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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Bush Defends Iraq Policy; Broken Borders

Aired December 12, 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, everyone.
We begin tonight in Iraq, where the first ballots are being cast in this week's historic parliamentary vote. Iraqi soldiers were allowed to vote today ahead of Thursday's parliamentary elections, a vote many say could be a turning point in efforts to bring stability to Iraq and an eventual American withdrawal.

In Philadelphia today, President Bush delivered yet another strong defense of his administration's divisive Iraqi war policy. Today's speech was also a marked departure for a president under heightened pressure to face down his Iraqi war critics.

Dana Bash reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 38 minutes, the president mixed optimism with realism, casting the Iraqi elections as a first but critical step that could allow some U.S. troops to come home.

At what appeared to be the end, a sip of water and a surprise.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought I might answer some questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as justification for the invasion of Iraq.

BUSH: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...when no respected journalist or other experts confirm that such a link existed?

BASH: To that the president said the attacks taught him to ignore no threats and reprised an old defense in the face of new questions about the war.

BUSH: And I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I would make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country.

BASH: This speech is one of a series designed to turn around public opinion on Iraq, as well as Mr. Bush's own low standing with the American people. A new CNN "USA-Today"-Gallup poll shows the president's approval rating is now 42 percent, up four points since last month. But critics even within his own party say a major Bush problem still is the appearance he is arrogant and isolated, afraid to face tough questions about the war. As part of Q and A here to answer that, the president cited what aides later called an unofficial number of Iraqis killed, but added unsolicited the U.S. casualty figure he's criticized for avoiding.

BUSH: How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say 30,000, more or less, have die died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We've lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq.

BASH: This speech was an attempt at a delicate balance between raising expectations and predicting Iraqi elections will be recorded as a Mideast turning point but at the same time, trying to lower them.

DOBBS: This week elections won't be perfect, and a successful vote is not the end of the process.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And the president acknowledged the major concern in this week's election is Sunni reaction. The white house, the administration has been pushing hard for greater Sunni involvement but they're well aware the disappointment could create a backlash where the support for the insurgency is the strongest -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, irrespective of one's position on his policies and the conduct of this war, credit has to be given to President Bush for emerging from the bubble and now taking on directly critics and speaking forthrightly, right, Dana?

BASH: Well, certainly they are well aware here, Lou, of that criticism, well aware. And that was, you can bet, very much a big part of the calculus, in fact the calculus in letting the president take those questions which both sides insist, both the White House and those who are running the show there in Philadelphia, they were unscreened. The president did not know what he was going to get.

DOBBS: Engaging the American people directly, as over the periods of history that we have covered on this network, serve presidents and the body politic well.

Dana Bash, thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: On Capitol Hill today, Iraqi war critics stepped up their attacks on the Bush administration despite pleas by senior U.S. lawmakers to tone down the rhetoric as the Iraqis head to the polls.

Ed Henry is live tonight on Capitol Hill -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, after days of being on the defensive, being hammered with questions about what divides Democrats about the next step in Iraq, they're trying to get back on the offensive and focus in on what they agree on. And Democrats across the spectrum say they agree on two major points.

One, they say the president has mismanaged the war. And number two, they also say that rather than focusing on public relations, he should be focusing on getting Iraqi troops, Iraqi security forces trained more quickly. And that's why today we saw reaction from across the spectrum.

Democrat John Murtha once again calling for his quick pullout of U.S. troops while Senate Democrats like Jack Reed and Carl Levin, who think that's a bad idea, also came forward. But they, in particular, zeroed in on what they say is not enough clear answers from the Bush administration.

Here's Carl Levin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: The president today made a wishy- washy statement in an area which requires clarity, certainty, strength. And that is, we must tell the Iraqis that we have done our part, we've done more than our part. Now it's up to you to get your political house in order.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: They also had a bit of a blowup in the Senate today over the fact that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is coming up to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, on the eve of the Iraqi elections. She was supposed to be here in a secure room in the Capitol for a classified briefing. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist today changed that in a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, saying instead that she was going to be in a non-secure room.

Democrats say that's because they believe that now Secretary Rice will be able to dodge tough questions about secret prisons and other classified matters that she does not want to get into. Senator Frist today telling me that's nonsense. Instead, he said Democrats have been insisting the administration should come forth with a plan, they should speak out more publicly.

This is a chance for Condoleezza Rice to go behind closed doors, but do it in a relatively open forum so that Republican senators then can come out, brief the press about what she says, and he says, Senator Frist says, that will be a better formula. Senator Reid putting out a letter late tonight saying he thinks this is an attempt by the Republican leadership to cover up for the administration and not hold them accountable -- Lou.

