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Presidential Campaign Dominated by Attack Politics, Employers Betray Guard and Reserve

Aired August 20, 2004 - 18:00   ET


SEN. JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Without any question...


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the presidential campaign is now dominated by attack politics. The focus: Senator Kerry's military service in Vietnam.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I do think that Senator Kerry losing his cool should not be an excuse for him to lash out at the president.


DOBBS: The Kerry campaign says the Republican attack ads are lies. A top adviser to the Kerry campaign joins me, as will the communications director of the Bush-Cheney campaign.




DOBBS: Also tonight, jobs gone, benefits reduced, promotions missed. Many of our National Guard and Reserve troops, upon returning home, are betrayed by their employers.


WILMER MARTINEZ, AIR FORCE RESERVIST: I was told I could no longer work as a correctional officer due to my injuries.


DOBBS: And the military is forcing thousands of our troops to extend their service. Critics call it a back door draft. The attorney for the soldiers suing the Pentagon over the so-called stop- loss policy is our guest.

Oil prices soaring, supplies being depleted, demand sky rocketing. What happens when we no longer have the oil we desperately need? Tonight, I talk with Paul Roberts, author of "The End of Oil."

And last night, we reported to you the public outrage over the display of a Mexican flag in a public school in Denver, Colorado. Tonight, it turns out the public can still make its voice heard.

CNN ANNOUNCER: This is Lou DOBBS TONIGHT for Friday, August 20. Here now for an hour of news, debate and opinion is Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening.

Tonight, Senator Kerry's military service in Vietnam has become one of the central issues in this election campaign. Yesterday, Senator Kerry accused President Bush of using front men to criticize his military record. Today, the Swift Boat Veterans launched a new round of attack ads.

Senator Kerry's campaign says those ads are lies, and, tonight, the campaign made a legal complaint to the Federal Election Commission. For its part, the White House said Senator Kerry is losing his cool.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


KERRY: ... randomly shot at civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and it hurt me more than any physical wounds I had.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three former POWs described how they felt betrayed by Kerry's 1971 testimony on war crimes. It's the second ad by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacking John Kerry's war service record.

But Democrats, including John Kerry himself, say the group is a front, doing President Bush's dirty work.

TAD DEVINE, KERRY SENIOR ADVISER: Lies can be powerful, and these guys have demonstrated that. But the truth is even more powerful, and, as the American people find out the truth, that these are distortions and lies about John Kerry and that George Bush is behind it, the president will pay a heavy price.

SYLVESTER: A ""New York Times"" article outlines a web of connections between the people who are financially backing Swift Boat Veterans, the Bush family and chief political adviser Karl Rove. But there's nothing that directly links the president's camp to the ads. That would be illegal.

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Oh, you can't say that just because certain people have had association with each other somehow in the past that they are linked now in this. What the Kerry campaign is doing is accusing people in the Bush campaign of breaking the law, and they better come up with the proof because circumstantial evidence does not hold water. SYLVESTER: The National Annenberg Election Survey shows the public is split over what to believe about the original ad. Of those who saw it, 46 percent found it to be very or somewhat believable, but 49 percent found it very or somewhat unbelievable.

The Kerry campaign is prepared to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over the ads. Separately, election watchdog groups have filed a similar complaint. They say Swift Boat Veterans is illegally using soft money to pay for the ads.

FRED WERTHEIMER, DEMOCRACY 21: It's running ads for the purpose of influencing the federal election. It's required to register as a federal political committee and comply with limits on the contributions it can receive, and it's not doing so.


SYLVESTER: The Bush campaign has responded to the Kerry camp's decision to file an FEC complaint with some complaining of its own, saying, "John Kerry knows that his allegation is frivolous and false. However, we welcome this focus on coordination with 527s. For months, we've been trying to shine a spotlight on the coordination between the John Kerry campaign and 527 groups."

So, Lou, this looks like this is a fight that is just getting started -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you.

And we're going to try here, obviously, to cut through some of the obfuscation and some of the allegations and reach the truth. One of the things -- we want to start out right now by saying -- you heard the gentleman say -- that it was illegal.

In point of fact, the number of 527s on both the -- on the Democratic side as well as the Republican have made clear they're in existence to influence the outcome of this presidential election, which, by the way, is not in consistent form with the law on 527s. But both sides are doing precisely that.

The president now is trying to distance himself from this escalating dispute over those Swift Boat ads, but the president's spokesman, Scott McClellan, is speaking out, and, today, McClellan suggested Senator Kerry lacks the temperament to be president.

Jill Dougherty reports from Crawford, Texas -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Lou, the president may be staying out of it, but his people are not, and you -- I can tell you the firefight between both campaigns over this issue is really intense. It's being waged by e-mails, cell telephone calls and Blackberry messages, fast and furious.

As you mentioned, Scott McClellan began today denying any connection between the White House and the Bush campaign with those Swift Boat ads and then firing back at Senator Kerry for "losing his cool."


