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Terri Schiavo's Family Running Out of Options; American Casualties Dropping in Iraq

Aired March 24, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, running out of options: the legal battle to keep Terri Schiavo alive has entered a critical and possibly final stage. A federal court is holding a new hearing at this hour. And I'll be talking with a top medical ethicist who says the U.S. Supreme Court is absolutely right to stay out of this case.
Has the United States turned the corner in Iraq? The number of American troops killed in Iraq has declined sharply, Iraqis themselves taking the fight to the enemy. Tonight, the Pentagon considers bringing tens of thousands of our troops home.

And dropout crisis. Shocking new figures tonight on the number of minority high school students who drop out of school. And you have guessed it, the invasion of illegal aliens a significant factor. Some of our schools are now nothing less than dropout factories.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS, for news, debate and opinion, tonight.

DOBBS: Good evening.

Tonight the parents of Terri Schiavo are making a last-ditch effort to keep their daughter alive. At this hour, a federal court in Tampa, Florida, is considering a new lawsuit filed by Terri Schiavo's parents. Earlier, both the U.S. Supreme Court and a Florida state judge declined to intervene.

We begin our coverage tonight with Bob Franken outside the federal courthouse in Tampa -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Lou, it is the same federal judge here at the courthouse in Tampa who originally, earlier this week, turned down a request for an emergency order. That turndown has been now upheld by the Supreme Court.

But now there's a revised claim, charging that by pulling the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo, the various parties have violated federal law, including the Americans With Disability Act. Included in this filing is the affidavit from Dr. William Cheshire, who is the neurologist who told the governor yesterday in an affidavit that he did not believe that the persistent vegetative state that had been diagnosed for Terri Schiavo was, in fact, as severe.

And the significance of that, says the motion that was filed today, the significance of not being PVS would shatter the basis for removal of life support. And that, of course, is fundamental to the legal efforts that are being made on behalf of those who want her returned that life support.

One other thing: this precise affidavit was turned down earlier today by a state judge. That rejection is now being appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. So as you can see, Lou, the lawyers are not about to give up, even though they have suffered just recently, in particular, a series of defeats -- Lou.

DOBBS: Bob, thank you. Bob Franken reporting.

Terri Schiavo's parents tonight are running out of options, clearly, in their battle to have their daughter's feeding tube reinserted. They hope that Governor Jeb Bush of Florida will intervene before Terri Schiavo's condition deteriorates even further.

Ed Henry is in Tallahassee with the report -- Ed.


That's right, the governor has been behind closed doors all day with his staff behind me in his office here in Tallahassee, trying to figure out a way to save Terri Schiavo's life.

He's facing a lot of pressure, especially within his own party, a lot of conservatives putting the heat on him. I was in the outer area of that office a short while ago. There are phones ringing off the hook. There are activists waiting outside with signs all day. They've been urging the governor to step in.

What can he do at this point? Some legal analysts say that the governor could order the Department of Children and Families to go into the hospice and actually take custody of Terri Schiavo under the grounds that she has been abused. And they say that this would be legal under the state Adult Protective Services Act.

Just a few moments ago, after refusing all interview requests all day, the governor spoke to the local Capital News Service and addressed some of the questions about this.


GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: I have talked to a whole lot of people that I respect, not just now, but the first time that -- when Terri's law was passed, to make the determination of what my powers are, and they are -- they are not as expansive as people would want them to be.

And understand what they're -- they're acting on their heart, and I fully appreciate their sentiments and the emotions that go with this. But I cannot go -- and I've been consistently saying, and I guess you guys haven't been listening and repeating it back, I've consistently said that I can't go beyond what my powers are.


HENRY: And that is the bottom line; that is the question. How far do those powers go? Again, some legal analysts saying that he could, in fact, order the state to go in and take custody of Terri Schiavo, despite the judge's ruling earlier today saying that he couldn't. Then the state would have a 24-hour window to explain and file court papers explaining why, in fact, they had taken custody.

At that point, then Judge Greer could send sheriffs to go and retrieve Terri Schiavo. That would obviously open up a whole new round of messy legal fights, but the bottom line, the reason why conservative activists are demanding the governor do this, is that in that 24-hour period at least, that feeding tube could be reconnected and they could possibly save Terri Schiavo's life. That's what's at stake here right now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you. Ed Henry reporting from Tallahassee.

