MSNBC's Ed Schultz on Monday absolutely got his head handed to him in a debate with syndicated columnist Tony Blankley.
Clearly underestimating his opponent, Schultz rudely introduced the subject of a Republican proposal to not have the Congress come back for a lame duck session after November's elections by saying, "No one knows better about shutting down Congress than someone who was right there working for Newt Gingrich when it happened before."
Not letting this stand, Blankley gave the "Ed Show" host a much-needed history lesson (video follows with transcript and commentary):
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: The GOP wants to work three weeks in four months. Got that? While railing about wasteful government spending with a straight face. I don't know how they do it. It's absolutely stunning. No one knows better about shutting down Congress than someone who was right there working for Newt Gingrich when it happened before. Tony Blankley was press secretary to the Speaker and he's now a syndicated columnist. Tony, do you think, good to have you with us tonight.
TONY BLANKLEY: Good to be here.
SCHULTZ: You bet. Do you think it plays to the sensibilities of Americans to suggest a plan that, gosh, the Congress would only be in session to do something for the American people several weeks out of the next four months?
BLANKLEY: Well, first of all, I've got to correct the record as I expected I would. Newt did not close down the government in '95. The Republican Congress passed two bills and the President Clinton decided to veto them because he didn't like what was in the bill, which was funding plus requiring to balance the budget in seven years. And by the way, if you dispute it, I do have in my hot little hands the transcript from Nightline of the night the government closed down with Cokie Roberts and President Clinton agreeing that he vetoed the bill. So, putting that aside, we didn't want to close down the government. We wanted to balance the budget.
For the record, here is that ABC "Nightline" transcript from November 13, 1995:
COKIE ROBERTS, HOST: [voice-over] A political impasse over the budget-
Pres. BILL CLINTON: I would be wrong to permit these kind of pressure tactics.
Rep. NEWT GINGRICH: It's very sad to see the President choose this political game.
COKIE ROBERTS: [voice-over] -and federal services hang in the balance. Tonight, as the clock strikes 12:00, the government shuts down.
ANNOUNCER: This is ABC News Nightline. Substituting for Ted Koppel and reporting from Washington, Cokie Roberts.
COKIE ROBERTS: It's after midnight in Washington, so the government must be closed, right? Well, technically right, but this is Washington, after all, and nothing is quite that simple. After casting his threatened vetoes, President Clinton and congressional leaders met tonight, trying to fix the mess they had made, but the meeting broke up not long ago, with only the promise to meet again tomorrow.
Each side is trying to score political points in this budget drama without getting blamed for chaos. 'Protector of Medicare' is President Clinton's chosen role, and he refused to sign the bill to keep the government going because it required Medicare recipients to pay more for some premiums than they currently expect to. Republicans playing 'protectors of the purse,' but both sides are worried that voters will see them as game-playing politicians, and an ABC News/Washington Post poll released tonight shows that's exactly what voters do think.
Nine times in the past 14 years, the government's officially run out of money. Four times it's actually shut down. This is becoming a well-worn script. But the poll also shows that Republicans get more of the blame for a possible shutdown; 46 percent say they're at fault, 27 percent blame the President. Those numbers serve as a backdrop to the events of this very long day. Nightline correspondent Michel McQueen has our report.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: Federal shutdown, will it happen? Stay tuned for instant updates.
MICHEL McQUEEN, ABC News: [voice-over] As the sun rose, so did the volume in a divided Washington.
Vice Pres. AL GORE: [NBC] They have not done their job. Now they're trying to make an end run around the Constitution, around the normal procedures.
Rep. ROBERT LIVINGSTON, (R), Chairman, Appropriations Committee: We've done a lot to work our way toward the President. He has not done thing toward coming toward us.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] Eight-thirty A.M., President Clinton vetoed the first of two bills at issue in the budget crisis, one that would raise the federal debt limit and require a balanced budget in seven years.
Pres. BILL CLINTON: It would allow the United States to pay its debts for another month, but only at a price too high for the American people to pay.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] And as federal workers headed to the office, the confrontation over the other bill - providing money to keep the government operating temporarily - cast a shadow over the workday.
1st FEDERAL WORKER: I think it's nonsense. I'm involved in personnel, so I'm the one who's going to be going to my office to type up furlough letters, including to myself.
2nd FEDERAL WORKER: Reality is that the Congress and the President have to get together and come to terms on exactly, you know, what needs to be done to ensure that there isn't a shutdown.
Pres. BILL CLINTON: Thank you.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] Mid-morning. In a duel to seize the moral high ground, the President and House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivered speeches to friendly audiences.
Pres. BILL CLINTON: As long as they insist on plunging ahead with a budget that violates our values, in a process that is characterized more by pressure than constitutional practice, I will fight it. I am fighting it today, I will fight it tomorrow, I will fight it next week, and next month.
Rep. NEWT GINGRICH: We can balance the budget, we can save the Medicare trust fund, we can reform the welfare system if we can have an honest dialogue among ourselves as a people.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] At the Senate, the first sign of movement. Republican budget leader Pete Domenici offered a compromise to freeze Medicare premiums at their current level.
Sen. PETE DOMENICI: Now, of late, and I don't know whether this is acceptable across the board, but I've at least discussed, after talking with my staff, I've discussed with the Republican leader here and with others that perhaps the solution is to freeze that at $46.10.
MICHEL McQUEEN: But at noon, despite the glimmer of progress, all signs still point to a government shutdown, with no clue about how long it will last, or what the long-term impact might be. And although Washington has seen these shutdowns before, nearly everyone agrees that this one is different.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, American Enterprise Institute: It has the potential of a serious disruption, and an historic change. You have a Republican Congress, especially a Republican House, bound and determined not to compromise and to push its vision of the budget and of the role of the federal government down the throat of the President of the United States, and you have a president saying, 'I draw the line in the dust, and I won't let this happen.'
