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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
John Boehner New House Leader; Lobbying Scandal; Bush's Hard Sell; Iran's Nuclear Blackmail; Soldiers And Civilians Killed In Baghdad; "Washington Post" Cartoon Stirs Controversy; Breathalyzer Thrown Out Because Of Language Barrier; Boehner's Win as House GOP Leader
Aired February 2, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Tonight, new threats from Iran's radical regime. The West may soon be completely in the dark about Iran's nuclear program.
Also, the GOP after Tom DeLay. House Republicans pick their new majority leader, a surprise choice. And also concern that the Abramoff scandal has damaged Americans' perception of the GOP.
And middle class students heading deeper into debt. Our nation's lawmakers approved deep cuts to student aid, hurting a generation of middle class college students.
We begin tonight with today's upset vote in the House. Republicans caught in the Abramoff lobbying scandal. They have picked Congressman John Boehner as their new majority leader. He's replaced indicted Congressman Tom DeLay.
Now, Boehner beat out front-runner Roy Blunt, who was seen as having too close ties to DeLay and also the K Street Washington lobbying machine.
Ed Henry reports.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In a dramatic upset, John Boehner beat front-runner Roy Blunt to replace Tom DeLay as House majority leader as Republicans struggled to get back on track before the midterm elections.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: And I think what you're going to see us do is rededicate ourselves to dealing with issues, big issues that American people expect us to deal with in terms of trying to improve their incomes, their prospects for jobs, and to provide better security for Americans all over this country.
HENRY: Blunt was seen as too close to DeLay, who stepped aside after being indicted in Texas amid the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal that has rocked Washington. Boehner's win is a clear sign Republicans are nervous about the political climate.
BOB BARR, FMR. CONGRESSMAN: The caucus wanted reform. They wanted to make a break with the past, and Blunt really was seen as the status quo candidate.
HENRY: But Republicans rejected a major shakeup by shooting down the candidacy of John Shadegg, a conservative who was pushing for most dramatic lobbying and budget reform and placed third in the majority leader race.
And Blunt is hardly leaving the stage. He's keeping his job as majority whip, the number three position in the Republican leadership.
REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MAJORITY WHIP: What we do here is so much more important than who we are. That continues to be the case today. We're going to move forward with a great team.
HENRY (on camera): John Boehner also has close ties to lobbyists, which is why Democrats are charging this is more of the same in a time when voters are looking for change.
Ed Henry, CNN, Capitol Hill.
PILGRIM: House Republicans are seeking to distance themselves from the Abramoff scandal, but Senate Democrats are turning up the heat. Democrats are now seeking access to all contacts Jack Abramoff had with White House officials.
Andrea Koppel reports -- Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, that's right. The letter addressed to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed by 35 Democratic senators and one Independent urges Gonzales to clear the air and appoint a special council to lead the investigation into disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. After the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to the media, Senate Democrats made a similar appeal, and in 2003, Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Americans deserve to know the truth about Jack Abramoff's scandal. We know for a fact that the Republicans have not and will not police themselves.
For example, it took a special prosecutor to get answers about Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and some at the White House. That investigation is still going on. It took Senate democrats to kick- start the investigation on the White House manipulation of Iraqi intelligence.
Why would we believe that the Republicans would act any differently now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOPPEL: Another concern, say Democrats, until recently, Attorney General Gonzales was the president's White House counsel and was in that job during the same period of time that Abramoff was flying high, courting Congress and ties to the White House. The Justice Department hasn't yet responded to this latest letter from Democrats, but just last week, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ken Salazar made a similar appeal to the attorney general.
For its part, the Justice Department has long rejected a call for a special prosecutor, saying one is not needed -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much.
In the White House, CIA leak investigation tonight, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is raising the possibility that evidence from the White House may have completely disappeared. Now, Fitzgerald says the White House e-mail system appears to have an archiving problem that may have led to the depletion of important White House e- mails from 2003. That is the year White House officials are alleged to have leaked the Valerie Plame name to the press.
Now, this White House, CIA leak investigation has now lasted 764 days. That's more than twice as long as the Watergate investigation.
President Bush traveled to Minnesota today to once again push the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union Address. Now, the president sold a new proposal that he hopes will give concerned Americans more faith in the economy.
