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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Bush's Iraq Plan; War Politics; Critics Say Bush Speaks In Front Of Too Many Military Audiences; Criticizing the 9/11 Commission; Marriage Scam Busted for Illegal Aliens

Aired November 30, 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, President Bush outlines what he calls a strategy for victory in Iraq and sets no timetable for withdrawal of our troops. Among my guests tonight are men with two very different views on the president's remarks, Senator Carl Levin, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Congressman Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

And then, Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito proves he is no Harriet Miers. We'll be analyzing Judge Alito's legal philosophy, experience, and likelihood of confirmation.

Also tonight, what one congressman calls the biggest scandal of our lifetime. I'll be talking with former FBI director Louis Freeh about the Able Danger controversy.

Also tonight, a huge recall of children's toys. Millions of toys being recalled, and they all share one thing in common: they're all imported from communist China and other cheap foreign labor markets.

We begin tonight with the president, directly challenging critics of his conduct of the war in Iraq. In a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy today, the president declared American troops will not be withdrawn according to what he called artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington. But President Bush said he hopes some American troops will come home over the next year as Iraqi troops and police take over security responsibilities.

We have three reports tonight. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Bill Schneider in our Boston bureau.

We go first to Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, as you know, of course, this is really a critical time for the Bush administration. Iraqi elections just a couple of weeks away now, and the president of course facing those low approval ratings, some 36 percent. The president clearly felt he needed to come out and address what is the growing pressure to withdraw U.S. troops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice over): With Iraqi elections a little over two weeks away, President Bush is trying to rally American support.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander in chief.

MALVEAUX: But battling growing criticism of the Iraq war and calls for U.S. troops to come home, Mr. Bush also signaled an eventual withdrawal.

BUSH: We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate, and conduct fewer patrols and convoys.

MALVEAUX: But keeping with his strategy, he refused to say when.

BUSH: These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington.

(APPLAUSE)

MALVEAUX: The president's speech before the U.S. Naval Academy was billed by the White House as the first in a series of four aimed at better explaining the U.S. mission in Iraq. But some Democrats and political pundits dismissed it as a little more than administration spin.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I was disappointed. The president relied too much upon rhetoric, upon a laundry list of tasks accomplished, but not a coherent view of where we are realistically and where we must go to succeed.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, the speech was like the Sherlock Holmes dog that didn't bark. It didn't say a lot of new things. He did not lay out an aggressive or bold new plan for Iraq.

MALVEAUX: But the president did give new details about the state of Iraqi security forces and acknowledged shortcomings in their initial training.

BUSH: The civil defense forces did not have sufficient firepower or training. They proved to be no match for an enemy armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. So the approach was adjusted.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Lou, even ahead of the president's speech, the White House released this document here declassified, entitled "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," to show the American people that the administration does in fact have a plan, and of course they're looking at a timetable here. They certainly hope that there are successes that are generated from this plan before Congress' midterm elections next year -- Lou. DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you very much.

Suzanne Malveaux, from the White House.

The president spent much of that speech praising the buildup of Iraqi army and police units. President Bush acknowledged the buildup has not always gone smoothly, as he put it, but he declared some Iraqi units are better than some battalions and NATO armies.

Jamie McIntyre looked into the matter and now reports from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Bush argues Iraqi security forces are on track to meet a key milestone, the ability to take the lead in defeated insurgents. And he cited the recent operation in Talafar in western Iraq is proof.

BUSH: You saw it was primarily led by Iraqi security forces, 11 Iraqi battalions backed by five coalition battalions providing support.

MCINTYRE: True enough, say U.S. military sources. But critics point out those Iraqis all reported to an American commander and could not operate alone.

JAMES FALLOWS, "THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY": It was indispensable to have U.S. logistics support, U.S. planning, U.S. intelligence, all sorts of things that no one imagines the Iraqis are going to have, you know, next year, or the year after that, or for many years in the future.

MCINTYRE: Bush argues it's not necessary for Iraqi battalions to be self-sustaining to take the lead.

BUSH: As a matter of fact, there are some battalions from NATO militaries that would not be able to meet this standard.

MCINTYRE: That's also true. Many smaller NATO countries like the basic airlift and logistics support to deploy far from home.

BUSH: Iraqis now have a small air force that recently conducted its first combat airlift operations, bringing Iraqi troops to the front in Talafar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Critics concede that President Bush basically stuck to the facts in making the case for staying the course in Iraq, but they criticized him for what he didn't say; namely, that even if the U.S. is able to make deep cuts in troop levels in Iraq next year, it will still have to keep tens of thousands of American troops in Iraq for many years to come -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much. Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

The president's vigorous defense of his strategy for victory comes as he faces a strong slump in public support for his policies in Iraq. Democrats immediately criticized his speech, saying the president missed an opportunity to lay out a real strategy for success that would bring our troops home.

Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider joins me now.

Bill, sharp criticism from Democrats. To what extent do Democrats actually have their own plan for success in Iraq?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Lou, Democrats actually agree with Republicans on this: that they believe that there are two priorities. That the United States has to win and the United States has to withdraw. But the two parties reverse those priorities.

Democrats argue that in order to win, the United States first has to withdraw, because Senator Kennedy, Senator Kerry both said today that American troops are becoming targets for the insurgents.

President Bush argues that in order to withdraw, the United States has to win, we can't leave until we've won. Since American forces, the president argues, are making progress and maybe winning, it might be possible to think about withdrawing.

It reminds me in some ways of what the former Vermont senator, George Aiken, said during Vietnam. He said the solution to Vietnam was simple, declare victory and get out.

DOBBS: Haven't the Democrats in suggesting that the only way to win is withdrawal, really given up any claim to reason and intellectual integrity on the matter?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they say that that's a step. I don't think they say that's the entirety of the solution. But they have argued that the American forces are making the situation worse, they've become the target for insurgents, and as long as they're there, this can't come to a satisfactory conclusion.

DOBBS: And that logic would lead us to what conclusion?

SCHNEIDER: To the conclusion that, first, Americans have to show that they're willing to withdraw. After all, remember this, in Cairo just a few weeks ago, Shiites and Sunnis and I believe some Kurds met, and they all reached agreement on the desire for a timetable for American withdrawal.

Well, if the Iraqis are saying the United States should have a timetable, there's a message there.

DOBBS: And to some I'm sure it must seem, Bill Schneider, when it comes to the war in Iraq, the lack of a true strategy for victory has just met illogic. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

SCHNEIDER: Well, maybe.

DOBBS: Coming up next, reaction from Capitol Hill on the president's speech. My guests include Senator Carl Levin, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Congressman Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; and General David Grange to join us to examine the president's strategy for victory.

Turning now to another divisive issue in this country, abortion and parental notification, the Supreme Court today appeared to be split in a high-profile case that could have widespread legal and political consequences. The case concerns a New Hampshire law that requires a parent to be notified before a minor daughter has an abortion.

This is the first time the Supreme Court has considered an abortion case in five years, and the first abortion case since Judge John Roberts became chief justice.

Abortion is one of certainly the largest issues to face the Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel Alito, as he prepares now for his confirmation hearings. Judge Alito today gave the Senate Judiciary Committee the answers to a 64-page questionnaire on his legal philosophy and experience. The judge's responses were very different from the answers provided by the White House's previous nominee, White House counsel Harriet Miers.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When it comes to the paper trail, Judge Samuel Alito is no Harriet Miers. Miers, when asked to describe her practice before the Supreme Court, said she handled just three cases. As a lawyer, Alito argued a dozen Supreme Court cases and drafted more than 50 briefs and petitions.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: It is more comprehensive. It is more -- it is more voluminous. He's been on the bench now for 15 years, and by his count, 250 cases a year.

SYLVESTER: Alito's answers were more specific. Miers' answers were so sparse, the Judiciary Committee told her to go back and give more details.

Alito is a judicial insider, Miers a political insider, serving as White House counsel. Alito's questionnaire shows why he's a conservative darling. He references 14 appearances or ties to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group of which he is a member. Miers was never quite able to quite convince conservatives.

ED LAZARUS, AKIN GUMP STRAUSS HAUER & FELD: They don't want somebody who's, in essence, a politician who's looking to build consensus. They want someone who is ideologically conservative and who's going to stick by that conservative agenda. And that tends to push them in the direction of someone like Sam Alito.

SYLVESTER: There is another difference between Alito's questionnaire and Miers'. Question 29B under the selection process: "Has anyone every discussed with you any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue or question?"

Miers gave a one word answer. "No." Alito not only says no, but makes it as clear as possible there was no litmus test. Alito was treading carefully to avoid the same quicksand that dragged Miers down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And if it seems that Alito is learning from Miers' mistakes, well, he is. As White House counsel, it's her job to help coach him to be successful where she was not. And Miers never had her own Miers, that one person in the White House to help guide her through the early confirmation process -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

Joining me now, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, just how do you assess the response by Judge Alito to that questionnaire?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, you have to look at his resume, which is as close to perfect for a Supreme Court nominee as you can imagine. You know, 15 years as a court of appeals judge, chief federal prosecutor in New Jersey, senior Justice Department official. It's what most people have as an idea -- ideal.