HELEN THOMAS, United Press International: You always had the sense that it was very- it would be resolved very soon. There seems to be a different mood this time around, a real- there's a real division of philosophy, I think, of government. It's- it's, I think, a real crisis.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] The real crisis for federal workers, like these in a Social Security office in Kansas City, was the fear of losing a paycheck.
3rd FEDERAL WORKER: When we go on furlough, then that means immediately we have no income, and even if it was just us, it would be one thing, but we have a child to take care of.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] And at this national park in Ventura County, California, rangers were preparing for limited operation.
NATIONAL PARK RANGER: The areas will be closed off to the public, but we will maintain patrols of the area and maintain a patrol staff for emergency medical services, protection of the resource, and search and rescue operations.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] Back in Washington, twice as many people as usual showed up at the passport office, fearing the office would soon close.
Two-thirty P.M. Presidential spokesman Mike McCurry threw cold water on a proposed compromise on Medicare and on the Congress's overall approach to funding.
MIKE McCURRY: The President is very concerned about 60 percent funding level. He has made that clear repeatedly in the statements he's made the last two days, and that just is an unacceptable [crosstalk].
REPORTER: So that's a veto. That means a veto, correct?
MIKE McCURRY: It's unacceptable.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] And with the White House unwilling to compromise, senators said they also were not interested, and that they would send the President their original funding bill. They pointedly noted they would remain on the job.
Sen. BOB DOLE: We're prepared to act up until midnight, or after, if necessary, to prevent a shutdown of the federal government.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] And the blame game continued.
Rep. NEWT GINGRICH: We want the country to understand that the only way the government will close tomorrow is, it is President Clinton is determined to close it.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] And shortly before 9:00 P.M., congressional leaders reached out.
Rep. NEWT GINGRICH: We want to go down and talk with the President about how to keep the government open, and to try to have a discussion about how we will get to a balanced budget and keep the government open, and the- he said no preconditions, and we said no preconditions.
MICHEL McQUEEN: [voice-over] It was the Republicans who asked the President for the meeting, and while the phone call got them an invitation to the White House, it could not save their funding bill. Within the hour, the President issued a veto, his second of the day, guaranteeing a government shutdown at midnight.
Got that? Just as Blankley said, the shutdown was indeed caused by Clinton's vetoes. Not surprisingly, the facts weren't getting in the way of Schultz's point:
SCHULTZ: Well, let me, so you don't have history revisionism going on here, Tony, the fact is is that it was Newt Gingrich who made the decision based on the action of President Clinton that okay, that's it, we're just going to shut her down. The President was not advocating shutting down the Congress. Is that correct?
BLANKLEY: That is not, that is not true. Newt passed, we passed, we passed the bill with the money and the debt limit raise which is what was required. By the way, I have a Congressional Research Service study that says the same thing. Republicans passed the bill. The President vetoed it.
For the record, here's what that CRS study said:
The most recent shutdowns occurred in FY1996. There were two during the early part of the fiscal year. The first, November 14-19, 1995, resulted in the furlough of an estimated 800,000 federal employees. It was caused by the expiration of a continuing funding resolution (P.L. 104-31) agreed to on September 30, 1995, and by President Clinton's veto of a second continuing resolution and a debt limit extension bill.
Schultz still wasn't giving up:
SCHULTZ: Was, was...
BLANKLEY: That's the record!
SCHULTZ: I don't want to spend too much time on history...
BLANKLEY: I know!
SCHULTZ: ...but the fact is President Clinton was not advocating shutting down the Congress...
BLANKLEY: And neither, and neither were the Republicans.
SCHULTZ: ...nor does he have the power to do that.
BLANKLEY: He did by, by vetoing the bill.
SCHULTZ: Oh, okay, Because he didn't play ball the way you guys wanted to...
SCHULTZ: ...that's how you interpret it.
BLANKLEY: There was a real argument to be had and you could haggle over it. We wanted cuts in medicare spending, he didn't. But the fact is we, we passed the legislation that would keep the government open. He vetoed it because he didn't like the other provisions that were in it.
Indeed, and no matter how much folks like Schultz want to blame that government shutdown on Gingrich and the Republican Congress, it was in fact Clinton that forced it with his vetoes.
Not accepting defeat graciously, Schultz foolishly came back for more, and once again got destroyed by the astonishingly more knowledgable Blankley:
SCHULTZ: Okay, so the next point is this. How did the next election go for the Republicans after that?
BLANKLEY: We held onto the House for another ten years.
SCHULTZ: And how many seats did you lose?
BLANKLEY: '95 to 2006 before we lost it.
Talk about walking into a gunfight with a knife.
For the record, despite Clinton's re-election in 1996, he had absolutely no coat-tail that year as the Republicans did surprisingly well in the Congressional balloting losing only six seats in the House while gaining two in the Senate.
As such, on this subject, Schultz was once again all wet.
Of course, there's a much larger issue here. The media are realizing that this November is going to be very bad for the Democrats they support, and they're pulling out all the stops to lessen the damage.
This of includes revising history much as Schultz attempted here to blame everything that has gone wrong in this country - even a government shutdown fifteen years ago - on the GOP.
Beyond this, as Gingrich is rumored to be a presidential candidate in 2012, there's a new movement by so-called journalists to tarnish his record irrespective of the facts.
In this instance, the paltry number of people watching fortunately had Blankley there to correct the record.
Sadly, on this shill network, that is rarely the case.
Bravo, Tony! Bravo!