that"s new. So when people hear this voice on there, they"re forewarned. The American public is pretty smart, Ed. Talk television is doing a great deal to bring the facts to them, when you invite me on, of course, that is.
SCHULTZ: No doubt about it. Senator, I"ll be the bad cop in this. I think we got to push all Democrats to a public option. And I have to say I have no confidence in Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln or Joe Lieberman. I don"t know how you"re going to get a public option--and this is heresy for me to say this, because I"m going against my own philosophy. I know what the American people want. How are you going to get this done? You"re working on it. But how are you going to get it done?
SPECTER: I"m working on it by persuasion. I talked to Senator Lieberman today. I talked to Senator Blanche Lincoln today. We had a meeting of a number of Democratic senators this afternoon. We were briefed on Afghanistan by the national security adviser. And then at 5:30, late this afternoon, a group of Democrats sat down to try to find an answer to keep a public option.
SCHULTZ: Senator, great to have you with us. I appreciate your time. Isn"t an open microphone just a wonderful thing? I"ll continue to be the bad cop, okay?
SPECTER: I think you advertise as the bad cop, but you"re a pretty good guy, Ed. Thank you.
SCHULTZ: All right, senator. Thank you. I want that public option.
The country wants it. Thank you. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
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