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updated 5/3/2011 1:06:57 PM ET 2011-05-03T17:06:57

Guests: Michael Sheehan, Matthew Alexander, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Michael Eric Dyson,

Talat Hamdani, Capt. Al Fuentes

ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  Good evening, Americans.  And welcome to THE ED SHOW, tonight from New York City—a city where thousands of Americans were killed on September 11th, 2001.

And tonight, the mastermind of that attack, Osama bin Laden, is rotting at the bottom of the Arabian Sea.  Got to ask you, how‘s that for change you can believe in?

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER:  The president had to evaluate the strength of that information and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ (voice-over):  Tonight, new details on the elite American force that took down America‘s most wanted—with terrorism analyst Michael Sheehan and former interrogator Matthew Alexander.

The politics of bin Laden‘s death, with Michael Eric Dyson and Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.

And the reaction from the people who lost their loved ones on 9/11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

This is the story that the globe is paying attention to.  There is no question about it.  It‘s the story that we are all fired up about.  I‘m fired up about this guy, right here.

The president of the United States, you know, I wish I had five hours to talk to you tonight and have fun with this, because we‘re going to talk about American exceptionalism tonight.  And before we start with the president, we‘ve got to thank those Navy SEALs and those military guys that give it all, their all, all the time for the United States of America.

Tonight, we‘re going to show you some interesting footage about how they love this country, how we responded to all of this, and, of course, we just can‘t forget what they have said about our president.

This president right here, President Barack Obama, if we can just for a moment talk about the guts this guy has shown over the last 48 hours, talk about how he has undoubtedly proven that he could take the 3:00 a.m.  call, that he may not have served in the military, but he certainly sure makes a lot of good calls, doesn‘t he?  And about how this country, despite all of the division that we have politically, we are now beginning to unite a little bit.  This may be a big turning point for this country.  I hope so.

But president Obama did it with dignity, didn‘t he?  Wasn‘t any jingoism going on, no cowboy kind of talk, a lot of dignity shown, a lot of class, a lot of—I guess he kind of did it kind of like the academic way.

This is the guy that they said didn‘t have the experience because he never served in the military before.  He‘s had to make some pretty heavy decisions as of late and he has gotten the number one terrorist on the face of the Earth, the man that was responsible for killing some 3,000 Americans and, of course, this is I guess you could say the “mission accomplished banner that we should be putting up.

The FBI‘s most wanted fugitive, Osama bin Laden, camped out in this nice million-dollar compound for six years.  And on actionable intelligence just like the president said he was going to do it he acted and got it done.

You know, but then, there‘s the troops.  You know how we hear so much about the troops and how they just have got to have our support?  And we do give them the support.  Absolutely.

But then there‘s this talk about Republican and Democrat who supports the troops more.  I was captivated by this video.  This is at the Naval Academy.  This is the commandant with those wonderful Americans.  Let‘s take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I -- 

CROWD:  I -- 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I believe.

CROWD:  I believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I believe that.

CROWD:  I believe that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I believe that we—

CROWD:  I believe that we—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I believe that we have won.

CROWD:  I believe that we have won!  I believe that we have won!  I believe that we have won!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I believe that we have won.  How about that spirit?  That spirit.

Do you think those folks at the Naval Academy, the way they were feeling last night—do you feel that they love the president of the United States?  Do you think they pay attention to the political rhetoric that‘s going on, or are they focused on being great servants to this country in the military?  That‘s what they‘re all about.

This was a huge moment for our military.  This was a uniting moment for this country.

And they put aside all the political divide that was out there.  I

have great respect for the way the president has done this, because some of

the details that are coming out are so doggone interesting.  This guy that

didn‘t have any military experience, had to make some pretty tough calls

The president was offered four options here.  He could have bombed the target.  He didn‘t want to do that because that of course would have ruined all of the evidence and, of course, we‘ve got to have proof that Osama bin Laden is dead, and it would have killed a lot of innocent people, and this president was very concerned about that.

He could have done a clandestine operation, didn‘t want to do that.

He could have joined in and done a joint operation with the Pakistanis.  But the way things have been going, you know what?  He just didn‘t want to outsource this one.

