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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Hurricane Katrina Gathers Strength; Bush Approval Rating Hits New Low; President Urges Iraqi Leaders to Compromise; Ellsworth Air Force Base Saved from Chopping Block; FAA Rules Babies Don't Need Seatbelts; Dallas Schools Force Superintendents to Learn Spanish

Aired August 26, 2005 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST: Thank you, Wolf.
Good evening, everyone. Tonight, heated, passionate debate in Dallas, Texas. The Dallas school board has voted to force some principals to learn Spanish. Many call it a blow against America's long-held belief in assimilation. We'll have a debate.

Plus, stunning charges leveled against the Labor Department. Critics say the agency that's supposed to be fighting for American workers is giving exclusive job postings to foreign workers. We'll have a special report on this latest example of the great American giveaway.

And another new poll shows President Bush's approval rating is at the lowest point ever, as the president takes a politically risky move in Iraq. Can a personal appeal from the president help avoid civil war in Iraq?

We begin tonight with Hurricane Katrina. This killer storm is strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico tonight and is now forecast to take an unexpected big turn to the west.

Katrina tonight is now a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of more than 100 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center fears tonight that Katrina will strengthen into a Category 4 storm before landfall, packing winds as high as 150 miles per hour.

On its new projected path, Katrina is aiming directly at Mississippi or Louisiana. It's been tracking down the Florida Panhandle. Forecasters warn that the storm path could be revised again before Katrina makes landfall sometime on Monday.

Katrina, which formed quickly in the Atlantic early this week, is now a massive storm, 138 miles wide, shown on this satellite picture. It's responsible now for at least six deaths.

Today, residents in south Florida began the cleanup after this powerful hurricane that many underestimated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Katrina dumped up to a foot of rain on the Miami area. Businesses and homes turned into islands. Streets became rivers. Some people could only stand and watch as the water rushed by. 80-mile-an-hour winds ripped through houses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The winds came in pretty hard from the north, and I'm on the 14th floor, and I had to hold the window down, because I thought the window was going to come through there on my terrace.

ROMANS: Trees crashed to the ground, bulldozers called in to clear the damage. Those falling trees took down power lines; a million people are still without electricity.

LT. ERIC BAUM, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: We got here in hurricane force winds, just blinding rain coming out. It's right at us. Very dark, a lot of the lights not operable here. It's very hard to see what's going on.

ROMANS: Katrina left a wake of destruction and death. Florida governor Jeb Bush is requesting help.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: We've asked for a federal disaster declaration for Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and we're making assessments in the other areas and will add counties to our declaration when it's appropriate to do so. We also expect a very quick response, as we've received in the past, from FEMA and from the White House.

ROMANS: This overpass on Florida Highway 836 was under construction.

DIANNE FERNANDEZ, WSVN CORRESPONDENT: It is just really an unbelievable sight out here. We're told some 1,500 tons of concrete basically poured over the eastbound lanes of the 836. They estimate 90 mile per hour gusts came through, hit one beam into another, causing a domino effect that toppled that entire section onto the roadway here.

ALFRED LURIGADOS, MIAMI-DADE EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY: Luckily, it wasn't a tragic situation as far as losses to human life, but, of course, this is a delay to the project, a delay to a lot of taxpayer dollars.

ROMANS: Katrina overturned airplanes at the North Perry Airport in Hollywood, ripped apart hangars at the Miami Airport and pushed this jetliner into a barrier.

At this marina, boats were submerged or smashed together, some tossed completely onto shore. In Cutler Ridge, residents found new ways to travel, more suited for the beach, some even taking the time to go for a spin.

But Florida has not seen the last of Katrina.

BUSH: Even though we suffered our bruises with Hurricane Katrina, we certainly and probably have not received its full wrath in terms of what its ultimate land fall point may be.

ROMANS: And forecasters say Hurricane Katrina's second coming will be even more powerful than the first. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Initial estimates tonight say insured damage from Hurricane Katrina's first landfall will easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Rob Marciano reports now from one of the worst affected areas, Miami-Dade County. It's now a federal disaster area -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Christine.

The main impact down here, not only trees and power lines down, but flooding rains. And the flood waters have receded somewhat behind me. But the Doppler radar estimates in this area show anywhere from 15 to 18 inches of rain coming from this storm alone. And we are at least 40 miles from where the center of this thing made landfall last night around Hollywood Beach.

Even so, we got here earlier today. Take a look at some of the pictures. Squall lines coming through as this storm continues to spin out there, west of Key West. It was coming down and blowing. They probably got another inch or two just in the time that we got here today.

Those squalls have since simmered down just a little bit. So a lot of folks have concentrated on the cleanup. There are drainage canals that sometimes get all this water out of the ocean. But today, at least here, they've had a bit of a problem with that. Eventually, those will recede.

The power lines are down, so traffic conditions are a bit of a nightmare. Folks don't know what to do when they get to four-way stops. And they're cleaning up the debris from trees.