DOBBS: And the Democrats, who have been so split over the past two weeks, making every effort to show a united front in opposition to the president and the Republican leadership of the Senate and the House. What progress are they making? HENRY: Not too much yet, Lou. I mean, certainly they are trying show a united front, as you suggest, and basically focus on what they agree on. But as you also suggest, there is still a wide swath here of opinion from Democrats, ranging from Howard Dean, obviously, who had said that he does not believe we can win the war in Iraq, and then he ends up clarifying it and amended that late last week, to all the way -- and also to John Murtha, of course, who, as I mentioned, wants a quick pullout of U.S. troops, all the way across to Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who basically says, stay the course, the president is doing a good job, and Democrats need to back off.

So Democrats still have a wide girth of opinion here. The best that they can come up with right now is to basically say, look, the Republicans are not completely united as well. If you look at what some Republican senators like Chuck Hagel has said after just coming back from Iraq a week and a half or so ago, he basically said we don't know what the outcome of the war will be yet either -- Lou.

DOBBS: And to be absolutely straightforward on Congressman John Murtha, while we can perhaps characterize it as a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops, he's talking about a period of six months, it's perhaps worth noting, that time period that he set forward.

Ed Henry from Capitol Hill.

Thank you.

Iraqi officials tonight are taking extraordinary measures to make sure insurgents have no chance of disrupting this week's vote. There is new concern about the potential for violence from insurgents intent on defeating Iraqi hopes of democracy as voting in Iraq begins.

Aneesh Raman reports from Baghdad.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, good evening.

The first votes already cast in Iraq's parliamentary elections. Early voting got under way today by patients at hospitals, also by detainees who have not been convicted, and by soldiers in the Iraqi army. Tomorrow, members of the Iraqi police force will vote. All of this to make sure the country's full security apparatus is in place for Thursday's critical vote.

Now, a head of that date, huge security measures being put in place by Iraq's government. Starting Tuesday, a five-day national holiday. All international borders will be closed, curfews will be extended, travel within the country will be closed, as well.

For some days now, non-Iraqi Arabs have been barred from entering the country. Iraq's international airport will also be closed.

All of this to make sure that on election day there are as few as possible attacks on the polling stations. The biggest threat, security officials say, on Thursday will be suicide bombers waiting in line with Iraqis to vote.

Towards that end, they set up a number of barricades. Before you enter any polling station, full body searches as well.

These are critical elections. Up for grabs, 275 seats in the country's national assembly.

It is unclear how long it will take for this government to form. We're told it will take some two weeks for the election results to be certified, and then there could be weeks, if not a month or two, of political wrangling before a prime minister is known.

These elections critical as well in terms of any reduction in U.S. troops. How quickly this government forms and how strongly it is able to take control of the country are huge variables in determining whether and when there will be a reduction in U.S. troops in Iraq.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Baghdad.

DOBBS: A poll released today on the eve of the Iraqi elections shows the Iraqi people increasingly optimistic about their future. In a new ABC News-"TIME" magazine poll, 71 percent of Iraqis surveyed say their lives in Iraq are going well. Most expect their lives to improve over the next year.

Forty-four percent of Iraqis say things are going well for Iraq as a whole. Fifty-seven percent of those polled supported a democratic government for Iraq. Only 14 percent favor an Islamic state. And 70 percent of Iraqis say they would like Iraq to remain unified.

The United States tonight is strongly condemning yet another political assassination in Lebanon, the second assassination in Lebanon this year of a leading anti-Syrian political figure. Lebanese lawmaker Gebran Tueni was killed today in a massive car bombing in east Beirut. Tueni had returned to Lebanon just three days ago.

Tueni had been taking refuge in Paris because he had feared for his life in Lebanon. His death comes less than a year after the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who had fought for an end to Syria's military occupation of Lebanon.

The United Nations said in a report released today that new evidence continues to point to Syrian involvement in Hariri's death. Syria has denied any responsibility and says it had nothing to do with today's assassination of Tueni.

Still ahead here, a staggering new report tonight on the number of people now in the United States illegally.

Also tonight, deep divisions within both political parties over the issue of illegal immigration and border security. We'll have the report from Washington.

And the United States is now seeing its share of the world technology market collapse. Remember, the United States is a technology economy. Once again, the country to blame is China. A special report ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, an alarming new report on our nation's border and immigration crisis. It finds the number of immigrants living in this country at an all-time high of 35 million. Up to 13 million of those immigrants are here illegally, although other estimates range much higher. This report comes as a new CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll finds that most Americans, almost two thirds, disapprove of the way President Bush is handling immigration policy.

Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There are a lot of disturbing numbers in the analysis of U.S. census data by the Center for Immigration Studies which bode ill for the economy. Almost two- thirds of illegal aliens don't have high school educations. Only 14 percent have any education beyond high school. Sixty-five percent of illegal aliens have no health coverage.