DOBBS: You're starting to sound like his White House counsel sherpa.

TOOBIN: Well, an unusual accusation for me, but I'll take it.

DOBBS: I understand.

TOOBIN: The -- but what's really controversial in there is what he said about abortion. There's another memo from 1985...

DOBBS: Right.

TOOBIN: ... where he is clearly strategizing about a way to limit and then overturn abortion rights, very much consistent with his job application that came out earlier, where he talked about he doesn't believe there is a right to choose abortion in the Constitution.

That's a big problem.

DOBBS: It's a problem, it is also at some variance, is it not, with his suggestion, again, just as Judge Roberts said in his confirmation process that he believes it is settled law?

TOOBIN: Well, there's some room for maneuver in what they said. And I think this is going to be especially difficult for Judge Alito in his confirmation hearings, because Judge Roberts basically said he was representing a client who wanted Roe v. Wade overturned and that wasn't necessarily his point of view.

DOBBS: And speaking of Judge Roberts -- well, first, do you think Judge Alito is confirmed?

TOOBIN: So far, barring more major disasters or any major disasters -- not that there have been any...

DOBBS: I was going to say...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Yes, I missed a disaster.

No, I think he's looking like he'll be confirmed.

DOBBS: And turning to Judge Roberts as chief justice now, abortion, the New Hampshire notification case. What were your thoughts on the argument today?

TOOBIN: My thoughts was Judge Roberts told the truth in his confirmation hearings. He is someone who does not want to move quickly. He was very much focused, as most of the other justices were, on whether the case procedurally should even be before the court.

They didn't talk much about the merits of the case. They talked a lot about sending it back to the lower court to get the questions teed up in the appropriate way. That struck me as very much consistent with the philosophy he put out earlier.

DOBBS: And then he is going to be constrained as the chief justice?

TOOBIN: That certainly seems -- but this is a guy who hasn't written a single opinion yet, so it's perhaps a little premature. Based on his questions, it certainly seemed that way.

DOBBS: Well, we're certainly no more premature with your analysis, Jeffrey, than those wags who are holding forth at this -- whatever happens with this case. This New Hampshire abortion notification case will have just tremendous implications for the abortion issue for decades to come.

TOOBIN: Not yet.

DOBBS: Not yet. Jeffrey, thank you for your constrained analysis and always reasoned outlook. Thank you.

We'd like to know what you think about the question before the Supreme Court. Should the parents of a minor be notified should she want an abortion? Yes or no? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We are interested in the results of these votes, and we will be reporting them to you later here in the broadcast.

Still ahead, why President Bush is insisting on delivering major speeches in front of friendly, if not captive, audiences. We'll have that special report.

And the United States gives the United Nations an ultimatum in the fight against the U.N.'s culture of corruption.

And how dangerous toys from communist China flooding into this country by the millions. That could be at an end.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, time is running out at the United Nations. The disgraced world body appearing totally incapable of reforming itself after the massive oil-for-food scandal. Now the United States has a clear, strong message for the United Nations: clean up your act or else.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two months since the end of the reform summit at the U.N., big promises, but no reform. The United States has an ultimatum: no progress, no money.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Americans are a very practical people, and they -- they don't view the U.N. through theological lenses. They look at it as a competitor in the marketplace for global problem-solving. And if it's successful at solving problems, they will be inclined to use it. If it's not successful in solving problems, they will say are there other institutions?

PILGRIM: The United States is the largest single contributor to the United Nations and supplies about a quarter of the total budget. The U.N. says it needs approval on the budget now, reform will come later.

WARREN SACH, U.N. ASSIST. SEC. GEN. CONTROLLER: There is a vast amount of complex documentation before the assembly that follows the summit outcome from September, and it takes time for this machinery to digest everything. So it's not moving very fast.

PILGRIM: One U.S. suggestion, a three to four-month interim budget, but no full funding until some reforms are made. Congress also wants to link the money to the U.N. oil-for-food investigation, a $1.8 billion kickback scheme that implicated more than 2,000 companies and tainted scores of high-profile U.N. officials, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Congressman Henry Hyde has a bill that would withhold $100 million in dues unless certain conditions are met. One is the archive of the Volcker oil-for-food investigation should not be turned over to the U.N., which has a history of shredding documents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: The United Nations complains that it will simply run out of money and be short more than $300 million in the first quarter of 2006 if the new budget is not put through. Well, the answer from the United States ambassador? This should not be business as usual, reform should drive the budget process, not the other way around -- Lou.