The other issue that was a bit of a surprise, I supposed, with this storm is how strong the winds were. You know, we had a number of Category 3, 4, storms last year, major hurricanes. And we kind of felt, you know, this is a Category 1, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

Well, you know what? There's really no such thing as a minimal hurricane, as we saw from the damage today. Winds of 75, 80, 90 miles an hour, certainly strong enough to do some serious damage, and that's what we saw today.

All the while, not losing a whole lot of strength, Christine, as it's spun now west of Key West into those very toasty waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And we're seeing this thing re-strengthen and strengthen rapidly today.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the speed of this hurricane, Rob, because if this thing is too slow or moves more slowly, it means an awful lot of flooding. In a way, strengthening and moving this thing out, it might help the folks where you are, right?

MARCIANO: Well, certainly getting it out of here in a relative hurry helps a lot. You know, the Florida Peninsula, fairly narrow. So even moving at five to eight to nine miles an hour, fairly slow. But we got it out of here in a decent amount.

So you know, I suppose it could always be worse, but the flooding, trust me, around here is certainly damaging.

Now as it begins to pick up its wind speed, not necessarily its forward speed, but its wind speed, that's going to be -- the path of this thing is really going to be critical, because where that core goes come Sunday and Monday is going to be where the path of most destruction is going to be.

As we saw with Dennis and as we saw with Ivan last year. And this looks like it wants to head to a similar area. Either the mouth of the Mississippi, New Orleans, Mississippi itself, Alabama, maybe in the western part of the Panhandle. We won't know that until early Monday, when this thing starts to head up towards the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

We'll just have to see what happens. But right now, it looks like the second landfall, Christina, is going to be worse than the first.

ROMANS: All right. You've got a long weekend ahead of you. Thanks so much, Rob Marciano.

Stay tuned to CNN all weekend as we track the path of Hurricane Katrina. CNN, your hurricane headquarters.

ANNOUNCER: Your hurricane headquarters.

ROMANS: In Europe tonight, the death toll from torrential rains and massive flooding is rising. Forty-two people are now known dead, and evacuations continue after one of the worst disasters to hit Europe in years.

In Switzerland, the body of a 72-year-old woman who fell into a flood-swollen river was recovered 120 miles downstream.

Flood waters are receding tonight, but forecasters are warning that new rains could fall. And there are fears of new landslides. Evacuated residents in many areas are having to line up and register with authorities, just to get a look at the damage done to their flood damaged homes.

In Paris, a massive fire swept through an overcrowded apartment building housing immigrants from Africa. At least 17 immigrants were killed; at least six of the dead are children.

The fire broke out in the building's main stairwell, making it impossible for many to escape. Officials are still trying to find out what started the blaze. This is the second fire to break out in a building housing immigrants in France this year.

Coming up, critics say the U.S. Labor Department is hiding good paying technology jobs from U.S. workers. We'll have a special report.

And outrage in Dallas over a decision to force some principals to learn Spanish. We'll have a debate on the controversy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Turning now to the deepening political crisis in Iraq. Sunni Arab negotiators tonight say there is no agreement on a new constitution after another day of heated negotiation. A top Sunni official is now calling on Iraqis to reject the constitution when it comes up for a vote in October.

Today's setback is troubling news for President Bush, who's now pushing personally for an Iraqi constitutional compromise, this as the president's approval rating hits an all-time low.

Tonight, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider on the president's new poll numbers and, in Crawford, Texas, Suzanne Malveaux on President Bush's urgent call for a Iraqi compromise. We begin with Bill Schneider -- Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Christine, President Bush has set a new record, one he doesn't really want to set.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Bush's latest job approval rating in the Gallup poll: 40 percent, the lowest Gallup rating ever for this president.

Forty percent means trouble. Look at previous presidents who have hit 40 percent or lower. The usual problem, a bad economy.

Gerald Ford dropped before 40 during the stag-flation of 1975. He lost in 1976.

The malaise crisis -- remember gas lines -- lowered Jimmy Carter to below 40 in 1979 and '80. Carter lost, too.

Did Ronald Reagan ever dip below 40 percent? Yes, briefly, in early 1983, when unemployment was over 10 percent. His party had just suffered a setback in 1982. The economy recovered, and so did Reagan, who never hit 40 again, not even during Iran Contra.

The first President Bush was below 40 for most of 1992, when the economy once again hit the skids. And cut short his presidency.

It's not always the economy, stupid. The Watergate scandal brought down Richard Nixon, whose ratings were in the 20s during his last year in office.

Bill Clinton hit 40 percent, briefly, during his first two years, when he overreached with his healthcare plan. That spelled disaster for the Democrats in 1994. But like Reagan, Clinton recovered. During the impeachment scandal, his ratings actually went up into the 60s.

Bad wars can drag a president down. Harry Truman had Korea. Truman's ratings were in the 20s and 30s for three years.