Terri Schiavo has received no food for six days. Doctors now say she is likely to die within the next few days unless she receives nourishment. John Zarrella reports from outside her hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we are now moving into what would be the longest she has ever been off the feeding tube, six days in 2003, two days in 2001, getting to be a very critical time.

Now, here at the hospice, the vigil continues. The protesters, a couple of hundred of them, at times here, yelling and asking for Governor Bush, imploring Governor Bush, in fact, to please step in and intervene. But as we heard, the governor's hands may well be tied. He does not want to, and has repeatedly said it, that he does not want to overstep his bounds.

Now overhead a bit of cheer went out today when a banner plane went overhead, and that banner plane, on it was, "Governor, save Terri."

Now again, it is a fight to save Terri that's running out of time with each passing day. It's unclear how long she'll be able to go.

Now, her family was inside late this afternoon after not being allowed inside for almost 12 hours, because Michael Schiavo and his relatives were apparently in there. They don't go in at the same time to visit -- to visit Terri. But they did go in this afternoon, and when they came out, they said they were leaving to go to that federal court hearing. They would be there for the hearing.

Now a spokesman for the family, Randall Terry, described Terri's condition as really beginning to weaken.


RANDALL TERRY, SPOKESMAN FOR SCHINDLERS: The family just saw Terri, and her condition is weakening. Susie said she looked that like she just got out of Auschwitz. The mother was physically ill, had to leave the room.


ZARRELLA: Terri's mother in fact, they say, after leaving the room, could not go back in. She was just too distraught over seeing her daughter in that condition, a very difficult time, obviously for the parents, Bob and Mary Schindler and Terri's sister and brother, Suzanne and Bobby Jr.

So again, the vigil being kept here. But how long is the question. Will she stay alive while the court battles play out all over the state -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. John Zarrella reporting from Pinellas Park, Florida.

The White House today also announced there are no plans for further intervention by the federal government in the Schiavo case. The White House said President Bush is saddened by the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case. Top Republicans in Congress also criticizing the Supreme Court decision.

Tonight, a new opinion poll suggests the president's decision to try to help Terri Schiavo has cost him political support. A new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows President Bush's approval rating has declined to 45 percent, compared to 52 percent before he signed the law allowing federal courts to review the case.

Later here in this broadcast, I'll be talking with a top medical ethicist about the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal today to intervene to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, the legal battles that are still ahead, and the ethical considerations on the part of all involved in this case.

Turning now to Iraq, there has been a sharp decline in the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the elections were held in January. The number of our troops killed in March is on track to be the lowest monthly total in more than a year. At the same time, Iraqi and U.S. troops are winning more battles against the insurgents.

Kitty Pilgrim has the report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The death toll in Iraq for U.S. forces so far this month is the lowest in more than a year. At 35 casualties in March, the death rate has dropped significantly since the elections. Insurgents have been successfully routed by U.S. and Iraqi forces in recent days, killing dozens.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Things are definitely looking better in Iraq in the last few weeks, there's not much doubt about that, if you measure the number of attacks, the number of American casualties. So on balance, I would say that things are definitely moving in the right direction.

PILGRIM: One hopeful sign: in Baghdad this week, Iraqi citizens shouted "no to terror," protesting attacks against the infrastructure. In Falluja, last November coalition forces devastated the city. Now they are rebuilding, but some say the political process is now critical.

NOAH FELDMAN, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: The key is to stop the new recruiting. And to do that, we have to first turn the tide militarily, as we may perhaps be doing. But we also need to offer a political option for the Sunnis so they don't think that the future of the country is going to exclude them.

PILGRIM: Many see a hopeful period, which may or may not last.

IAN BREMMER, EURASIA GROUP: For the moment, good. I am -- I think there is no question that we should take some solace in the fact that security for the average Iraqi in the past couple of months has been significantly improved from where it was, say, six months ago. That is significant. But it is not the be all-end all.


PILGRIM: Well, the experts we spoke to today caution that improved security was a first step. The political process has to go forward to include all groups so Iraqis feel engaged in building their country's government. And the insurgents, Lou, find it much harder to recruit.

DOBBS: And the bottom line here is that conditions improving markedly for our troops in Iraq.

PILGRIM: A period of hope, yes.

DOBBS: Absolutely. Thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.