DOBBS: I am shocked that the secretary-general and the secretary are not working at a breakneck speed to reform after all of the criticism and the investigation and the recommendations that they received over the course of the past -- this is shocking.

PILGRIM: One spokesman said there's just a mountain of documents to go through and it's going not so fast at this point.

DOBBS: I hope that's not an inability on their part to read.

Thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney is calling for a worldwide boycott of Chinese goods. McCartney says he will never travel to China again.

The source of McCartney's discontent, not the widespread human abuse -- human rights abuses in China, which of course include forced child labor, nor is it the country's growing military threat, nor a host of other complaints one might consider. McCartney says he's boycotting China because of cruelty to animals.

He and his wife, Heather Mills, say they were shown a video of cats and dogs being killed in China for their fur, and they say it "goes against every rule of humanity."

I, of course, am not for cruelty to animals and condone it in no way, but for a country that imprisons and executes thousands of dissidents and who abuse children in their labor camps and factories, it seems that other issues might as well provoke the McCartney outrage.

Still ahead here, President Bush in a bubble? Why this American president seems increasingly cut off from average work-a-day Americans.

Also tonight, an urgent U.S. recall of cheap Chinese toys unsafe for children. Those toys are flowing into the United States by the millions. Our special report coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, a massive recall of toys, toys made in China. The U.S. government says those recalled toys were manufactured with high levels of lead, which is toxic, of course.

Christine Romans has more now on the growing number of dangerous toys slipping through our borders and ports and into the hands of our children.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Six million necklaces and zippers recalled today made in China, with lead. They've been sold in the U.S. for three years.

HAL STRATTON, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMM.: These particular products have accessible lead, (INAUDIBLE) lead that come out. The concern is lead poisoning.

ROMANS: Parents had no way to know they were dangerous. A massive recall and a holiday warning from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Customs and Border Protection. They're working to keep dangerous and counterfeit toys out but say parents must do their part to keep kids safe.

VERA ADAMS, CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION: If a popular toy, a stuffed toy, a puzzle cube, a scooter, or an electronic game is for sale for a too-good-to-be-true price, it probably is too good to be true.

ROMANS: As imports from cheap labor markets soar, poor quality and counterfeit toys make their way onto store shelves. Last year, two-thirds of recalled products were made in China. Toys make up almost 10 percent of counterfeit goods seized at our border. This year $8.5 million in counterfeit toys -- double last year.

ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL: As a society, we have to decide whether we want the cheapest possible consumer goods or the safest possible goods for our children. If we continue to rely so heavily on Chinese production, it is certain we can't have both at the same time.

ROMANS: Regardless of where it comes from, what Customs doesn't catch and isn't recalled could end up in your home.

ALISON CASSADY, U.S. PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP: The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not test all toys. Most toys on stores shelves are safe, but some toys still are not adequately labeled, some toys still are too loud for children, and some toys still contain toxic chemicals.

ROMANS: Like these six million lead-tainted trinkets.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS: The Consumer Products Safety Commission has spent a great deal of time recently working with China on safety standards, a dialogue with Chinese officials. But interestingly, the chairman of the Consumer Products Safety Commission today told reporters he didn't think sharply-rising imports was jeopardizing safety.

DOBBS: He didn't?

ROMANS: No.

DOBBS: And how many toys are being recalled?

ROMANS: Well, 63 percent of the recalled toys last year -- recalled consumer products last year were from China. Six million today.

DOBBS: So he sees no relationship between the facts and his conclusion?

ROMANS: He says rising imports not hurting safety.

DOBBS: OK. Christine, thank you very much. Christine Romans.

Just ahead tonight, another presidential speech before a select screened audience. Is the president isolating himself from the American people? We'll have that special report for you.

And then, new demands for the truth about Able Danger and 9/11. Former FBI director Louis Freeh will be my guest here next.

And a fake marriage scam one of the biggest ever. Busted in California. Investigators say illegal aliens paying big money for a fake spouse and a real green card.

Stay with us for all of that and a great deal more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: President Bush once again today defended the war in Iraq in front of an audience comprised entirely of military personnel. The president appears to be avoiding any contact with average American, increasingly questioning his policies. Critics say the Bush presidency is becoming an isolated presidency.

Dana Bash has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sea of midshipman warmly welcoming President Bush for a major Iraq speech at the Naval Academy.

BUSH: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins, so long as I am your commander in chief.

BASH: Another appeal for Americans' patience and support in an increasingly familiar and to some controversial setting -- a military crowd. In the last three months alone, Osan Air Base, South Korea.

BUSH: Setting a deadline for our withdrawal from Iraq would be quote, "a recipe for disaster."

