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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Secret Session; Lethal Weapon; Deadly Bird Flu

Aired November 1, 2005 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, politics in Washington turn nasty. Democratic senators force the Senate into a secret session. Republicans accuse the Democrats of hijacking the Senate.

I'll be talking tonight with Democratic minority whip Dick Durbin and former Senate majority leader Trent Lott.

And President Bush today announces a $7 billion plan to combat a global bird flu pandemic. But is it realistic? Is it enough?

Two of the world's leading authorities on infectious diseases join us.

And roadside bombs now the insurgents' most lethal weapon against our troops in Iraq. We'll have a special report on the enemy's deadly new tactics.

We begin tonight with an extraordinary political maneuver by Senate Democrats that is unprecedented, at last in recent history. One minute this afternoon the U.S. Senate was doing the people's business, the next, the Senate was shut down in absolute secrecy.

Democratic senators today stopped the Senate's regular business after accusing Republicans of failing to answer questions about prewar intelligence on Iraq. Senate Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid invoked Rule 21 that forced senators to close the doors and operate in a shroud of secrecy.

Senator Reid asserted the American people have a right to know how the United States became involved in the war in Iraq, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist angrily accused Democrats of hijacking the Senate.

We have three reports on today's stunning developments. Ed Henry from Capitol Hill, Suzanne Malveaux from the White House, Bill Schneider reports from Washington.

We go to Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, I'm told this plot was hatched late last night in the office of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. There was a meeting, a very small meeting of the top Democratic leaders, and they decided it was time to pounce.

Democrats up here feel emboldened by Friday's indictment of Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. They say it's now time to demand some answers about whether or not Libby, Karl Rove, Vice President Cheney, and even President Bush were involved in manipulating intelligence that helped justify the march to war in Iraq.

That's why Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, as you mentioned, marched down to the Senate floor this afternoon unexpectedly. It was kept a secret from the Republican side, and even from some rank and file Democrats that this was going to happen. He invoked Rule 21, a very rare maneuver.

As you say, they locked down the Senate chamber, kicked out staff, door keepers. They shut down the cameras.

Senators, all 100, were called back to the chamber. They had to give up their electronic devices because they were going to talk about sensitive information about this intelligence, and they wanted -- the Democrats wanted to start a debate in secret about exactly why the Senate Republican-led Intelligence Committee has not completed an investigation about alleged manipulation of this intelligence.

As can you imagine, the Republican Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, caught off guard by this, was enraged. He, in very direct and personal terms, basically said that Harry Reid had stabbed him in the back. Take a listen to Senator Frist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Democrats use scare tactics. They have no conviction, they have no principles, they have no ideas. But this is the ultimate.

Since I've been majority leader, I'll have to say, not with the previous Democratic leader or the current Democratic leader have ever I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Democrats insist this was not a political dirty trick, that they have been demanding answers for months now about this intelligence, whether or not the American people were lied to about the war in Iraq, and the reason, the rationale to go there. Here's Senator Reid's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Mr. President, enough time has gone by. I demand on behalf of the American people that we understand why these investigations aren't being conducted. And in accordance with Rule 21, I now move the Senate go into closed session.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I second the motion.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HENRY: Now, Democrats are also telling me privately that they're trying to send a message to the Republican side that they're serious about this noise, about the potential for a filibuster of Judge Alito, the president's latest pick for the Supreme Court.

There are some people suggesting although they won't go through with it, Democrats are saying they're basically mad as hell, they're not going to take it anymore. But there is obviously some political risk here.

If the Democrats were to move ahead, in addition to what they did today, if they move ahead with a filibuster of Judge Alito, that could lead to the Republicans invoking the so-called nuclear option, which would change the Senate rules to block filibusters. That would cause this place to melt down even more than it did today, and it also is going to lead, as it already is, to some more Republican charges that the Democrats are just obstructing the nation's business -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, a couple of points, if I may. One, you suggested the Senate melted down today. There are those who would argue that the Senate began doing its job today.

HENRY: Well, absolutely. That's what the Democrats are certainly asserting. They're saying that it's time for some answers about why this investigation about whether or not intelligence was manipulated, why, in fact, that did not happen sooner.

In terms of melting down, though, the Republicans are saying, why didn't Senator Reid come to Senator Frist directly? Instead of doing it behind his back, why didn't he come to him directly if it is such an urgent matter and try to do it on a bipartisan basis?

Of course the Democrats would then respond to that in these charges and countercharges that they've been screaming about this for months and nothing has been done. I mean, that's why I'm saying it's melting down.

They're talking past each other, Lou. And certainly there need to be answers about what led to the war in Iraq, especially in the wake of last week's announcement, the confirmation that there now has been 2,000 military deaths -- Lou.

