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Bush Vows to Fight for Social Security Reform Despite Flagging Support; Middle East Changing, But is Bush the Reason?

Aired March 2, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, God and government. The Supreme Court hears opposing arguments of whether the Ten Commandments should be allowed -- demonstrated on public property. My guest is the attorney general of the state of Texas, who today urged the Supreme Court to support Ten Commandments monuments on public property.
Illegal alien giveaway. Two members of Congress want to legalize half a million illegal aliens who work on our farms, even though many say that would encourage millions more of illegal aliens to enter this country. I'll be talking with those two lawmakers tonight.

And our special report, "Exporting America": the United States has lost hundreds of thousands of textile jobs because of so-called free trade agreements. Now, incredibly, the White House pushing a so- called free trade agreement with Central America. The critics say it will cost even more jobs in this country.

ANNOUNCER: This is Lou Dobbs, for news, debate and opinion tonight.

DOBBS: Good evening.

Tonight, President Bush is fighting an increasingly tough battle to convince Congress and the American people that his so-called Social Security reform is necessary.

In Congress, Republican lawmakers today tried to end speculation that some members of the president's own party do not support his plan. Meanwhile, the latest opinion polls show American voters are becoming much more skeptical about the president's proposals.

Senior White House correspondent John King has our report.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House is mounting an urgent effort to calm Republican jitters about the president's Social Security plan and hopes new comments from the Federal Reserve chairman help the cause.

ALAN GREENSPAN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: If existing promises need to be changed, those changes should be made sooner rather than later. We owe future retirees as much time as possible to adjust their plans for work, saving and retirement spending.

KING: The administration says top officials will fan out for 60 stops in 60 days to rally public support for Social Security changes this year, with the president in the lead.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every week I'm going to be out talking about the problem, assuring seniors that nothing will change, and reminding young Americans that they need to write the Congress.

KING: Mr. Bush needs the support of at least five Democrats in the Senate, but the Democratic leadership is holding firm against the president's call to allow younger Americans to divert a small portion of Social Security payroll taxes into private investment accounts.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NE), MINORITY LEADER: Everyone here should understand all 45 Senate Democrats are united. We are not going to let this happen.

KING: Republicans just back from town halls back home say the president has yet to make a compelling case, and they don't want to take risky votes unless there are enough Democrats to win final passage.

A new Pew Research Center poll found only 29 percent of the American people approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Social Security issue, and support for private accounts has dropped to 46 percent from 54 percent three months ago.

The House Republican leadership urged the rank and file to give the president some time and emerged from a GOP strategy session with fresh shots at Democrats and other opponents of the Bush approach.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: We can do what the Democrats want to do. We can stick our head in the sand like an ostrich and say, you know, there's just not a problem.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: That's incredibly irresponsible of the AARP to be against a solution that hasn't even been written yet.


KING: The president had another private meeting here at the White House today with congressional Republicans, and we're told he promised them to swing the political dynamic back in his favor.

Now, many Republicans are skeptical the president can do that. The White House says these naysayers need to discover the past big debates over education, Medicare, and tax cuts -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, among those naysayers, arguably, the majority leader in the Senate, Senator Bill Frist, John, as you know. And Congressman Tom DeLay, saying that it's very unlikely in their judgment that this would occur this year.

Is that part of the reason for the stepped up offensive on the part of the White House, despite those opinion polls and despite reports back from his own party? KING: It certainly is. And White House officials are saying that those leaders were perhaps misunderstood or taken out of context, that they're saying that yes, there's a big challenge for the president.

Senator Frist, for example said he doesn't know if it will happen a month from now, a few months from now, a year from now. The White House is saying that he didn't mean to say it wouldn't happen this year.

But certainly, Lou, the Republican leaders, their message to the White House, both publicly and more so in private, is for us to put this on the calendar, for the tough votes people will have to take, you need to rally the American people. And their message to the president is that they don't think he's made that case yet. In time, but he hasn't made it yet.

DOBBS: Tough votes, tough political timing with the -- the off- year elections coming up next year. What is the one central reason for the president choosing to spend political capital in the way in which he is apparently -- apparently wants to on Social Security, quote/unquote, "reform"?

KING: Well, the president believes this is the thing to do. He said that in his first campaign for president. He said it in his second campaign, as well. He believes it is a critically important thing to do.