BASH: Elmendorf Air Base in Alaska.

BUSH: America will never run.

BASH: San Diego's naval air station.

BUSH: We will stand with people of Iraq.

BASH: And to 10,000 troops and families in Idaho.

BUSH: We will stay. We will fight, and we will win the war on terror.

BASH: Lyndon Johnson tried military settings to boost morale for his unpopular war, even traveled to South Vietnam. But some historians say Mr. Bush breaks with presidential tradition by being so openly political with an audience of troops.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, Harry Truman during Korea. They didn't go to military bases to contest what opponents were saying. They would make the argument in a political forum or in a speech before Congress, or in a State of the Union message.

BASH: To Bush critics it is crass.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The troops don't belong to his point of view. They belong to America and to Americans. They are Americans.

BASH: The White House defends the events as wartime obligation, not opportunistic.

NICOLLE WALLACE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS: There is nobody in this country with more at stake, and a deeper commitment, and a deeper impact on their lives.

BASH: It is impressive stage craft, through some call it preaching to the converted and question whether Bush aides choose these backdrops to avoid confronting skeptical, everyday Americans.

DALLEK: In the end, it doesn't help him very well, and in fact, I think it does him a disservice.

BASH: What is not in dispute is that for the embattled president, this is his comfort zone. Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Joining me now for reaction to the president's speech, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Duncan Hunter joining us tonight from San Diego. Congressman, good to have you here.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you, Lou.

DOBBS: As I listen to what the president had to say, read his speech and the summaries as well, I'm curious to know whether you saw something new in what the president was saying?

HUNTER: Well, I think the president had it organized to a fairly substantial point above what we've seen in a number of administrative or administration statements in the past. But basically, what I derive from the speech and the other most important part of the speech was the military aspect, because the American departure from Iraq is the handoff between -- of our forces leaving Iraq, and handing off that mission, that security mission to the Iraqi forces. So standing up the Iraqi military is the exit for the United States, and he emphasized that fairly strongly.

DOBBS: By my math, when we talk about 120 battalions of Iraqi military and police, we're talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of about 80,000 troops. With the United States there with 160,000 troops engaged. Some numbers suggesting that the number of Iraqi troops ready are around 200,000 or near ready.

That's hardly substantiated by anyone in the military I've talked with. This looks like its going to be a very long, slow process. There is no discussion of timetable. There is no discussion -- well, I heard a great deal today, Mr. Chairman, about goals and priorities and approach. I'm not sure I heard strategy. Did you?

HUNTER: Here's the center of strategy, Lou. The center of strategy is manifested on every battalion commander in their various areas of operation, whether it's 1st Marine division out to the west, or the 3rd infantry division in Baghdad. Those battalion commanders, company commanders, and right on down to the squad level -- those people riding side by side with the Iraqi forces, as they train with them.

Now we are training and we are operating, we're actually in battle with a large number of Iraqi forces, side-by-side right now. Every time you battle hardened an Iraqi soldier, or one of their leaders, you are advancing that cause.

Now the real key, the key to success here is whether we can develop a leadership chain of command in the Iraqi military that will be effective, and it will have the obedience of their troops. And in turn, will obey this new civilian government. That's the key.

DOBBS: Final question, short answer if you would, Mr. Chairman. In your judgment, how long will we have to have a substantial number, and I'm talking about somewhere around 100,000 of our troops in Iraq?

HUNTER: Well, I think that we should be aggressive in handing off these battlefield obligations. I think you make soldiers by throwing them into battle, and I think we can do that over the next -- in my estimation, next 15-to-24 months. We can divest ourselves of the majority of battlefield presence in Iraq. DOBBS: Do you wish the White House would speak so straightforwardly about the timetable?

HUNTER: Well, I think the one thing they don't want to do is have a timetable that our adversaries and our allies look at.

DOBBS: As always, Congressman Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, thanks for being here.

HUNTER: Good to be with you.

DOBBS: Senator Carl Levin recently wrote an amendment declaring U.S. troops should not stay in Iraq indefinitely. He is the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. Senate and joins us now from Detroit. Thank you for being here, Senator.

Congressman Hunter says the Bush administration, Secretary Rumsfeld have outlined an efficient strategy. What's your reaction?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I don't see anything new in today's speech at all, 79 senators, a very strong bipartisan vote, said a number of things a few weeks ago. They said, one, there ought to be a schedule for meeting these goals. It shouldn't just be the setting out of goals, as important as that is, but how many Iraqi battalions do we want to get level, within what period of time?