Dana Bash reports from Maplewood, Minnesota.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Across the board, Republican strategists say one of their biggest challenges this year is that Americans simply do not feel confident about the economy. That anxiety is one of the key reasons the president launched in his State of the Union what he calls his competitiveness agenda, a series of modest proposals designed to keep America the economic leader, and it's also aimed at the psyche of worried Americans.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Instead of saying, we fear the competition, the global economy frightens us, the United States of America ought to say, we want more people to be able to buy our products. And so what I'm telling you is, I think the role of government is to shape the future, not fear the future.
BASH: The president came to talk up America know-how and innovation at the Minnesota headquarters of 3M, the company that invented Thinsulate, Blue Masking Tape and Post-it Notes. And in a decidedly unscripted moment, the president tried to stick a Post-it Note on the front the podium and it promptly fell off.
BUSH: My fault. My fault.
BASH: Now, the specifics of this so-called competitiveness agenda include restoring an expired tax break for businesses, for research and development, as well as hiring 70,000 new teachers for math and science.
The White House hopes these initiatives are not controversial enough that they'll actually pass through Congress. And politically, they also hope that could send a message to voters that Republicans and Democrats aren't just bickering in Washington, that the Republican leadership can actually get something done.
And there was a sign that that could actually happen. An unusual moment. The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, put out a statement on this initiative saying that she is happy to work with the president on it.
Dana Bash, CNN, Maplewood, Minnesota.
PILGRIM: President Bush today also pushed Congress to invite more foreign workers into this country to fill high-skill, high-paying jobs. The president called on Congress to lift the cap on H1B visas. Now, those visas allow companies to bring foreign workers into this country and fill sought-after jobs in specialty fields, like technology. The president says there aren't enough Americans able to fill those jobs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The problem is, is that Congress has limited the number of H1B visas. I think it's a mistake not to encourage more really bright folks who can fill the jobs that are having trouble being filled here in America to limit their -- and so I call upon Congress to be realistic and reasonable and raise that cap.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Now, in November, the Senate voted to expand the number of H1B visas by 30,000 to 95,000 every year.
National Intelligence Director John Negroponte made a rare appearance on Capitol Hill today. He gave a sobering assessment of the security challenges facing our country.
Negroponte told senators that al Qaeda leaders continue to try to obtain weapons of mass destruction. He says al Qaeda remains the prime concern of the U.S. intelligence community, but he says the list of other dangerous terrorist organizations is growing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN NEGROPONTE, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Intelligence reporting indicates that nearly 40 terrorist organizations, insurgencies or cults have used, possessed or expressed an interest in chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents or weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP) PILGRIM: Congressional hearings today also dealt with the growing nuclear crisis over Iran. Iran is threatening to cut off all nuclear cooperation with the West if its case is reported to the United Nations Security Council.
PILGRIM (voice over): Just hours after President Bush's State of the Union speech, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rallied thousands of Iranians, calling the United States a "hollow superpower that is tainted with the blood of nations."
The crowd chanted back, "Nuclear energy is our right." But energy is not the issue. The world believes Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.
NEGROPONTE: The danger that it will acquire a nuclear weapon and the ability to integrate it with ballistic missiles Iran already possesses is a reason for immediate concern.
PILGRIM: Senator Evan Bayh says Iran should be cut off financially and diplomatically and treated as a pariah if it doesn't stop activity immediately.
SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Iran, the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world, may be only months away from having the capacity to build a nuclear bomb.
PILGRIM: Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors met to consider referring Iran to the Security Council. The issue is whether to continue negotiating with Iran.
JOHN WOLFSTAHL, CENTER FOR STRATEGY AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: If they think there's no pain, they're going to keep pushing ahead. But if the United States, through Russia and China, can convince them that there is a price to pay for their nuclear ambitions, then I think we have a chance of turning this program off.
PILGRIM: Iran says if it's reported to the U.N. Security Council, it will begin large-scale enrichment of uranium at its nuclear facility in Natanz.
GARY MILHOLLIN, THE WISCONSIN PROJECT: What we're seeing is a country that's determined, in the opinion of most intelligence agencies, to get the bomb. And they're doing it under the guise of civilian nuclear development, and it's time to call out Iran and force it to show its hands.
PILGRIM: The IAEA chief, ElBaradei, said if the board members refer Iran to the Security Council, they should wait for a month to consider imposing sanctions. The IAEA report on Iran comes out in March.
Still ahead, caught on tape again. Mexican troops along the U.S. border raising new concerns over U.S. sovereignty.