An important U.S. ally in the global war against terror is tonight facing major political upheaval. Thousands of protesters in the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan stormed government buildings in the capital, forcing the country's president to flee. Riot police appeared to be disorganized, they were unwilling to take any action whatsoever against the protesters.

Opposition leaders say parliamentary elections in February and March were rigged. And Kyrgyzstan hosts a key U.S. air base that supports military operations against radical Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan. About U.S. 1,000 troops are based there.

Some American troops may soon be coming home sooner than many had expected. That report and General David Grange coming up.

And the dropout crisis in some of our nation's high schools, why one group of students is leaving school at an alarming rate and what some schools are trying to do to hide that fact.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Vice President Cheney in Battle Creek, Michigan, today to push the president's so-called Social Security reforms. In response to a question about the millions of illegal aliens in this country, Vice President Cheney addressed the central problem with our lack of immigration enforcement.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got several million people in the country who are here illegally. We don't know who they are, we don't know where they are, we don't know what they're doing.


DOBBS: "We don't know who they are, where they are or what they're doing." Vice President Cheney went on to say the problem is that terrorists could take advantage of the ability to enter this country illegally. So what did the vice president propose as a solution to that not inconsiderable issue? Offered the millions of illegal aliens in this country legal status under the president's guest worker program.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Are you offended by the vice president's response to this country's illegal alien crisis, yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll have the results for you later in the broadcast.

Meanwhile, Mexican President Vicente Fox said Mexico, Canada and the United States are now attempting to form a total partnership to eradicate terrorism and improve economic prosperity in the three countries. In an interview with CNN Espanol's, Juan Carlos Lopez, Fox listed the many benefits that Mexico has enjoyed since NAFTA was signed more than 10 years ago.


PRESIDENT VICENTE FOX, MEXICO: The facts show excellent results for NAFTA in 10 years, jobs created in Mexico, and many jobs created in the United States. The Mexican economy has more than doubled in this 10 years, per capita income in Mexico has more than doubled in this 10 years, poverty has been reduced by over 30 percent in this 10 years.

So the hard facts are right there. And they show that NAFTA has worked.


DOBBS: Well, in spite of President Fox's claims, 10 percent of the Mexican population now lives in the United States, and many of those people here illegally are sending back $17 billion a year to Mexico, a greater source of foreign currency than even the exports of oil from Mexico. To some that makes it clear why President Fox says he wants a convergence of our economies and what he calls a fluid border. The invasion of illegal aliens into this country is one of several factors behind a disturbing trend in schools in California. A new study has found that minority students are dropping out of high school in California at an astonishing and clearly alarming rate.

Casey Wian reports from Los Angeles.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An alarming report sponsored by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project shows that nearly half of the Hispanic and black high school students in California drop out. They call it a graduation rate crisis.

JEANNE OAKS, UCLA: The presentations will make painfully clear that a dangerously high percentage of students disproportionately poor, disproportionately of color, just simply disappear.

WIAN: Despite slight improvements in overall graduation rates during the past decade, researchers say California and many other states undercount their dropouts. They found only 57 percent of California's blacks and 60 percent of Hispanics graduate, compared to 78 percent of whites and 84 percent of Asians.

One factor is what educators call perverse incentives that push underachieving students out of school to artificially inflate a school's academic performance. Another, schools populated with high percentages of minority immigrants and low-income students, which one researcher calls dropout factories.

ROBERT BALFANZ, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Now, that's a harsh term, but it's a harsh reality in 21st century America, where a high school diploma is universally recognized as a need to have access to a good life, that there are a significant number of schools in the country where routinely, year after year, half the number of students who enter graduate.

WIAN: The study found LA's Jefferson High school only graduated 32 percent of its students. The principal says many students are poorly prepared entering high school, plus the neighborhood is violent.

NORM MORROW, PRINCIPAL, JEFFERSON HIGH SCHOOL: It's the obstacle of living in a community where you have to look over your shoulder all the time.

WIAN: One panelist estimates one year of California dropouts costs the economy $14 billion and adds 1,225 prison inmates. Educators say there's plenty of research how to improve the rates, but political will to make the changes is lacking.

This 17-year-old high school senior identified what may be the most important force keeping students in school.

REGINALD QUARKER, STUDENT: I'm definitely thankful for having a strong, tough mother behind me keeping me rooted. WIAN: Despite attending one LA dropout factory, Reginald will attend the University of Michigan this fall.