That was completely missing today, even though a strong bipartisan vote of senators urged the president to set out the schedule so that we could measure progress, and what was also missing, that 79 senators supported, was a statement by the administration to the Iraqi government that they've got to get their political act together, make the compromise as necessary, so they can be unified against the insurgency.

DOBBS: Senator, in terms of comprehensively approaching the issue, we should point out that vote on the amendment requiring a report from the government to the Senate, from the White House to the Senate, on the progress of the war was basically framed on your amendment that was rejected. It was re-styled as a Republican amendment.

Let's turn to the issue of -- however, the Democratic plan. Now you are one of the leading authorities on what is happening with our armed services, and as well in Iraq. At the same time, I don't hear the Democratic party saying anything substantive. We heard today from Senators Kennedy, Kerry, that we should win by withdrawing. Does that kind of logic chill you?

LEVIN: I think we've got to win by putting some pressure on the Iraqis to take over the responsibility and that's what my amendment, and that part of it was incorporated in the so-called Republican amendment, which Democrats then joined them -- to take over the responsibility for two things.

One is their security with some measurable milestones so we can see whether or not progress is made. That was kept in the amendment, which was adapted overwhelmingly. But again, and I want to keep emphasizing this, Lou, because the administration is missing the main point here.

Our uniformed leaders in Iraq say that unless there is a political compromise that brings the three groups together in Iraq, they will not prevail militarily against the insurgency. That was missing from the administration's statement today. That statement to the Iraqis, that they need to make those kinds of decisions.

DOBBS: To hear your fellow senators, Kennedy and Kerry saying, win by withdrawing. And at the same time, to hear your colleague Senator Clinton say that we should carry out the mission and finish the job. How do you react? What is your thinking on your colleagues and fellow party members views?

LEVIN: That 40 of the 45 Democrats came together to support my amendment, including Senators Kerry and Senator Clinton, and just about every other Democrat came together to support my amendment, which did those two major things, say have measurable milestones in my amendment, the version that was not adopted.

We also said that if those milestones are met, what would that lead to in terms of troop reductions? That is of course, missing from the administration, but also this requirement for the political coming together in Iraq.

DOBBS: Senator Levin, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Ahead, an Iraq war reality check, just as Senator Levin was talking about, President Bush says Iraqi forces are ready to fight. Our general David Grange has an analysis. We'll have his judgment.

Also, only four years after September 11, airline security officials are already relaxing security standards. We'll tell you why sharp objects may soon again be riding on commercial aircraft. All of that, a great deal more, still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: President Bush today declared our troops can't come home from Iraq until Iraqi forces take over their responsibilities. Nearly 160,000 Americans are now serving in Iraq, along with about 20,000 soldiers from other coalition countries. President Bush today dismissed criticism of Iraqi forces. He said 120 army and police battalions now are in combat against the enemy.

Joining me to assess what is happening, General David Grange. General, good to have you with us. The idea that 120 battalions of Iraqi forces, both police and military, are now engaged, as the president put it, is that satisfactory? And is it near sufficient?

BRIG GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's not near sufficient. But it's a heck of a lot of progress being made. And you have to look at numbers, the numbers are really -- they play games with you, and it's a very small piece of measurement that should be looked at. One-hundred-and-twenty battalions could mean battalions ready to take down a fight in like Fallujah, or it could be a battalion that could only man checkpoints. So it depends what type of combat employment they're using.

DOBBS: The suggestion that we were using these gross numbers, and as Jamie McIntyre reported, there is quite a difference between one type of battalion, whether it's described as military or police and whether or not they're capable of anything more than security or combat engagement.

What is your best judgment as to what the president said today? Did that sound to you like a military, political and economic strategy for success in Iraq?

GRANGE: Well, you know, in the outline of the Iraq strategy paper, the politics, the economics, the military, it's all in there. What words were used or not, you know, you can argue that from the delivery of the speech.

But I believe those things are in there, and it's true that you have to have certain political things happen, or it won't matter how good the military is. But they all work together, but I think they're making some great progress.

DOBBS: Great progress. Now give us your best assessment. As a general, who has served the country with such distinction, how long in your estimation will we have a substantial number of troops in Iraq? And by substantial, I mean around the neighborhood of 80,000 to 100,000?

GRANGE: I think by the end of 2006, it will be probably just what you said, about 80,000 or 100,000 left. And then it will phase down some more. Again, I know people don't like to hear this, but it's conditions based. But it will eventually continue to phase down. But you'll have training teams, you'll have advisers, you'll have a backdrop of a reaction force there for some time to come.

DOBBS: General David Grange, thanks for being here.

