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Four-Star General Heads to Iraq to Evaluate Military Situation; Bush Optimistic About Iraq Elections; CIA Report Recommends Investigation of Pre-9/11 Actions

Aired January 7, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, rethinking Iraq. Why the Pentagon is sending one of its most respected former generals to Iraq and why insurgents are capable of launching even more deadly attacks against our troops.


DOBBS: New astonishing video of the tsunami that hit South Asia tonight. Secretary of State Colin Powell visits one of the worst affected countries, pledges more aid, and talks exclusively to CNN.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: No briefing book, no television picture really can convey what really happened here.

DOBBS: Justice delayed, but perhaps not denied. Why the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear the appeal of Arthur Andersen, a conviction that caused 85,000 innocent employees their jobs.

And our special report tonight, "Jackpot Justice." Nearly 100,000 people die in this country from medical mistakes each year. Why bad doctors remain in their jobs, and why trial lawyers are making so much money. We'll have a spirited debate between the Tort Reform Association and the American Trial Lawyers Association.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for Friday, January 7. Here now for an hour of news, debate and opinion is Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening.

Tonight, the Pentagon has launched a wide-ranging review of a key element of its military strategy in Iraq. A highly respected former general will assess the development of Iraqi security forces amid rising doubts about the reliability of Iraqi troops and police.

In addition, the Army is considering a permanent increase of 30,000 troops in its active-duty force. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has previously opposed any lasting increase in the number of troops.

Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This video, shot by insurgents, shows what the Pentagon says is becoming a deadly trend: as many as nine artillery shells wired together in a minivan to produce a powerful blast.

A similar bomb claimed the lives of seven American soldiers Thursday when it destroyed a heavily armored Bradley fighting vehicle in Baghdad. And as the January 30 election draws near, the military says attacks are growing more spectacular.

RODRIGUEZ: We've noticed, in the recent couple weeks, that the IEDs are all being built more powerfully to -- with more explosive effort and a smaller number of IEDs.

MCINTYRE: Concerned the Iraqi military isn't up to the fight, the Pentagon is sending retired four-star General Gary Luck to Iraq in hopes the former commander of U.S. forces in Korea and his team can figure out how to whip Iraqi forces into shape faster.

LARRY DI RITA, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: His mission is to go over there and take a look at Iraqi security force development. Where are we? How's it going? Provide an assessment to the commanders over there.

MCINTYRE: Getting Iraqi security forces to take over the fight against insurgents is the linchpin of the U.S. strategy to eventually withdraw American troops from Iraq. But, given the spotty performance of Iraqi forces so far, it's also the Achilles' heel.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that's precisely why the assessment team is going to Iraq: to make sure that at this historic moment in the history of Iraq, there is a focused, determined strategy to help the new government.

MCINTYRE: While some elite Iraqi units have distinguished themselves, Pentagon officials describe the overall performance of Iraq's military as uneven. And privately, they say, many Iraqi troops are intimidated by the terror campaign aimed against them and lack the will to fight.

U.S. Central Commander, General John Abizaid, has already decided the best way to improve the effectiveness of Iraqi troops is to assign special 10-member teams of U.S. military advisers to stiffen their resolve.


MCINTYRE: And if the Iraqi troops do perform better, the Pentagon hopes to begin drawing down the number of U.S. troops in Iraq sometime this year.

But one senior Army official speaking to reporters this week said he thinks that's unrealistic. And he also said he thinks the Army will have to hold on to the 30,000 extra troops now in uniform. He thinks that temporary increase will have to be made permanent, even though it's not yet a formal proposal -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, General Luck, his -- his purview in this is simply the training of Iraqi forces, or is he going to look at broader operational issues for the U.S. military throughout Iraq?

MCINTYRE: Well, despite a published report to the contrary in "The New York Times," the Pentagon today insisted that General Luck will simply be looking at the Iraqi security forces, which, after all, is probably one of the most important.

Now, obviously, General Luck, who's been a mentor, both to General Tommy Franks and to his successor, General Abizaid, if he has better ideas about how things can be done, he'll certainly pass those along, as well. But his mission is to take a look at the Iraqi forces and see how they can't do a better job of getting them to take over the fight against the insurgents.

DOBBS: Jamie McIntyre, senior Pentagon correspondent, thank you, Jamie.

President Bush today declared that a successful outcome of Iraq's elections later this month will lead to peace. But President Bush acknowledged that terrorists are trying to stop people voting in four of Iraq's 18 provinces.

Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush met with the leaders of his new bipartisan panel, charged with helping him simplify the country's tax code, highlighting one of his top domestic priorities for his second term.

But a more pressing mission: pulling off successful elections in Iraq.

BUSH: I look at the elections as -- as, you know, as a historical marker for our Iraq policy.