WIAN: Educators say they're worried that dropout factories are becoming vulnerable to privatization. That, they say, will only make the problem worse by draining resources from the schools that need it the most -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, this is an alarming report, as you have said. But the fact is that we have known for some years that the performance of our public schools and the performance particularly of minority students, specifically Hispanics and blacks, it has been a disaster. What is the school system in California going to do about it? Because we are literally wasting a generation of young lives.

WIAN: One of the things that the researchers today said is that they don't have accurate statistics to measure the dropout rate. And so many of the state schools, the school officials are able to go to the federal government and say, look, we're making improvements, look how good our dropout rates have become. But they're saying those -- they're significantly undercounting the dropout rate.

So what they want these schools to do is to accurately report the numbers. And the numbers that they released today are a good first step toward that -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, it occurs to me that schools, the administrators of those schools, who are either so devious as to not give accurate figures or incapable of counting the number of students who drop out of their schools, probably are undeserving of any support. Is there any action that's going to be taken against that kind, that quality of administrator?

WIAN: Well, I don't know if there's specific action taken against those administrators, but the cosponsors of this conference today say that they're planning all kinds of action, from legal action to media attention projects, and all kinds of stuff. So we'll be seeing more action in the future.

DOBBS: And more of you on this story. Casey Wian, thank you, from Los Angeles.

Coming up next, new signs that the United States and Iraqi forces are now gaining ground against the insurgents in Iraq. General David Grange will be here in just moments to analyze why success seems to be at hand in Iraq.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: The recent victories against insurgents in Iraq raising hopes that significant numbers of our troops may be able to come home soon. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq is already scheduled to decline from 150,000 to 138,000. Now there are some indications even larger troop withdrawals may be possible.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the report.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN has learned that General George Casey, head of U.S. forces in Iraq, could recommend within weeks that tens of thousands of troops return home beginning this summer. President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will make the final decision.

It all depends on the level of violence and the capability of Iraqi security forces. Senior U.S. military officials tell CNN if things continue to improve, this time next year, there could be just under 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, 50,000 fewer than were there for the January election.

Ten to 20,000 U.S. troops could be at their home bases in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific on a stand-by status, ready to go if needed.

Rumsfeld knows the 27 other countries with 25,000 troops in Iraq are under political pressure.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Each country has its own circumstance. It has its own force capability and force sustainment capability and it also has its own political circumstance.

STARR: The U.S. is pressing all the allies to stay. It will make it easier for the U.S. to bring troops home.

CNN has learned talks are under way with Ukraine to keep their 1,600 troops in Iraq until the end of the year. The Netherlands began withdrawing its 1,400 troops this month. South Korea is scheduled to bring its 3,600 troops home by the end of the year. Poland plans to do the same with its 1,700 troops, as does Bulgaria with its 450 troops.

Under U.S. pressure, Italy may now keep its 3,000 troops on-site after saying they would return home in September.


STARR: But, Lou, if for some reason things don't get better, there is always Plan B. The Pentagon is prepared, they say, to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq through the end of next year if that was is needed. They just hope that won't be what's needed -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, let's hope that we can bring those troops home obviously as quickly as possible, Barbara. Let me ask you this... in the Pentagon, at the Pentagon, what is the feeling there? We've seen the number of attacks within the Sunni Triangle decline, we've seen the number of casualties and deaths of our troops decline markedly over the past month.

Is there -- is there a set of the onset of success right now, or is there the fear of celebrating perhaps even at the margin too early?

STARR: I think it is still the second case, Lou. What you hear in the hallways here is still a good deal of caution.

They've been down the road before, where they've gone through these cycles where things appear to be getting better. They certainly hope with the election in Iraq and the road to a new government there that they are on the way to long-term progress, but there is caution.

So what they want to do is, as they say, stay flexible. Bring the troops home that they can, but put some of that cushion on standby just in case they're needed -- Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara Starr from the Pentagon. Thank you.

Joining me now, General David Grange.

General, good to have you with us. Let me ask you, what do you make of what appears to be one of the most successful months in some time in Iraq for U.S. forces?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Lou, I just hope it remains that way. And it probably won't. There will be ups and downs.

There's going to be some other -- other months or parts of months that are going to be very tough for the Iraqi forces and the coalition forces. But I think you're seeing a tremendous result of the training efforts on the Iraqi forces and a different attitude of the people since the elections. For instance, turning in insurgents where they can find these people and get rid of them that are bad.