MCCLELLAN: We've already said we weren't involved in any way in these ads. We've made that clear. I do think that Senator Kerry losing his cool should not be an excuse for him to lash out at the president with false and baseless attacks.

I mean, where has the Kerry campaign been for the last year while more than $62 million in funding through these shadowy groups have been used to negatively attack the president?


DOUGHERTY: So then we had the news flash that the Kerry campaign was making that complaint with the FEC, and, just a few minutes later, response from the Bush campaign saying we welcome the -- this information because, actually it's shedding -- we have been saying -- to shed the spotlight on the same issue, and they pointed out they had two complaints months ago with the FEC. They say that groups funded by the Democrats have accused President Bush of everything from "poisoning pregnant women" to complicity to with what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison.

So back to you. It's not going to end, I guess, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, let's hope it does.

Jill Dougherty -- thank you very much -- reporting from Crawford, Texas.

The attacks on Senator Kerry's military service appear to be hurting his support among veterans. A new CBS News poll finds veterans support for the Kerry-Edwards ticket has fallen to 36 percent. Forty-six percent of veterans supported Kerry shortly after the Democratic convention. That same poll finds veterans support for President Bush has risen from 46 percent to 55 percent during the same period.

Joining me now from the Kerry campaign, a senior adviser to Senator Kerry and the campaign, joining us from Washington, D.C.

We thank you for being with us.

MICHAEL MEEHAN, SENIOR KERRY ADVISER: Thanks, Lou. Nice to be with you.

DOBBS: Michael -- Michael Meehan, let me ask you straight out. These attack ads have been originating from both the Democrats and the Republicans, not necessarily and certainly not the campaigns themselves.

Why are we going to be -- when I say we, I am referring to we voters in this country. Why are we going to be subjected to more of this from 527s, 501s that are not even affiliated with the candidates? MEEHAN: Well, that's the big problem that we have. We would like to control our own message. But we know when the Bush campaign had a chance to disavow the folks going over the line, these Swift Boats for Truth, they did not.

Some of these groups went over the line on ads against President Bush, and John Kerry said, "You can't call him Hitler. That's not right," and we've disavowed these ads when they do go over the line.

And the reason you're not going see them end is because they've got to smear and lie about John Kerry if they want a fighting chance, and that's the kind of thing we're going to expect for the next 10 weeks.

It's despicable. The Bush campaign should disavow it, and we should move on and go forward to talk about our plans to get the economy back on track, make America safer and stronger.

They can't talk about a positive message, so they're going to encourage the smear campaigns, and the Bush campaign should say enough, this isn't right.

DOBBS: You could understand why some would say, Michael, that both campaigns should say this is enough, this isn't right, and both your campaign and the Bush-Cheney campaign come together in the public interest and say that both of you are sufficiently concerned about leadership in this country, that you're going to end it now. Why not make that step?

MEEHAN: We did. John Kerry today -- this week, there was an ad by a 527 group that went after President Bush's military service, and we disavowed that ad. We have nothing to do with it, and we said it was wrong. The Bush campaign should do the same.

John Kerry served in the United States Navy with honor and distinction according to the Navy reports. Yet half of the people who are making these charges against Kerry we now know have not told the truth in their own words. I mean, this kind of gutter politics doesn't belong in the race for president.

We should be talking about our plans to get health-care costs down. I mean, Lou, you usually pay attention to overseas outsourcing jobs. Today, we're going to talk about...

DOBBS: Absolutely.

MEEHAN: We're going to talk about this today. John Kerry was talking about outsourcing jobs and his plan not to do that. But, instead, we're going to spend our time on your show now talking about this, and that's not what we need in this campaign.

We need to move forward and talk about our plans to get this country back on track, get the jobs back, get the health-care costs down, and that's what John Kerry and John Edwards are going to try do.

DOBBS: We're doing so on this broadcast, Michael. Just to set the record clear, we will be talking about Senator Kerry's statements on outsourcing and jobs in this country.

MEEHAN: I'm counting on it.

DOBBS: And we will also, however, in the hopes that it is a short-term phenomenon, deal with what is the news of the day, and that is two campaigns that seem to be unable to control their supporters and the messages they're delivering at a time when this country is desperately in need of great integrity in its leadership.

You have decided now to file a complaint with the FEC. The Bush- Cheney campaign has already filed complaints against your campaign for precisely the same issues. Is there some way here in which the public can best be served and we can focus on the important issues of employment, of the ending the practice of outsourcing in this country, health care, foreign policy, and focus on the issues as you describe them?

MEEHAN: Sure. Well, I mean, John McCain called on the president to disavow these dishonest ads. He chose not to for two weeks running.

Mr. McClellan today instead decided to attack Senator Kerry personally from the White House podium down there in Crawford. We think that is unfortunate.

We want to move and talk about our plans for the future. You can't control these outside groups, but you certainly can call a foul when you see one, and, as the commander in chief, not to say that the attack on John Kerry, the veterans that he served with and the United States Navy record -- that's a pretty easy one. They should have been able to bat that down.