STEVEN CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: The modern American economy offers very limited opportunities to people with very little education. Illegal aliens, who are overwhelmingly uneducated, are just not going to make much money in the U.S., even if we were to magically grant them legal status tomorrow.

TUCKER: Because when a person is unskilled, they remain unskilled, legal or not. It's estimated that nationwide, illegal aliens account for 9 percent of the people living in poverty. There are illegal aliens in virtually every state in the union.

The top five are no surprise: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Arizona. New Jersey and Illinois come in a close six and seven.

Far from being benign, illegal immigration exacts a toll from people and from coffers.

CAMAROTA: It looks like for the federal government, the net drain from illegals on public services, minus the taxes that they do pay, is about $10 billion a year. On state and local governments, it's likely to be significantly more than that.

TUCKER: In addition to social welfare costs, there are the more difficult costs to calculate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: The study by CIS notes that one-third to one half of all immigrant children enrolled in school are either illegal or the children of illegals -- Lou.

DOBBS: Bill Tucker. A sobering report, indeed.

Thank you. A rift has emerged within the Republican Party over just how to handle illegal immigration. The president wants a guest worker program, what some call amnesty. House Republicans are demanding that the United States first secure its porous borders.

Christine Romans has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The president wants a guest worker program.

BUSH: Our laws should allow willing workers to enter our country.

A willing worker and a willing employer.

Matching willing employers with willing workers from foreign countries.

ROMANS: But House Republicans want to stop illegal immigration first. They want to secure the border, punish employers, and keep worker programs off the table for now.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, there's an obvious rift, because hard-line conservatives in the House want to go home before Christmas with a bill that they can say, we're trying to shut down the borders.

ROMANS: Gergen calls it dangerous politics for the president, who sees Hispanics as an important voting bloc in the future. But House Republicans are barreling toward passing a bill the president doesn't like.

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: I would politely but profoundly take issue with the RNC and the White House for seeming to adopt what I call the myth of the monolith, the notion that everyone of Hispanic heritage instantly embraces the influx of illegal immigration.

ROMANS: Congressman Hayworth wants enforcement first, and he thinks Hispanics do, too. Yet, the congressman from Hayworth's neighboring district, Jeff Flake, sides with the president and call his colleague a restrictionist, highlighting the deep divisions in the Republican Party.

CLIFF MAY, FDN. FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well, among Republicans there are several different schools of thought and different views, and they're sort of competing. There are those who think enforcement is absolutely the most important thing. The White House obviously feels it's important to have guest worker programs and to be very clear that we are not at all anti-immigrant. And then you have the sort of Wall Street journal approach, which thinks the borders should be pretty much open.

ROMANS: Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman has been meeting with Republicans, pushing a unified message. "We are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants."

But so far, the Republican divide only widens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Many say the White House is more in line perhaps with the Democrats on this issue, but the message from House Republicans is clear. They will get their enforcement bill through before the end of the year, and the president will have to use all of his political skills and influence when it comes to the Senate maybe sometime in February.

DOBBS: The fact is that the language that's started to emanate now from the White House, the RNC and certain portions of the House is -- to refer to those who are concerned about border security, when an estimated three million illegal aliens crossed our borders last year, those people concerned about border security, national security, the well-being of American citizens, is now restrictionist? Give me a break.

ROMANS: Part of the new language that's coming up. (INAUDIBLE) politics and semantics don't get in the way of actual reform, progress, changes.

DOBBS: And you can see as clear as imaginable the White House and the Senate right now conspiring to let the House move forward. And as the midterm elections approach in fall of next year, and then games will be played in conference and the political posturing is well under way, one hopes for the good of the country that some of those in the House leadership prevail on this issue, because nothing that happens in terms of immigration in this country, without border security first, will amount to a hill of beans.

Christine Romans.

Thank you very much.

Later here, Janet Murguia, the president and the chief executive officer of the National Council of La Raza, and from the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, will joining us, Cesar Perales.

The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a case that started an all-out political war in the state of Texas. This, the highly controversial redistricting plan that was orchestrated by Republican Congressman Tom DeLay.

Democrats claim the re-mapping of the state's congressional districts unfairly helped Republicans gain seats in last year's election, and the Supreme Court will now decide whether that redistrict was constitutional. It has scheduled arguments on the case for April.

In Sydney, Australia, violent racially-charged riots spread into a second day. Police say the violence began on rumors that Lebanese youth assaulted two Australian lifeguards at a Sydney beach. Thousands of white men rioted on Sunday, sparking retaliation from young Muslims.

The rioters attacked police and smashed windows in cars, homes, and businesses. At least 16 people were arrested, almost three dozen injured. Prime Minister John Howard call the violence sickening.