DOBBS: A second point here, I think, Ed, would be the suggestion that this has in any way, this political maneuver today by Senator Reid, has something to do with a filibuster in advance of the confirmation hearings for Judge Alito. If that were the case, then this would be a -- purely a political stunt.

Are you suggesting that?

HENRY: I'm not suggesting it's a political stunt. I'm reporting the facts, and the facts are Democrats are telling me privately this is not just about Iraq.

They are serious in a public policy, a substantive way that they want answers on Iraq. But they're also admitting to me privately they want to show politically that they mean business. Not just on this, but on a potential filibuster for Judge Alito.

Others can make judgments about what all that means, but they are sending a message here -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed Henry from Capitol Hill. Thank you.

Rule 21 that Senator Harry Reid today invoked states that any senator can call for a secret session to discuss sensitive matters if their motion is seconded by another member of the Senate. Under that rule, the Senate gallery must be cleared, the Senate doors must be shut, and remain so.

Since 1929, the Senate has held only 54 secret sessions, including today's. Most recently, the Senate met in secrecy six times over the impeachment of former President Clinton. But all secret sessions in recent memory have been agreed to in advance by the Democratic and Republican leadership of the Senate.

The Republican leadership says it's been 25 years since a secret session has been called unilaterally such as the one today.

The Democrats' extraordinary political tactics today marked the beginning of what could turn into open warfare with the Bush White House. The Democratic assault comes one day after President Bush tried to regain the political initiative by nominating Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House.

Suzanne, I have believe to the White House a bit stunned by today's developments?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, you're absolutely right, because White House officials were watching this spectacle unfold on the Hill very much like we were. Now, they refused to comment. They do not want to get involved in this battle, and that is because many people in this building believe that the president just experienced one of the worst weeks since he has been in office last week.

They are desperately trying to pivot to focus on their agenda. Yesterday, the president rolling out a Supreme Court nominee, today it was rolling out the bird flu plan. And Thursday, looking ahead. That is when the vice president's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, is going to face his first day at trial after those CIA leak indictments were announced last week. The White House still refusing to answer any questions about that investigation, saying it's an ongoing process.

But the big question here, Lou, of course, is whether or not the strategy is going to work for this administration and for this president, considering the voices for accountability of this administration are not diminishing, as we saw earlier today -- Lou.

DOBBS: Suzanne, is there concern there that the White House, the political team there in the White House, is being badly outmaneuvered by the Democrats?

MALVEAUX: Well, certainly what they're seeing is, first of all, a surprise move by the Democrats. They did not see this coming. And secondly, of course, increasing loud voices asking for accountability and responsibility.

There are some in the White House and other Republican friends, Republican insiders, who are also asking for the president, for this administration to step up and perhaps take a greater stand, a strong stand in saying, yes, we are responsible for these missteps in the past, and we will move forward.

DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you very much.

Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott among the leading Republicans today blasting the Democrats for their tactic in shutting down the Senate. Senator Lott will join me here later in the broadcast.

I'll also be talking with a top Senate Democrat, the minority whip, in fact, Senator Dick Durbin as well.

The Democrats' strategy of shutting down the Senate is a big political gamble. It appears to be a blatant attempt to win political advantage from the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, in the CIA-White House leak case. Libby, of course, denies any wrongdoing, and the case still must go trial.

Bill Schneider has our report -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lou, this was clearly an attempt to keep attention on the Libby indictment and to connect it to the war in Iraq. I think Democrats are very frustrated by the fact that the Libby indictment came, it went last week, the president tried to change the subject this week to the Supreme Court, and now the bird flu.

And the Democrats are saying the Libby indictment, first and foremost, was about the war in Iraq. And in fact, a poll that we took just last week showed that by 53 to 45 percent, Americans believe that the Bush administration did deliberately mislead the American public about whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

That's the issue the Democrats want to make front and center here, and they're frustrated by the fact that they really have no control over the agenda. They don't control either House of Congress. They don't control the White House.

The president tried to change the subject. The Democrats pulled this -- I'm not going to call it a stunt -- let's call it a move, because it's one of the few ways they can try to control the agenda and become the lead on your show.

DOBBS: It is certainly an effective way in which to do so. And whether you call it a move, a stunt, a maneuver, a tactic, the fact is it was highly successful in moving the president off the forward pages, if you will, of broadcast, should we ever adopt pages.

The idea being, though, that this presidency cannot seem even in its attempt to re-nominating, relaunching the nomination of Harriet Miers, or this week attempting to reestablish an initiative, it can't seem to find its way. Simply, the administration is either floundering or it is being outmaneuvered.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Well, at the moment it was outmaneuvered. And I think the Democrats were trying to send a message here about the possibility of a filibuster, because what -- what they were communicating was, if we decide to filibuster this nomination and the republicans invoke the so-called nuclear option, we still have some power, Democrats say. We can tie up this institution.