And, instead, we learn in "The New York Times" today that hundreds of thousands of dollars are being financed by Texas Republicans who -- characters who go in and out of this White House -- this Bush White House. Then we learn that. That's a problem.

We also learned down in Florida today that the Swift Boat Veterans and the Bush campaign are having rallies tomorrow and Saturday together. That's the kind of coordination that can't happen, and that's why we're filing a complaint with the FEC.

DOBBS: Well, has Senator...

MEEHAN: They can't...

DOBBS: Well, has Senator Kerry...

MEEHAN: ... coordinate these things together.

DOBBS: But, Michael, Senator Kerry -- has he appeared in any events?


DOBBS: None at all? MEEHAN: No.

DOBBS: OK. And he's not trying to have it both ways with the organizations, George Soros's sponsorship? So is there any possibility from the standpoint of the senator's campaign to say that's it, we're through with 527s, 501s, and the only thing we would ask anyone to listen to is that which says we have the -- an ad -- a campaign that the senator personally endorses?

MEEHAN: Well, John Kerry this week...

DOBBS: Is there any prospect of that?

MEEHAN: Well, John Kerry this week disavowed one of the group's ads.

DOBBS: I'm not talking about disavowing them. I'm talking about simple, before the case, saying please don't even think about spending your money, I only want to have representing me those words, those images they personally as the candidate approve? Is that one way to get at it?

MEEHAN: Our campaign would love to be the only ones that are in control about the messages about John Kerry -- or George Bush, for that matter -- but these groups exist because the law was created to send it that way.

But you can call foul when you see a foul, and we did this week with the moveon ad, and the Bush campaign refuses to do it because they -- we now know they're coordinating with this group, and that's our problem with it.

DOBBS: Michael Meehan, we thank you very much for being here.

MEEHAN: Thank you.

DOBBS: And we'll be hearing from the Bush-Cheney campaign as well on this issue in the broadcast. The camp's director of communications, Nicole Devenish, is our guest.

Senator Kerry today tried to turn the political debate away from the Swift Boat controversy to another highly charged issue, overseas outsourcing, what we call here Exporting America. Senator Kerry traveled to North Carolina, a state that's lost 160,000 manufacturing jobs since President Bush took office. Many of those jobs have been lost to cheap overseas labor markets.

And, as I just promised Michael Meehan, we have a report on the senator's view on outsourcing and his words today. Dan Lothian reports.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Kerry tried to refocus his campaign on domestic issues important to voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was furloughed in December of 2002, and that's when I started looking for retraining.

LOTHIAN: Meeting with laid-off workers being retrained at a Charlotte, North Carolina, community college...


LOTHIAN: ... and later with more than 700 others gathered at the school, Kerry touted his economic plan, which he says will restore prosperity to every American.

KERRY: We're just going to go back to where we were with Bill Clinton when people got rich and the country did well.

LOTHIAN; His plan: to end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and to enforce trade agreements, but recognizing the forces of economic trends, Kerry told the crowd he won't promise what he can't deliver.

KERRY: One thing I know people all across this country want more than anything else is leadership that looks them in the eye and tells the truth.

LOTHIAN: Before heading to Pittsburgh and New York for a weekend of fund-raising, Kerry stopped off in Florida, touring the area savaged by Hurricane Charley a week ago.

(on camera): The Kerry campaign says it will continue to vigorously defend the senator's war record. As for the anti-Kerry ads, aides say the group behind them has a credibility problem after "being caught in lie after lie day after day."

Dan Lothian, CNN, with the Kerry campaign at Fort Myers, Florida.


DOBBS: Still ahead, attack ads, military service, this presidential campaign. I'll be talking with the director of communications for the Bush-Cheney campaign next here.

Reservists and National Guardsmen, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, betrayed by their employers when they return home. We'll have that special report.

And anger and outrage over the public display of a Mexican flag in a public school. Tonight, it does turn out that your opinions do matter.


DOBBS: The Kerry campaign's decision to file a legal complaint with the Federal Election Commission over the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth comes a day after Senator Kerry called the group a front for the Bush campaign. "The New York Times" today reported that the group's principal funder Bob Perry is a longtime friend of the White House political adviser Karl Rove, yet the Bush campaign denies any connection with the group. Joining me now, communications director for the Bush-Cheney campaign, Nicole Devenish, joining us from Arlington, Virginia.

Nicole, good to have you here.


DOBBS: Why won't the president just simply say -- he said that he's not going to make an issue of Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam, honorable service, decorated service. Why not just say that's it, don't do it any more, thank you?

DEVENISH: Well, the Kerry campaign might not agree with our position, but it's very clear. The president has called as recently as last Thursday night John Kerry's service in Vietnam honorable and noble. We always have, and this campaign will never and has never made his service in Vietnam an issue in this campaign. We think there are much more important issues to debate.