He turned to those great kids that you saw.  He turned to those kinds of Americans to say, you know what?  You got to do this job.

We are focused as a country.  We‘re focused as a military.  I‘ve told you on the campaign trail that we are going to get Osama bin Laden.

This is the time.  This is the moment.  This is the chance.  And we‘re going to move forward and do it—just like we said we were going to do it as Americans.

You know what that is, folks?  That‘s leadership.  That‘s guts.  But it‘s leadership at its finest hour.

And so, the president said, no.  What we‘re going to do is we‘re going to go with the SEALs.  The SEALs are going to get it done.

So, the Special Ops team conducted two rehearsals on April 7th and April 13th and the commander reported back to the commander-in-chief, said this will work.  This will work.

The president said, well, you know, what are you going to do if a chopper goes down?  Think about that.

The guy that doesn‘t have any military experience asks the critical question?  OK.  You‘re going in with a couple choppers or one of them.  What if it doesn‘t work?  What‘s your back-up plan?  He knew.

That was President Obama‘s concern.  He said, what if one of the choppers failed?  He asked comrades, the commanders, to come up with a “fight your way out” plan.

Now, on the campaign trail, they were saying that he was going to cut and run.  On the campaign trail, they said that this man didn‘t have the experience.  He didn‘t have the country on a war footing.  He didn‘t understand the war on terrorism.

But at that 11th hour, he asked the critical question, how are you going to fight your way out?  What are you going to do if this happens?

No.  This is leadership.  There‘s no question about it.

Some other details—well, bin Laden‘s son—he was taken out on the stairs between the second and third floor.  The commando who took out Osama bin Laden recognized him on the third floor on sight and shot him twice just over the left eye.

See?  As Americans, we got to have proof.  We love the detail of operations like this, don‘t we?

Yes.  It‘s gruesome.  But it was damn gruesome on September 11th and I don‘t believe that this is closure.  I believe that this is an end of a chapter and we‘ve all been reminded that we‘ve got to keep up this fight and keep going.

But the president is going.  He is moving forward again and again and again.  Even tonight, the president of the United States is at the White House trying to bring these critics together and say, you know what?  We‘ve got to get together and we‘ve got to move this country forward.  This is the president tonight with the Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Obviously, we‘ve all had disagreements and differences in the past.  I suspect we‘ll have them again in the future.  But last night as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden, we -- 

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA:  Thank you.

You know, I think we experienced the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.  We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for.  And what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  You know, that was the president tonight speaking at the White House, once again olive-branching, trying to bring everybody together, trying to use this as a moment of unity because we as a country have accomplished something fantastic.  This has been a great day for America.

But I‘m an Obama supporter and have been, and I just will never let the Republicans forget what they said about our president throughout all of this leading up to it.  The president has been accurate about this for years.  This is what he said during a speech on August 1st, 2007.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If we have actionable intelligence about high value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Hannity, Limbaugh, Rove, they jumped all over that, that was candidate Obama getting aggressive.  And a year later, in a debate with John McCain in Nashville, Tennessee, President Obama had this to say just weeks before the election, much more specific.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  What I‘ve said is we‘re going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants.  And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then, I think that we have to act and we will take them out.  We will kill bin Laden.  We will crush al Qaeda.  That has to be our biggest national security priority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Did you hear that?  If they are unable or not willing, we‘re going to go ahead and do it.  John McCain hammered the freshman senator from Illinois making that statement.  Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt.  Teddy Roosevelt used to say, walk softly, talk softly but carry a big stick.  Senator Obama likes to talk loudly.  In fact, he said he wants to announce that he is going to attack Pakistan.  Remarkable.

Senator Obama by saying that he would attack Pakistan—look at the context of his words.  I‘ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends.  I‘ll get him.  I know how to get him.

I‘ll get him no matter what and I know how to do it, but I‘m not going to telegraph my punches.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Thank God America picked the guy who actually got bin Laden.  The Republicans have never given President Obama any credit for keeping this country safe.