MALVEAUX: That marker, just 23 days away. And despite the violence and threats of an election boycott from some Sunni Muslims there, the president said there was cause for optimism.

BUSH: Fourteen of the 18 provinces appear to be relatively calm. Four of the 18 provinces are places where the terrorists are trying to stop people from voting.

MALVEAUX: But Mr. Bush expressed confidence that the Iraqis would hold a legitimate election, a point he reiterated later in the day at a campaign-style forum in Clinton, Michigan.

BUSH: I'm excited for the people of Iraq. I'm excited for the fact that they are going to have a chance to go to the polls. It's an amazing accomplishment. MALVEAUX: But Mr. Bush acknowledged it will be an accomplishment fraught with danger. He said those terrorists who are trying to prevent Iraq's elections are delivering a clear message to Iraqis: if you vote we'll kill you.


But Mr. Bush said that he also believes the U.S. military and brave Iraqis are up to the task. He even joked today, saying that worrying about Iraq's voter turnout perhaps is a good sign, that he also worried about the same thing here for his own election just two months ago -- Lou.

DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you very much.

More than three years after September 11, the CIA finally appears ready to admit that it failed to take sufficient action to stop terrorists. An internal draft report says former CIA senior officials should be held accountable for those failures.

National security correspondent David Ensor reports.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The classified draft report blames George Tenet and other top CIA officials for not doing enough against terrorism before the 9/11 attacks, according to knowledgeable sources.

The CIA inspector general's draft says Tenet, and also former deputy director for operations James Pavitt, should be held accountable. It recommends, according to "The New York Times," that Pavitt's conduct before 9/11 should be reviewed by a CIA board for possible reprimand or punishment.

The former staff director of a joint congressional 9/11 inquiry says those findings are in line with what the Hill also determined.

ELEANOR HILL, FORMER OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL 9/11 INQUIRY: That the director of central intelligence at the time, which would have been George Tenet, was either unwilling or unable to marshal the full gamut of intelligence community resources against al Qaeda.

ENSOR: But a spokesman for Tenet insisted no one was more aggressive before 9/11 than the former intelligence chief in calling attention to the threat of terrorism and in marshaling resources against it.

GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: There is not the slightest doubt that Osama bin Laden, his worldwide allies and his sympathizers, are planning further attacks against us.

ENSOR: "Despite an austere budgetary environment," spokesman Bill Harlow said, "Tenet increased funding for the agency's counterterrorism center by more than 50 percent between 1997 and 2001. And the number of people assigned to the unit increased more than 60 percent during that period."

As for former spymaster Pavitt, he called the inspector general's reported findings flawed. Though he declined an on camera interview Friday, when we met last year, Pavitt strongly defended himself and the CIA.

JAMES PAVITT, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: It would be wrong to assume that we didn't know it was coming. We did. It would be wrong to assume that we were not doing everything humanly possible to stop it. I believe we did.

ENSOR: George Tenet was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush only last month. And it's not clear what the CIA could do to punish him or Pavitt, both now out of government.


ENSOR: Still, reputations matter plenty to former officials, and there could be political implications, too. The final report from the inspector general when it comes out could stir up quite a deal of controversy -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, David.

Turning now to the tsunami disaster in South Asia, there is tonight new amateur video of the Indian Ocean tsunami hitting the coast. This videotape shows the tsunami smashing into the southern tip of India on the morning of December 26. The waves at that point were as high as 50 feet.

The waves crashed into an offshore memorial where hundreds of people at the time were visiting. The tourists were stranded for some eight hours before boats were able to come to their rescue. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured here. But the tsunamis left nearly 16,000 people dead or missing elsewhere in India.

Secretary of State Colin Powell today promised long-term American help for victims of the tsunami. Secretary Powell today visited Sri Lanka at the end of a three-nation tour of the hardest-hit countries in the region.

John King reports from Sri Lanka.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At an emergency relief center in Galle, greeting a mother and child receiving medical care and accepting a poem from a tsunami survivor that talks of a beautiful blue sea suddenly roaring ashore. Sri Lanka was last on Secretary Powell's tour of the countries hit hardest. This his first extended encounter with survivors.

Food, water and medical supplies are pouring in, and so far, so good was the assessment of the top American aid worker on the scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really coming together. COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Excellent work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

KING: Along the shoreline, damage and debris everywhere, boats tossed ashore. The stench still distinct with death.

POWELL: No briefing book, no television picture really can convey what really happened here.

KING: After stops in Thailand, Indonesia and now Sri Lanka, Secretary Powell shared his impressions with CNN.

POWELL: Thousands upon thousands of people who simply lost their lives in a matter of moments. So every building that I saw that was knocked down or the debris that I saw, that represented human beings that lost their lives here in one terrible, horrible, devastating moment on December 26.