The Vietnam War pulled Lyndon Johnson down in 1967 and '68. LBJ was at 36 percent when he decided not to seek reelection in March 1968.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: What's dragging President Bush down? Well, Iraq certainly. But Americans aren't too happy with gas prices, and there's a whiff of scandal. Who leaked that CIA agent's name? Overreaching? Well, there's Social Security -- Christine.

ROMANS: And Bill, other presidents, you point out, have been at 40 percent, but you say that this president's 40 percent rating is a little different.

SCHNEIDER: What's different is division. He's getting 82 percent support from Republicans, 13 among Democrats. We have never seen a division that big, not even for Bill Clinton.

But it does mean with 82 percent from his own party, this president is keeping his base, something that other presidents in trouble, like his father, did not do.

ROMANS: All right. Bill Schneider. Thanks, Bill.

Now let's turn to Suzanne Malveaux in Crawford, Texas, where the president must be troubled by or at least aware of these new poll numbers as he tries to mend a deepening political rift at the same time in Iraq -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, of course, the White House aware of those dipping poll numbers and, of course, the president has been out in the week, really trying to push forward the Iraq policy, U.S./Iraq policy, to argue that it's been a success.

However, looking at the Iraqi constitution, the draft constitution, still up in the air whether or not they'll be able to actually move that forward. The Bush administration knows it is a credibility test not just for the Iraqis but also for the president. That is why he is gotten directly and personally involved in the process.

Today, confirmed by White House spokesman Trent Duffy, we know that President Bush made a very important call on Wednesday in Idaho before returning to the Crawford ranch. He called Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim to discuss the developments of drafting the Iraqi constitution.

We don't have details on the conversation, but the bottom line was to convince consensus among those groups, the Shiites, the Sunnis, as well as the Kurds.

The Bush administration's position on this is that the Shiites have to be aware that it is critically important for the Sunnis to participate, fully participate in the political process here. That if they do so, if they're in the fold, that means the insurgency will weaken.

It is the White House's position that, if the Shiites go around the Sunnis and bring that constitution before the people without their approval, that that would be a big mistake.

But as you know, Christine, the Bush administration, the president all very much aware, keeping their eye on what happens in that process.

ROMANS: All right. Suzanne Malveaux in Crawford, Texas. Thank you, Suzanne.

Up next, a major decision on military base closures.

And a new federal policy says it is safe for babies to fly on airplanes without safety seats or seat belts. But is it really safe?

And forcing our educators to learn Spanish because parents don't speak English. A critical decision in one of the biggest school districts in the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Tonight, relief in South Dakota on word that Ellsworth Air Force Base will stay open. The Committee on Base Realignment and Closure rejected the Pentagon's proposal to shut down the key base for B-1 bombers. That decision will keep thousands of South Dakotans employed, and it could save the political career of the South Dakota's newest senator.

Ed Henry reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he waited for the verdict, Republican John Thune was a bundle of information energy.

REP. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: It's exhausting, you know, emotionally. We've been out for the last three months, and have been working virtually night and day to get our arguments and our case in front of these BRAC commissioners.

HENRY: Economic anxiety because Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota's second largest employer, was on the base closure commission's hit list.

THUNE: Two hundred seventy-eight million dollar annual economic impact. The entire -- all of western South Dakota would have been set back 25 years had this gone down.

HENRY: But also, political anxiety. Last year, Thune beat Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, in part because Republicans vowed a Thune victory would ensure White House protection of Ellsworth. Thune was stunned in the spring when the Bush administration put Ellsworth on the chopping block. THUNE: We were surprised when Ellsworth ended up on the list. We'd been hopeful that it wouldn't. And obviously, my preference would have been that the administration would have perhaps intervened in some fashion.

HENRY: A miffed Thune stopped raising campaign money for fellow Republicans, a not so subtle signal to the White House. And he forged an unlikely alliance with a rival, Democratic Senator Tim Johnson. The duo launched a desperate lobbying effort, and it paid off.

Republicans had been whispering Thune's political credibility was on the line. So he basked in the victory and tried to put the White House friction behind him.

THUNE: Politics is politics. It's a tough business.

HENRY (on camera): The plan crafted here by the base closure commission still has to be approved by President Bush and Congress. But Thune is confident both will do so.

Ed Henry, CNN, Arlington, Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Authorities in Morocco and Turkey have arrested two young men in a major computer worm probe. The FBI says the men are believed to have unleashed the Zotog computer worm earlier this month. That worm infected networks at U.S. government agencies and several news organizations, including CNN. The FBI says the men will be prosecuted in Morocco and Turkey.

Coming up, "Broken Borders." Outrage tonight as Dallas attempts to force some of its English-speaking principals to learn Spanish. We'll examine an assimilation crisis that's becoming a national debate.

And why the government is keeping tens of thousands of available, high paying jobs away from unemployed Americans. And you won't believe who's first in line for these jobs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: A controversial new decision from the Federal Aviation Administration. Children under the age of 2 will not be required to be buckled into their own seat.