DOBBS: Right. And actual engagement by Iraqi security forces, whether police or military.

GRANGE: Yes. The police and the military Iraqi forces have been -- they've been proficient in recent operations. You know, this Lake Tharthar (ph) raid where they killed around 80 insurgents at an insurgent training camp was a wonderful raid.

Of course it was done with coalition support, as it should be. It's a combined effort, and they support each other. But it's just been a continuous even small-scale and even some large-scale success stories recently, and it's changed the whole complexity of the operations over there.

GIBSON: It may be, general, that it's too early to suggest we have turned a corner, but one thing we can certainly celebrate is that the number of our troops in Iraq has declined to the lowest level since almost the war itself.

What is your expectation going forward? Do you think we'll be able to bring those troops home?

GRANGE: Yes, Lou, I think there will be some sort of a drawdown. Of course, the plan -- the plan as it's written right now is just if things continue successfully on this track.

DOBBS: Right.

GRANGE: And it can change overnight. But I believe the drawdown will happen, yes.

DOBBS: General David Grange, thank you, sir.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

DOBBS: Terri Schiavo's parents are still fighting to save their daughter's life tonight after another round of defeats in court today.

Coming up next here, leading medical ethicists Dr. Joseph Fins joins me.

And a former immigration special agent identifies tonight what he sees as the biggest problem in our immigration enforcement, and it's not at our border. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Returning now to our top story this hour, the case of Terri Schiavo. A federal court in Tampa, Florida is tonight holding a new hearing on whether Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die. That hearing taking place just within this hour.

Meanwhile, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida has just that said he cannot go beyond his powers, nor will he, and try to in any way to overrule the courts. Joining me now is Dr. Joseph Fins. He hails today's Supreme Court's decision and says the court upheld the U.S. Constitution while Congress tried to thwart it.

Dr. Fins is the director of Medical Ethics at New York Presbyterian Wilde Cornell Medical Center. Good to have you with us.


DOBBS: This is, as we have discussed throughout this week, a terrible, terrible situation for not only Terri Schiavo, her family, but frankly a test of our system, isn't it?

FINS Right.

I've been amazed by its resilience. I've also been heartened by the American people. Everybody's talking about this, everybody is taking their own lessons. And I think there's a collective bereavement and reflection on what it means to be alive, what it means to live and die. And I think that's probably a good thing.

DOBBS: You salute the U.S. Supreme Court for its refusal to intervene. You criticize Congress and the White House for having done so.

At this point, a new suggestion has come forward, as you know, from a Mayo Clinic neurologist that she has a form of consciousness rather than the persistent vegetative state, which is what has been declared by the medical authorities who have examined her. What is going on here, in your judgment?

FINS: Well, I think it's a mix of ideology and diagnostic efforts. I think the doctor who didn't actually see her, he never examined her -- this is by proxy, so it's irresponsible to make a diagnosis for a patient you have not personally examined. That's the first point.

And the second thing is the infusion of his own ideological perspective on the diagnosis of the vegetative state.

DOBBS: His ideological perspective, what do you mean by that?

FINS: I think if one were to Google him on the Internet, one would see that he hails from a kind of an ideological perspective of fundamentalist beliefs. And I think that that is probably infusing his perspective on the diagnosis.

I think it's important that we maintain the diagnostic integrity. I remain respectful of anyone's perspective on staying in the vegetative state, but let's not turn the diagnostic act into an ideological exercise. We have to start with the diagnosis first and maintain that integrity.

DOBBS: So, this diagnosis in your opinion, should be given no weight by anyone, period?

FINS: I haven't examined Terri Schiavo. The courts have ruled and they said there's clear and convincing evidence that she's in a vegetative state. And the courts heard the evidence and saw over six hours of videotape, heard from experts. As sad as it is, I wish it were otherwise, that is her diagnostic state.

DOBBS: The fact is that it's been six days now since she's been denied nourishment. What is the likelihood that we will see, even with this hearing that's going on right at this hour, a reversal, in your judgment, on the part of any part of the court system?

FINS: I think it would be exceedingly unlikely. I'm also not a lawyer. But I think all these courts couldn't possibly be wrong. And I think they've been consistent in their upholding of the earlier lower courts.

DOBBS: Obviously you have talked about this with your colleagues in the medical profession, I suspect around the country as well as at Cornell. What is their judgment?