McCain‘s running mate has been of course spreading garbage like this for the last couple of years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  As the USS Cole was attacked, our embassies were attacked, it was treated by an international crime spree, not like an act of war.  We‘re seeing that mindset again settle into Washington.  That scares me for my children, for your children.  Treating this like a mere law enforcement matter places our country at great risk, because that‘s not how radical Islamic extremists are looking at this.  They know we‘re at war.  And to win that war we need a commander-in-chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Not a professor of law.  We need a commander-in-chief.

So, Sarah Palin, how is this commander-in-chief doing now?  Palin has just been a small part of the smear job on President Obama‘s national security credentials.  The lead attack dog has been former Vice President Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  Campaigned against it all across the country, and now, he‘s making some choices that in my mind will raise the risk to the American people of another attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Raise the risk.  Always fear mongering.

Now that President Obama has accomplished something Cheney and Bush could never pull off, the former vice president—well, today I guess you could say to his credit he‘s singing a different tune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  W need to look at it as a great victory for the American military and intelligence personnel and for the American people.  A lot of bravery and courage displayed by those folks on behalf of all of us.  It‘s also a good day for the administration.  I think President Obama and his national security team acted on the intelligence when it came in, and they deserve a lot of credit, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Acted on the intelligence deserves a lot of credit.

Now, Dick Cheney was saying in early 2009 that President Obama was apologizing for America, that he didn‘t understand the war on terror.  That he didn‘t have this country on a war footing.  My, how things have changed.  It‘s so interesting, isn‘t it?

You know, President Obama has been knocked by the conservatives for not understanding American exceptionalism.

Well, let‘s play a little sound bite about American exceptionalism that we picked out from last night.  Here it is.

Cheney isn‘t the only member of the Bush administration chiming in.  This is how Rumi put it.  “All of this was made possible by the relentless, sustained pressure on al Qaeda and that the Bush administration initiated after 9/11 and that the Obama administration has wisely chosen to continue.”  Really?

Now, we‘ve got to give Bush all kinds of credit.  Bush had his time to do it.  This is not about George W. Bush.

This is about President Obama because he is the one undoubtedly that has had to make the decision as to whether we‘re going to bomb, whether we‘re going to work with the Pakistanis, whether we‘re going to do a clandestine operation, or whether we‘re going to send in the SEALs.  That was president Obama‘s call.

You know what?  The way the political climate is in this country, it‘s a damn good thing this whole thing worked, because if this hadn‘t worked, can you imagine what the right wing would be saying now?  If this hadn‘t worked, what do you think Mr. Cheney would be saying?

And I don‘t think that President Bush would have put out any kind of a message.

You know, I was really captivated by some of the things that were happening in Times Square.  This was pretty interesting.

Well, the president was talking about coming together, which I think the people really did.  Here he is last night talking about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

(CHANTING)

OBAMA:  The cause of securing our country is not complete, but tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to.  That is the story of our history—whether it‘s the pursuit of prosperity for our people or the struggle for equality for all of our citizens, our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.  Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are.  One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

SCHULTZ:  Republicans are doing everything they can to save Bush‘s legacy.  Newt Gingrich spun it like this.  “I commend both President George W. Bush, who led the campaign against our enemies through seven long years, and President Obama, who continued and intensified the campaign in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Reverend Mike Huckabee—he didn‘t give President Obama any credit at all, but he did offer this greeting for Osama bin Laden.  “It has taken a long time for this monster to be brought to justice.  Welcome to hell, Mr.  bin Laden.”

National security should be off the table in 2012 because this is about American exceptionalism, is it not?  Have we not seen American exceptionalism?  I think we have.

Let‘s go to this sound bite about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  On September 11th, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together.  We offered our neighbors a hand and we offered the wounded our blood.  We reaffirmed our ties to each other and our love of community and country.  On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, top advisers were telling President Obama to drop bombs on the bin Laden compound.  Instead, the president called for the Navy SEAL operation that led to al Qaeda leader‘s death.

And as we have seen, some Republicans have not kept politics out of this.  So, we‘ll dig into it with Professor Michael Eric Dyson and Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.