KING: The general-turned-diplomat will be out of a job in just two weeks, the only member of the Bush war council not staying on for the second term. On this trip, the face of American goodwill. Yet back in Washington, often described as the odd man out.

POWELL: The president and I determined that four years was enough, and I wanted to move on, and that was fine. There's no fight there. This odd-man-out thing is an interesting story, and it causes me to have amusing moments in the evening.

KING: Secretary Powell was here as an Army officer 20 years ago, remembered a giant banyon tree and asked Sri Lanka's president to see it again.

He promised more U.S. Marines will soon join the relief effort and announced a $10 million grant for temporary housing, bringing to roughly $25 million the U.S. financial commitment to Sri Lanka so far.

It has been 32 years since a U.S. secretary of state visited Sri Lanka, and the island nation off India's southern tip was not initially on Secretary Powell's schedule.

(on camera): But this country lost 30,000 people, second only to Indonesia. The stop added after the Sri Lankan government appealed for a high-profile visit to put an American stamp on the relief effort here.

John King, CNN, Colombo, Sri Lanka.


DOBBS: Relief and recovery. How the United States is rushing supplies and medical teams to the victims of the tsunami. The general who's coordinating the international relief effort is our guest here tonight.

And why Armstrong Williams, a well-known commentator and pundit, accepted nearly $250,000 to push the Bush administration's message on education.


DOBBS: The Department of Education paid a well-known commentator nearly a $250,000 to promote the president's No Child Left Behind initiative. Armstrong Williams, a conservative talk-show host, accepted $240,000 to push the president's education agenda among the African-American community.

Ed Henry reports from Washington.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Armstrong Williams couldn't stop talking about the benefits of President Bush's education reform law on his TV shows, his radio show, his newspaper columns and even on CNN.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, TALK-SHOW HOST: And so President Bush has all along, through his appointments, through No Child Left Behind, through his fair housing policies at the Department of Housing & Urban Development and Secretary Jackson, has shown that he's willing to reach out and earn the black vote.

HENRY: But left behind or left out was the fact the Bush Education Department was paying Williams $240,000 through a P.R. firm to promote the law through commentary and advertising on his programs. The top Democrat on the House Education Committee believes the contract broke the law and is part of a pattern of abuse by the administration.

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think it does rise to the level of illegality. The Congress doesn't let you provide information or publicity or advertisements with taxpayer dollars without telling the public that that's what you're doing.

HENRY: The Government Accountability Office found this week the administration violated federal law by producing television news segments about the effects of drug use without disclosing the Office the National Drug Control Policy was behind them. The administration was admonished last year for using a similar device to promote its Medicare law.

REM RIEDER, AMERICAN JOURNALISM REVIEW: The administration crossed the line by hiring a journalist to do its bidding. Even if they're in agreement on the issue, it's not the role of the government to be spending government funds to have journalists spread their message.

HENRY: Williams denies he broke the law, but tells CNN he made a mistake.

(on camera): It looks like you've been bought by the Bush administration.

WILLIAMS: It does appear that way, but that's not true. The advertising campaign was a legitimate campaign. I was an advocate. I advocated something that I believed in. It's a thin line. There's a thin gray line.

I can understand why somebody not knowing all the facts as to why I'm on the show now would say, well, he's not believing this, he's bought and paid for, and that's a legitimate thing to say.

HENRY (voice-over): The White House referred questions to the Education Department, which said the Williams deal was a legitimate use of taxpayer money.


HENRY: But the Republican chairman of the House Education Committee, John Boehner, joined Democrats in calling on the Education Department's inspector general to investigate.

Williams says he will no longer accept these government contracts, but he's not giving back the $240,000 he's already gotten -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much.

Ed Henry from Capitol Hill.

The battle in Boston tonight over a baseball. Red Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz will not give back the ball that won the team its first championship in 86 years. The Red Sox say that baseball should be part of team archives or in a museum where it can be shared with all the fans. Mientkiewicz says that ball, used in the final out of the World Series which ended up in his glove, is his retirement fund. Mientkiewicz, by the way, earned nearly $3 million last year.

A show of support, an unprecedented state effort to thank our servicemen and women. What that state is doing to support our troops.

And "Jackpot Justice," the underlying problem behind the rising number of so-called frivolous lawsuits in this country. Our special report tonight. And a debate: Who stands to gain most from proposed tort reform?


DOBBS: We've reported here extensively for more than a year the tremendous strain that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are placing on our National Guard and Reserve troops and, of course, their families. Now the governor of the State of New Mexico is calling on that state to provide unprecedented sets of benefits to National Guard troops.

Bill Tucker has our story.


BILL TUCKER, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor Bill Richardson wants his state's National Guard members to know that Mexico is not only proud of them, it supports them.