By the way, that can be done in the Senate, where, of course, the vote on the nomination to the Supreme Court will take place. Senate Democrats, the minority in the Senate, have power. House Democrats, I usually describe the minority power in the House as the most oppressed minority in America. They have no power at all.

But in the Senate, the minority does have power, as we saw today.

DOBBS: The politics, if we may set them aside just for a moment here, in point of fact, looking at the record, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the joint select committee in the U.S. Senate, its first report resulted in no accountability and no one being held accountable for failures of intelligence.

We look at the 9/11 Commission. Neither the Republican Party nor the Democrat held anyone or even suggested anyone should be held accountable.

To what degree does it make sense that suddenly there is a newfound zest to learn more when the -- when the history of this matter suggests that people in Washington, our elected officials, don't have the stomach to hold people accountable for what are abject failures obvious to all?

SCHNEIDER: My goodness. Well, you said put politics aside. You can't put politics aside.

Lou, this is Washington. And the reason why they suddenly have found the stomach to go after somebody and try to point fingers is the fact the president is so severely weakened, he's on the defensive right now. And Democrats think with the president on the ropes, they can finally make themselves heard and people will listen to what they have to say about the war in Iraq, which they've been complaining about for quite some time.

DOBBS: Well, Bill, as you remind me that you are in Washington, the rest of us are out here in America, hoping that perhaps Washington has found the stomach for accountability and some candor and directness and honesty in matters even political.

SCHNEIDER: Maybe.

DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you for offering us at least that modest hope.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

DOBBS: Turning to another political and legal scandal, the Texas judge in the conspiracy case against former House majority leader Tom DeLay has been removed because of his financial donations to Democrats and liberal groups. That ruling came after Congressman DeLay's attorneys argued that Judge Bob Perkins' political donations raised questions about his impartiality. Judge Perkins gave money to Senator John Kerry and MoveOn.org.

A new judge will be appointed shortly.

As lawmakers debate the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq, or the lack of it, the number of Americans killed in Iraq continues to rise. The military now says seven American soldiers were killed by roadside bombs yesterday, one more than had been reported previously. Roadside bombs are now the leading cause of American deaths in Iraq.

Barbara Starr has the report from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Senior U.S. military commanders confirmed to CNN that a new generation of sophisticated roadside and suicide bombs has appeared in southern Iraq in recent weeks. These bombs, although small in number, are causing great concern. They have explosive charges that can penetrate armored vehicles, including the up-armored Humvees on which the U.S. Army has spent billions of dollars.

In a closed-door congressional briefing, senators were told the powerful new bombs can be made with materials bought off the Internet. And that insurgents are also getting outside help, possibly from Iran and Syria.

After that hearing, the head of the military's task force talked about the insurgents.

BRIG. GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, IED TASK FORCE DIRECTOR: He's varying the methods that he's using to initiate them. He's varied the employment techniques that he's employing them with. And he started to bury the targets that he's going after.

STARR: The number of attacks by improvised explosive devices, IEDs, has risen. But officials say the attacks are less effective.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: And the numbers of casualties per effective attack has gone down. That said, there are more overall IED attacks by the insurgents.

STARR: In October, there were about 100 attacks per day, compared to 85 to 90 attacks a day in September. About half of all attacks are IEDs.

EA-6B aircraft have now been outfitted with an onboard electronic jammer to stop some types of IED detonation. Thousands of jammers on vehicles have also been sent to Iraq.

The Army's chief of planning offered remarkable candor about just how worried military leaders now are about declining public support for the war.

LT. GEN. JAMES LOVELACE, ARMY DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: I think that's something that we think about all the time. But as you share, as the polls start to reflect, this is something that we do concern ourselves with. It's probably a little bit more prevalent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And Lou, officials believe that rise in October attacks was due to mainly to insurgents trying to derail the referendum. But already these same officials are saying they expect to maintain high troop levels in Iraq through those December upcoming elections -- Lou.

DOBBS: And Barbara, as you have reported, the rise in those attacks using the IEDs, the number of attacks by the insurgents against U.S. troops throughout the year, have risen nearly every month. The idea that this is because of a referendum or a vote on the constitution, or the preparation for general elections, as in last year, the fact is we are losing American lives here. And the issue for security remains of paramount concern to those who obviously support our men and women in uniform, but are very concerned about the casualties we're taking in, and the efficacy of the policies being pursued by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the Pentagon, and this administration.

STARR: Well, look, I think one of the things that underlies all of this, because the people I have spoken to recently, a number of them are looking ahead and saying, OK, 2006 is coming. That is going to be the year that either the United States military is going to be able to begin withdrawing some troops from Iraq and turn the security over to the Iraqi security forces, or it will not be able to.

It's going really be the decision break point for the U.S. strategy, according to many people who watch it closely -- Lou.