Stay with us.  We‘re right back on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  More information continues to emerge about yesterday‘s stunning developments in Pakistan.  We‘ll take you through the details of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden.  NBC‘s terrorism analyst Michael Sheehan and former military interrogator Matthew Alexander join me next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

As more details emerge about the United States operation and capture of Osama bin Laden, a picture is emerging of a president who took a very hands-on approach as the mission developed.

The Navy SEAL assault team arrived at the compound by helicopter and emerged—and engaged should I say in a 40-minute firefight.  The aftermath is seen here in the footage from ABC News.

A U.S. official said bin Laden used a woman, possibly his wife, as a human shield.  She and bin Laden were both killed by what is being called return fire.

The president and his aides waited for updates on the mission in the White House Situation Room where the White House received this message.  “Geronimo-EKIA,” code for the Navy SEALs that bin Laden was dead.  President Obama‘s decision to give the go-ahead for the raid came after many top advisers pushed the president to bomb the compound from the air.

Chief White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was among them.  He had this evaluation of the president‘s decision today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENNAN:  When President Obama was faced with the opportunity tore act upon this, the president had to evaluate the strength of that information and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining me right now to explain the details of that gutsy decision, Michael Sheehan, former—also, he‘s a terrorism analyst for NBC News and has been for years.  We‘re glad to have him with us tonight.

Take us through this mission.  Once the helicopter landed what happened?

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, first of all, a landing is tough enough because they‘re coming in at night into a compound with walls around it, possible wires, trees.  When they land, actually, they are coming down what‘s called a fast rope.

They‘re coming down a rope very close to the ground, hitting the ground running, moving to their designated points where then they move towards clearing—towards the buildings where they clear the rooms systematically.  They burst into the rooms, identify either friend or foe, eliminate the enemies and protect the innocent.

SCHULTZ:  Did they take fire on?

SHEEHAN:  Apparently, they took fire on early on when they entered.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Was this a kill mission or was this a capture, if possible?

SHEEHAN:  Well, I‘ve heard that referred to.  Actually, it‘s not a kill mission.  They went in there and killed bin Laden.  That‘s right.  But a lot of other people that were on in that compound that were not terrorists were not killed.

These are very highly-trained shooters.  They know how to distinguish in a second, a blink of a second, whether a person by looking at the hands and other techniques of their training on whether how to engage someone who is threatening them and take it out, or protect someone that‘s not a threat.

SCHULTZ:  You told me today you‘ve been tracking bin Laden for 14 years, following every move he has made.  How gutsy of a decision was this for the president to send the SEALs in and not bomb the target?

SHEEHAN:  This was a very difficult decision, Ed, and a very important one.  I‘ve been involved in special operations in counterterrorism for 30 years, for bin Laden for 14 years.  Helicopter operations are inherently risky.  If you think back to Desert One when President Carter sent the helicopters into Tehran, they had a crash in the desert out there.  It scuttled his presidency.

Mogadishu, 1993, Black Hawk down, helicopters trying to capture Aidid.

The president took a huge risk by putting helicopters into Pakistan, but it worked.  It was the right decision.  It‘s very important for our war on terrorism to get bin Laden, to get the body, to verify what it was and to have no collateral damage and no casualties.  And show that the U.S.  Special Operations forces can reach out anywhere in the world and grab the people that we want.

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s bring in Matthew Alexander.  He is the former military interrogator who tracked down senior al Qaeda leaders in Iraq.  And he is also the author of the book “Kill or Capture.”

I got to ask you, Mr. Alexander—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, did he serve up the critical information here?  And did the waterboarding work?  Because some people are saying that it was.  In fact, there were a couple lawmakers, one from Iowa and one from New York saying that yes, the waterboarding made a difference.  Your take on that.

MATTHEW ALEXANDER, FORMER MILITARY INTERROGATOR:  No, I don‘t believe that at all.  In fact, it turns out that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, if the piece of information he gave was the fact that bin Laden had a courier, one, is not anything that is that revealing.  Every senior leader of al Qaeda leader has a courier.

But, two, it happened a year after he was waterboarded, which tells me from my experience that I saw in Iraq, that the waterboarding actually slowed down the acquisition of intelligence by a year.