Now what we did do and what the very skilled spinner Mike Meehan wasn't able to do for you was answer the question that you put to him, which is, really, when we look back on November 3 at the issues that shaped this election, the $63 million that have been spent attacking President Bush by Democrat 527s -- that will be the story. That will be the story we're telling.

And we would welcome all of these ads coming down. We would -- we have urged him to join us in calling for a cease-fire of all 527 ads, and, in fact, we have a very similar and what we think legitimate complaint, which is different from the one they put in today, about the coordination between the Kerry campaign and the revolving door there between the Democrat 527s.

DOBBS: The revolving door, the fact that both sides, both Republicans and Democrats, are using these 527s to political advantage with what might be called plausible deniability, the fact is they're orchestrated to work on behalf of the candidates they support and against those that they oppose.

Is the president willing to take a step perhaps and say -- in the interest of nation say, you know, unilaterally, we're going step aside from this, and, if Senator Kerry wants to persist, fine.

DEVENISH: Well, I think we have. I mean, I think that's what the president called for. He called for a complete cease-fire. And let me just quibble with one little piece of that.

DOBBS: Sure.

DEVENISH: I'm not sure there's any benefit to our campaign to what the Swift Boat Veterans are doing. I mean, I think that maybe part of the story that's being missed in the media is that they've made very clear that whether their actions help or hurt the president is completely irrelevant to them. They made that point on your network last night. So, unlike the Democrats' shadow operation, which has a very clear mission statement of attacking the president, calling him a misleader -- I know we shared with you some of the most offensive ads they've put up -- they're really not even in the same category.

DOBBS: Well, allow me to assert my opinion here. I think they are in the same category, frankly. I think what we're watching -- veterans -- veterans who served the country with distinction and with honor -- is reaching the point where veterans are dishonoring their own service in this conflict, and it would be, to me at least, good to see that set aside.

Let's turn to the issue of the ads suggesting that Senator Kerry failed in his attendance in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Pat Roberts has said that if Senator Kerry, Senator Edwards ask, he will reveal their attendance record in full, not just at the public hearings.

The response has been that Vice President Cheney, while he served on the House Intelligence Committee, had a poor attendance record, in point of fact. The reaction of your campaign to that statement?

DEVENISH: Well, they have their facts wrong. And you know what's funny, Lou? We -- they have known about our wish for them to release the attendance records for John Kerry, the numbers of times that he showed up for the Senate Intelligence open and closed hearings. We know that he missed 63 percent of all the public hearings. And they've had that request for a week from us.

Now their first mistake was to mix up Bob Kerrey and John Kerry, and I guess that's understandable. Their second one was to launch a completely inaccurate attack. There were actually only two hearings at the time that they questioned, and the vice president attended one public hearing and missed one.

But that's not the point. This is about John Kerry's credibility on an issue that you would agree is very important to voters in this election, and, you know, he certainly talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk.

DOBBS: Well, there's certainly a lot of talk, and the fact is, again, if I may interject my opinion here, there are...

DEVENISH: Of course.

DOBBS: There are three candidates on the national ticket -- Vice President Cheney, Senators Edwards and Kerry -- whose records and attendance at Intelligence Committee once it arises -- there are only three that are relevant. Would the campaign support revealing the vice president's attendance record?

DEVENISH: Sure. And, look, we want to, you know, have a legitimate debate about the issues and the substance, and I think that the point being made in the ad that we unveiled on Monday is one of, again, going to John Kerry's credibility. He hangs on to his role on the Intelligence Committee as the foundation of his expertise in this area, and it turns out he rarely showed up for those meetings.

So, you know, I think in an election this important and in times this historic, you really need to show the American people that there's credibility behind your -- both your attacks and your proposals.

DOBBS: I hope we hear more proposals than attacks. I think based on the reaction of our viewers, that's a widespread hope.

And we thank you, Nicole Devenish...

DEVENISH: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: ... from the Bush-Cheney campaign, for being here. Thanks.

Still ahead, American troops betrayed. Some Reservists and National Guard members returning home from combat, from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, losing their jobs, opportunities and promotions. We'll have that special report.

Also, critics of the military stop-loss policy say it's nothing less than a back door draft. Now one National Guard soldier challenging that stop-loss policy in court, suing the Pentagon. I'll be talking with the soldiers' attorney.

And oil prices rising to record highs almost every day. The author of "The End of Oil," Paul Roberts, says it's the beginning of a dangerous new world. He's my guest coming up.


ANNOUNCER: LOU DOBBS TONIGHT continues with more news, debate and opinion. Here now, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: It is a welcome home unfit for any member of our armed services. Some National Guard troops and Reservists are returning to this country from their active duty to find they are facing new battles, fighting to hold on to their jobs. Bill Tucker has the story.


BILL TUCKER, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will Martinez is a disabled veteran. He once worked in the prison system for the State of Connecticut. He doesn't any more.

MARTINEZ: Right after the events that took place on 9/11, I was called to serve my country, and I returned back, and I was told I could no longer work as a correctional officer due to my injuries.