He's calling on the state to provide $250,000 in life insurance, up from the current $12,000. He wants the state to make military pensions tax deductible by half and to establish a fund to help families left behind while family members are on active call.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Sometimes we overdo the thanking the troops, but, you know, a lot of these men and women, they go to Iraq, to Afghanistan, they're the main breadwinners. They don't have the resources, their families suffer, and they come back to a lot of thanks, but real economic hardship. I want to help.

TUCKER: There are 4,000 members of New Mexico's National Guard, about a quarter of which are mobilized, more than half of those in Iraq. The announcement earned the respect and appreciation of veterans' groups nationally.

A spokesman for the Veterans for Foreign Wars says the VFW is "pleased and proud to see the State of New Mexico recognize the sacrifices of its citizen soldiers." The American Legion added its voice in praise and gratitude.

PETER S. GAYTAN, THE AMERICAN LEGION: I just would express the American Legion's thanks to Governor Richardson for recognizing those men and women wearing the uniform and defending the freedoms of our country.

TUCKER: The cost of New Mexico's thank-you in picking up life insurance premiums: less than $20 per soldier.


TUCKER: Just to reiterate, that's $20 per soldier per month. Lou, New Mexico is the first state to pick up the cost of this additional life insurance. State officials there say it's the least they can do, and they only hope that this is the start of a national trend.

DOBBS: And Governor Bill Richardson just deserves tremendous credit for taking this unprecedented action, and I will tell you candidly, I for one hope it's a precedent that other states will follow.

We're going to get a sense of what everyone thinks about that here tonight. It's the subject of our poll question. Do you believe every state should provide life insurance to its National Guardsmen? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll have the results later here in the broadcast.

We received hundreds of e-mails on the Mexican government's published guide to help its citizens become illegal aliens. We'll have your thoughts coming up.

And nearly 100,000 deaths from medical mistakes in this country each year. What's frivolous about that? Our special report on "Jackpot Justice" coming up. And the debate about who stands to benefit most from the president's proposed reforms.

And a case of justice delayed. At last, the possibility of justice for 85,000 innocent employees who lost their jobs because of a government action.


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

DOBBS: Why two highly respected legal groups are at odds over President Bush's tort reform. We'll have a debate on that issue. The presidents of those two organizations will be here.

But, first, these stories.

After four decades, Mississippi has filed its first charges in one of the country's most infamous crimes. Edgar Ray Killen, a reputed member of the Ku Klux Klan, pleaded innocent today to three counts of murder for the deaths of three civil rights workers in 1964. In 1967, the FBI charged Killen with conspiracy related to those murders, but the jury was deadlocked and he was released.

In South Carolina, eight people have been killed. Two freight trains filled with toxic chemicals collided. That crash left a poisonous cloud of chlorine over the area. Thousands of residents were evacuated. Hundreds more treated at area hospitals. County officials say there is a chance more fumes will continue to leak from the wreckage.

And the West Coast is bracing now for more bad weather. Two severe storms are expected to hit the coast tonight through Monday with flooding rains, heavy snow, and strong winds.

In our special report "Jackpot Justice" tonight, we focus on why the number of personal injury and malpractice lawsuits continue to rise. One reason is that a staggering number of Americans are killed every year by medical mistakes. More die than by breast cancer, AIDS or traffic accidents. Critics charge that efforts at tort reform are simply distracting us from the underlying problems.

Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost 100,000 people die each year from medical mistakes. At the pharmacy, 26 out of 100 prescriptions are filled incorrectly. Four are potentially fatal.

And the Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine says our health-care system is more than a decade behind other industries in basic safety. It's fertile ground for lawsuits. JOAN CLAYBROOK, PUBLIC CITIZEN: The best way to end lawsuits is to prevent the problem, and that's where not enough money has been expended and investment made.

ROMANS: The American Medical Association says it is committed to patient safety, but its top priority is protecting doctors from frivolous lawsuits and onerous judgments that drive them out of business.

DONALD PALMISANO, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: We believe that medical liability reform for the entire nation will occur. It's a question of when, and the public will demand that it occur. We hope that it occurs before more patients are hurt because they can't find a doctor in their hour of need.

ROMANS: Still, more people are killed every year by getting the wrong medication or by infection from a doctor's dirty hands. There is no national database for medical errors, just as there's no public database of deaths and injuries in cars and trucks.

After the Ford Firestone deadly tire debacle in 2000, federal auto safety officials pledged to give the public detailed data on injuries and deaths. The tire industry sued to keep it secret, fearing bad information could be used in lawsuits.

The business lobby says companies strive for safety, but accidents do happen.