SCHULTZ:  Where does this leave us, gentlemen, with Pakistan?  Matthew, you first.  Where does this leave us with Pakistan?  And what does it mean that the president decided to do this without them?

ALEXANDER:  Well, I think it puts increased pressure on Pakistan to step up to the plate and to meet us half way on collecting intelligence against al Qaeda and it is embarrassing for them.  There‘s no way to deny the fact that bin Laden was staying fairly close to Islamabad, is embarrassing to the Pakistani intelligence.

It‘s difficult to track people down as we saw in Iraq when we hunted Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was also in a house, in a rural area, a fairly expensive house.  And so, that tends to be a trend with these al Qaeda leaders.  They don‘t seem to live in the squalor that their foot soldiers do.

But this is something Pakistan is going to have to increase their ops tempo and intelligence collection to meet us on this responsibility.

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Sheehan, going at it alone?

SHEEHAN:  Absolutely right.  And I‘ll tell you, this is important.  But our relationship with Pakistan is critical.  The good news about Pakistan, at least they came out with the right words after the event today, kind of saying, yes, this is great.  We were part of it—insinuating they were part of it.

Pakistan is a complicated, troubled ally.  We‘re going to have to work with them and when we can‘t work unilaterally.

SCHULTZ:  We‘ve had our chances to get Osama bin Laden in the past.  This is a Delta Force officer telling “60 Minutes” about an operation to kill bin Laden in Tora Bora.  Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The original plan that we set up through the high headquarters, Delta force wants to come in, over the mountain with oxygen, coming from the Pakistan side—over the mountains and come in and get a drop on bin Laden from behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why didn‘t you do that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Disapproved at some level above us.  Whether that was Central Command, or all the way up to the president of the United States, I‘m not sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  All the way up to the president of the United States.

Matthew, what does it say about President Obama‘s being so intricately involved in this operation with this opportunity presented?

ALEXANDER:  Well, I think you put it perfectly earlier, Ed, when you said it was a gutsy call.  When we located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, the call was to bomb the house.  We dropped two 500-pound bombs on that house because our operators were 20 minutes away.  We weren‘t willing to wait 20 minutes to take the risk of being able to take him alive.

And the other problem with bombing a house, we haven‘t discussed here, is that you lose intelligence that way.  Some type of media is lost and destroyed in that process, and you can—you can get future targets and stop future attacks by exploiting that media.

SCHULTZ:  And, Michael, what about that?  We do have his disk.

SHEEHAN:  Absolutely.  Forty minutes we were in that building scraping out every bit of information.  That‘s a huge plus.  Being able to put boots on the ground is very, very important.  I have been through in White House meetings and previous administrations, in many different presidencies, where we passed on opportunities just like this one.

This was uniquely gutsy call by the president.  I can tell you I‘ve seen operations like this passed on in previous administrations, back a couple actually.

SCHULTZ:  What do you think that helicopter ride was like leaving that compound, when those American SEALs knew they had done the job? 

SHEEHAN:  They were absolutely pumped up, Ed.  I can assure you.  But these are hard and professional—these guys have been at this for years now.  They‘re veterans of many operations.  But even this one, they knew how big this was.  They‘re coming back with a big smile of victory on their face. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael Sheehan, Matthew Alexander great to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much. 

SHEEHAN:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Even President Bush said the war on terror is not a war on Islam.  I‘ll talk to the mother of one Muslim American who died on 9/11. 

And when it comes to the president, Republicans have a hard time giving him credit for anything.  The political fallout with Professor Michael Eric Dyson and Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.  Stay with us.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  And welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Last night, President Obama reminded us of what this country can be. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  On September 11th, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together.  We offered our neighbors a hand and we offered the wounded our blood. 

We reaffirmed our ties to each other and our love of community and country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  But of course it didn‘t take long for some Republicans to twist themselves into knots, trying to praise everyone but President Obama.  And some of them have insisted that President Obama was merely continuing the wise policies of President Bush. 