FINS: I think we're all concerned that when doctors go on TV and talk about diagnoses of patients they haven't seen, the next time I have to break news to a family that they're loved one is in a vegetative state, are they going to believe what I have to say? What does it mean for our integrity as a profession. And what Congress did the other night cannot be fixed with legislation.

DOBBS: What do you think the long-lasting effects, if any, will be from that?

FINS: What I would like to see is more research devoted to disorders of consciousness. More research in this area so that we can develop a better diagnostic, better therapeutics for this patient population.

People who are just beyond a vegetative state. in the minimally conscious state, for whom there might be more hope.

DOBBS: I'm sure there are many of our viewers who did not hear our conversation earlier in the week in which you said what you thought would have been the ideal and the appropriate way to deal with the issue, the life and death issues, of Terri Schiavo's case.

FINS: Is to talk about it. Talk to your family, have an advanced directive, make your wishes clear. Fill out the form, but also have the conversation, so the people who are left behind when you can't speak for themselves will know precisely what you want.

That also relieves the burden on them. And that's the most important gift that one can leave behind.

DOBBS: Dr. Fins, thank you again for being here.

FINS: Thank you very much. Good to be here.

DOBBS: Coming up next, our border and immigration crisis. I'll be joined by a former immigration and naturalization service agent who says Mexico has no intention of securing its border with this country. Stay with us.


DOBBS: As we reported here, President Bush yesterday met with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. They discussed border security, economics, and even immigration.

My next guest says the Mexican government's version of border control is to have Mexican citizens flow freely into this country, while American dollars flow freely into Mexico.

Mike Cutler is a former Immigration and Nationalization special agent, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, joining us here tonight in New York.

Good to have you with us.

MIKE CUTLER, FORMER INS SPECIAL AGENT: Good to be here. Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Is it your contention, then, basically, irrespective of what happened down in Waco in the summit meeting, that the Mexican government has no intention of ever improving security at the border?

CUTLER: Why should they? Look, they're getting, as you pointed out earlier in the program, a tremendous amount of money flowing into their coffers from the United States. They also export a big problem that they have, and that's poverty.

You know, when I hear the president of Mexico talk about the reduction in f poverty in Mexico, what he really ought to be saying, if he's completely candid, is that, yes, we're exporting our poverty. So they're winning from every perspective.

DOBBS: Well, there's another winner in this, and it's -- and it should be, I think, crystal clear to everyone, those winning are the employers who are hiring these illegal aliens.

CUTLER: You bet.

DOBBS: This country lacks both the political will -- let me rephrase that. This country's elected officials lack the political will to enforce our immigration laws, our border security, even given the worst terrorist act not only in this country but around the world, on September 11. What in the world can be done, if anything, in your judgment, to move our elected officials, including President Bush, as well as our Congress, to action?

CUTLER: Well, you know, when we had the attack in '93, you would have thought they would have learned. They almost brought the tower down sideways, by the way, and you would have had 100,000 dead. You had this situation that happened on 9/11, and they seem to be impervious to listening.

Now, when I testified before Congress two weeks ago, many members of the House of Representatives in these two subcommittees seemed very much concerned. And I think that the public needs to bring pressure to bear, and maybe the solution is to make sure you vote, and be aware of what they're voting for on the Hill in terms of immigration laws.

DOBBS: Now, immigration laws and border security are not the same thing. But the fact is that border security is a condition precedent for any kind of control over immigration in this country, is it not?

CUTLER: Well, it is. But the border also exists at the airports. So the problem that we have is that any alien who can get past the inspector at the airport or get past the border patrol is home free. And they know it. And when the president talks about a guest worker program, the number of arrests by border patrol agents surged, because it just encourages more illegal immigration.

DOBBS: Only 3 percent of the people coming across our land borders legally are being checked...

CUTLER: That's right.

DOBBS: ... according to the Homeland Security Department itself.

CUTLER: Right, the I.G.'s office issued that report last month.

DOBBS: Inspector general's office, yes. What is going on?

CUTLER: It makes no sense. We're fighting a war on terror, and nobody is being careful enough. I mean, it's like a homeowner saying, I'll look through the peephole three times for every 100 people who knock on my door. It's a prescription for a disaster, and it's a prescription, for, God forbid, another attack on this country.

DOBBS: There is absolutely no accountability on the issue of border security, whether we're -- there is no accountability whatsoever on immigration, the exploitation of low-cost labor by the -- on the part of U.S. multinationals and other employers in this country.