DOBBS: And I was struck, as perhaps you were, by a British Defense Ministry poll showing in its poll that those surveyed in Iraq, 45 percent believe the attacks by the insurgents on Americans, the coalition troops, were justified. That has to be of great concern to the general, who also has an eye on polls in this country.

STARR: Hard to know, you know, the data behind that British poll at this point. What U.S. officials say is they know that the Iraqis are in a tough position, that publicly, for example, it's very tough for Iraqi government officials to be seen as publicly giving, shall we say, too much support to the American presence that they need for the purposes of their own domestic politics to have an independent view and to appear to be able to operate independently from the United States.

But certainly, we do know behind the scenes, most Iraqi government officials are very anxious to see U.S. troops stay in the country and deal with the insurgency because they know if U.S. troops leave, the violence will only grow worse -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

Still ahead here, President Bush announces a plan to combat a global bird flu pandemic. Is his plan realistic? Is it enough? We'll have a report. I'll be talking with two of the world's leading authorities on infectious diseases here.

And a bold new initiative to improve standards, to improve education in our public schools. We'll have a special report on an idea that can transform the way our public schools educate. It has something to do with pay for performance. Imagine that.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: President Bush today announced a $7 billion plan to prepare this country for a deadly bird flu pandemic that could, by some estimates, kill millions of Americans. President Bush declared that no one knows when or where the deadly bird flu strain will strike, but a pandemic is likely at some point.

Key elements of the president's strategy include measures to detect bird flu outbreaks wherever they occur, a program to stockpile and produce vaccine and antiviral drugs, and money for government at every level in this country to respond to an outbreak. It appears, however, that the president's plan does have some gaps, with a large gap between what the president is saying and a large measure of reality.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There is the plan versus reality.

The plan...

BUSH: At this point, we do not have evidence that a pandemic is imminent.

PILGRIM: Reality: world health officials say the world is overdue for a pandemic.

DR. SHIGERU OMI, WHO: ... the greatest possible danger of a pandemic.

PILGRIM: The plan: President Bush says other countries have promised to promptly report outbreaks.

BUSH: Together we're working to control and monitor avian flu in Asia.

PILGRIM: Reality: world health officials in Beijing last summer complained China had been covering up outbreaks and giving human antiviral medication Amantadine (ph), to their chickens, a practice that could make the virus even stronger.

The plan...

BUSH: And I'm asking that the Congress fund $1.2 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to purchase enough doses of this vaccine for manufacturers to vaccinate 20 million people.

PILGRIM: That's less than 10 percent of Americans. Reality: the World Health Organization recommends governments keep enough antiviral drugs for at least 25 percent of their population. France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and others have ordered that supply. The U.S. has only ordered enough antivirals for 2 percent of Americans.

The plan...

BUSH: Today there's only one manufacturer in the United States that can produce influenza vaccine. That leaves our nation vulnerable in the event of a pandemic.

PILGRIM: Reality: he's right. Roche, the European maker of Tamiflu, recently said they would temporarily suspend shipments to the United States. And the one manufacturer President Bush referred to was Sanofi. It's headquartered in France and received more than $200 million in U.S. government funding to work on a vaccine.

Scientists say time is running out.

DR. HENRY NIMAN, RECOMBINOMICS: It will probably be throughout the world within the next 12 months, if not sooner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, the president today said there are no reports of infected birds, animals or people in the United States. And he said even if the virus does eventually appear on our shores in birds, that doesn't mean that people in our country will be infected.

Well, Canada is testing birds now for potential bird flu, and even if that turns out to be negative, experts insist that this disease is only a migratory flight away -- Lou.

DOBBS: And one has to give this administration credit for beginning to discuss a reaction to a pandemic. But so many, so many areas in which the administration, state government, local government is not even beginning to prepare for what could happen, beginning with first responders and our medical facilities throughout the country.

PILGRIM: The people we talked to today said it's a good plan, it's a little late. We had a late start.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.

We'll have much more on the bird flu and the threat it represents to this country, its potential impact on the United States later here, when I'll be joined by two of the world's leading authorities on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Donald Low.

Just ahead, matching pay with performance. A common sense practical approach to paying our teachers, who are too often not paid enough. That's on the ballot next week in Denver, and student success rather than seniority, that could be the basis for a pay raise. We'll have that special report.

And Senator Trent Lott is talking tough to the White House, while the Democrats are acting tough in the Senate chamber. Senator Trent Lott and Senator Richard Durbin, they're our guests coming up here next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: In Darlington, South Carolina, tonight, the nation's largest steel company is rallying for the middle class American manufacturing worker. That's right, a corporation working in behalf of American workers.

Christine Romans is at the Darlington Raceway, where that town hall meeting is now under way.

Christine, how big is it? What's going on?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At least 3,000 people here tonight, Lou. Dan DiMikko, the CEO of Nukor Steel, is behind me. He's speaking to this crowd, and his message is resonating.