A reminder now to vote in our poll tonight. The Supreme Court hearing a case on a New Hampshire law requiring minors to notify their parents before having an abortion. We'd like to know what you think. Should the parents of minors in this country be notified when they want an abortion? Yes or no. Please cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results coming up here in just a few minutes.

Coming up at the top of the hour on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

Lots of stuff going on. Fact, fiction and a political war of words. President Bush's vision for victory and his critics come out swinging as well. We're covering all sides of this national debate.

Plus Hillary Rodham Clinton's Iraq troubles. She supported the war, but will that come back to haunt her in 2008?

Also, Chrismahanukwanzakah. Find out why one retail giant is wrapping all the holidays together.

And the world's first partial face transplant -- no, it's not the movies, it's real live surgery. All that coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

Taking a look now at some of your thoughts on first our broken borders.

Jeanne in North Carolina wrote in to say "I think I'll call my friend who recently lost his landscaping job to illegal immigrants and tell him don't worry about that losing that job. Our president thinks you were doing a job that Americans don't want to do anyway."

And Brian in Illinois: "Dear Lou, how can we believe that the people crossing our borders are law abiding when the first thing they did upon arrival is break the law?"

And Kaye in Alabama. "Mr. Dobbs, I guess you don't think that those in India, who work children 12-18 hours a day for 35 cents a week are acting in that country's national interest either. You just don't get it, sir. Why can't you think like Mr. Bush?"

Len in Georgia said, "When I was a child, my mom told me to clean my plate because there were starving children in China. In the not- so-distant future, Chinese moms will be telling their kids to clean their plates because there are starving children in America."

And Julia, in Arizona: "President Bush has said he's going to spend the political capital that he's earned. Someone from the bank should tell him he's overdrawn his account."

We love hearing your thoughts. Send them to us at loudobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "Exporting America." Also, if you want our e-mail newsletter -- it's a must-read -- sign up on our Web site, loudobbs.com.

Just ahead, former FBI director Louis Freeh slams the 9/11 Commission for what he calls its dereliction of duty on Able Danger. He's our guest here next.

And then broken vows. Illegal aliens spending tens of thousands of dollars to buy fake American spouses who can keep them in the country. Details of a big federal bust of a marriage scam. All of that and more still ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, your government at work again, protecting your safety in the skies. Our nation's so-called Transportation Security Administration is about to announce passengers can once again carry sharp objects onto aircraft. Passengers will now be allowed to carry scissors less than four inches long, screwdrivers less than seven inches long, and other sharp objects in their carry-on bags.

Officials say explosive device still aren't allowed. They pose the greatest threat to airline security, of course, and not sharp objects banned from flights after the September 11th terrorist attacks. You may recall the sharp objects carried by the hijackers on 9/11.

Congressman Curt Weldon says he expects a response from the Pentagon this week on the growing Able Danger controversy. Congressman Weldon, and more than half the members of the House and Representatives, sent off a letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld two weeks ago, demanding Able Danger officials be allowed to testify before Congress.

Last night here, Congressman Weldon blasted 9/11 Commission members for completely ignoring Able Danger claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CURT WELDON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The 9/11 commission has been more involved with spin since the Able Danger story broke than they have been getting at the truth. The American people want the truth. And now you have a 9/11 commission where the 9/11 family members are saying: we don't trust what you reported, we don't believe you.

You have the FBI Director Louis Freeh saying: if we'd had the Able Danger information, we might have been able to stop the hijackings. What's the 9/11 commission trying to hide?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Former FBI director Louis Freeh criticized the 9/11 commission, just as Congressman Weldon said. He joins us here tonight. Louis Freeh, it's good to have you here.

LOUIS FREEH, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Good evening.

DOBBS: Why is there this reaction to what is called by more than half of our congressmen and women, to open up and to allow our elected representatives to know what happened?

FREEH: Well, it's a great question. I mean, the issue here, which was the issue when the 9/11 commission first responded to this, is they obviously missed something. They obviously didn't consider what at least is a very important allegation.

Their response to it, it was historically insignificant. Historically insignificant that an intelligence unit may have identified by name and photo, Mohamed Atta a year before the 9/11 hijackings as a member of al Qaeda in the United States.

DOBBS: Tim Roemer, Slade Gorton, other members of the 9/11 commission have said they just had no hard evidence to deal with here. How do you respond?

FREEH: I disagree with that. I was a prosecutor and an FBI agent for many, many years. I deal in facts. You have two witnesses. You have United States Naval Academy graduate, Captain Philpot, you have Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer, an army intelligence officer. These aren't data loaders, these are intelligence experts who both have said, unequivocally, this unit identified Mohammed Atta by name and possibly photo in mid 2000.