And he's also, Lou, very cognizant of what you just noted, the political calendar. The White House knows if the president doesn't get this done this year it is most unlikely he will get it done at all.

Mr. Bush wants this for his legacy. If you do not get it done this year, then you are in the midterm election year, where dealing with Social Security will be almost impossible, everyone concedes, because of the fight for control of Congress. After that, everyone is thinking about 2008 and not looking back at the Bush agenda.

DOBBS: John, thank you very much. John King, our senior White House correspondent.

As John reported, an increasing number of Americans oppose the president's so-called Social Security reforms or say they remain unconvinced those reforms are necessary.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, reports.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): In February, President Bush began his big push for changes in Social Security. So what happened? The public pushed back, according to the latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll.

In early February, just after he spelled out his ideas in his State of the Union speech, 43 percent of the public approved of the way President Bush was handling Social Security. Now only 35 percent approve. A majority disapprove. The president is losing ground.

Republicans argue Social Security has to be rescued from an impending crisis.

SEN. JOHN SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: What we need to do is put together a plan that gets us to a strong, sustainable, solvent Social Security system.

SCHNEIDER: But the sense of urgency has actually diminished. In January, nearly half the public thought the government should make major changes in Social Security in the next year or two. That number has dropped to 38 percent.

The number who say no major changes are need within the next 10 years has been going up.

Democrats think they understand what people want and Republicans don't.

SEN. JON CORZINE (D), NEW JERSEY: They don't seem to be listening with regard to the desire of the public to maintain guaranteed benefits.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats have not really presented a plan to do that. But the public still trusts Democrats more than Republicans on the issue.

Conservatives see the AARP, which claims 35 million members over the age of 50, as a major obstacle to the president's Social Security plans.

The AARP has enormous credibility. Three-quarters of Americans have a favorable opinion of the organization. Even two-thirds of Republicans have a positive view of the AARP.

Democrats sound confident, even cocky...

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: This privatization plan is sinking like a rock.

SCHNEIDER: ... while Republicans are sounding nervous about the prospects for change.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The chances of that are probably not as high as -- as I'd like to believe.

SCHNEIDER: Bill Schneider, CNN, Los Angeles.


DOBBS: President Bush today declared the international community is now united in making certain that democracy has a chance to flourish in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. President Bush launched a campaign to spread freedom around the world in his inauguration speech in January. But Arab opposition leaders say democracy was beginning to take foot even before the president's speech.

Ben Wedeman reports from Cairo.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Lebanon, people power brings down the Syrian-controlled government. In Iraq, voters defy death threats to cast their ballots. In Gaza and the West Bank, victory for a moderate in an election under occupation. In Egypt, the only leader most Egyptians have ever known promises reform. In Saudi Arabia, men, but not women, have their first ever chance to vote.

It doesn't yet add up to a democratic revolution in a region long dominated by dictators, but it's a start. So what's behind it? Was it this man?

BUSH: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

WEDEMAN: Egypt's long suffering opposition bristles at the notion George W. Bush, the man so many here love to hate, and his repeated calls for democracy in the Arab world, may have had a role.

RIFAAT SAID, OPPOSITION LEADER: Twenty-five years I am demanding this demand and come Mr. Bush and put a leg over a leg and say, "I did it." I didn't accept it.

WEDEMAN: But the opposition here and elsewhere in the Arab world was never really able to budge powerful, entrenched regimes, backed up by armies and secret police. Arab observers credit President Bush but insist he didn't spark the latest changes.

ABDEL MUNEIM SAID, ANALYST: But in the overall, we can count it as a factor, for sure. But it was not only the United States. I think also the European approach to it. It was much more cooler, calmer.

WEDEMAN: Egyptian playwright Ali Salem says Arab eyes are now wide open.

ALI SALEM, EGYPTIAN PLAYWRIGHT: People are watching the television. They are watching the others, and they feel jealousy about that. They feel that they have the right to be like that.

WEDEMAN: Ruled and rulers alike realize the times are changing.

(on camera): An aging Arab leader recently said, "We need to trim our mustaches before someone else shaves them clean off." One of the barbers may turn out to be George W. Bush.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Cairo. (END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: In Iraq, American troops today killed two insurgents in a gun battle in the northern city of Mosul. Another insurgent was wounded, another captured. There were no American casualties.

In Baghdad itself, insurgents killed seven Iraqi soldiers in a suicide bomb attack on a military convoy. Two Iraqi soldiers were wounded.