He says that years of unfair trade practices are ruining the American manufacturing base and hurting the American middle class. He's got a message for these people, and they are listening. This message is indeed resonating. And everyone wants to know, why isn't Washington listening -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, we're all going to listen together. Christine Romans from Darlington, South Carolina. We'll be going back there to peek in on that town hall meeting, where, as I understand it, 3,000 Carolinians are even studying up on currency manipulation, as well as everything else.

A lot more coming up. A great deal, in fact.

A new education debate tonight. Should teachers be paid by performance, or should they simply continue seniority? We'll have a special report on that just ahead. And a great deal more as well.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Denver taxpayers tonight voting on a controversial $25 million tax increase that would change the way their public schoolteachers are paid.

This proposal, approved by the Denver Teacher's Association, in fact, is to pay their teachers based on performance of their students.

And school districts around the nation are sitting up and taking a wary eye as they take significant notice.

Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN FINANCIAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most voters never get a say in teacher pay. In Denver, they're voting on a radical change in the way teachers will be paid.

Under a plan jointly developed by school administrators and the teacher's union, teachers would be paid by performance. It's a one- of-a-kind plan that is attracting national attention.

MICHAEL BENNET, SUPERINTENDENT, DENVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS: There isn't anything in the country that's as comprehensive as this, when it comes to results-oriented teacher pay. So, we know that we're breaking new ground here in Denver.

TUCKER: The plan, known as the Professional Compensation System, took six years to develop. It rewards teachers for improved student performance. It grants incentives to teachers willing to teach in Denver's challenging schools.

Sixty percent of teachers have voted to accept the model and now voters have to decide if they will fund the new system with increased property taxes.

KIM URSETTA, DENVER CLASSROOM TEACHERS ASSOCIATION: We've never gone to the voters before to ask for an increase in teacher pay. But frankly, if we do not get the $25 million inflation adjustment that we're asking for, there is no way that we can sustain the incentives that would be provided to teachers in the proposed system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what's ten over two, squared?

TUCKER: The two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, support the involvement of the teachers in developing the Denver model. The Teachers Union Reform Network is more direct with its enthusiasm.

ADAM URBANSKI, TEACHERS UNION REFORM NETWORK: Denver has to be congratulated for making that leap of faith, for working together, and I hope that this opens a floodgate of new ideas that will substantially improve the performance of children in public schools in America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: If approved, Denver would be the first urban school district to implement a pay-for-performance plan and for that reason, Lou, many in education all across the country are paying close attention to what's happening in Denver tonight. DOBBS: Well, we ought to be pretty excited about this. We're talking about doing what No Child Left Behind is directed at, paying teachers for actually taking an education to the students, those who want to have it, I suppose.

You've got to put a little responsibility in this country still on an individual student. But, the idea that the NEA and the NTA can't come out and just vigorously, enthusiastically support this. Why not?

TUCKER: Well, it's very interesting, because I spent a lot of the afternoon calling those people. They were very lukewarm in their response. They like the fact that the teachers were involved, and in fact, Lou, the teachers union in Denver...

DOBBS: Why in the world can't they be enthusiastic?

TUCKER: Let's bring them on and ask them why. They've dodged that question every time, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, you're dodging it again, so I appreciate you anyway.

Thank you, Bill Tucker.

Turning now to today's extraordinary political developments on Capitol Hill.

The second most powerful democrat in the U.S. Senate, Minority Whip Senator Dick Durbin, seconded Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid's call for a secret session today.

Senator Durbin joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, that was a breathtaking maneuver or stunt, depending on which perspective your partisan view you want to take. That was quite a move. What prompted it?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MINORITY WHIP: Well, all's well that ends well. And this ended in a bipartisan agreement that finally, after two years of promises, the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to complete a very important investigation.

It's an investigation that will give the American people information they deserve, and it comes down to this. That any member of the administration misused intelligence, mislead the American people prior to the invasion of Iraq?

We agreed long ago that we were going to make this a goal of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but unfortunately, they've been dragging their feet for over a year and a half.

DOBBS: Well, Senator, as you know, I have to first of all, I have to compliment you on any numbers of levels, the fact is, as a political maneuver, it was, as I said, breathtaking.

But here, within the Senate Intelligence Committee report in July of 2004, the report found no indication that the mistaken assumptions about Iraq's weapons program were the result of political pressure.

DURBIN: That's different. That's different.

DOBBS: I know it's different, but we have the 9/11 commission, we have every investigation conducted either by Congress, by a commission over the course of the last four years has said, you know, we don't want to hold anybody accountable, we don't want to fire anybody, we don't want a judgment made for goodness say.

Are you suggesting it will be different this time?

DURBIN: I don't know, but honestly the chip should fall where they may. What you referred to is whether or not the administration pressured the intelligence agencies to come to certain conclusion.