According to the FAA, if parents are required to pay for an extra seat, some will opt not to fly and will drive instead. And, since driving is statistically more dangerous than flying, that could lead to more accidents.

Kathleen Koch has the report from Washington -- Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is a tough decision, because everyone in the aviation industry does agree that buckling up into your own seat is the safest way for everyone to go: adults, babies, toddlers, everyone.

But the FAA had to do a cost/benefit analysis and it believes that requiring parents to buy a seat for children under 2 would hurt more than it would help, that people would drive, people would face more accidents.

But the National Transportation Safety Board, which wants seats required for babies and toddlers, disputes the FAA study.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ROSENKER, ACTING CHAIRMAN, NTSB: Well, their study may say that but the study that we've done indicates the contrary. The study we took a look at from 2001 after September 11 indicated that, with more miles driven and fewer air miles being flown, that the actual fatality rate and injury rate went down for that age group.

KOCH: So you think their argument doesn't hold water?

ROSENKER: We disagree with it. We believe there should be one level of safety for everybody on the aircraft. And particularly, for our most vulnerable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: Well, experts explain that unrestrained children in accidents or turbulence can become projectiles. They can be crushed by their own parents. Since 1978, nine lap children under the age of 2 have died and 13 have been injured in aircraft accidents that were otherwise survivable.

So Christine, what safety experts hope that parents will now do is do the right thing on their own and buy their baby a seat.

ROMANS: All right. Kathleen Koch in Washington, with that interesting FAA decision that will definitely have implications for an awful lot of parents out there. Thank you, Kathleen.

Turning now to a story that's causing outrage all across the country. The Dallas School Board has voted to force some principals to learn and speak Spanish within three years.

The 5-to-4 vote came after a heated debate. Already today a group named Pro English is promising to take legal action in the case.

I'm now joined by two Americans on either side of the issue. Donald Claxton is an associate superintendent for the Dallas Independent School District. He says the new plan will help principals better communicate with Spanish speaking parents.

Mauro Mujica says the Dallas vote is political correctness gone crazy. He's the chairman of U.S. English. He'd like to see English made the official language of the United States.

Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.

DONALD CLAXTON, ASSOCIATE SUPERINTENDENT, DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: Thank you.

MAURO MUJICA, CHAIRMAN, U.S. ENGLISH: Thank you.

ROMANS: Mr. Claxton, I'd like to start with you first. This is something that others are saying just looks almost crazy. You've got principals who are going to learn Spanish for parents who can't speak English. Wouldn't it make more sense for the parents to learn English to help with their children's bilingual education?

CLAXTON: Well, nobody said that's not what's going to happen. We have programs in our schools to help parents become more acclimated with the American school systems and the English language. We're not saying we're trying to move away from the use of the English language. That's not what's happening here.

What we're trying to do is give our principals some extra tools so that they're better able to reach out to their community, so that when moms and dads come up to our schools and -- and are asking for help or input about their student, that there's not a delay in reaching out to them.

And there's not a requirement that somebody go through the building and find someone who can translate for them. That we can simply reach in and go in and start conversing with them and begin a dialogue.

ROMANS: Donald, you say that it's about a dialogue and it's not about moving away from English towards Spanish. Yet, this all began because parents went to a Sam Houston Elementary School awards ceremony. The parents were angry because it was in English. They wanted the ceremony in Spanish. So it did begin with parents wanting Spanish spoken in the schools, not English.

CLAXTON: Well, I don't know about those particular circumstances. I do know Manae Harris (ph), who's the principal of that school, is doing a great job. She -- we actually reconstituted that school two years ago because the test scores were so bad. And the test scores now under her leadership are actually skyrocketing, doing so well. The health index, the organizational health index of that school is one of the best in the district.

So what we're trying to do, what the board voted on last night was to put a policy in place. The administration now is charged with enacting that policy, and we're going move forward with that.

In actuality, because of the parameters that the board adopted last night, as well, this is really going to be applicable to about 25 campuses in the district of a district of 220 campuses so we're talking about 10 percent of our campuses.

ROMANS: Mr. Mujica, you says this is political correctness run amok.

MUJICA: Right. It doesn't make any sense. This is sort of a bad national trend, that we're trying to teach foreign languages to Americans so that they can communicate with immigrants that are supposed to be learning English anyway. It's going to slow down the assimilation of those immigrants.

Second, there's no way that adult administrators are going to learn the nuances of Spanish or any language in three years in order to be able to communicate with parents on very sensitive issues.

I know. I have studied five languages. I'm studying Russian right now. There's no way that part-time adults are going to be proficient in English or Spanish or any other language.

CLAXTON: I obviously disagree with that. I mean, our principals are acclimated to their community. They're trying to reach out to their community, and if there's an effort, and these are, you know, very learned people, they're going to pick up phrases and become proficient in reaching out to their communities. So I really disagree.

ROMANS: But why not make the parents learn English? This is what I don't understand.