Insurgents also exploded a car bomb near an Iraqi army recruiting center in Baghdad. That attack killed six Iraqi soldiers. Thirty other people were wounded in the attack.

Turning to this country, federal and local officials today downplayed a report that radical Islamist terrorists may be planning to attack one of New York City's busiest railway stations. A Spanish newspaper reported that police found a rough sketch of Grand Central terminal during their investigation into last year's Madrid train bombings. Today, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said he has no information to indicate the drawing was part of an operational plan to attack Grand Central.

Still ahead here, President Bush says he supports two-year community colleges in this country. So why is President Bush cutting funding to attend those colleges?

That story and a great deal more still ahead.


DOBBS: President Bush today went to a community college in Maryland and there said the government needs to do more to support our two-year schools. However, President Bush's new budget would actually take away from the resources of those attending community colleges.

Bill Tucker has the story.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush came to Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland to praise community colleges and to hear stories from students of their successes in training for today's job market.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It makes sense to support the community college system, a system that is able to adjust to meet the needs of the people that we taxpayers expect the community college to serve.

TUCKER: It was a folksy event. The president almost playing the role of a moderator. The kind of event meant to distract from a glaring budget fact.

The president wants to cut $400 million in funding to community colleges. The money is known as the Carl Perkins funds, money especially important to small rural colleges which often have the poorest students.

GEORGE BOGGS, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY COLLEGES: That would be a very critical blow to our colleges all across the country to lose that much money that supports their workforce programs.

TUCKER: 11.5 million students attend community college. The average age 29. Average tuition is $1,900, and most students are juggling schoolwork with job work. Two-thirds of the new health care workers are trained at two-year colleges.

Community college leaders are concerned about how their institutions will be affected by the cuts. Critics in Congress see the cuts as symptomatic of a bigger problem.

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D-CA), EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE COMMITTEE: The president says one thing, but he does another. And it's very disappointing when we understand the importance of education to training this country to do the future's work so that we can compete in the world and we can have an educated population. His words simply don't match his deeds. And it's unfortunate.


TUCKER: The president's budget also cuts a billion dollars in money for vocational and technical training. The reason, Lou, an assessment of the program presented last year found that votech programs don't lead to college enrollment.

DOBBS: And the point is?

TUCKER: If you're not going to college, I guess, Lou, you don't have a future.

DOBBS: You know, the fact is -- and my brother-in-law, Bill Segura (ph), who has worked in community colleges and technical and vocational schools as an administrator and official for some years, convinced me long ago that community colleges represent the best educational bargain in this country. And for the president to cut funding while extolling the virtues is mind-boggling.

Is there any explanation forthcoming from the administration?

TUCKER: No. No. In fact, calls to the Department of Education today were not returned. And the event, I'm sure, was planned exactly as it was: a nice, feel-good, warm event, but the money is still coming out of the budget unless Congress does something about it.

DOBBS: Bill Tucker, thank you very much.

Tonight, the Homeland Security Department says it's captured a high profile criminal alien: Jockey Stewart Elliott. Elliott road Smarty Jones to victory in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and he's been arrested in Philadelphia.

The department says Elliott, a Canadian citizen, was convicted of criminal assault in this country four years ago. Federal law mandates that criminal aliens are subject to removal from the United States. The Homeland Security Department says Elliott will be asked to leave the country, and if he declines, he will be deported back to Canada, four years later.

Still ahead, why American workers in one industry say this country simply can't afford another so-called free trade agreement. And they are not alone.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, our special report on the latest trade agreement that the White House is trying to push through Congress. As we've reported, trying to push through Congress rather quickly and rather quietly.

CAFTA is the focus of what is now an intense debate in this country for many reasons. One of those reasons, its potential impact on our nation's textile workers who are already struggling to compete with China and other Asian nations in particular.

Christine Romans has the report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roger Chastain is on the front lines of what he calls a battle for survival in American textiles. And he fiercely opposes CAFTA.

ROGER CHASTAIN, MOUNT VERNON MILLS: We're fighting a war. We're in an economic war. And we're being defeated.

ROMANS: Chastain is the president of Mount Vernon Mills and employs 4,200 workers in six states.

CHASTAIN: We're exporting our middle class jobs. We're exporting our standard of living. We are exporting the American dream for the next generation. And to me, that's criminal.