But here‘s a reminder of what President Bush had to say about Osama bin Laden in March of 2002, just six months after the attacks of September 11. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  So I don‘t know where he is.  You know, I just don‘t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.  I‘m more worried about making sure that our soldiers are well supplied, that the strategy is clear, that the coalition is strong. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s bring in professor of sociology at Georgetown University, Michael Eric Dyson, and the former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. 

Gentlemen, great to have you with us tonight. 

Michael, what about President Obama‘s decision?  How does this politically play out?  How can this not be a home run as we turn to 2012? 

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY:  Right, Ed.  You‘re talking to a guy, me.  I‘m not a hawk.  I don‘t believe in this kind of evisceration of the enemy and so on. 

But for those who claim that this is the purpose, and we‘re concerned about a presidency that was not hawkish, that didn‘t seem to be politically sensitive to the military operations, Obama proved himself to be a strategist and a tactician of the first order, not bombing but doing a more well executed, targeted offense, that spared lives and collateral damage, and then sought the target that he was after, Osama bin Laden, and then did it with dispatch and aplomb.

So I can‘t imagine how the Republicans can‘t stand up and cheer what they perceive to be an extraordinary victory, and what the nation itself has seen as a real landmark in American foreign policy, at least in regard to the military. 

SCHULTZ:  Colonel Wilkerson, what do you make of some of the comments that are out there by the political opponents of the president, saying that he has continued the policies of the Bush administration?  Your response to that? 

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL:  There are some policies that he has, and they gave me some concern, like the national security letters and the actions in the court systems, the article three courts and so forth. 

But, by and large, with regard to this kind of action and military action in general, he‘s changed the policies considerably.  Let‘s look at what Bush said that you just quoted.  He was talking about Iraq.  He wasn‘t talking about Afghanistan. 

What we did was divert attention to Iraq, where there was no al Qaeda until we got there, where there was no threat to the United States.  And we put 164,000 troops on the ground in Iraq and took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan. 

And we kept our eye off that ball for the entire time we were in Iraq.  President Obama merely restored the right priority, the right focus when he came in to office, just as he said he would do in his campaign. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you make of the president‘s critics on the other side?  Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, the comments that have been made in the past about him not having the experience, not having the country on a war footing, not understanding the war on terror? 

WILKERSON:  That‘s simply absurd.  The man listens to his advisers.  He‘s got good advisers.  He‘s steeped in the issues.  He knows how to make decisions.  He knows how to deliberate.  And as we‘ve seen in this example, he knows how to make a quick decision, because this decision was on the spot so to speak. 

DYSON:  And also, he disagreed with some precious, you know, information of an aide that he said turned out to be the wrong decision and Obama made the right decision.  Obviously, clearly, he is not simply mimicking what he is hearing. 

He is also using his intelligence and his instinct to make the best decision.  And in this case, it turned out to be an extraordinary one. 

SCHULTZ:  Colonel Wilkerson, does this take national security off the table in 2012? 

WILKERSON:  Well, I hope so.  I doubt it, though, because my Republican party will make that issue a big one, and they will find plenty of room to attack in, and create that room if it‘s not there.  After all, we‘ve got Rush Limbaugh out there making the most absurd statements you could possibly imagine about this incident. 

By the way, I listened to Matthew Alexander in your previous piece.  There‘s another book coming out.  It is going to be written by a CIA veteran of many, many years who was at Hotel California, at Point Zero, was in the secret rendition program, and the secret prisons.  And this book is going to blow Cheney, Addington, all the rest away of them away. 

I‘ve read the galleys, be out in June or July.  Name of it is “The Interrogator,” if I didn‘t say that, Persius Books.  And most of all, it says enhanced interrogation techniques, AKA torture, doesn‘t work.  It‘s not even not productive.  It‘s counterproductive. 

DYSON:  I don‘t want to miss this too, Ed.  I think a lot of people are missing it.  Here we were a week ago, we were talking about the Birther and whether Obama was born here, other than American, and now he does the most American of acts. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

DYSON:  He American-izes us through his decision here.  And the problem is that those two things, really, the skepticism about him last week carries over to this week as well.  The two are interconnected. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael Eric Dyson, Lawrence Wilkerson, stay with us.  We‘ll look at what this means as we move forward, next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Thanks for staying with us tonight.  Let‘s bring back our panel for discussion, Professor Michael Eric Dyson and Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. 