CLAXTON: I mean, the parents, we are helping parents reach -- begin to learn English. That's not something we're avoiding. To graduate from our schools, students have to pass a state graduation exam that is in English. We're not asking people to abandon their foreign tongues. What we're trying to do is be more customer -- focused on customer service and being able to reach out to our community.

ROMANS: Mr. Claxton, did you do any kind of a legal study, did you consult with any folks about the legality of this? I had a long conversation with some attorneys at the EEOC yesterday, and under some circumstances, there could be some cases where some of these principals who could -- could charge that they've been discriminated against here.

CLAXTON: Well, our legal office has been in consultation with the trustees who drafted this policy. They've given a close review of the law. They're not seeing it like that. Again, we think we're on pretty good ground. There probably will be some challenges. But we think when it comes down to it, that we're going to prevail.

What we're trying to do, again, is be in a position where we can reach out to our community, do a better job of talking to the folks who are using our schools. As you noted in your report last night, some 63 percent of our students are Hispanic. We want to do a good job of relating to our public.

ROMANS: Mr. Mujica...

MUJICA: What about the other languages in the district? I mean...

ROMANS: There are 70 spoken.

MUJICA: Are we forgetting that there are other languages?

CLAXTON: No, we're not forgetting that at all. And we have a staff on -- in the district who are working in those areas to be able to communicate.

MUJICA: I mean, you're aware there are about 70 languages spoken in your district?

CLAXTON: Sure, there are. Sure, there are, but...

MUJICA: So why not teach administrators in 70 languages?

CLAXTON: Well, that goes beyond what we're capable of doing, and I think you know that too.

MUJICA: I think what you're doing is going to slow down the assimilation and it's going to send the wrong message to the immigrants, and it's not going to help.

CLAXTON: Well, we do a lot of things to reach out to immigrants. We're actually one of the first school districts that I'm aware of that has opened up a one-stop shop for people who are new to the country, regardless of what country they're coming from. We have a one-stop shop where they can come through. We help them find out how to get acclimated with the city of Dallas, how to get immunizations, how to get a bank account, how to get a driver's license, how to get their children in school, and emphasize the importance of schooling no matter what language...

MUJICA: Yes, but you're talking about training -- you're talking about training about 100 administrators. Wouldn't it be cheaper to hire a few interpreters to help in the transition?

CLAXTON: Well, our principal is the leadership on the campus. We're trying, again, this is going to affect, by the actions of the board last night, right now, as it stands, probably about 25 campuses. And we think this is something that we can put in place that, again, goes back to reaching out, not trying to delay...

MUJICA: Well, but are you...

CLAXTON: ... the assimilation into the English language...

MUJICA: Are you going to fire those principals who don't learn Spanish?

CLAXTON: Of course not. We'll work with them. The superintendent has the ability to decide what proficient means in three years, but we know that we have some very responsible and very intelligent principals...

ROMANS: Let me ask you, is there any...

CLAXTON: ... who are going to be able to get this under their belt.

ROMANS: Let me ask you, is there any data that shows that students who go to a school in Dallas that has a bilingual principal do any better? An internal data from the school district, back in June, said there was no difference. Negligible difference. Is there any -- I mean, this could be a real burden on principals with no real evidence yet that it works?

CLAXTON: Well, again, we're talking about 10 percent of our populations. We've been doing studies. Our research and evaluation says, no, there isn't. But trustee May (ph) had a long list of examples that he went through last night. Our focus as an administration at this point is the board has voted, they've taken action, and it's our responsibility to follow their directives.

ROMANS: Mr. Mujica, let me give you the last word.

MUJICA: How many hours a week are you going to teach Spanish to these very busy administrators?

CLAXTON: Well, they're going to have -- it's a three-year program...

MUJICA: How many hours a week?

CLAXTON: That I don't know, the particulars of how many...

MUJICA: Because I assure you that unless they get -- unless they get about 20 hours a week, they're not going to learn Spanish in three years.

CLAXTON: Well, but they're also in an environment where that is the primary -- or the language spoken by a large percent of their population.

MUJICA: Well, you're in an environment where English is spoken. We're in a country where English is the language of the country.

CLAXTON: And I'm not arguing that. But at the same time, the population of that goes home to a population -- a demographic that still, in many cases, does speak Spanish.

MUJICA: Well, that's where the problem is.

CLAXTON: So they're going to be -- no, it's not a problem at all, because...

MUJICA: The immigrants are not learning our language.

CLAXTON; They are learning our language, but what you're missing the point on is that they're in an atmosphere where they can pick that up on a daily basis. If you're...

ROMANS: Gentlemen...

CLAXTON: ... in an atmosphere where it's talked regularly, you're going to pick it up.

ROMANS: Gentlemen, we're going to discuss this again. We'd like to have you both back. It's a fascinating issue. You're both very well versed in it. Donald Claxton, the associate superintendent for the Dallas independent school district, and also Mauro Mujica, of U.S. English. Thank you, gentlemen, both of you. MUJICA: Thank you.