THOMAS DONAHUE, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: If every time there is an error, and every time one out of 10 million people are injured, if that's going to cause companies tens of billions of dollars, it doesn't take a lot of common sense to figure out what's going to happen to innovation.


ROMANS: So business wants to protect innovation. Lawyers score huge contingency fees when they win a case, often a third of any award. And doctors would need to spend billions of dollars to safeguard against errors. That leaves all the parties working at cross-purposes, and the customers, the consumers, the patients, they're just left waiting for change -- Lou.

DOBBS: We'll find out more about what kind of change we will have in this country. Thank you very much, Christine.

President Bush, of course, has made tort reform a major focus of his agenda. This week, he's traveling across the country, advocating, among other things, medical malpractice reform. The president spoke today in Detroit, Michigan, about asbestos litigation and the need to limit what he called frivolous lawsuits.


BUSH: We have too many junk lawsuits in our system. Pure and simple. And frivolous and junk lawsuits cost our economy about $240 billion a year. That's a problem. We are one of the most -- I think maybe the most litigious society in the industrialized world, which is a competitive disadvantage that we have in a global economy.


DOBBS: Tonight, two very different views on the issue of tort reform. Sherman Joyce joins us, president of the American Tort Reform Association. He says reform should protect doctors who are being forced out of practice by rising insurance costs. Todd Smith, he's president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. He says the reforms would protect insurance industry profits.

We thank you both for being here. Let me begin, if I may, with you Todd. The idea that 100,000 people in this country die because of medical mistakes, why should the damages be capped, in your judgment?

TODD SMITH, PRES., TRIAL LAWYERS OF AMERICA: Well, we think they shouldn't be capped. That's precisely the problem here. This is the president's only health care plan, apparently, and it's sort of a one size fits all. The idea that 100,000 people die in this country, and you're going to cap the loss -- they've lost a family member through no fault of their own, through the carelessness of somebody else, and the only direction the ATRA and the AMA apparently want to go is to cap the damages of those folks. They're not interested in addressing the 100,000 people and how we can reduce those numbers. The disciplining of doctors and the dealing with that end of things, they'd rather just cap the damages and go away.

DOBBS: Sherman, why is that the basic thrust of what is being advanced here?

SHERMAN JOYCE, PRES., AMER. TORT REFORM ASSN.: Well, we would certainly support, Lou, reasonable efforts to improve doctor discipline. I think doctors, like lawyers, regulate themselves. And that's always a problem area. But what we're really focused on is the relationship which is overwhelming. The president's talked about it. And that's the fact that particularly in high-risk specialties like obstetrics and neurosurgery, a lot of doctors are simply being forced out of their practices. And that's not good for anyone. We can talk about improving our health care system. But if we don't have the experts and the professionals to administer it, then we're all the worse for it.

DOBBS: We're all the worse for it. Where are the insurance companies in all of this?

JOYCE: Well, it's important to recognize that most doctors in this country actually get their insurance from their own insurance companies. They don't go out into the commercial market. The majority of doctors get their liability insurance from companies that they themselves founded because they've had problems in the commercial insurance market. So the idea that they're somehow at fault, well, maybe there's some things that we could look at with respect to insurance. But the reality is that doctors went out, raised the capital, generated the structure and put these insurance companies together so they can get the best deal possible for themselves. DOBBS: Well, let me ask you both what seems to me to be sort of a reasonable course and get your view. One, I don't see the reason to cap damages for -- in a case in which someone has been wronged by a malpractice or negligence. At the same time, I don't understand at all why we should give award, make it possible, for anyone to award to an attorney a third to 40 percent of the damages that the jury decides is appropriate to the attorney. What sense does that make, gentlemen?

SMITH: Let me address that, Lou. You know, the contingency fee system -- I think you do understand that that's a contingency fee. And it's only -- any fee like that -- and by the way, the numbers that are thrown about are usually wildly exaggerated. But the contingency fee is only paid to an attorney if he or she succeeds. And the idea there is that the lawyers who are reviewing cases will look and see that there's merit to cases before they -- because they want to succeed. So they'll...

DOBBS: Todd, let me ask you a question.

SMITH: Hang on one second.

DOBBS: No, you hang on. Let me interrupt you.

SMITH: All right, go ahead.

DOBBS: Why should the attorney be a partner with the plaintiff? You should be on an hourly-fee basis. You have professional standards. No other country in the world permits this kind of outrageous conduct on the part of attorneys.

SMITH: Well, I beg to differ. It's not outrageous. The fees, for example, in Illinois...

DOBBS: Do you really believe an attorney should receive a third, 40 percent of a $25 million judgment in one of these cases?