TUCKER: Injuries sustained while on active duty. In a cruel twist of irony, two days before he received his final paycheck from the state, he was presented with a commendation from the prison and a thank you from the state's governor thanking him for his service in the National Guard. SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Here you put your life on the line. You know, you've given everything you can for your country. You've been separated from your family. You come home, and you find you don't have a job because someone illegally took it away or outsourced it. I don't think that's acceptable.

TUCKER: Which is the point of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act, or USERA, co-sponsored by the senator in 1994. The administration is quick to agree.

CHARLES CICCOLELLA, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: We -- certainly, the administration -- share Senator Daschle's concern with regard to any employer who fails to promptly reemploy a Guardsman or Reservist or returning service member. That goes without saying.

TUCKER: But the Department of Labor also is quick to point out that only one in 76 returning Guards or Reservists file employer complaints, much better than the one in 54 during the first Gulf War. Activists for the National Guard and Reserves say those numbers shouldn't be trusted.

SUSAN LUKAS, RESERVE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: The Reservists are reluctant to complain or bring any of these issues up because everybody keeps saying, "Well, you volunteered. You knew what you were into."

TUCKER: And there's the added issue of time. The Reserve Officers Association says it can take years to resolve an employer dispute through USERA, and returning service members don't have that kind of time to put their lives back together.


TUCKER: Now the Reserve Officers Association wants the U.S. Department of Labor to conduct an investigation. Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Chao has not responded to Senator Daschle's appeal for an investigation -- Lou.

DOBBS: And we should point out that we invited Labor Secretary Chow to join us here, but she was unavailable. Bill Tucker, thank you.

One National Guard soldier is fighting a different kind of battle. It's a battle against the Pentagon's controversial stop-loss policy which gives the military the right to extent troop service without their consent.

Critics call it a back door draft. And a soldier in the California Army National Guard has challenged that policy in federal court. The soldier's attorney, Michael Sorgen, joins me now from San Francisco. Michael, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: This decision to take on the U.S. government over this issue, we should point out that your client wishes to remain unidentified. He is a decorated veteran of the U.S. military, was in a one-year service agreement with the National Guard. What is the next step in your case against the Pentagon?

SORGEN: Well, the next step after we complete service on Secretary Rumsfeld and the Department of Justice, several other military officers who are the custodians of John Doe, then we will approach the judge and ask her to set this matter for a hearing so that the issues can be determined.

Because John Doe isn't under any immediate order to Iraq at this time, we might be able to have a considered and deliberate decision on these important issues.

DOBBS: We should also point out that your client, John Doe in this case, is also the father of two young children, resides in California.

What do you expect to be the outcome?

SORGEN: Well, I think that our arguments are very persuasive, and I'm expecting to win. The main thing is that the stop loss is based on the executive order of the president from September 14, 2001, and that was designed to respond to the continuing and immediate threat of further terrorist attacks on the United States. And so I don't really see any connection between deploying people in Iraq and preventing terrorist attacks on the United States. I don't think the 9/11 commission did either.

DOBBS: And the reason that your client wants to remain anonymous in this, is he afraid of reprisal of some sort? Because surely the military must be able to identify him.

SORGEN: Well, I'm sure the military can identify him. But by having an order of the court that he be able to remain anonymous, I think that he protects the privacy rights of his family, including the 2 young children.

This is a very controversial matter, and we're operating in a highly charged political environment. So we -- there are a lot of crazies out there, and we were fearful that, you know -- he wanted to keep his family safe and preserve their privacy.

Actually, the response that we've gotten is about 90 percent positive. Most of it from men and women in the armed forces and their relatives who are praising us for having the courage to stand up and take this issue on.

DOBBS: Michael Sorgen, we thank you very much for being with us this evening.

SORGEN: Thank you.

DOBBS: Taking a look now at some of your thoughts. Many of you writing in response to our report last night about the Denver public school displaying the Mexican flag alongside that of the United States flag. Sam Gaston of Big Port, Montana, "thank goodness you understand what a free country and democracy mean, Lou. I'm a veteran and I can ignore the politics around military service in this campaign, but I cannot understand U.S. citizens allowing the Mexican flag to be displayed alongside the U.S. flag. Veterans and others have over the history of our beloved country, have given their lives so that the U.S. flag can stand alone as tribute to our forefathers and our democracy."

From Jan Herron in Evergreen, Colorado, "for too long we have endured the invasion from Mexico and the display of the Mexican flag in our schools while U.S. taxpayers pay for the education of Mexican illegal aliens. They now display the Mexican flag on drivers licenses and boating rights. What's next, Vicente Fox running for president of the United States?"

Send us your thoughts. E-mail us at

Still ahead here tonight, the presidential campaigns exchanging charges and countercharges over Senator Kerry's service in the Vietnam War. I'll be talking with two of this country's top journalists about the week's political developments.

A new book predicting the world's oil reserves are to end. Paul Roberts, author of "The End Of Oil" and the dangerous new world that will ensue. He's my guest next.