Still ahead here, the military's top commander during 9/11 is out with new information on Able Danger. We'll have the very latest for you, and I'll be talking with a man demanding congressional hearings.

And the lack of respect being shown some soldiers who died for this country is sickening. We'll share one family's fight to give their fallen son dignity.

And red storm rising. China now topping this country in yet another vital category the United States once ruled. Our special report coming up.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: U.S. servicemen and women who have died in battle are usually escorted home in a coffin draped with an American flag. But shockingly, some American soldiers are being sent home as freight, their bodies in the cargo hold of commercial aircraft.

One family fought to give their son the hero's welcome he deserved, the dignity he had earned. Now they're fighting to make sure that other American soldiers are given the respect they deserve.

Salvador Rivera of affiliate KGTV in San Diego reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SALVADOR RIVERA, KGTV REPORTER (voice-over): This is the way dead heroes are supposed to come home, their coffins draped with the American flag, greeted by a Color Guard.

But, in reality, they're arriving as freight on commercial airliners, stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo, no color guard, just baggage handlers.

JOHN HOLLEY, FATHER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: What do you mean civilian aircraft? Why isn't he flying to Miramar, North Island, and having the military handle -- you know, the military should handle the military?

RIVERA: John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were stunned when they found out the body of their only child, Matthew, who died in Iraq last month, would be arriving at Lindbergh Field as freight.

J. HOLLEY: I mean, he's a war hero, for crying out loud, you know? I said, if it's a president or a general of somebody like that, this wouldn't be occurring. And when somebody dies in combat, you know, they need to give them the due respect that they deserve for the sacrifice that they made. RIVERA: Holley and his wife, Stacey, who were in the Army, made some calls. And, with the help of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Matthew was greeted with honor and respect.

J. HOLLEY: They let us go out there. And my son was there, with the honor guard, like he should be, with the flag draped on his casket.

STACEY HOLLEY, MOTHER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: Our familiarity with the military protocol and things of that sort allowed us to kind of put our foot down. But we're not sure that other parents have that same knowledge.

RIVERA: The Holleys now want to make sure every fallen hero gets the proper welcome.

J. HOLLEY: I don't care if it's Marines or sailors who it is. Just fellow service men, you know, need to handle their brothers in arms.

RIVERA: Salvador Rivera reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: The Pentagon tells us that it does use commercial aircraft within the United States because it's faster than waiting for military transportation. The remains of our fallen service members travel in a transport case designed to protect the casket. The escort carries with him or her a flag during the flight which is then draped over the casket upon arrival.

Coming up next here, communist China takes a big step forward, all at the expense of this country. We'll have the story.

And then, illegal immigration will not be stopped until we fix our broken borders. I'll be talking with two advocates who argue that some illegal immigrants already in this country should be allowed to stay, that borders should not be constrained.

And the case of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, scheduled to die tonight by lethal injection. What about the families of his victims? We'll have their stories coming up here next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: China's cheap imports are devastating American workers and a number of industries, including textiles and appliances. Those imports from China changing the shape of the world economy, in fact. China is aggressively trying to build its dominance over new industries in a move that could threaten more middle class American jobs.

Kitty Pilgrim has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): China, not the United States, is the world's leading technology exporter. New figures released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development today say China exported $180 billion worth of technology last year, beating U.S. exports of $149 billion.

REP. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: We've been asleep at the switch, and China poses an incredible threat to us economically. No longer is China just excelling and exporting in the area of low-tech tiles and, you know, the kind of sweatshop work that they have been famous for, but now they are literally surpassing us in terms of high-tech electronic factories.

PILGRIM: Is the United States' research and development next?

DEBORAH WINCE-SMITH, COUNCIL ON COMPETITIVENESS: As U.S. companies and European companies transfer this manufacturing know-how and capability into China, the concern is, are they going to indeed replicate that in their own industrial infrastructure?

PILGRIM: And it can be done with Chinese government subsidies and support.

THOMAS PALLEY, ECONOMICS FOR DEM. AND OPEN SOCIETIES: They'll use government policy, and they will use the power of their market to ensure that they grab a slice of that action.

PILGRIM: The communist Chinese government already has a five- year plan to dominate the auto industry, targeting 40 percent a year growth, and China's exports of passenger cars already soared by 174 percent in the first three quarters of this was year.

China's Greeley Auto Company plans to exhibit this year at the Detroit Auto Show. China's largest auto company Cherry will export a quarter of a million cars to the United States starting in 2007.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, China used to rely on electronic components, such as computer chips, from the United States to build their products. But now, according to the OECD report today, China is also manufacturing and exporting more of its own electronic components than ever before. Electric components, by the way, are now China's second largest technology item--Lou.