SMITH: I believe that an attorney should receive, and the American people should want a contingency fee system, absolutely. You know, we've taken a look at this issue. You'd be -- you should know that the average lawyer -- trial lawyer in this country, makes about $100,000 a year. The average lawyer. So there's no exorbitant fees that are being paid. But the contingency fee is critical to not only the poor Americans in this country, but virtually every American. There are few people that can afford to pay that hourly fee.


DOBBS: Let me can ask you this, then. Sherman, Todd's talking about a market, what the market will bear. Why don't -- and you're in this presumably because you want the market to work. Why are you trying to stifle competition and free market and free enterprise by limiting judgments and awards?

JOYCE: Well, what we're doing -- what we've proposed is based on California's law. It's been the law in California...

DOBBS: Good grief, you're not telling me California's become a pattern and a model for America suddenly?

JOYCE: Well, in this instance, yes, I am. Let me say that...


DOBBS: I'm going to hold you to that.

JOYCE: And -- but it's important to say, I think what the people in California did, when there was a crisis, was they struck a balance, and that's a balance between the desire to compensate people on the one hand and the desire to make sure that there was continuing access to health care.

Let me say, with respect to contingency fees, a contingency fee is appropriate if a lawyer really earns it. And I'm sure that Mr. Smith is one of the finest in America, when he gets a fee, earns it. But there are a lot of lawyers...

DOBBS: This is great, Sherman, because I get to debate both you and Todd on this issue because I don't think they are appropriate, and I think that attorneys should not be a partner of the plaintiff.

JOYCE: Well, but let me just say that I think that there are a lot of cases where lawyers don't tell their clients what the likelihood of success is. There certainly shouldn't be a one-third or even 20 percent award if a case is easy to win...

DOBBS: Gentlemen, both of you are, it seems to me, losing sight of just one thing. Isn't this about righting wrongs and compensating the victims of negligence and malpractice?

SMITH: Lou, it absolutely is...

DOBBS: It's not about preserving your vested interests or about a marketplace.

SMITH: You're absolutely right.

DOBBS: It's about righting wrongs.

SMITH: There is no question about it. And the Trial Lawyers of America are completely in support of that proposition. Trial lawyers are fighting against what the president's trying to do. He's trying to cap damages of the most seriously injured people in America. And if I could just comment on the California piece for a second.

DOBBS: You've got one second.

SMITH: It wasn't until they had insurance reform in the late '80s that you finally saw a leveling off there. It's about insurance reform, Lou, not about capping seriously injured people...

DOBBS: You guys, both of you guys are scaring me. Now you're both holding up California as a model. And now I think everybody listening here has a sense that we've got a lot of work to do on this issue. Gentlemen, we've got to break off. I apologize. We thank you for being with us, Todd, Sherman, thank you very much, gentlemen.

SMITH: Thank you.

JOYCE: Thank you.

DOBBS: I hope you'll come back and we can continue this.

The Supreme Court today said it will consider overturning the conviction of former accounting giant Arthur Andersen. Arthur Andersen was convicted of obstruction of justice for destroying documents related to the Enron scandal. The conviction put the accounting firm out of business, without ever going to trial, by the way. Cost 85,000 innocent employees their jobs.

And by way of disclosure, some three years ago, I said it was a travesty of justice, and I might point out as well that over three years later, just about three years later, in point of fact, not a single executive of Arthur Andersen has ever been convicted of any crime. Yet the firm was destroyed, 85,000 innocent people lost their jobs because the Justice Department decided to indict a firm instead of individuals. The U.S. Supreme Court today said it will review an appellate court ruling that upheld the 2002 conviction of Arthur Andersen.

At issue, whether jury instructions at the trial were too vague for jurors to accurately determine what constituted obstruction of justice, among other things. CNN's legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, today said that even if the Supreme Court were to overturn that conviction, it is obviously too late for the thousands of former Andersen employees who have no legal recourse.

Toobin also pointed out the Andersen case points to the power of prosecutors who put the company out of business by bringing the case in the first place. He says the decision to prosecute the entire company penalized too many individuals who had no hand whatsoever in any wrongdoing which was never demonstrated.

Tsunami relief. How the United States is able to deliver aid to millions of tsunami survivors. The head of the U.S. military's air relief effort is our guest here tonight.

And heroes. Our weekly feature, saluting our men and women in uniform. Tragedy at home has forever changed the life of one soldier wounded in Iraq. That story is next.


DOBBS: My next guest is leading the U.S. air relief efforts after the tsunami disaster. This is the largest humanitarian relief effort since the Berlin airlift in 1947. More than 200 missions with 3 million pounds of aid. Joining me now tonight from Honolulu, Major General David Deptula, he's the commander of the combined forces air component. General, good to have you with us.

You are carrying out desperately needed work and services, an air operation that is critical to providing relief, bringing relief to the hundreds of thousands of people who so desperately need it. Give us a sense of how broad the area is that you're covering, how many aircraft personnel that you're using, both from the United States and around the world.