ROMANS: He's watched 40 textile plants close in the past two years in the Carolinas alone. CAFTA, he says, will destroy more American jobs by moving even more manufacturing to low-wage Central American countries. And, he says, loopholes allow for the use of fabrics from other countries like China and Mexico to be sewn into clothing and sold duty-free right back into the U.S.

But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an ardent supporter of CAFTA, claiming it will open a growing, vibrant market to U.S. goods and help a regional textile industry compete with China.

JOHN MURPHY, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: It will help us to compete globally against big manufacturers like China. That's especially true in textiles and apparel, where we have a partnership going back for 20 years with U.S. companies spinning the yarn, making the cloth, and then working with apparel manufacturers that are based in, say, the Dominican Republic to cut and sew the products and sell it back here.

ROMANS: Indeed, in Washington, CAFTA supporters call a vote against CAFTA a vote for China. The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition calls that a lie.

AUGGIE TANTILLO, AMERICAN MANUFACTURING TRADE ACTION COALITION: More importantly, we shouldn't be exporting U.S. jobs to Central America in an effort to compete with China. We need to address that problem head on.


ROMANS: Head on. And, Lou, two more points.

CAFTA would open up a market for U.S. goods in Central America, a market the size of New Haven, Connecticut, or Orlando, Florida. Also, you've got this too small of a market, these guys say, to justify the back-door access that China could get. And they are also pointing out that China is investing heavily in textiles in Central America.

DOBBS: And the fascinating thing is that lost in all of this is, despite everything, we're talking about a market that comprises $85 billion. And the administration couldn't get the votes for this in the fall. It hasn't got the votes now. And it appears to be, for all intents and purposes, another outsourcing agreement, not a trade agreement. CAFTA rhymes with NAFTA, I think is the way the critics are describing it.

Thank you very much for that excellent report, Christine -- Orlando?

ROMANS: Orlando, New Haven.

DOBBS: Amazing. Thank you.

We'll have much more ahead here tonight on CAFTA and other free trade agreements, so-called free trade agreements. Two congressmen will be facing off on whether this country really needs another free trade agreement.

Coming up next here, why two members of Congress say our country should legalize half a million illegal aliens. One senator, one congressman, our guests next.

Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Turning now to an issue we've been reporting on extensively for years, the estimated 20 million illegal aliens in this country and our federal government's failure to enforce either our border or immigration laws. My next guests have actually proposed legalizing hundreds of thousands of those illegal aliens who work in American agriculture. Senator Larry Craig of Idaho and Congressman Howard Berman of California say their plan will benefit our nation's agriculture industry. They were our guests here a couple of weeks ago, and we ran out of time in what was an extensive discussion, I think it's fair to say. And they've graciously agreed to be with us again.

Senator, Congressman, it is great tot have you both back with us.

REP. HOWARD BERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much, Lou.

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: Good to be back.

DOBBS: And Senator Craig, Congressman Berman wasn't given quite the attention that you and I were by the "Idaho Statesman" newspaper, but...

BERMAN: How about that?

DOBBS: But it was kind of fun to look over their review of our discussion. Let's...

BERMAN: The headlines were -- yes, headlines were, "Rupert (ph) Boy Makes Good."

DOBBS: There you go. The fact of the matter is -- and I'm going to turn, if I may, to you, Congressman Berman, the issue, as you know, in this country right now has reached a critical point. The needs of agriculture are critical. Agriculture itself is critical to the well- being of this nation.

But the idea of legalizing illegal aliens and creating an amnesty for whatever the number is -- you estimate a half a million -- is anathema to many who are critical of what is happening in this country. How do you respond?

CRAIG: This is not an amnesty. If I told you, you had done something illegal, you'd come into this country illegally, and you had a choice of two penalties, 30 days in the county jail or working 360 days over a six-year period picking crops in agriculture, most people would say, give me the 30 days.

This is an extended process for an earned adjustment which requires people to continue to work in a particular industry as a condition of getting legal status. In addition to paying the application fees and other costs attendant to the adjustment.

It is -- it is no more an amnesty than the present situation, which is to ignore the presence of 8, 10, 12 million people in this country, which is a situation we're in now. Only it's a much healthier proposal than the status quo.