Also, the illegal alien crisis is overwhelming Colorado, a state thousands of miles away from the U.S.-Mexican border. We'll have a special report.
And budget cuts passed by the House means deeper debt for many American college students. We'll explain next.
PILGRIM: Tonight, Mexican soldiers have once again been caught on videotape along the U.S.-Mexican border. Now, officials say these soldiers caught on the video also flagrantly crossed into the United States and violated this nation's sovereignty.
Casey Wian reports.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Mexico claims its soldiers are ordered to keep at least three miles from the United States border. But here are two apparent Mexican soldiers walking just yards from the Rio Grande River, which is the border.
These pictures were shot by CNN affiliate KFOX in Hudspeth County, Texas. They accompanied a sheriff's deputy to the side of a previous encounter with heavily-armed Mexican soldiers.
What the tape doesn't show, other apparent soldiers crossed into the United States in an attempt to surround the deputy and the news crew. KFOX concealed the deputy's identity for his protection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're doing the same classic thing. They're moving around each side of us and actually coming up into the U.S. and trying to figure out what we're doing. They're looking at us. It would definitely be time to get out of here.
WIAN: Consider that, a Texas sheriff's deputy in the United States being forced to retreat by heavily armed Mexican soldiers. Locals say it happens frequently and is often tied to dug smuggling.
Department of Homeland Security documents show more than 200 Mexican military incursions into the United States since 1996. Mexico says the soldiers are usually criminals, merely pretending to be members of its military.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: I have grave concerns about these incursions across our United States border. If these reports of Mexican military crossings are accurate and true, it raises serious ramifications with our respect to our relationship with the Mexican government.
WIAN: McCaul's Homeland Security Subcommittee will begin an investigation into Mexican military incursions Friday in Texas, then hold hearings in Washington next week. Mexico claims it notified U.S. federal authorities that its soldiers would be near the border this week to investigate claims of previous border confrontations. But the Border Patrol says they were not informed of the soldiers' presence until after the fact.
WIAN: Now, there's even more evidence disputing Mexico's claims that its soldiers and law enforcement personnel are not involved in drug smuggling. Just yesterday, a Mexican federal police officer appeared in an Arizona court to answer charges he was involved in the distribution of nearly 10,000 pounds of marijuana in the United States -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Unbelievable. Thanks very much.
WIAN: Thank you.
PILGRIM: That brings us to our poll tonight. Now, do you believe the Mexican military incursions into this country are: a demonstration of U.S. unwillingness to secure our borders, or Mexico's unwillingness to control its military, both, or neither?
Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll bring you the results later in this broadcast.
And tonight, in the state of Colorado -- that's pretty far from the Mexican border -- there is a growing illegal alien crisis. Colorado officials are now in the forefront of a national effort to deny illegal aliens essential services, services that are costing states millions of dollars.
Bill Tucker reports.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's not hard to find Denver's illegal alien problem. The city sanctions a hiring center for day laborers and workers can be found in and around the center. But while the city provides sanctuary for illegal aliens, the Colorado legislature is struggling to come to terms with the problem.
Bills aimed at employer sanction for hiring illegals, denying social services to illegals. and granting immigration enforcement to local law enforcement are all under consideration.
DAVID SCHULTHEIS (R), COLORADO STATE HOUSE: It is a federal problem, there's no question about it. But the federal problem of inaction is creating a local problem, and so we have to do something about it.
TUCKER: Efforts are not limited to the legislature. Colorado Minutemen are asking employers to sign a pledge that they won't hire illegal alien workers.
ROBERT COPLEY JR., COLORADO MINUTEMEN: We started a little pledge that an owner, a business owner, small businesses and so forth, could sign off on this pledge which basically just says that they'll hire legal immigrants or citizens only.
TUCKER: The Defend Colorado Now coalition has a proposal modeled along the lines of Arizona's Proposition 200.
(on camera): Those in favor of putting a legislative end to social benefits for illegal aliens say that to ignore the costs is foolish.
(voice over): Rough estimates put the cost just for educating illegal alien children at $300 million. Denver Health and Hospitals spends more than $1 million a year on just translation services.
RICHARD LAMM (D), FMR. COLORADO GOVERNOR: I look at all the money we're spending on schooling the children of illegal aliens, all of the health care. I've got 750,000 Coloradoans without even basic health care. I've got monstrous problems improving our schools. And how can you do that when a whole new generation of poor people moves in on top of you every year?