MAJ. GEN. DAVID DEPTULA, COMMANDER, COMBINED AIR COMPONENT: Sure, Lou. It's a very extensive effort. Like you mentioned in your introduction, it is the largest air relief effort, that portion of it. Of course, there are other elements involved, since the Berlin airlift. The way I like to describe the operation from the United States' perspective, it's very much like links in a chain, allowing us to extend a hand, a relief from the American people to those nations that were affected by this disaster.

From the United States' perspective, we have approximately 38 large fixed-wing aircraft that are involved in airlift operations, reconnaissance, and refueling. And then joining them are about 50 helicopters that participate in that linkage that I talked about. With respect to the international effort, we've got about 34 additional aircraft equally split between fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

DOBBS: How difficult is it, General, because Thailand is the center of your operations across what is an affected region of about 11 nations in south Asia, how extensive is the operation? How are you moving that material in that medical assistance to people on the ground who desperately need it, and in many cases, are in remote areas?

DEPTULA: Right. Well, Lou, you asked about the distances involved, and that's one thing that I think needs to be emphasized to your audience is the pacific command area of operations stretches all the way from the west coast of the United States to the east coast of Africa. Of course, the area that we're dealing with, Indonesia all the way over to Sri Lanka, huge chunk of the surface of the globe.

The way we orchestrate our operations is by taking those big, heavy lifters, the C-5s and the C-17s, flying them loaded with supplies from the United States to our distribution hub in Thailand. From that hub, then, we use our medium-lift assets, the C-130s from a variety of services to deliver goods to forward locations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Phuket in Thailand, Banda Aceh, and Medan in Indonesia. And the other piece in the linkage of this chain are helicopters that you've seen off of the USS Abraham Lincoln and the Bonhomme Richard to further deliver the supplies as well as the use of the country teams and the individual governments who have ground distribution.

DOBBS: General, we're just about out of time. Are you expecting -- have you requested more men and material and aircraft to carry out your mission?

DEPTULA: There will be some more aircraft involved. However, the commander, General Blackman, is pretty satisfied with what we've got now. We're moving goods and services forward at a rate that is exceeding the capacity, quite frankly, of the folks on the ground to distribute them. So we've got plenty of equipment and we're bringing it in as appropriate for the particular situation. DOBBS: General Deptula, we thank you very much. And, of course, all of the men and women in your command and all of the others there bringing such desperately needed relief and assistance to the victims. Thank you, sir.

DEPTULA: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in our poll tonight. The question is, do you believe every state should provide life insurance for our national guardsmen? Yes or no? We'll have the results for you later here in just a moment. Go to

In heroes tonight, a young marine who joined the service right out of high school. Michael Vineyard was wounded while serving in Iraq and also suffered personal devastating losses at a young age. In spite of his hardship, he still has a remarkably positive outlook. Casey Wian has his story.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 20-year-old Michael Vineyard is making a custom motorcycle seat at this shop in Shasta Lake, California. It's exacting work, but even more challenging because Vineyard works with only one eye.

CPL. MICHAEL VINEYARD (RET.), U.S. MARINES: I'm trying to find the hole that I lost so I can put a snap in.

WIAN: Vineyard lost his left eye in Iraq when a tire blew up in his face. It took 12 surgeries to repair the damage.

VINEYARD: To fix all the bone, they just cut me across the scalp and peeled my face off and they put a metal plate, one metal plate up here, two down here, and the lower of my socket was missing. So they put in a piece of synthetic bone down there to take up that space.

WIAN: Now Vineyard adapts to a new life.

VINEYARD: In certain instances, it's a little challenging. Like trying to get the straight lines on here. I have to sit here and look at it this way to make sure it's straight. I wasn't that distraught about the eye, as you might think. I was actually more distraught that I was getting out of the marine corps than to have lost my eye. Not a day goes by that I don't wish I was back there.

WIAN: The loss of his eye isn't the only setback Vineyard has endured. Two years ago his mom was killed in a car accident. After hearing the news, his grandfather had a stroke and died the same day. After that, he lost his other grandfather, and now he's taken over the guardianship of his 15-year-old brother. Still, he remains unfazed.

VINEYARD: I'm very optimistic. I'm always optimistic about the future. It throws its curveballs and rocks at me every now and then. People see me as a hero. I don't visualize myself as a hero. I'm just me, being me. WIAN: Vineyard will turn 21 and start college later this month. Already experienced with many of life's tougher lessons, he plans to become a teacher. Casey Wian, CNN, reporting.


DOBBS: And we'll be right back.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of the country's top journalists, Karen Tumulty, "Time" magazine, Roger Simon, "U.S. News and World Report," Ron Brownstein "L.A. Times" joining me from Washington.