DOBBS: So, Kitty, those who have been telling us for years not to worry about the millions of manufacturing jobs we have lost in this country because the United States is after all a technology economy, are full of it?

PILGRIM: You can take it one step better, they say don't worry about technology being built in China. We're sending the chips. Now we're no longer sending the chips.

DOBBS: We're still, however, sending the jobs. Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much.

Tonight a new assault in the war on the middle class. Whirlpool announcing it will lay off 730 workers in its refrigerator plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

At the same time, the company is opening a brand-new plant in Mexico where it plans to hire 1,000 employees. Whirlpool says the U.S. layoffs will happen next fall just as soon as the new Mexican plant is up and running.

Also, tonight middle class college students increasingly under assault. Congress is now considering more than $14 billion in cuts for student aid programs over the next six years. That would be the largest cut in the history of the federal student loan program.

The measure has already passed the House Education Committee. It now moves on to the full House of Representatives, and we will, of course, be following this story and updating you as it progresses.

That brings us to tonight's poll question, do you believe the federal government should provide financial aid to every student in the United States who qualifies for higher education based on need?

Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results coming up here later in the broadcast.

More now on the immigration crisis and border security crisis in this country. As we reported to you early in the broadcast, a new report has found nearly two-thirds of the millions of illegal aliens in this country do not have a high school education.

Joining me now to discuss the study and the situation, Janet Murguia, the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza joining us tonight from Washington.

Janet, good to have you here.

JANET MURGUIA, PRES. & CEO NATL. COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: Nice to see you.

And here in our New York studios Cesar Perales is the president of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Cesar, good have you here.

CESAR PERALES, PUERTO RICAN LEGAL DEFENSE & EDU. FUND: Nice to be here.

DOBBS: Let's begin with a study, which estimates more than two million Americans who once worked in construction, cleaning maintenance and food preparation are now simply uninformed.

Janet, what's going on?

MURGUIA: Well, I think what we're seeing is that there's different ways that you can look at some of the facts in here, and there's no question that some states are taking a hit when it comes to immigrants and different people who are doing certain work.

But the fact is that the federal government gets a huge windfall from these workers. We're talking in the billions of dollars where they are contributing into federal income taxes, state taxes and Social Security. In fact...

DOBBS: So, if we want to get rid of the deficit, Janet, we should just bring in more illegal aliens?

MURGUIA: No, that's not what we're saying. All I'm saying is that if you want to compare figures where you have a report that shows that there may be some draw on certain states and parts of country in terms of the contributions that immigrants are making, you need to look at fact that--and don't take it from me.

The National Academy of Sciences has reported that immigrant workers will be a benefit to the Social Security system by a tune of $500 billion in the period between 1998 and 2022. So, you know, we need to recognize where those contributions are coming in. And those folks are not taking anything out of the system because they obviously aren't qualified for that.

DOBBS: Well, since we're throwing numbers around. Then I have got to throw a few at you, costing each year $30 billion in social and medical assistance in this country, $200 billion in depressed wages. These are -- that's hardly offset by any contribution to Social Security or the pittance that is paid in taxes.

So let me now turn to you, if I may, Cesar. The issue of immigration reform--this president is talking about willing workers and willing employers. He has got a guest worker program, but he is not talking about true border security when we are in global war on terror. When we have got three million illegal aliens last year crossing our borders. No one knows yet how many over this course of 2005.

What sense does that make?

PERALES: Well, Lou, I don't think anybody is against the border security. But I think people get confused. I think the audience has got to understand that 20 years ago when we started to be concerned about undocumented people coming to this country, we had an unemployment rate of nine point eight.

Last year, I think it was six percent. This year it is down to 5 percent. I don't think anybody can argue that the enormous wave of immigration has done damage to this economy. So I...

DOBBS: You don't think anyone can?

PERALES: Well, I've heard arguments. I certainly disagree with those arguments.

DOBBS: Oh, that's a different thing. I understand you disagree. But in point of fact, are you pro-illegal immigration?

PERALES: No, I'm pro-immigration.

DOBBS: No, no, I'm asking about illegal immigration. Are you pro-illegal immigration?

PERALES: No, I am not pro-illegal immigration.

You've heard me argue on behalf of people who are already in this country. I defend their rights when their rights are violated.

DOBBS: OK. Well, I think that's terrific. No one's rights should ever be violated.

But why are we permitting and why are organizations like yours and La Raza, Janet, taking this on as a racial issue when every poll, every survey, I have seen shows at least half those of Hispanic background and culture and who are American citizens want border security? They want immigration reform, and they are what the White House is now taking to calling restrictions, I believe, when it comes to people crossing our borders illegally.

Janet, how do you deal with that?

MURGUIA: No, Lou. Nobody is suggesting that we're for open borders. Nobody is trying to promote illegal immigration here. We want, as all Americans want, a safe system that allows for controlled and orderly entry.