Gentlemen, this has been a heck of a week for President Obama.  A lot of disaster out there.  Let‘s remember those who have lost their lives because of the weather in this country.  And if Osama bin Laden hadn‘t been killed, we might be talking about the devastation in Alabama, as I mentioned, and how the government‘s response would have been good, bad, indifferent, as opposed to Katrina. 

The president went to Alabama on Friday.  Didn‘t this president go really a long way with the American people today?  Colonel, what do you think of that?  This has been a very unusual week. 

WILKERSON:  I got to tell you, Ed, I was doing “On Point,” NPR show this morning out of Boston.  Tom Brokaw was on.  And we did a call in.  And a guy called from South Carolina, my home state.  And the first thing he said was I‘m going to vote for President Obama.  I wasn‘t going to vote for him before, but he‘s done it well now.  I‘m going to vote for him. 

SCHULTZ:  Is this a game changer? 

DYSON:  Without question.  And it‘s a critical, if you will, battlefield. And that‘s foreign policy, where the president would seen to be vulnerable because he had not had military service and he was not expected to act with the dispatch. 

Yet, he has done something here to organize the unity of Americans around this particular goal and interest.  And I think people now see him in a different light.  They begin to see him as more executive command.  They see him as a person in charge. 

If you saw that brilliant piece you played when John McCain is debating him and he saying Teddy Roosevelt, talk softly and walk with a big stick.  And here he is being found to be Roosevelt like. 

SCHULTZ:  Colonel, what about getting Osama bin Laden‘s hard drive?  We may be seeing the benefits of this raid for years to come.  Or is that a bridge too far?  What do you think? 

WILKERSON:  Well, I think if they did get something like that, that‘s probably pretty good.  I would prefer that they had gotten Ayman al Zawahiri at the same time they got bin Laden, because, after all, bin Laden may be the charismatic leader, but Zawahiri‘s the brain trust. 

So I‘m wondering where he is right now and I‘m wondering when we‘re going to get him.  I hope whatever they got from bin Laden will lead us to him. 

SCHULTZ:  There could be a lot of information on that.  And it could set back al Qaeda for years.  Your thoughts on that? 

WILKERSON:  Well, it could.  I think we‘ve already set them back badly.  I‘m told by the guys in the agency that maybe a hundred, maybe 200 operatives left.  That‘s pretty significant reduction in what we were estimating, Ed, when we began this in 2001-2002. 

So I think we‘ve set them back.  I think there‘s been a tremendous program by the NSA, which I can‘t talk about.  But that program really got these couriers into action.  And a courier is the way we got to bin Laden. 

We forced him—by the programs we started, we forced him to use couriers to do everything.  He couldn‘t talk on any system and he couldn‘t use any banking system or electronic transfer system.  So he had to go to people.  And people is what led us to him. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael Eric Dyson and Lawrence Wilkerson, great to have both of you with us tonight.  I could do this all night long.  You guys have got great information.  I appreciate your time. 

It‘s been nearly ten years since that awful day in September.  I‘ll talk to the mother of a 9/11 hero and a New York City firefighter who led the rescue effort at Ground Zero.  How are they dealing with this?  We‘re right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Thank you for staying with us tonight.  I want to show you a photo before we leave this evening.  This was taken last night.  These are firefighters from Ladder Company Four right here in New York City.  They‘re called the Pride of Midtown. 

And here they are gathered in Times Square.  The news ticker telling them that America‘s most wanted terrorist was, in fact, dead.  Their company lost seven men on that awful day in September back in 2001, almost ten years ago. 

We as a nation lost nearly 3,000 of our fellow brothers and sisters. 

And you can‘t help but wonder what would they think of the news? 

Heroes like Mohammed Hamdani.  His friends called him Sal.  He was a paramedic, enrolled in the NYPD cadet program.  He died rushing into a collapsing towers.  Sal, like so many other first responders, went down to Ground Zero to help people that he didn‘t even know them. 