DOBBS: It at least has the courage of recognizing that there is a problem. And the courage, if I may say, even though I don't agree necessarily with the solutions you've put forward, at least you have the courage to put forward a solution. Senator Craig, let me ask you this... we're dealing with, as we discussed the last time, we're dealing with people who have broken the law. First, the illegal aliens who have crossed our borders illegally. And secondly, the employers who have hired them illegally.

Is it really an appropriate response to say we're going to legalize those who have broken our nation's laws?

CRAIG: Well, most important, Lou, we have a border we have not controlled for nearly two decades. We also have a very real need for a workforce. And if you don't have a way to make a workforce legal, so they can come here and work and go home, then you get the situation that we currently have.

And so what we're trying to deal with is readjusting and changing the law that creates a legal workforce for the very real needs of American agriculture. And I think that what Howard has so clearly said was, we give people the right to earn a position. We also do a background check and we begin to clean up and identify a portion of the 8 to 12 million undocumented people that are in this country. And I think that's what the American citizens want.

DOBBS: I think the American citizens based at least on -- and I would certainly would not speak for any group of people, but at least those who watch this broadcast and the way they've responded to our polls and interact with us, I will tell you are definitely, definitely against the president's proposal on amnesty as it's constructed now. They are very concerned about the lack of border security. But as you say, the issue is critical. We need to make some adjustments.

Let me ask you both this question as we try to deal with it. In our last discussion you asked me to put forth a proposal. Mine is very, very simple. And that is simply a work visa. I discovered the Sonora, Arizona border as a young reporter 30 years ago. The fact is that work visas and green cards worked very well then. There was no impetus for a gained citizenship in this country, no expectation of it. And certainly, it worked effectively. Why is that not an adequate solution, if I may ask you first Congressman Berman?

BERMAN: Well, if you are going to give a work visa to people in this country who came here illegally then I would say your proposal is an amnesty. Since you seem to say that any proposal to deal with the status quo is an amnesty. And we're talking about authorizing work on condition that you continue to work as a condition of a adjustment program. I'm not quite sure what the distinction is.

And if you are going to ignore the people who are now in this country and only apply to people who are outside the country, then you are leaving the status quo, which is what -- that's what people are really angry about. They are angry that there are 8 to 12 million people illegally.

DOBBS: I'm sorry, who is angry? Who is angry?

BERMAN: The American people are very upset by the present situation. It's huge cost to taxpayers, it's very unhealthy, leads to all kinds of exploitation. It's a humanitarian nightmare, it jeopardizes our national security. This is not a problem that we should be ignore anything longer.

DOBBS: Congressman? Senator? Democrat and Republican. You just articulated, Congressman, the issue. Why in the world is not the United States Congress and the United States Senate absolutely insisting on control, not operational control, but real control of our borders, absolute security and controlling the flow of immigration across our borders?

CRAIG: Lou, you ask a very important question. We are investing billions on the border. We are hiring tens of thousands of border guards. And we are attempting to control the border.

But here is a very real human reality. On the other side of that border, the American side of that border, there is a need for a very large workforce of a certain kind. And human beings will go where they feel they can better themselves, even if they put themselves as risk on the border.

Lou, you are absolutely right. In the '50s, we had a bresarro (ph) program. We gave visas. We identified the worker and the work. And that program worked very well. Then we changed the law and we turned our back on a law that was very bureaucratic, very time consuming.

Last year in Idaho, we believe there were some 30,000 workers, foreign nationals, only 1,100 of them had been worked through the legal H2A program. And yet that 30,000 were desperately needed to harvest the crops of Idaho, to change the sprinkler pipes and to put food on the Americans' tables.

So what Howard and I are attempting to do is, No. 1, correct the current problem and then reform the H2A law to do much of what you are saying, to identify a worker and a visa and a job to make them legal so they can move across the border, do their work and go home. We think that in the end is absolutely the appropriate way to handle this.

DOBBS: Congressman Berman, your thoughts?

BERMAN: Well, I think Senator Craig said it very well. We are trying to do something about this problem. And the three alternatives is to take an approach like ours, to leave the status quo or to create the pretense that somehow we are going to search through the streets and roads and homes and apartments of America to find 10 to 14 million people and deport them. If we do that, we don't have the resources for anything else. And I don't think the price the American people are willing to pay constitutes the creation of that kind of an operation.

DOBBS: Those have to be the last words. We thank you for being with us again. Congressman Berman, Senator Craig we thank you. You are both very gracious to come back and further the discussion. Thank you both.

CRAIG: Lou, thank you.