CLAXTON: Thank you.

ROMANS: I would like to know what you think about this critical, important issue. Do you believe the Dallas school board's decision to force principals to learn Spanish will improve student performance? Yes or no? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll bring you the results later in the program.

Taking a look now at some of your thoughts. Sunnie in Dobbs Ferry, New York: "I am appalled that there is even a question concerning English as our official language. I always thought it was. It also occurs to me that many non-English speaking people are most eager to become American citizens. Shouldn't learning English be a prerequisite of that?"

Sunnie, you are absolutely right. In our country's guide to naturalization, it is very clear, to become an American citizen, immigrants must display good moral character and a knowledge of English and civics.

And Jean from Jackson, Missouri: "Why can't we teach the Spanish- speaking parents to speak English? Our local school offers to teach parents basic computer skills, and I live in a town of only 12,000."

James in Centerport, New York: "It's absolutely true that teachers should be teaching English. However, it's extremely critical that the principals and teachers be able to communicate in Spanish and have Spanish as a prerequisite before graduating college."

August in Seal Beach, California: "The burden of language lies on the shoulders of those who've chosen to immigrate here."

Jean from Banning, California: "Instead of giving principals three years to learn Spanish, how about giving the parents three years to learn English?"

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at loudobbs@cnn.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read on this broadcast will receive a copy of Lou's book, "Exporting America." And if you'd like to receive our e-mail newsletter, sign up on our Web site, at loudobbs.com.

Still to come, tonight's "Newsmakers," plus, why tens of thousands of foreign nationals will be given jobs in this country instead of unemployed Americans.

And later in "Heroes," our tribute to the men and women in uniform. The story of one brave Army private who took 50 pieces of shrapnel to the face, and survived.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: An outrageous discovery tonight within the Department of Labor: There are tens of thousands of jobs that won't go to unemployed Americans. That's because the Department of Labor is reserving them for H-1b Visa holders.

Bill Tucker reports.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unemployment in the high-tech sector remains stubbornly in double digits. But out-of-work software engineers and computer programmers need not look to the government for help. Even though the Department of Labor currently is job postings for almost 52,000 jobs, most of which are for high tech positions. That's how many applications have been filed by companies seeking to hire foreign workers holding H1-B visas. The programmers guild wants the Labor Department to post the jobs to Americans can see who's hiring, but that can't happen according to the Department of Labor, because the law doesn't allow it.

A spokesman for Labor told us that, quote, "we do everything that the law allows us to do." Going on to add, "the department didn't write the law. Congress did." Under the law, companies looking for H1-B visa holders have no obligation to hire American workers.

KIM BERRY, PROGRAMMERS GUILD: The first step in helping American get jobs is to not give away 65 to 85 thousand jobs per year. They know they're doing this. They acknowledge they're doing this. Why don't they speak out and say we don't like doing this. We think it's wrong. We wish Congress would take action.

TUCKER: Those out of work programmers and software engineers do get some help from the government by way of unemployment. And if they can prove their jobs were lost because of trade, they get money for retraining.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: So we're left with a vicious cycle. While companies hire more foreign nationals, fewer and fewer qualified Americans remain active in their careers in high tech and are forced instead, Christine, to take jobs in carpentry and healthcare as we've profiled so many times on this show.

ROMANS: So many times, unfortunately. Who can fix it? I mean, this is a serious problem. So, who has the ability to fix it?

TUCKER: Department of Labor wants to back away from this very quickly. And they say, look, Congress can fix this. So, what needs to happen now, somebody in Congress needs to pick this up and say before we offer these jobs to foreign nationals, we ought to make available the data at least, to Americans to see if they want the job or are qualified to do it.

ROMANS: There should be plenty of Congressmen and women who have constituents who have lost their software jobs and engineering jobs, and you could probably get a few votes lobbying for something like that. All right. Bill Tucker. Thanks, Bill.

A new report says China's president will press President Bush on the politically explosive issue of energy takeovers at their summit next month. The "Wall Street Journal" reports the Chinese president will urge President Bush to allow U.S. and Chinese companies to pursue energy acquisitions without politics getting in the way. This request would come after the firestorm of controversy after a communist China's failed to take over U.S. oil giant Unocal, which instead was taken over by Chevron.

Earlier this month, China bid for an Canadian oil firm, PetroKazakhstan.

A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. "Do you believe the Dallas independent school board's decision to force principals to learn Spanish will improve student performance?" Yes or no. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll bring you results in a minute.

At the top of the hour on CNN, "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Carol Costello joins me with a preview. Hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello Christine. Next on 360, Hurricane Katrina, after causing deaths and major flood flooding in South Florida, the storm is sweeping through the Gulf, gaining strength for a second hit. CNN is your hurricane headquarters. We will keep you informed.

Also, a heartbreaking story of a man losing his wife to suicide, but now he's getting blamed for her death. We'll tell you about a ruling that could have far-reaching consequences.