But the system is broken, and we need solutions that fix it. And all we keep hearing in this debate is how it's broken, but we need to focus on how we can fix it. And what we're suggesting is...

DOBBS: Would you support, for example, a fence across the 2,000 mile border with Mexico?

MURGUIA: You know, we've invested money in the border, in the fence issue before, and it's may be part of a solution. The problem is people only want to look at a fence or only at enforcement when it comes to solving this problem, and it has to be comprehensive.

DOBBS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, that's not fair.

When you and Cesar suggest that those who are concerned about border security and a rational humane, immigration law and its enforcement in this country, to suggest that makes no sense.

Because the fact is all of us want those who benefit from illegal immigration, first of all, those who employ them illegally to be punished and to pay their fair share. Because it's only right, correct, Cesar?

PERALES: Yes, I agree with you, Lou, and I think both Janet and I do want to see major immigration reform.

I think where we differ is in the emphasis. I think your emphasis on suggesting that the people who come to this country looking to work are somehow evil... DOBBS: I have never suggested that ever once.

PERALES: But it seems to be in the implication.

DOBBS: No, it's not even an implication. Let me be clear. The people who cross our borders do so illegally. We have immigration laws. People say to me, we're a nation of immigrants. No surprise. This entire country is the most diverse society in the face of the earth and it always will be, God willing.

But the fact of the matter is we're also a nation of laws and you and Janet and the organizations that you run, I don't hear you demanding that law be enforced. I don't hear you saying border security has to be a condition preceding to immigration reform.

Because you and Janet and I know and everybody watching and listening to you knows that you can't reform immigrations if you can't control your ports and your borders.

MURGUIA: Lou, Lou.

PERALES: We agree.

MURGUIA: Lou, I would agree with you on that. Enforcement absolutely has to be part of a solution. It just can't be the only part of solution.

DOBBS: Oh, I wouldn't suggest it in a million years.

MURGUIA: Well then we're on the same page because we understand that security and enforcement are important. But all we hear sometimes in this debate is how it's the only thing that's part of the solution.

We need to have comprehensive solutions that allow us to deal practically and sensibly with this issue and rounding up whatever amounts of undocumented immigrants are out there and trying to send them back to their country of origin is not going to work. We need to have sensible solutions. We support the McCain-Kennedy Bill, which offers a balance of enforcement and for legalization.

DOBBS: How about the Kyl-Cornyn bill? Kyl-Cornyn, that is a strong, tough bill.

MURGUIA: It's a strong, tough bill, and there are some measures in there that we can work with, but it doesn't allow for guest workers provisions that would allow us to deal with those folks who have been in this country making important contributions that reflect that we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And that is what is really important to strike that balance.

DOBBS: Couldn't agree with you more. Cesar, I'd love to let you have this conversation as we wrap it up, but we're out of time. And by the way, Janet, as you and Cesar both know, the Kyl-Cornyn bill does provide for a legalization process. It is far more stringent and doesn't permit anyone to buy their citizenship. Thank you very much, Janet, I hope we can continue this dialogue, Cesar, thank you very much, we appreciate you both being here.

MURGUIA: Thank you.

DOBBS: Coming up next, what President Bush might learn from one of the most well-respected presidents in our history. None other than Abraham Lincoln. Author, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is our guest here next.

And then, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made his decision on the case of Stanley Williams, also known as "Tookie." We'll be live with the very latest for you, and we'll be reporting on the fate of his victim's families, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: This just into CNN. Tonight, attorneys for Stanley "Tookie" Williams are making a last-ditch effort to spare his life. They have appealed once again to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to delay the Williams' execution, scheduled for midnight tonight.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today refused to grant clemency to Williams, despite being convicted of killing four innocent people in the 1970s. Hollywood's entertainment elite came to Williams' defense, urging the governor to allow Williams to live. Casey Wian reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood's effort to support its latest charitable cause, a quadruple murderer, failed. Celebrities wanted California's governor to spare the life of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, even though at least nine state and federal courts ruled the Crips co-founder should die for the brutal killings of four people in 1979.

JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: So we asked Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a very humble way, to please grant him clemency.

MIKE FARRELL, ACTOR: Commute this man to life in prison without the possibility of parole, to allow him to continue doing the good work he's doing with young people.

WIAN: That work, children's book, urging kids to avoid gangs, was done on death row. It earned Williams Nobel Peace Prize nominations and a Presidential Award.

Another famous former Crips gang banger, rapper Snoop Dogg, pushed clemency through music and public please.

SNOOP DOGG, RAPPER: So, I want to say to you governor, that Stanley "Tookie" Williams is not just a regular old guy. He's an inspirator. He inspires me, and I know I inspire millions. So if he's inspiring me, and I inspire millions, you add that up. That's over 100 million people that's inspired by what he do.