The fact is that lack of political will. What must be done? Because it appears as if our political elites and our corporate elites are, frankly, deciding what a nation of 300 million people will do, and deciding what this nation will be, without any referendum on the part of the people they allegedly represent.

CUTLER: Well, you're exactly right. And, in fact, last year, no company in the entire country was fined for hiring an illegal alien. Now, think about that. So how are we taking away whatever control we have on who's being hired within our borders? And then when you have the Minutemen come forward, they're accused of being vigilantes. I think that they're just desperate people.

DOBBS: What was your reaction to the president's siding with Vicente Fox on that issue and calling U.S. citizens who want to monitor the border patrol vigilantes?

CUTLER: Well, I don't think they're vigilantes. I've met with a number of these folks. I think that what they are is a symptom of a broken immigration system, and an effort by politicians to ignore their voters.

DOBBS: And what do you think of the president's calling them vigilantes?

CUTLER: It upset me quite a bit. I think it was an abrogation of his responsibility to make sure that the laws are enforced. If they -- if he did that, they wouldn't be there.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Mike Cutler.

CUTLER: Thank you for having me, Lou.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in our poll tonight. We reported earlier on Vice President Dick Cheney's comments about the illegal alien crisis in this country. He said we've got several million people who are in the country illegally. We don't know who they are, we don't know where they are, we don't know what they're doing. We'd like to know.

Are you offended by Vice President Cheney's response to this country's crisis, yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll have the results for you coming right up.

The middle class in this country is under assault on many fronts. We're not only exporting jobs, of course, we're importing cheap labor. And tonight, General Motors, the largest private health care provider in this country, says it wants to slash medical benefits. Many of this country's largest companies say they're cutting employee health care in an effort to improve margins.

But in many cases, those companies are cutting employee benefits while they're raising executive pay.

Bill Tucker reports.



BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 33 1/2 years, Jim Stickel worked for the Bell Companies, first for Bell Labs, then for Lucent Technologies. His work helped the companies grow.

STICKEL: We now, it seems like, get an annual letter. And this has been true since the beginning of 2003, an annual letter from Lucent that begins with, Dear Retiree, we had to make some very difficult decisions, and you lost.

TUCKER: He pays out of his pocket $7,000 a year for medical costs. Just a few years ago, he paid about $1,000 a year. Lucent no longer pays his dental insurance. It no longer provides a death benefit. As of this year, it no longer provides insurance for his wife.

Lucent is not alone. Many companies are cutting benefits and raising the costs of insurance for their retires. Those companies defend the increases, saying that health insurance costs have risen dramatically. And on that point, the companies are right. Over the past five years, health insurance premiums have risen 68 percent for single employees, and 72 percent for employees with families.

That gives credibility to the argument that the companies are in the same boat as the employees, but...

JIM NORBY, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RETIREE LEGISLATIVE NETWORK: While companies continue to take away benefits from their retirees, they grant their CEOs huge bonuses and salaries. That's one of our big problems, is on the one hand, the takeaways, on the other hand, the outrageous compensation levels being given to these same employer executives.

TUCKER: It's left a bitter taste in Jim Stickel's mouth.

STICKLE: I think if there's one thing that maybe kind of really wreaks inside, it's that I'm no louder proud of that legacy. And, you know, that may seem a little hackneyed, but that's the way I feel.


TUCKER: The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 79 percent of large companies surveyed put more health insurance burden on their retirees last year, and Lou, 85 percent said they plan to do so this year.

DOBBS: Working men and women in this country are under incredible pressure, as we style it, assault. This is just more evidence of the same, particularly at precisely the moment that it is becoming increasingly expensive to pay for health care in this country.

Bill Tucker, thank you.

Why my next guest says there's a bottomless well of energy. What energy crisis? And why he thinks wasting it and using it is actually beneficial. We'll be talking with this contrarian next here.

Please stay with us.


DOBBS: My next guest is working to challenge some basic and common beliefs about energy, and supplies of energy. He says much of what we know is actually a myth, based on a misunderstanding of science, engineering, and mother nature.

Mark Mills is the author of the new book "The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, The Virtue of Waste and Why We Will Never," never he says, "Run out of Energy."

We had to talk with you, Mark, because that -- if there is ever a contrarian view, yours is it. We will never run out of energy?