And exploring America's caves, more people are doing it. But does the danger outweigh the thrills? We'll have all that and more. Back to you, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. We'll be watching. Carol Costello. Thanks, Carol. That's at the top of the hour.

Still ahead, record low ratings for President Bush. Three of the country's best political journalists weigh in.

And "Heroes" is our tribute to the men and women in uniform. One town surprises a wounded soldier who suffered a devastating loss in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: President Bush tonight is facing record disapproval by the American people. According to the latest Gallup poll, the president's approval rating has dropped to 40 percent. That's the lowest of his presidency.

Joining me tonight from Washington, three of the top political journalists, Karen Tumulty of "Time" magazine, Roger Simon of "U.S. News & World Report" and Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times." Everyone welcome.

Ron, let me start with you. You point out that it might even be a little bit worse than this, because Gallup polls tend to trend a little higher. RON BROWNSTEIN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Gallup has been one of the best numbers for the president throughout his tenure. Right now, he's looking at a situation where the bottom has fallen out with everything but the base, and even the base is showing erosion. His numbers among independents are down to about 32 percent, among Democrats barely into double digits and down 82 percent as Bill Schneider noted before, among Republicans.

The real question here is how do these numbers translate, if they're sustained, to the other Republicans who will be on the ballot in 2006? And that is certainly the question that Republicans all over Washington are asking themselves. Will they be at risk if the president's numbers stay this low? Historically, you'd have to say the answer is yes.

ROMANS: Karen, why do you think the president's numbers are this low?

KAREN TUMULTY, TIME: Well since 9/11, this presidency has really risen and fallen on national security questions. And so I think that coming in month that has been absolutely dominated by the situation in Iraq, what we've seen is a really precipitous decline. I mean, this number is 9 percentage points lower than where President Bush has been for most of this year. This is a really quick and sharp slide.

ROMANS: Roger, at the same time, the president is really trying to push to get some progress in the constitutional process in Iraq. If he can make some headway in Iraq, will it help his numbers?

ROGER SIMON, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: I doubt it. He certainly needs a constitution in Iraq. And the country needs a constitution. But I don't think it's like the elections of January, where they're going to cause a bump in his poll figures.

What he needs to improve his poll figures is victory in Iraq, assuming we had a definition for victory in Iraq, and assuming we could actually do it. And I think short of that, for the rest of his presidency, he faces a very difficult road ahead of him.

ROMANS: Ron, what more can he do?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, I was going to say, I mean this really -- these numbers are really a reminder of the extent to which his presidency, and perhaps the fortunes of the Republican Congress as well, are now mortgaged to the war in Iraq.

You know, the economy has been picking up. They've been very frustrated, they have seen no benefit from that. But in fact, I think the public, although not yet organizing or coalescing behind an alternative on Iraq, such as setting a deadline, the public is holding him responsible for the performance in Iraq. And that is exacting a heavy cost on his approval numbers, and potentially on those of the Republicans in Congress as well.

ROMANS: Karen, what about the Cindy Sheehan road trip that we're going to be expecting here? I mean, is the Cindy Sheehan media event that it has now become, I mean, is this something that's playing into the numbers?

TUMULTY: Oh, absolutely. And as Cindy Sheehan herself has said, you know, she no longer expects to get a meeting with the president. But what she has done was essentially opened up the conversation, opened up the argument.

Don't forget, this was a month that the president and the Republicans expected to be spending talking about all the achievements of the Congress: the highway bill, the energy bill, and instead they're talking about Iraq.

Now, going into September, we are going to have Judge Roberts' confirmation hearings. That could change the subject somewhat. But I do think that at this point, what people are looking to hear from the president is whether he has a plan for victory. And this week, I don't know that he helped himself that much with two speeches that essentially went back to his rationale for going into Iraq.

SIMON: That's right. His speeches are sort of a yada, yada situation. We have heard it before. We know that he wants to stay the course. What we don't know is how he intends to win, what winning means and how he intends to bring the troops home. And that is what people are really waiting for. Even among members of his own party. He is down ten points among Republicans from his average poll ratings. Now it's still very high. It's still in the 80s, but it used to be in the 90s. And if he's dropping ten points with Republicans, I think, I have to say this war is causing unease among the population in general.

BROWNSTEIN: I think Cindy Sheehan's impact, Christine, is very specific on this. And that I don't think -- there is no evidence in the polls that there's majority support for her answer on Iraq, which is immediate withdrawal of the troops. The last time Gallup asked that, only a third of Americans wanted to withdraw all troops. But what she has done, I think, is expose the unsustainability of the situation we've been in, pretty much, all year. Where public anxiety about the war and disillusionment has been growing consistently, and yet there has been virtually no political debate in Washington from either party, from any side of the debate.