So did Al Fuentes, a New York City firefighter.  As acting battalion chief, Mr. Fuentes led a group of fire boats, rescuing survivors from the two burning towers.  While he was trying to help others, a steel girder collapsed, pinning Captain Fuentes down for hours. 

He was rescued by his fellow firefighters, suffering injuries to his skull, lungs, and ribs. 

And two wonderful Americans join us tonight.  The mother of Mohammed Hamdani, Talat Hamdani, and also Captain Al Fuentes.  He served on the New York City Fire Department for 26 years.  Thank you both of you for being here tonight. 

I know this news is tough.  Your son, he was a real hero. 

TALAT HAMDANI, MOTHER OF MOHAMMED HAMDAMI:  Yes. 

SCHULTZ:  Yet he took a great deal of personal attacks on the Internet, with a lot of speculation of him possibly even being associated.  It became Internet lore.  Today, how do you deal with that today and this news of Osama bin Laden being killed? 

HAMDANI:  I was very—I was glad to discover he has been brought to justice, Osama bin Laden.  A chapter—almost a decade we are fighting in the name of 9/11, and terrorism—he was an evil person.  He took away 3,000 people over here.  He took away my son.  He took away my husband. 

And he took away my faith.  And now I‘m fighting for my country as an American citizen.  That was on the line when Sal did not come home and the media was speculating maybe he was one of the terrorists, which was wrong and the Patriot Act acknowledge his sacrifice. 

A couple months ago at the hearings, you know, Congressman Keith Ellison testified on behalf of my son that here is an American Muslim who gave his life that day, and was duly honored. 

SCHULTZ:  He was honored. 

HAMDANI:  Yes, he was. 

SCHULTZ:  And he got his due.  He was a real hero, an unselfish hero, no question about it. 

HAMDANI:  Yes.  And now I‘m waiting for his name to go on that 9/11 national memorial as a first responder. 

SCHULTZ:  Captain Fuentes, what does this day, this news mean to you? 

CAPTAIN AL FUENTES, 9/11 SURVIVOR:  Well, it‘s really historic.  It‘s historic in the sense of not only for the families to get some sort of justice, but certainly for the New York City Firefighters and for the country, and the fact that this covert operation was so wonderfully done.

And it was done face to face, Ed.  And that means a lot to me. 

SCHULTZ:  What does it mean to the firefighters that bin Laden is now dead? 

FUENTES:  Well, it means that it‘s a chapter that‘s being closed.  Our mission never ends, Ed.  You know, certainly mine.  I‘ve made my mission to continue this new combat arena that they‘re responding to now in terrorist events.  But, certainly, their emotions are high. 

SCHULTZ:  Has New York changed? 

HAMDANI:  Yes.  New York has definitely changed.  At the moment of last night, we have come together.  There is a sense of relief, you know.  And there‘s pride.  We are very proud of the—of our commander in chief, President Obama. 

He delivered the promise.  And we need to get, you know, back our values as a nation. 

SCHULTZ:  And, captain, what did it mean to you last night when you saw Americans, young Americans out in the street acknowledging what had happened?  And it was a very captivating moment. 

FUENTES:  You know, Ed, that‘s a great point.  It really was.  I thought about that, because so many of these were in high school when 9/11 happened.  This is the post 9/11.  They grew up with 9/11.  They grew up with these fears. 

So I think more or less that it‘s—to them, it‘s a chapter that hopefully they can put behind them and live in a world without fear.

HAMDANI:  It‘s a sense of victory that we got him.  It‘s a sense of victory for them. 

SCHULTZ:  Will this bring America together? 

HAMDANI:  It has. 

FUENTES:  I sure hope so. 

HAMDANI:  It has.  And the hope is, you know, we move on a path of peace. 

SCHULTZ:  Talat Hamdani and also Captain Fuentes, thanks for being here tonight.  I appreciate it so much.  Thank you for your time. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information on THE ED SHOW, check out our new blog at Ed.MSNBC.com.  I‘ll be doing a radio town hall in Asheville, North Carolina tomorrow and back here tomorrow night, looking forward to that.

“THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell starts right now.  We‘ll see you tomorrow night.

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