WIAN: But lost in the celebrity assault, evidence, including Williams' signature on a receipt for the murder weapon. And seemingly forgotten, the four murder victims.

Williams would use his size to break down a door, then shoot an elderly couple and their daughter. Both robberies, and four killings, would net Williams and his pals, just over $200.

The stepmother of victim Albert Owens says, pro-"Tookie" celebrities abuse their popularity.

LORA OWENS, VICTIM'S STEPMOTHER: I believe Albert deserves justice. And for that justice, "Tookie" Williams was convicted in a court of law and he was given the sentence of death. I believe Albert deserves the justice of that sentence being carried out.

WIAN: Ultimately Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sided with the people of California, not his former Hollywood colleagues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: The governor said he didn't believe Williams' claims that he's a changed man, citing his continued support for violent criminals. He's also refused to cooperate with police investigations involving fellow gang members. Lou?

DOBBS: An extraordinary case and unless the United States Supreme Court intervenes, Stanley Williams will be executed at 12:01 a.m., one minute after midnight tonight. Casey Wian, thank you.

As we reported, President Bush's overall approval ratings rising slightly to 42 percent in a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll. But a majority of Americans still disapprove of the way President Bush is handling a number of issues, including immigration, the economy, the war in Iraq, world affairs. President Bush might want to take a page from Abraham Lincoln's strategy.

Joining me now for more on the challenges facing President Bush as he enters the second year of the second term, Pulitzer Prize winning author, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has authored a highly acclaimed and riveting new book entitled "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln." Doris, it is great to have you here.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING AUTHOR: Thank you.

DOBBS: It is a marvelous book, and I think probably everyone who just heard me announce that you've written a book on Abraham Lincoln thinks, "My gosh, what is there new to say about Abraham Lincoln? I've seen his picture on the wall from the first grade on." How did you come to the premise that drove to you write the book?

GOODWIN: Oh, it took me awhile. All I knew at the start was that I wanted to live with this man. It takes me forever to write my books, twice as long as the Civil War, it took this book to be written. It took me longer than World War II to write my book about Franklin Roosevelt.

So I knew this was the guy I wanted to live with. But it took me two years into that 10-year process, before I finally came to the story that these guys that he put in his cabinet had all been his rivals in 1860. And it was a great story to figure out.

DOBBS: And I'm one of the people foolish enough to think that -- that I knew something about Abraham Lincoln, I've read a number of biographies, like most people, I'm sure. And I was absolutely stunned to learn about the people who made up his cabinet, the political animosity, as well as personal animosity that existed among them.

GOODWIN: Well, you know, part of it is that the Republican Party then was such a young party, that they were made up of former Democrats, former Free Soilers, abolitionists, Liberty Party people. So that they all hated one another, in addition to feeling like Lincoln shouldn't have been president, each one of them should have been president.

But somehow by bringing them all into his cabinet, he said: These are the strongest men in the country. They were governors, they were senators, they were celebrated people, they were college graduates. He was a single-term congressman with one year of formal schooling.

He said: these are the strongest guys in the country. I can't deprive the country of their services. But he had confidence inside to know, somehow if I get them in there I'll get them to work together. And even though they called each other liar, scoundrel, thief, they wouldn't talk to each other sometimes, he managed to make them into an extraordinary team that won the war.

DOBBS: And it's an extraordinary book. The narrative is fascinating. The idea that any president in the 21st century would invite into his or her cabinet competing personalities, both politically and just in terms of visceral antipathy like that, do you think it could happen again?

GOODWIN: Oh, you wish it could happen, because what it means for Lincoln was that, it meant that he didn't just have like-minded people there who mirrored his own points of view. Everything he put forth, whether it was emancipation, bringing black troops into the army, there were fights within the cabinet.

He had to sharpen his thinking, he had to question his premises. He became a better leader because he had all of this turmoil, right inside the White House, even though the cabinet -- and the great thing about the diaries that all these colleagues kept, they tell about all the turmoil that goes on in the cabinet.

They write letters to their wives every night, they run the Civil War in the day, they go home and written eight-page letters to their wife, telling, "everybody said things about Lincoln today. And you really get a feeling of what it was like. But it worked, absolutely worked.

DOBBS: As does your book, and it's a terrific read.

Doris Kearns, we thanks you very much for being with us. Doris Kearns, good one, has written the book "The Team of Rivals," all about Abraham Lincoln.

We thank you very much.

KEARNS: I'm so glad to be with you.

DOBBS: Good to have you here.

Coming up at the top of the hour here, another terrific fellow, Wolf Blitzer and "The Situation Room."

Wolf, tell us all about it.