Really offering alternatives or forcefully challenging the president. And, I think, this is sort of emperor has no clothes moment, not only for her, but for the political system in general, where she has, sort of, exposed this contradiction, and now, I think, there will be more pressure, especially on Democrats, but to some extent on Republicans, but to begin to ask the questions that ordinary Americans are asking every day. Where is this going, what is victory, are we moving toward advancing our goals?

ROMANS: Well one thing I think is interesting about the Cindy Sheehan debate is the president and the White House has to be a little careful about, as Frank Rich of "The New York Times" called it, the swift boating of Cindy Sheehan. The left is really ready for them to try take her apart. In the meantime, it's still sort of this media machine that has gone on much longer than I think most people had thought. Karen , what do you think? TUMULTY: Well I think too, that she's going national now with the advertising. And it is, it is now a machine. Not only in the free media that's governing her, but the amount of money that is being poured into this. It's quite extraordinary, which is why I don't think it's going to end anytime soon.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you very much.

SIMON: I don't think Cindy Sheehan is causing --

ROMANS: I didn't mean to cut you off. We're having a little bit f audio troubles, you guys. Thanks for joining us. That was great. Karen Tumulty, thanks so much for joining us. Ron Brownstein of the "LA Times" and Roger Simon, thanks to all of you. Sorry for that little audio problem there.

Now heroes, a weekly tribute to our men and women in uniform. Tonight, the story of Private Dustin Fritangela, who lost so much during his tour of duty in Iraq, but this week one of his prized possessions was replaced. Casey Wian has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an important day for Private First Class Dustin Fritangela. It's the first time he's worn his full dress army uniform. He's preparing for a hometown ceremony to honor his military service. A sergeant makes sure everything's in place. But two months ago, Fritangela didn't look so good.

PFC. DUSTIN FRITANGELA, U.S. ARMY: It was June 18th, the day before Father's Day.

WIAN: The 20-year-old Californian was six months into his deployment in Iraq. His job, a 50 caliber gunner on a Humvee.

FRITANGELA: I was a scout vehicle. As we were coming up to a bridge, I was looking off to the left, because there were some abandoned buildings over there. So I was watching them. As I was coming up, I saw a big old brown box right before the bridge. So as I come up to it, there was armor plating on the Humvee. I came up and looked down. As I looked down, it detonated, blew me up like this.

WIAN: His left eye was gone and 50 pieces of shrapnel tore through his face.

FRITANGELA: I thought I was dying, because I thought I got hit in the neck. So I was feeling my neck to see if I could see blood.

WIAN: Fritangela couldn't see, permanently, he thought. A Blackhawk helicopter MedEvaced him out. Back home, on Father's Day, Dustin's dad got a phone call from the Army.

TIM FRITANGELA, DUSTIN'S FATHER: I sat down and just put my head down and I knew that I was going to get some bad news. I didn't know how bad. WIAN: Still in Iraq, Private Fritangela received a Purple Heart, but then the Army lost it. Father saw son for the first time in six months at the Walter Reed Medical Center, where doctors saved his right eye.

T. FRITANGELA: It was tough going down the hallways and cracking the door open. The lights were all off. There wasn't a sound, and I walked over to him and sat down and put my hand on his shoulder. And I said, Dustin, it's Dad. And he woke up and said I love you Dad. And I said I love you. And so I just -- we just embraced for a long time.

WIAN: Dustin faces more surgery and another disappointment, a medical discharge from the Army. Back at the ceremony, Dustin's Congressman has a surprise.

REP. DENNIS CARDOZA, (D) CALIFORNIA: But on behalf of a grateful nation, it is my sincere honor to be able to present you with your Purple Heart today. Thank you for your service.

WIAN: His Purple Heart returned, Fritangela says he has no regrets. Casey Wian, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Private Dustin Fritangela plans to go to college and perhaps one day work with his dad at the defense depot near his home.

And now the results of tonight's poll, 95 percent of you believe the Dallas Independent School Board's decision to force principals to learn Spanish will not improve student performance. Five percent of you, though, think it will.

Tonight, an enterprising youngster in Britain has discovered hamster power. Peter Ash of Somerset has invented a contraption that puts his family's hamster's restless energy to good uses. He's hooked up his hamster's exercise wheel to an ingenious little contraption, so when the wheel turns it produces energy that charges his mobile phone.

Also in Britain, a canine with special retrieval skills on the golf course. Herbert the dog is being called a canine caddy. Instead of searching the rough for a lost golf ball, golfers are letting Herbert loose. His record, 25 golf balls in one morning.

Still ahead, a look at what we plan for next week. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: As of tonight, Judith Miller, the Pulitzer prize winning "New York Times" reporter, has now been in prison for 51 days for protecting her confidential sources in the White House CIA leak case. Thanks for being with us tonight. Our guests will include one California law-maker calling on California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare a state of emergency over our broken borders. Fabian Nunez has also just returned from a meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox. Please join us. From all of us here, good night from New York. ANDERSON COOPER 360 starts right now with Carol Costello. Hi, Carol.

END

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