Folks, first let's begin with the tsunami disaster. Every news organization is trying to cope with this story. How do you think that we're doing?

RON BROWNSTEIN, LA TIMES: Well, I think we got off to a slow start, Lou. But, you know, the American military, in particular, when it's given a clear mission, and once it gets moving, is really impressive to watch. And I think that we do have the opportunity to do ourselves some good in the world now by being very aggressive in responding to this. And I think we have been.

The challenge, I think, is to think long term as well as short term. Obviously, the immediate priority is to keep people alive and to get relief to people who need it. But there's a lot of money going to this part of the world, we need to think about how it can be spent to reduce the vulnerabilities of these countries to future disasters down the road.

DOBBS: And in Iraq, the demand for the U.S. military characterized in an entirely different light by some in the region, particularly in Indonesia, 7 Americans killed in one explosion, one roadside bombing, 9 the same day yesterday. General Luck is on his way there to assess training. Roger, what do you make of it?

ROGER SIMON, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: I think it's -- sending General Luck there is a good move, but a bad sign. A good move, because we need a fresh set of eyes and a fresh evaluation of the situation there. Obviously, we are not winning this war. I don't think we're losing it, but we are not defeating the insurgency.

And the bad sign is, simply that Pentagon planning called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by now, in a phased, pull-down of troops. That's obviously not happening. We're talking about sending more and more troops.

And the terrifying thing about the destruction and the killing of those 7 soldiers in that Bradley fighting vehicle, a terrible human loss, but also, if you saw a Bradley fighting vehicle on the street, you'd call it a tank. It's one of the most heavily armored vehicles we have. And if our soldiers cannot be transported in Bradley fighting vehicles, then we're in some small amount of trouble. KAREN TUMULTY, TIME: I think though, too, what it also points to is a warning that was issued yesterday by the most prominent and influential foreign policy adviser of President Bush's father's administration, Brent Scowcroft, which is this idea that when these elections happen in Iraq, even if they can be pulled off in time, and that is in some question at this point, 2 weeks out, that once these elections happen, the troubles in Iraq are not over with. And in fact, there are reasons to think things could actually even get worse after these January 30 elections.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, Lou, quickly, I was at the lunch where the general made those remarks. And I think the point he was making was, raising the issue, which others have, is whether the insurgency is, as he said, is morphing into a Sunni rebellion. And the risk, he said, is that if we have a government created by this election that is obviously going to be dominated buy Shiites in Iraq, the fear is that the Sunnis will feel more alienated and turn more to violence.

Now, there's no guarantee that's going to happen, but that is the danger that is out there and one of the reasons why there is a great deal of anxiety in Washington about where this is going.

SIMON: I think Karen's point is also well taken. I think the administration has oversold the importance of the election to the point where people think, once this election is over, we no longer need troops there. That's not true. And our troops are not going to come home once this election is done.

DOBBS: Let me turn to Capitol Hill, if I may, and Karen, the DeLay rule, so-called, rolled back and rolled back at the insistence of some Republicans. A positive development? A surprising one? What do you think?

TUMULTY: I think it is a positive development. Some -- I still think the ethics process on the Hill is in some trouble in that it has traditionally been a fairly bipartisan process. One member of Congress disciplining another. But it was very clear that the Republicans, who loosened the rules and did it as a clear exception just for Tom DeLay and over their fears that he himself is going to be indicted, began to realize possibly when they went home over Christmas that this was not a good idea. And, of course, it was just a decade ago that the Republicans came to power in Congress as reformers in an institution that had grown corrupt.

SIMON: Lou, you'd have to give a big yes, but to this change. On the one hand, the most high-profile change, as you mentioned, was rolled back. On the other hand, probably a more important structural change was pushed through which said that any ethics complaint in which the ethics committee cannot get a majority will not go forward. Also removing the chairman of the committee as the Republicans are doing sends a pretty clear signal, I think, to their successors about the dangers of moving too aggressively against important house members.

TUMULTY: This, by the way, is one of the few instances we've seen in recent years where a Republican committee chairman has actually stood up to the Republican leadership in the House. And of course, that is part of why he's losing his job now.

DOBBS: So not entirely a win, as they would say on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much, Karen. Roger, Ron, have a great weekend.

SIMON: Thank you, Lou. You too.

DOBBS: Still ahead, the results of tonight's poll. And we'll have a preview of what's ahead Monday. Please stay with us.


DOBBS; The results of our poll tonight. 86 percent of you say that every state should provide life insurance for its national guardsmen.

We thank you for being with us tonight. For all of us here, we wish you a very pleasant weekend. There's no time for tears in a short good-bye.

Good night from New York. CNN's special report "TURNING THE TIDE" on the tsunami disaster is next.


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