DOBBS: That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. "Do you believe giving legal status to illegal aliens working on our nation's farms would encourage more illegal immigration? Yes or no?" Cast your vote at We'll have the results later in the broadcast.

Taking a look now at some of your thoughts. Betty Blair in Kerrville, Texas, "Why should the Mexican government take care of its own citizens by creating jobs for them when they've got a neighbor like the United States that will do it for them? The immigrants come and work in America and send the money back to their families in Mexico. The Mexican government doesn't have to do anything to provide for its own. They are even looking to the United States to put these folks on Social Security and provide for them."

Bill in Warren, Michigan, "CAFTA will, much like NAFTA, cause Americans to lose their jobs, make CEOs richer and add another nail into the coffin of the middle class."

Paul King of Meadville, Pennsylvania. "No more free trade agreements as we in America have been subjected to, until they become fair to the American worker."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at

One Texas official takes his fight to keep a religious monument on government property to the nation's highest court. He's our guest here next. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Investigators in Chicago tonight have found new evidence in their hunt for the killers of a federal judge's mother and her husband. Sean Callebs has the report from Chicago -- Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Lou. Tonight we can tell you, both Judge Lefkow and her surviving family members, are under protection by the U.S. Marshals Service. And it is a joint investigation, a task force if you will. The Marshals Service, the FBI, as well as the Chicago police. However, federal authorities say that Chicago police are leading the investigation. Here's some information we know that they are looking at the this hour.

Reports of a suspicious car in the Lefkow's neighborhood the morning the double killing took place. CNN got word of this yesterday. We approached a couple of people who work at a nearby church. They were uncomfortable talking about it. They were very tight lipped. It wasn't as though they were scared, something they simply didn't want to talk about.

Also a broken window. Authorities are trying to glean any kind of information they can, whether it be fingerprints, something of that nature. But also investigating the crime scene as well as they can, taking a look at even the trash outside, trying to gain some information. Also widely reported in Chicago today, the fact that apparently the Lefkow received a number of suspicious phone calls on Sunday night. And the caller I.D. information apparently shows that those calls came from inside a correctional facility. Judge Lefkow answered one of those calls, simply silent on the other end, Lou. No one was speaking.

DOBBS: And, Sean, from those calls, is that the facility that Hail (ph) the white supremacist leader is being held?

CALLEBS: That's something we can't ascertain at this hour. There have been some reports that it did come from a federal correctional facility in the Chicago area. And Hail (ph), of course, is being held in this area. Hail, of course, the white supremacist who Lefkow presided over a ruling that went against him. Authorities say, he simply became enraged. At that time made a death threat against Lefkow. And he is scheduled to be sentenced, Lou, next month for that.

DOBBS: The heinous murder, the brutal murder of the family members of a federal judge, every American has to believe that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, every federal agency is involved in this investigation. To what degree are we seeing evidence of that heightened determination on those, particularly, on the part of the FBI to bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice?

CALLEBS: A good question, Lou. And one a lot of people would like to see answered right now. Authorities are simply telling us it's early in the investigation. They pretty much have circled the wagons if you will.

But we know that, at least, one federal judge has come out today and said, you know what, we need to review the way security is provided. Not only for federal judges but, anyone involved in the judiciary process. And he is calling for a complete review of this. Not saying that the system needs to be overhauled completely. Not calling for any specific changes. Kind what we saw in federal courthouses after the Timothy McVeigh attacked the building in Oklahoma City.

He wants to take a look at the way security is done for federal authorities, because if you think about these federal judges, one like Judge Lefkow, she oversees about 400 cases a year, and between 30 and 50 of those are criminal cases. So, we asked a spokesman for the court, how do determine what could be the kind of case that would spark interest for investigators. Maybe trigger something. They say, it's very difficult. Say, it's kind of looking for a needle in a stack of needles, if you will, Lou.

DOBBS: In the murder of family members of a federal judge in this case, for the FBI, it should certainly be clear to everyone running the FBI that in this instance, there is no option available called failure. These perpetrators simply have to be brought to justice. Sean Callebs from Chicago, thank you, sir.

The Supreme Court today heard arguments on a highly charged political and religious debate. That debate is about a monument of the 10 Commandments. It stood outside the Texas capitol building for the past 10 decades. Critics, however, say the display of the 10 Commandments, violates separation of church and state doctrine.