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

We've got much more coming up on the Tookie Williams execution only eight hours away. We'll take you live to San Quentin and behind the scenes on death row. Find out what really happens in the final hours.

Also race riots, anti-immigrant hatred turning violent. We have the story.

And inside the insurgency in Iraq, what impact will this week's vote have on the violence? We'll talk to "Time" magazine's Michael Ware.

All that coming up, right here, Lou, in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

DOBBS: We'll be watching. Thank you very much, Wolf.

Merriam-Webster has announced the top five words most frequently looked up on the dictionary's online service this year. It includes some interesting and relevant vocabulary. Number five on the list, insipid. I can't imagine why anyone would be interested in that word.

Number four, filibuster. Number three, contempt. Interesting choice. Number two, refugee. And the number one word Americans turned to Merriam Webster to define this year, integrity, the meaning, a firm adherence to a code of the specially moral or artistic values, incorruptibility. A terrific first choice any year.

About 200,000 people looked for integrity in the dictionary -- something they may have had trouble finding elsewhere.

Still ahead here, new details tonight on the army intelligence group code named Able Danger. Congressman Curt Weldon is our guest here next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Congressman Curt Weldon has secured the signatures of more than half of the members of the House of Representatives, and have sought from the Pentagon for over three weeks now, an opportunity to hold an Able Danger hearing on Capitol Hill.

Congressman Weldon joins me tonight and has new developments in his efforts to bring attention to the Able Danger controversy.

Congressman, good to have you here.

REP. CURT WELDON (R-PA) VICE CHMN., ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: Great to be back with you, Lou.

DOBBS: You, just about three weeks ago, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asking to free up the members of Able Danger to testify on Capitol Hill, to Congress. Still no response?

WELDON: Well, no, Lou, I can happily announce tonight that we anticipate getting a response this week. I've been given preliminary indication that the secretary, with the help of deputy secretary Gordon England, have reached an agreement to allow hearings to be held on the hill, open hearings, open testimony. We'll obviously protect any issues of confidentiality or those involving national security.

But this will be a full hearing, and finally the American people will get to hear what the 9/11 commission didn't pursue, and that is information about what happened before the attacks on September 11.

DOBBS: Well, as you know, Congressman, representatives, former members of the 9/11 Commission says that they knew nothing about this, that there's nothing to it. That it's historically irrelevant. You have basically said outright they're liars.

WELDON: Well, you know, they've been spinning this left and right since their commission ended. Most recently Hamilton has said they fully investigated it. Yet, I can tell you I have talked to every Able Danger principal none of them interviewed except for two, who went in on their own, Tony Shaffer and Scott Philpot, and each of them were rebuked by the commission.

Tony Shaffer was told they didn't want to hear from him. They didn't want to meet with him. And when Scott Philpot met, they said what do you want us to do now? It's too late. So they didn't pursue anything. They didn't get into the details of Able Danger and all the information.

This is not about a chart as they try to spin it. It's about what did we know and why didn't act. Why didn't we transfer information to the FBI? Louis Freeh said if he had that information, the FBI might have been able to stop 9/11.

And just last week, General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, came out and publicly announced that he's the one who set up and established Able Danger, and the 9/11 Commission had the audacity to call Able Danger historically insignificant when it's advising and briefing the chairman of the joint chiefs? I don't think so.

DOBBS: And General Shelton made it pretty clear that he had talked with General Schoomaker at that time in charge of special operations to move this forward, so it goes back to about 1997.

So there are some interesting issues here that are being raised. It's critically important. You've apparently received, then as I understand it, assurances from England is that correct?

WELDON: Yes.

DOBBS: Go ahead Congressman.

WELDON: We've received assurances that the hearings will go forward.

But the other thing that we have to look at, Lou, and you have had another guest on your show recently, why did the 9/11 Commission pick 1996 and not go back beyond that? There is some very interesting material that needs to be tied in. The '93 attack on the Trade Center. The blind Sheiks trial. None of that was looked at by the 9/11 Commission, and the American people need to ask the question why.

We will be asking that question during the Able Danger hearings.

DOBBS: Well, congratulations to you in receiving the assurances that the Pentagon will give you an affirmative response and the opportunity to hold those hearings, you and the more than half of the members of the U.S. Congress who signed on with you to request that hearing.

Congressman, thank you very much.

WELDON: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Congressman Curt Weldon.

Still ahead here, we'll have the results of our poll and a preview of what's ahead tomorrow. We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results now of our poll. Fifty-four percent of you say the federal government should provide financial aid to every student in the United States who qualifies for higher education and who has a legitimate need.

Thanks for being with us tonight.

Please join us here tomorrow. My guests include "Washington Post" columnist Sebastian Mallaby.

From all of us here, good night from New York.

"THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer--Wolf.

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