And "Heroes." A mortar attack severely wounded Petty Officer James Lafier in Iraq. He says now he can't wait to go back and fight for his country. His story is next.


DOBBS: Joining me now for more on growing the controversy over Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam, political attack ads and other news of the week Ron Brownstein, national political correspondent for The Los Angeles Times" joining us from Washington. Here in New York with me, Mark Morrison managing editor of "Businessweek" magazine. Thank you both for being here.

Let me begin, Ron, reporting in your publication, the Washington Post, New York Times and documenting some at least a web of interest around these attack ads by the swift boat veterans. We have complaints from both Republicans and Democrats. Are we going to see attack ads worsen now are we going to see a diminishment?

RON BROWNSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I think we're going see plenty of them straight through until the end. Look, money is like a river, people have said you try to dam it up and it goes somewhere else. We passed McCain/Feingold, we barred the parties from raising soft money. And inevitably, given all of the emotion in this election, the intense polarization in the country, it was going to go somewhere else.

Now, I think that the swift boat veterans have taken some serious hits this week on their credibility in the charges in the first ad about Vietnam service. I think the New York Times story, the Washington Post story and reporting by my colleagues in the L.A. Times have all raised questions on that. As they move on to this issue of what John Kerry did after he returned, they are probably on safer political ground, because that is a legitimate dispute.

DOBBS: Yes, Ron I don't want to get into -- both sides in this campaign, I think it's fair to say, I'd like to hear your view, but very quickly, succinctly, the Democrats and Republicans with these 527s I think they are shaming themselves and, frankly, not serving their candidates well with this. Is that a fair statement?

BROWNSTEIN: That may be. Where I disagree with you, Lou, is I don't think they can control it. I don't think they can turn it off.

MARK MORRISON, BUSINESSWEEK: And unfortunately, there's a record of these negative, nasty ads working, and as you showed in the poll numbers earlier tonight, it's moving the needle right now in Bush's favor it seems. And this is such a close race.

As we've talked about, there's so many important issues that we should be discussing. And this is one of the rare times we have a real choice. There's a liberal candidate and there's a very conservative candidate and they have very different positions on all these important issues that should be front and center.

BROWNSTEIN: And that's what's most frustrating about this. There is plenty to argue about. You really feel this is an election in which voters want to hear the candidates argue about what to do on foreign policy, what do on energy policy, what to do on the economy, health care. And the campaign is supposed to be about the future and this one is in danger of being hijacked by the very distant past.

DOBBS: Exactly. And it's one of the reasons tonight that Michael Meehan for the Kerry campaign was basically saying he expected us not to pay attention to what the Senator said today, because of this issue. I think he's probably as shocked as anyone that we did cover what the Senator said, despite the focus.

22 states lost jobs in July, 45 states have still not risen above their levels of unemployment. Is this a problem for the president, Mark?

MORRISON: It's a huge problem. And a lot of them are the battlefield states in the Midwest. And I look back in the archives today and, guess what? In President Bush I's reelection bid, it was that same job issue in the Midwest that was very detrimental to his re-election effort and helped lose him the election. So, this President Bush has a real challenge there. Of course, he's got things going against him right now, like the recent numbers and the price of oil, which is skyrocketing.

DOBBS: Oil, people are concerned about it, the economy. Iraq, Ron, how big an issue? Four American soldiers were killed today. How big is it in the minds of voters and important to the outcome of this election? I'll talk about both of those quickly. I think Iraq is huge. I think eventually we will get back to a debate. One of the fundamental issues in this campaign will be whether voters feel -- I think one of the fundamental vibes in the electorate is people feel -- whether they feel President Bush's response overall to 9/11 has made us safer or taken us in dangerous waters.

BROWNSTEIN: Oil is kind of interesting, Lou, can I make a quick point on that. It is a very frustrating to listen to this debate. I heard today the White House again saying the Senate is blocking the president's plan for greater exploration to reduce our dependence upon oil. John Kerry of course talks about alternatives and conservation. What we've learned over the last four years is that both of these solutions in isolation cannot attract enough support to pass. There's an element of unrealism in this debate. In the end, it's been pretty clear from this being blocked twice, they going to need some kind of grand compromise between production and conservation. Neither side is talking about that yet.

MORRISON: Ron is exactly right. You have to do both things. You have to work on the production side and on the conservation side and our government's treating of this issue has been a disgrace over the last 10 or 15 years. We've lost progress we were making on fuel efficiency. Where's the 55-mile an hour speed limit that was both saving a lot of energy and saving a lot of lives? And where's alternative energy? Just creeping along. This is an issue where you do need government involvement and you do need a policy.

DOBBS: We have a government that's high bound because both parties have become so ideological that it's almost impossible to look at any issue by these parties through anything other than an ideological prism. Look at the issues we're not talking about. Population growth, immigration, the infrastructure of this country, education in real terms.