I talked with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott earlier. He argued the case in front of the Supreme Court today. He's fighting to keep that monument in place. I asked him about the centerpiece of his argument.


GREG ABBOTT, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: The centerpiece was sending a clear message that the constitution does not require Texas to tear down this historic monument on the capitol grounds.

DOBBS: And in your best assessment, were you persuasive before the justices?

ABBOTT: Well, what I can say is the justices were very receptive to our arguments. It was very meaningful to them, for one, that the 10 Commandments is recognized as an historical symbol for law itself. Also, I think it resonated well that, this isn't some sign that was slapped up yesterday. This is a monument that's been in the ground of Texas for more than 40 years. And it's something that should not just be cast aside just because someone has filed a lawsuit.

DOBBS: Sandra Day O'Connor, Justice O'Connor has been pivotal in these issues previously, as you well know. For example, not having a problem with the expression "Under God," referring to it as, I believe, ceremonial deism is one of the expressions. But also finding that high school prayer was unconstitutional. Did you have -- did you try to reconcile your position between those two view on the part of Sandra Day O'Connor, for example?

ABBOTT: Well, Justice O'Connor has been a meaningful writer in issues like this. And as it concerns displays of religious items, the tests that she looks to, is a test that views it in a context, especially in this instance in a museum-type context where the 10 Commandments is displayed as one of 17 different items on the entire capitol lawn. And when you look at the whole context of the display, it's not perceived as an endorsement of religion, but merely a recognition of the historical role the commandments have played in our history.

DOBBS: There are people, Mr. Attorney general, as you know, certainly in the state of Texas, throughout the country, who, while they may be impressed by the legal arguments, believe so strongly in their various religious beliefs that this is a matter that transcends other issues altogether. How do you -- do you pay attention to that constituency? To what degree can you?

ABBOTT: Well, there are both religious and anti-religious constituencies. For those who are the religious constituency, one meaningful aspect of this is that, religion has played an historical role in our society and government is not required to turn a blind eye to that. For those who are unhappy with their religious display of any kind, the court has been very clear that there is no such thing as a heckler's veto, especially in this as opposed to a classroom setting where adults can just walk right by the monument and don't have to be coerced into looking at it.

DOBBS: And when do you expect the justices to rule?

ABBOTT: The end of this Supreme Court term is the last week in June. We anticipate this decision to come out sometime in the latter part of June.

DOBBS: Mr. Attorney general, we thank you for being with us.

ABBOTT: Thank you, it's my pleasure.

DOBBS: Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott.

DOBBS: And "Tonight's Thought" is, of course, on the 10 Commandments. "If you have to have a policy manual, publish the 10 Commandments." Coming up next, our "Face-Off." Our debate on whether this country really needs another, so called, free trade agreement. Stay with us.


DOBBS: In our "Face-Off" tonight, the CAFTA controversy. Congressman Sherrod Brown of Ohio says the so-called free trade agreement with Central America looks a lot like NAFTA and will cost more American jobs.

Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas says the United States needs CAFTA to help us compete with Europe and China in just about every industry. They are our guests tonight from Capitol Hill. It's good to have you both here.

Let me ask you first, Congressman Brady, the suggestion is that this is going to cost American jobs. You are not concerned, Congressman Brady?

REP. KEVIN BRADY, (R) TEXAS: Just the opposite. That's the reason is because Central America already sells into the United States, thanks to trade agreements in the past and many of the Democrats have supported Central American sales.

The question with this trade agreement, will American farmers, American manufacturing workers get a chance to sell into Central America. Can we tear down the America need not apply sign and sell our products and goods there. So, this will help us with jobs. It will help us a great deal, I think, with this trade deficit.

DOBBS: Congressman, let me just ask you. How did our very smart trade representatives and negotiators open up the U.S. markets to people who have said don't bother to trade with us?

BRADY: Actually, that was Congress that did that. That was not the trade negotiators that was Republicans and Democrats supporting in order to move Central America toward a lot of labor reforms and Democracy reforms, which in fact have worked beautifully down there as a result.

We've incorporated -- the good news is as opposed to NAFTA and other agreements, we've assimilated their products here. The question is, will we get a chance to sell our products to the farmers of America and to manufacturing workers who are looking for new customers. This is an important agreement.

DOBBS: Congressman Brady makes a persuasive argument, Congressman Brown. What's your reaction?