MARK MILLS, CO-AUTHOR, THE BOTTOMLESS WELL: For all practical purposes, for anything that matters, we'll never run out of energy. Energy resources are just all around us. We're drowning in energy. What we really need are technologies to extract and tap into them. And the energy story for -- the dawn of time, has been finding the tools and machines that can find and tap it.

DOBBS: Find and tap it, I can recall vividly the federal government and actually President Carter himself in the late '70s saying we're just about out of energy, setting thermostats to 68. I can't remember, was it 68 to thermostats and 55 for cars or was it the other way?

MILLS: People did the other way, actually.

DOBBS: But the fact is we're sitting here at almost record highs for gasoline.


DOBBS: Record highs for oil.

What's your solution?

MILLS: Well, first, inflation-adjusted terms, because you have a very sophisticated audience that knows the difference, we're actually not at record highs yet. To be at the same price levels, as we were in the '81 time period, we'd have to be around $90 a barrel. And one of the reasons that we haven't had this crushing impact on the economy...

DOBBS: And I should say, and I would like to make this point to our audience. When Mark Mills says this, we have researched it, he is exactly right. As tough as that is for us to digest sometimes when we're sitting there paying almost $3 at a gasoline pump, it's actually on an inflation-adjusted basis, absolutely true.

MILLS: And importantly, let me add to that, to give you a sort of -- a more heretical view. We have a lot of headroom for oil prices to go up yet, good news or bad news, in terms of having the same impact as we had in our economy in the early '80s. We could hit $120 barrel before it has the same impact, because oil is less -- a smaller portion of our GDP -- our GNP than it was in 1981. Electricity has replaced oil as the primary fuel of our economy.

DOBBS: And electricity being driven by.

MILLS: Domestic fuels, coal, uranium, rainfall, natural gas, all of which come from the North American Continent.

DOBBS: And a lot of people don't realize how important coal is to the generation of electricity in this country.

MILLS: Half our electricity is coal, and we have functionally no limit to coal in American.

DOBBS: But a lot of people are saying, Mark, I can't stick coal in that combustion engine of mine. What am I going to do?

MILLS: The truth is oil is an very important energy commodity. No one doubts that, and nobody want to pay more for it than you have to. The answer, actually, is interesting enough that, if the prices go up, we don't like it, it doesn't kill our economy. What we want to do is find more cheap oil. The right answer is find more inexpensive oil and America can prosper on that basis. We choose not to look for oil in certain places. The technology that we had available 30-years- ago couldn't make the oil that we would like cheap enough. The Tar Sands of Canada, which I pointed to before, have nearly 3 trillion barrels of oil. All of the humanity has not consumed a trillion barrels of oil, today. We couldn't have extracted it 30-years-ago at a price we could afford. It's actually affordable today.

DOBBS: Everyone knows conservation is important and you're talking about the virtue of waste, square it up.

MILLS: Well, we're being maybe a little bit provocative deliberately. Most of what people call waste isn't, and that's what we're pointing into. The energy that you -- we start with -- coal again, to make electricity, eventually make a laser beam to eye surgery. We consume most of it along the way in ways that energy pundits call waste. It's not waste, it's a law of physics. You can't make a wonderful laser beam do eye surgery or cut steel, unless you consume energy along the way and process this, quote, "Waste Energy." DOBBS: Mark Mills is the author of the new book "the Bottomless Well." And we hope you're right. And we hope that the innovative technologies necessary move quickly. But since some of that is policy-based rather than market-based, I won't get overly hopeful. Mark, thank you.

MILLS: Thank you.

DOBBS: Still ahead here, the results of our poll tonight. We'll have a preview of what's ahead tomorrow. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Let's check our poll results, 98 percent of you said, you are offended by Vice President Cheney's response to this countries illegal alien crisis, when he said today, "We've got several million people who are in this country illegally. We don't know who they are. We don't know where they are. We don't know what they're doing." And then went on to endorse the president's guest worker program, which many view as amnesty as a solution.

By the way, the estimates of illegal aliens in this country (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bear Stern puts the number at 20 million.

Thanks for being with us here tonight. Please join us tomorrow. One congressman who is also a medical doctor, wanted a federal review of the Terri Schiavo case. Congressman Dave Weldon will be my guest.

And why are law makers in Washington enjoy extensive retirement benefits that many of us will never have. We hope you'll be with us. For all us good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is next.


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