Yes, they're talking about it, but they're not talking about short-term solutions. And we have to find them.

Gentlemen, we thank you very much for being with us. Ron Brownstein, Mark Morrison.

That brings us to the subject of our poll. Do you believe that all political ads should be required to have the public approval of the candidates themselves before airing? Cast your vote at We'll have the results a little later in the broadcast.

President Bush and Senator Kerry this week both talking about jobs. This week I had the chance to talk with Bill Moyers about the shipment of American middle-class jobs to cheap foreign labor markets on my new book, "Exporting America."

PBS' "NOW WITH BILL MOYERS" airs tonight 9:00 p.m. in most cities across the country. Please check your local listings for show times. It's a great, great show and an outstanding host.

Coming up next, the end of oil. Worldwide oil supplies disappearing at a staggering rate. Paul Roberts is the author of a new book on the subject that Mark and Ron and I were just talking about. He says we're about to become even more dependent on Middle East oil.

And in "Heroes" tonight we bring you the remarkable story of one sailor's wife who helped him survive a mortar attack in Iraq even though she was thousands of miles away. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Oil prices today rose to nearly $50 a barrel before prices eased late in the session despite coming after insurgents in Iraq targeted a major oil company's headquarters in Basra and a host of other reasons. Oil prices have remained above $40 a barrel now for more than two weeks. My guest tonight that's where they're likely to stay. Paul Roberts, author of a new book called "The End Of Oil: On The Edge Of A Perilous New World." He says worldwide oil supplies are simply running out.

Paul, good to have you here.

We don't need any more bad news about energy. We're absolutely energy dependent. We are now very much uncertain about how many reserves we actually do have in the world. What is your thought about the time which we have to create a real energy policy?

PAUL ROBERTS, AUTHOR, "THE END OF OIL": Well, there's a lot of folks who think we've hit a peak in production already. My sense is that we've got around ten years before we're going hit the end of what we call cheap oil. There's a great deal of oil in the Middle East but that's the problem. It's in the Middle East. What we call non-OPEC. That's where we're hitting our depletion rates. We're seeing declines in discovery and oil companies are struggling to get more oil out of the ground. That's really the oil we've got to pay attention to because once we've hit a peak in production outside of OPEC and outside the Middle East, we're going to be more reliant on a supplier that we really don't want to rely on anymore. That's the OPEC Middle East.

DOBBS: And the fact of the matter is with China and much of the emerging world, coming online and beginning the process of industrialization. We're talking about a worldwide competition for natural resources, especially oil, that it's going to be mind- boggling.

ROBERTS: It's already started. We're seeing China and India just right around the corner. America certainly is coming right back online in terms of energy consumption. Europe will be behind. What we're seeing is demand going up as it has historically and even a little bit higher. But at the same time supply is not able to keep up. That's what is the story of the market today. The market is looking around and realizing that every producer out there is pretty much operating with taps wide open. There is no spare capacity left or very little. What that means is that if there's any burp in the system. Venezuela goes back to civil unrest. If there's a problem in Saudi Arabia, God forbid, there's no cushion. That's the short-term. Long term, it's really tough to know where we're going find additional oil in the volumes we're going to need for countries like China and India. So the question is what now? What do we do to get ourselves beyond oil? You don't hear much from that. In fact, anything...

DOBBS: Let's hear it tonight. What is the solution here in your best judgment?

ROBERTS: Two things. First of all, we've got to get serious about conservation. Your guests were just discussing this. It can't be emphasized too much. We've already shown, 30 years ago we can save a great deal of oil. We need to get back to that. The second thing is we have to ask ourselves, if we're not going be burning oil, what is it we want to be using for energy? It's got to do a couple of things here. It's got to get us so we're not dependent on unstable regions like the Middle East.

Secondly, it's got to be able to be used cleanly so we're not painting ourselves in a corner on climate. We can't just switch to another fossil fuel like coal, for example, because that doesn't address the climate issue. We need to go somewhere that allows us to produce energy cleanly. That's a huge hurdle. We haven't even begun to get into that. And that's the problem. We should have started 30 years ago.

DOBBS: Well, in this country, hydroelectric is in peril because the dams that were constructed are very old. We have changed water flows. We have entirely different climate structure in much of the northwest where hydroelectric is so critically important. Nuclear energy, my God, we don't even know what to do with the waste product, so how can you pursue that aggressively? What is the answer? Solar?

ROBERTS: Clearly solar's going to be part of it. But it's a small problem. We have to go back to ground zero here which is use less energy. We've got to start. Whatever the technologies are that we're going use in 30 years they're not going to be able to carry the energy load that oil and natural gas do today. So the first step. Use radically less energy. The start for that is hybrid cars. They've already show their success...

DOBBS: We got that. We're going to conserve. We're with you.

ROBERTS: The second thing is let's find ways to import natural gas. We've got to improve. Natural gas is a relatively clean burning fuel. You can turn it into hydrogen. We need to really boost imports of that.