The Senate Intelligence Committee investigated it and said no, we don't find evidence of that. I stand by that.

This is a different question. Once they receive the intelligence, did members of the administration accurately and honestly portray it to the American people? Did they distort it? Was there misinformation involved?

This is a critical question that has never, ever been addressed. We have some four to 500 different quotes from leaders in the administration and in Congress that need be looked into. If, in fact, there was anyone who misled the American people into believing there was a need for invading Iraq and they were wrong, the American people should know it.

DOBBS: We know the intelligence was dead wrong, absolutely dead wrong. Intelligence that was looked at by the Senate Intelligence Committee, every committee in the Senate and the House of the United States.

We know that the intelligence put forward by the French, the British, even the United Nations was wrong to. What do we really reach a conclusion with, and again, you were highly successful, three Republicans, three Democrats in the U.S. Senate will meet, and we will hear on November 14th, what?

DURBIN: They're going to tell us the scheduled completion date for this investigation. We've been promised this investigation for almost two years. I think it's long overdue.

And here's the bottom line. It's true the intelligence agency has failed in providing us accurate information. The question is, once the members of the administration had that information, flawed though it might have been, did they honestly and accurately portray it to the American people?

We believe this comes down to the bottom line. The American people have a right to know.

DOBBS: We couldn't -- on this broadcast, agree with you more, Senator, every single time. To that degree, let me ask you this, because I have talked with both Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and both have said to me and, in fact, have said it on this broadcast, that they are disappointed that they do not have the oversight that they desire on intelligence, in a number of other areas, in the Senate.

Is there, in your judgment, a bipartisanship here in this maneuver that is perhaps tabula rasa and unspoken?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that historically, the Intelligence Committee has always been a bipartisan committee, and it should be.

Maybe a nonpartisan committee is a better description. But in this circumstance, sad to report, there was a tension between the Republican and Democratic leadership.

Promises weren't made by the Republican leadership that weren't kept. As of today, this agreement has been reached and I think we can move forward on a bipartisan basis.

DOBBS: Senator Dick Durbin, good to have you with us.

DURBIN: Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: We want to know your thoughts on today's action in the U.S. Senate.

Do you believe that Senator Reid's call for a secret session was politically motivated or motivated by a sincere concern for the national interest?

Let us know what you think. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Coming up next, new fears that this country is woefully unprepared for an outbreak of the deadly bird flu.

Two of the world's leading authorities on the disease will join me here next.

And I want to, if we can here, very quickly go, I understand Trent Lott is speaking -- has just finished speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and we will be going to him.

He'll be arriving before our cameras here shortly.

And also, the fight for jobs, the nation's largest steel company holding a town hall meeting, a rally on a big one at this hour, in Carolina on the fight to save American manufacturing jobs. You remember those, we used to have a few of them. We'll have a special report tonight from Darlington, live from Darlington, South Carolina.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Former Senate majority leader Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Senator Lott has just finished speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, as we mentioned earlier, the president today announced a $7 billion plan to prepare for a bird flu pandemic. We have also your party trying to push forward with the budget in the Senate, and today this disruption, if I can call it that, whether you call it a stunt or a maneuver by Senator Reid.

What's your reaction?

SENATOR TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, there's a lot going on, and that's good because we are talking about very important issues, Lou.

To get some control of the deficit is very important, and the legislation on the floor of the Senate would reduce the deficit by about $39 billion over a month a year period. You know, it's not all that large amount of money in the big scheme of things and a little late, but we're at least trying to do it.

And that's one of the reasons why I was disturbed the way it was interrupted for three full hours today. But also to be -- you know, to talk about what's going on in Iraq and what was the intelligence before the war in Iraq, that's a legitimate topic of discussion -- this was just not the way to do it.

DOBBS: Not the way to do it.

Do you agree that it was a stunt? Do you agree with the majority leader that it was a stunt?

LOTT: Yes.

DOBBS: And whether a stunt or not, we have an agreement, three Republicans, three Democrats in the Senate meet, come back on the 14th, give us a plan to come to resolution on the issue.

LOTT: Yes, it was a stunt. It was totally inappropriate.

In my tenure as leader, Senator Tom Daschle and I never did that to each other -- we agreed not to surprise each other. We notified each other we were going to take some sort of action like this. It hasn't been done in this way in modern history at the very least.

Now, having said that, couldn't we have come up with this same agreement without blowing a three-hour hole in the deficit reduction debate and without stepping on each other's leadership roles?

I think we could have.

DOBBS: You know, Senator, you may well be right. But I was taken by Senator Durbin's remarks saying whatever you want to call it, they were successful in reaching a bipartisan -- I think is the way he put it -- conclusion in terms of November 14th.

LOTT: As a matter of fact, this was going to happen anyway.