REP. SHERROD BROWN, (D) OHIO: Well, we've heard the same argument for a dozen years. My first year in Congress, 1993, Congress against the wishes of a lot of us passed NAFTA. And they made the same promises. It would more jobs for Americans, it would raise the standard of living in Mexico, it would bring down the trade deficit.

The problem is our NAFTA trade deficit went from about $3 billion in 1993 to $107 billion today. We've lost a million manufacturing jobs in this country, wages in Mexico have gone down.

And we right now have a trade deficit with the Central American countries with CAFTA. That's only going to get worse in spite of those promises, because we've seen it with china, we've seen it with Mexico, we see it all over the world. Our trade deficit, the year I ran for Congress was $38 billion. Today it's $617 billion internationally with the whole world and we're doing -- President Bush wants to do more of the same, more of these free trade agreements that ship jobs overseas.

DOBBS: Well Congressman Brady, let me ask you, we are talking about a market that is the size, as Christine Romans reported earlier in this broadcast tonight, that's basically the size of Orlando in terms of GDP, Orlando, Florida, or New Haven, Connecticut. What is the big deal?

BRADY: Well, it's big for a number of reasons. One, this is the 6th largest exporting region in the world. There's a reason that Europe and Asia want into this market as well. It's the population the size of Canada. They are growing every year.

They are an important ally. And the fact of the matter is that maybe $20 or $30 billion of sales isn't important to the Washington beltway insiders, but to that farmer selling the corn and the wheat and the rice, it's very important. To the manufacturing worker, it's critically important.

You build businesses not by having one or two customers, but by diversifying to a number of good, solid customers. My thought always is, if we can't trade with Central America who can we trade with.

BROWN: Lou, when Congress was considering the China trade agreement, CEOs wandered the halls of Congress knocking on every door and they said, I can't wait to have access to a billion Chinese customers. What they really cared about is access to a billion Chinese workers. That's what this CAFTA agreement is about. The minimum wage in Guatemala is $2 a day. They're not going to be able to buy American products, even if it goes up to $3 a day. U.S. companies are interested in CAFTA in pushing this Congress to do this because it's another low-wage country to send jobs to and sell back into the United States and enhance their profits at the expensive Guatemalan workers and American workers.

BRADY: Let's talk about that. Because in Central America, unless we have a strong relationship with them, one estimates we'll lose two-thirds of our textile jobs this year to China. The fact of the matter is that over the years, Central America's bought back $1.36 for every $1 they sell into us. They're an important market.

And the fact is, you know, when you see a T-shirt with made in Honduras, that's 60 percent or 90 percent American product in there. When you see a T-shirt that says made in China, that's all China. This is about jobs for American workers. This is about surviving in the textile industry. This is about making sure that Europe and Asia isn't doing a celebrating dance if we reject this proposal.

DOBBS: Need just 15 seconds. Quick, just straight forwardly. What will be the -- Congressman Brady, quickly, how much will this reduce our trade deficit if we do this deal?

BRADY: Well, it's hard to say, but we know it will...

DOBBS: No, that's a -- that's the question.

BRADY: Isn't that important to our trade deficit, finding new customers. Why is that bad for our trade deficit?

DOBBS: I am asking you to tell me why it's good. But Secondly, can you guarantee that this isn't just another outsourcing agreement as Congressman Brown has suggested?

BRADY: Absolutely. Because we already buy their products today. The question is, will we get to sell American products and services? The answer is we need new customers. It's good for our jobs and it's great for the trade deficit.

DOBBS: You get the last word this time, Congressman Brady. Congressman Brown, come back. We'll give you the -- and Congressman Brady another shot and you can have the last word next time Congressman.

BROWN: All right. You are on.

DOBBS: A reminder to vote in our poll. "Do you believe giving legal status to illegal aliens work on our nation's farms encourages more illegal immigration? Yes or no?" Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up in a few minutes. And we'll have a preview of what's going to be here tomorrow evening. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: The results now of our poll. 94 percent of you say giving illegal status to -- giving legal status to illegal aliens working on our nation's farms would encourage more illegal immigrations, 6 percent disagree.

Thanks for being with us here tonight. Please join us here tomorrow when we look at the case for the draft. The authors of a controversial article will be here. They're calling for the draft.

And an immigration advocacy group suing the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, because the DMV isn't giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens. The president of that group is my guest. We hope you'll join us.

For all of us here, good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is next.


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