The third thing is we need to get serious about ethanol. Not from corn but from some of these new crops that can be grown efficiently. Now what that means, that's new agricultural policy. That's a huge step. But it's the kind of scale we're talking about if we're going to attack this meaningfully.

DOBBS: Paul Roberts, we need a lot more people thinking like you're thinking. Or maybe another way to put it is, we need a lot more people thinking, period. Paul, thanks a lot.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: Up next they're the so-called thought leaders. Think- tanks. They're doing their thinking but they've got an agenda. Do they have too much influence over our political lives? We'll have a special report.

And in "Heroes" tonight, a Navy petty officer wounded in Iraq. He says he was ready to go back to fight the minute he returned home. We'll have his remarkable story next. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight our special report on thought leaders taking a look at the think tanks that play a critical, often overlooked and decisive role often, in our national debates. Think tanks have a high survival rate, in fact, once a think tank is created it seems to last forever. Peter Viles now on the future of think tanks in America.


PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Think tanks, by tradition they're the host to deep thinkers who have the expertise and the time to analyze issues and frame national debates. But increasingly they're becoming part of the debate, offering instant analysis in some circles that's called spin, in the never ending 24 hour cycle of news, information and opinion.

JAMES MCGAHN, FOREIGN POLICY RESEARCH INST.: It's forced them to be much more oriented toward the media and the Internet, and also to produce shorter reports and to move away from book length monograms which was the hallmark of think tanks for most of their history.

VILES: Here's an example, at 10:00 this morning the labor department released a new batch of state by state job figures. Within 90 minutes, the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank, had e-mailed hundreds of reporters with what it called a news flash of a job slowdown. By early afternoon, it had published a new report online concluding, quote, most states still have weak job markets.

Now, there's nothing wrong with timely analysis, but some critics believe think tanks are becoming indistinguishable from advocacy groups and lobbyists, too concerned with today's headlines, not concerned enough with the nation's long term problems.

DONALD ABELSON, AUTHOR: The more think tanks become concerned about shaping the political agenda, the less time they can focus on pure research. What we lose along the way is the quality of research, the independence, the impartial advice that policy makers and the public can benefit from. And I think that's what we lose. And I think it's a great disservice to the nation.

VILES: In defense of think tanks, there's nothing wrong with a market place that is overcrowded with ideas and opinions.


VILES: But a larger concern is that so many of these ideas and opinions are essentially bought and paid for that think tanks may be reinforcing the influence of money in our political system -- Lou.

DOBBS: And not much reinforcement required. Peter Viles, thank you very much.

In tonight's edition of "Heroes," the remarkable story of Petty Officer Second class James Nappier. This Navy Seabee nearly lost his life in Iraq, yet he has vowed to recover and once again serve his country. Kitty Pilgrim has the story.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Nappier was pleased when the call came to go to Iraq. It would be the first time his Seebee battalion had been deployed since World War II, a chance to be part of history. But when Nappier arrived in Iraq on April 13 and drove truck number 813 in a convoy of 13 vehicles, to him, it seemed like an omen. Barely three weeks later, a mortar attack.

PETTY OFC. JAMES NAPPIER, U.S. NAVY: I got hit down here in the calf area. Luckily, no bones were damaged. It wound up just doing muscle and tendon damage. I got big hole right here that they wound up sewing. I have got a big piece of shrapnel right here. But we'll remove that. Lots of little pieces of shrapnel in my arm.

PILGRIM: Nappier drifted in and out of consciousness after the blast, but one memory is very clear.

NAPPIER: I'm being woke up in Fallujah and they're trying to take a letter out of my hand that I was reading.

PILGRIM: It was a letter from his wife Lacy.

NAPPIER: I was grasping it the whole time. I guess subconsciously, I didn't want it to go. I still have the letter.

PILGRIM: Nappier's bond with Lacy has helped in his recovery, along with physical therapy and psychological counseling. Despite nearly losing his life in Iraq, Nappier still wants to serve his country.

NAPPIER: When I first got back, I got to the airport, everybody was saying, if there's anything we can do for you, let us know. And I just kept telling them, if you want to do something for me get my re- enlistment papers ready. They thought it was the drugs.

PILGRIM: Nappier hopes the military will want to use his experience, training the next generation of Seebees. Kitty Pilgrim, CNN.


DOBBS: Tonight's thought is on heroes. "I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom." The words of Bob Dylan.

Still ahead, the fallout over the Mexican flag on display in a Denver public school. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Following up on a story we reported to you last night, public outrage in Denver, Colorado over a Mexican flag that was displayed in a public school there. It turns out that public opinion does matter, at least in Denver. School officials reacting to public outrage created today a policy that says the display of foreign flags in public schools must be temporary and related only to what is being taught in the classroom.

Thanks for being with us. Please join us Monday. Senator Tom Harkin will be here. We'll be talking about protecting over-time benefits for American workers. T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Council on our segment "Broken Borders."

For all of us here, have a great weekend. Good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is next.


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