We were going to go forward with phase two of the pre-Iraq war intelligence issue. As a matter of fact, the Intelligence Committee really has been very aggressive in this area. We did the first phase -- we were very strong in condemning the intelligence community and how the intelligence was not properly done, not reliable, and it led to intelligence reform.

DOBBS: Absolutely, and it also led to a conclusion on July 2004 from the Senate Intelligence Committee finding that there was no political persuasion in terms of the analysis, the intelligence analysis.

I asked Senator Durbin, I've got to ask you -- there doesn't seem to be any appetite on Capitol Hill, on 1600 Pennsylvania or any other part of Washington, D.C., to hold anyone accountable for failures of intelligence or any other misjudgment.

Is there some reason to expect that there will be a difference of view this time on -- at least in the Senate?

LOTT: I think we should hold people responsible for the failure of intelligence.

And as a matter of fact, George Tenet did wind up having to leave. We did have some serious reform of intelligence, and we're trying to make this whole system work better.

We're working on that right now.

But, you know, look, Lou, what I want to know about -- in Washington there's a lot of finger pointing and looking back saying, why did that happen?

Here's what I want -- here's what I think the American people want to know. What are we going to do about border security? What are we going to do about the deficit? What are we going to do about a legitimate thoughtful process to get out of Iraq? And what are we going to do about energy prices?

That's what they want to hear us talk about. What are we going to do next week and next month and next year? And not spend all of our time trying to bash, you know, each other over what went wrong.

We should investigate that, and we did, and our intelligence community failed us, and we should continue to work to make sure it doesn't happen that way again.

DOBBS: Straight talking Senator Trent Lott.

As always, we thank you. LOTT: Thanks a lot, Lou. All right.

DOBBS: Come back soon.

LOTT: Appreciate it. All right.

DOBBS: Coming up next here, two of the world's leading authorities on infectious diseases join me to talk about the president's plan today to fight a global bird flu pandemic.

And steelworkers are taking a stand for their jobs for the livelihood and for the future of the country, and they're receiving some help from the largest steel company in the country -- imagine that.

We'll have a special report live next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: As we reported earlier, President Bush today announced a $7 billion plan to prepare for a possible bird flu pandemic. That plan includes $1.2 billion for vaccines.

Joining me now, two of the world's leading authorities in infectious diseases. From Washington, D.C., Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Fauci, it's great to have you with us.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Good to be here.

DOBBS: And from Toronto, the director of the Ontario Public Health Lab, Dr. Donald Low, one of the world's leading microbiologists.

Gentlemen, welcome back.

Thank you very much.

Let me begin, if I may, with you, Dr. Fauci.

The idea that we would only provide 2 percent of the vaccines necessary in this country -- is that enough?

FAUCI: The 2 percent I think you're referring to was the antivirals, Lou.

The vaccine right now, we're in the process of developing...

DOBBS: Yes, we'd love to have 2 percent, wouldn't we?

FAUCI: Yes, well actually, we're in the clinical trials now, as I mentioned to you last time I was on this show. They look good and we're in the process now of trying to scale up the capability of the manufacturers to be able to make enough of this so that we would be able to have a reasonable stockpile.

DOBBS: Let me ask you for an objective view here, as always, and with your standing in the medical community and public health.

Ten percent when the World Health Organization is recommending 25 percent of the population be vaccinated.

How do we square that up?

FAUCI: Well, that's the ultimate goal. In fact, part of the fine granularity of the plan that's going to be talked about tomorrow by Secretary Levitt for the Department of Health and Human Services will ultimately get us to 25 percent of the population, or 75 million treatment courses of Tamiflu, in addition to another six that would be to put out the fires if there were outbreaks.

The ultimate goal would be just that, to get about 25 percent of the population, which is the projected attack rate for pandemic flu.

DOBBS: Dr. Donald Low, we talk here about the bird flu and various other infectious diseases and other issues over the years.

Let me ask now, though, to talk in terms of Canada itself. Is the Canadian plan to deal with the bird flu pandemic similar to that outlined by the president today? Or, do you require more in the way of vaccination or what?

DR. DONALD LOW, DIRECTOR, ONTARIO PUBLIC HEALTH LAB: Yes, we haven't really done much of a vaccination. We don't have any plans to make specific H5N1 vaccine right now.

There is definitely a need for research in that area and also encouragement for companies to get into the business of making vaccines.

Really where we focus on in Canada is buying anti-viral drugs. Both not only for treatment, but also for prevention. Prevention of people who may be at high risk such as front-line health care workers.

DOBBS: Do Canadians have a stockpile of Tamiflu, anti-virals?

LOW: No. And there's no hope now in getting it. Obviously, countries around the world have put in their orders. We've only got one company, that's Roche in Switzerland making Tamiflu.

GSK is going to start making Relenza. It's going to be a while before enough of it gets made.

DOBBS: Let me ask you for your best judgment, Dr. Low. Do you believe this can be done in time?