To say that they don't have any documents to prove their case, these aren't informants that we have to verify their credibility. We have testimonial evidence, which, as a prosecutor, that's more potent sometimes than documentary evidence.

DOBBS: You were director of the FBI until June of 2001. Were you ever aware of Able Danger? Was the FBI ever given any reason to sense that there was some military intelligence or military intelligence evidence or suggestion that there would be an attack or some relationship to Mohamed Atta?

FREEH: Absolutely not. Myself, but also my former colleagues and current FBI colleagues, we read about this in the newspapers in August of this year. And what is very significant here Lou -- which is a point that has been made, and which I think you made -- we had officers at Able Danger who made appointments, actually made appointments to go to the FBI and share this intelligence in 2,000 and those appointments were canceled.

It had to be a very powerful stimulus, this intelligence and information, to make these officers want to really breach the chain of command and go directly to the FBI. We'd like to know why those appointments were canceled.

DOBBS: Now when you say they were canceled, you -- the FBI has corroborated that those appointments were made?

FREEH: Well, I think -- I don't know that for a fact, but I know the Able Danger officers, the two officers that we spoke about and their colleagues have said they made the appointments and the appointments were canceled.

And I don't know the rest of the facts, but that's enough to start an inquiry, which is what the 9/11 commission did not do, which is why I criticize them.

DOBBS: Why do you think the Pentagon has blocked those two officers from testifying before Congress or speaking out on this issue?

FREEH: You know, I don't know the inside facts. I know that the prohibition has been for them to appear in an open hearing. And I understand that, I testified in closed hearings over eight years because there are intelligence matters, there are sensitive matters that should not be held in a public hearing.

So if we're talking about having a closed hearing, that's something I know the 246 members of the Congress that you cite would like to know. I don't think it's important whether it's closed or open, but there should be an inquiry. We know now the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting an investigation. Senator Specter tried to conduct a hearing, but the issue is why didn't the 9/11 commission do this? That's what we thought they were doing for two years.

DOBBS: Louis Freeh, we thank you very much for being here. Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI.

Still ahead, sham marriages for illegal aliens, $60,000 a pop. The latest on a massive marriage fraud bust.

Also the results of tonight's poll. And we'll take a look at what's head on tomorrow's broadcast. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, wedding bell blues for some who are trying to run a huge marriage scam in this country for illegal aliens. Immigration officials have shut down a major marriage scam that offered sham marriages to aliens willing to pay outrageous sums of money. Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I take this ring.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: $60,000 bought a sham marriage to a U.S. citizen, phony immigration documents and a real green card. It was one-stop shopping.

KEVIN JEFFERY, SPECIAL AGENT, ICE: Phony marriage certificates, wedding pictures, receptions and then fly them back into the country once they were here.

They also assisted them with -- when they would go before the adjudicators and coach them into the line of questioning that they were going to undergo.

TUCKER: The investigation was dubbed "Operation Newlywed Game." Charges include conspiracy, passport fraud, immigration fraud, marriage fraud. Immigration benefit fraud charges are pending. "Operation Newlywed Game," is the largest case of its kind, with 44 indictments handed down.

In September, immigrations and customs enforcement broke up two rings in Florida and Illinois. And 32 indictments were handed down in June in Iowa. But despite these recent successes, critics call the arrests, laudable but inadequate.

MICHAEL CUTLER, FORMER INS AGENT: The problem that we're facing is that we have far too few agents chasing far too many potential, good prosecutions. Right now, there's about 2,300 special agents to cover the entire country.

TUCKER: And when President Bush talks about increasing interior enforcement, he's never spoken once about adding agents or money to immigration and customs enforcement. Bill Tucker, CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Finally tonight, a high school football coach in Texas who's a great example of survival, the will to survive, and perseverance, as well as the will to win. Gary Kinne, critically wounded eight months ago after he was shot in the abdomen by an angry parent who is now in jail.

Despite losing 80 pounds and suffering a liver infection, Coach Kinne fought back and returned to coaching this season. His team is now making history. Canton High School has advanced to the fourth round of the state playoffs for the first time ever. His son, by the way, is the team's quarterback.

Two more wins and Canton will be playing for the state championship, the 3A's championship. We wish them and all of those teams in Texas and around the country, a lot of luck.

Now the results of tonight's poll on an issue that's divided the country and tonight, our audience: 55 percent of you say the parents of a minor should be notified if she wants an abortion, 45 percent of you disagree.

Thanks for being with us tonight, please be here tomorrow. For all of us, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins right now with Wolf Blitzer.

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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