LOW: We hope it can. You have to be concerned that it won't be, because of the fact there is such concern that this could occur literally within months, but more likely, possibly in the next couple of years.

It's going to take a lot longer to get industry really revved up to make enough that's needed for around the world.

DOBBS: Dr. Fauci, as you and I have discussed, the number of American pharmaceutical companies involved first of all, there aren't many.

The last major player in this area, Chiron is being acquired by Novartis, the president didn't point that out today when he talked about American vaccine makers and anti-viral makers.

What are Americans to do? We are being told by foreign drug makers that you can't have the Tamiflu because we've got other requirements here. How is it that a superpower can't even provide anti-virals and vaccines for its own people and its neighbors?

FAUCI: That's one of the main components of the president's plan that he discussed today. There is $4.7 billion of the $6.7 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services that's going to go into the arena of vaccines.

One of the things, besides getting a stockpile of vaccine that we could say, well a pre-pandemic vaccine is to build up the capacity of companies and give them the incentive to do just what you're saying, Lou.

No. 1 is to build their plants on the United States soil so we'll have them here and to address some of the disincentives, that's the reason why companies just don't go into vaccine work, particularly influenza vaccine work.

DOBBS: I guess I'm a simple fellow. I remember a time when a president could say to the business leaders in this country who are interested in the national interests and say for the good of the country, this will occur.

Now, we need to talk in terms of incentives and I understand exactly what you're saying, Dr. Fauci.

As always, you're correct, perhaps my idealized view is simply nostalgic.

I appreciate you, as always, Dr. Fauci, being here. Donald Low, thank you very much, Dr. Low.

Turning now to the fight to save manufacturing jobs in this country. It is a losing battle, and it is a constant threat to American workers from cheap overseas labor markets and managements who follow outsourcing and off shoring practices.

At this very moment in Darlington, South Carolina, and let's go there now, the nation's largest steel company is holding a town hall meeting to rally support for American workers whose jobs are at risk.

Christine Romans is there live now. Christine? ROMANS: Lou, a remarkable event tonight at Darlington Raceway.

At least 3,000 people here tonight. They are here to rally and to fight the global fight to save American jobs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): It's a bare-knuckled fight to the death for the American manufacturing worker. The way Nucor Steel CEO Dan DiMicco sees it, their livelihood is at stake because of failed U.S. trade policy.

DAN DIMICCO, CEO, NUCOR CORPORATION: Nothing wrong with the rest of the world rising up. But, it shouldn't be done at the detriment of our leadership position and our ability to provide for ourselves. Shame on our politicians, shame on us for not doing what's necessary to keep a level playing field so we give our workers and our companies a chance to compete.

ROMANS: He's taken his campaign to save American's jobs to Darlington, South Carolina. The message, the United States won't remain a world leader if it destroys its manufacturing base. And China's unfair advantage is threatening the American way of life. This CEO on a mission is not alone.

Bill Hickey, of Lapham-Hickey Steel.

BILL HICKEY, PRESIDENT, LAPHAM-HICKEY STEEL: Where do we go? Do we just give away all these manufacturing jobs and we have higher poverty rates and we have less and less disposable income, we have less tax base.

This is we what's going to happen. Less innovation. The manufacturing is the iron of the engine of the United States. It's going to go away.

ROMANS: Many of those jobs already have. Since 1998, 23 percent of this state's manufacturing jobs have disappeared. More than 80,000 jobs gone. Overall, some 3.3 million manufacturing jobs lost in the U.S.

Nucor is taking its message to its employees and the communities they work in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just trying to keep our jobs and having people here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it's not just me. I have a family, I have children, everybody depending on me and my job here. We don't need them to go anywhere.

ROMANS: And DiMicco says he's by no means, a protectionist. American workers love a good fight, but the fight must be fair.

And right now, he says, it's anything but.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: And this message is resonating. This is the ninth town hall meeting, each has been more successful than the last. And Nucor Steel says they think their message is getting through when you have this many people and growing at each event, who are well-informed in educating themselves about unfair trade practices, it is bound to get some attention. Lou?

DOBBS: Christine, it is remarkable when Americans -- the only thing that's duller than the trade deficit, I suppose, and trade practices and policies, is the dollar itself.

But, critically important to our quality of life. More Americans starting to understand that, obviously.

Christine, thank you very much.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Christine Romans live from Darlington, South Carolina.

Tomorrow, the producer/writer of the new documentary called "Why Wal-Mart Works" will be with us tonight. It had been scheduled but news developments overwhelming us, obviously.

Still ahead, we'll have the results of tonight's poll. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Results of our poll: 84 percent of you say Senator Reid's call for a secret session in the Senate brought about by a concern for the national interest.

Thanks for being with us tonight. A special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" starting right now with Wolf Blitzer. Good night from New York. Hello, Wolf.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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