TUCKER: Lamm says social services to illegals comes at the expense of not providing them to citizens and legal immigrants.
Bill Tucker, CNN, Denver, Colorado.
PILGRIM: State officials estimate that 40 percent of illegal alien workers are paid off the books, and hence, pay no taxes. And those who are paid on the books claim so many dependents they effectively pay no taxes.
Well, tonight, rough justice for our nation's newest Supreme Court member. Justice Samuel Alito is learning that being the nation's junior Supreme Court member has its privileges and also its drawbacks.
Now, under the Supreme Court seniority system, Justice Alito must service as the doorkeeper and the note-taker for the justices' weekly meetings. He can receive undesirable committee assignments like sitting on the high court cafeteria committee. And Judge Alito will have to send on the end of the bench during court hearings. If he has -- and he has the very last pick of high court office space.
Still ahead, a deadly 24 hours for U.S. troops in Iraq. We'll tell you all about it.
Plus, old enemies and dangerous new threats. Our nation's intelligence director speaks out.
Also, U.S. defendants may be beating drunk driving charges all because they don't speak English. We'll have a special report coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PILGRIM: American middle class families have lost another battle in the ongoing war on our middle class. Congress has passed sweeping spending cuts aimed at reducing the massive federal budget deficit.
Now, those cuts, however, will strike another blow to middle class families already struggling to make a living. The cuts will slash federal funding for education, Medicaid, and Medicare.
Lisa Sylvester reports tonight from Washington.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Chris Sweeten knows tough times. His family's savings were depleted to pay for his grandmother's health care. His mother work for General Motors, which is in the process of mass layoffs.
That leaves no money to pay for college. But that has not kept Sweeten from going to school. He's funding his education at the University of California through loans.
CHRIS SWEETEN, FUNDING EDUCATION THROUGH LOANS: I wanted to reach that goal, that dream that my parents have always put out for their children. I was their first child to go on to college. I was the first of the family.
SYLVESTER: But starting this year, Sweeten and other middle class students will face higher interest rates on their federal loans.
By only two votes, the House of Representatives passed a bill that cuts billions in Medicaid spending, reducing federal aid for child support collections, and slashes $13 billion in student aid.
Interest rates on student federal Stafford loans will rise from 4.7 percent to 6.8 percent. Borrowing by their parents will increase from 6.1 percent to 8.5 percent.
The U.S. Student Association says Congress should be encouraging young people to go to college, not creating disincentives.
EDDY MORALES, PRESIDENT, U.S. STUDENT ASSOCIATION: The education that we're able to provide our country is what will give us the cutting edge which will give us the strength to compete on a global market.
SYLVESTER: Budget policy groups note that special interests, including pharmaceutical companies, were shielded from the budget acts. Low-income and middle class families were not.
ROBERT GREENSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET & POLICY PRIORITIES: Shared sacrifice means everything is on the table and you look at things on their merits, not based on who gives the biggest campaign contributions or has the strongest K Street lobbyists working for them. This bill stood the principle of shared sacrifice on its head.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: The bill has already passed the Senate. Vice President Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote. President Bush says he will sign the new bill into law -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much.
Coming up, the head of the intelligence in this country has strong words about the new terror threats. We'll explain.
Plus, why this cartoon is causing quite an uproar for "The Washington Post." We'll have the story when we come right back.
PHILLIPS: More now on our top story tonight. House Republicans have elected a new majority leader. Congressman John Boehner of Ohio will replace Congressman Tom DeLay in the position. Now, DeLay stepped aside last year after he was indicted on campaign fund-raising charges.
Boehner defeated Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri, 122-109 in a secret ballot. The third candidate, Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona, pulled out of the race after he finished in last place in a preliminary vote count.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill today, the Senate Intelligence Committee opened a hearing into the major security threats facing our nation. But with top intelligence officials in attendance, Democrats shifted the focus of the hearing to the controversy over domestic wiretaps.
David Ensor reports.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The spy chiefs faced a barrage of pointed questions from Intelligence Committee Democrats angered by the president's National Security Agency domestic surveillance program and the fact that most of them were never briefed about it.
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This rationale for withholding information from Congress is flat-out unacceptable and nothing more than political smoke.
ENSOR: But, in fact, Rockefeller was one of the few who were briefed. Director of Nation Intelligence John Negroponte stressed that the NSA carefully reviews and minimizes any information collected on Americans.
NEGROPONTE: It's been a standard procedure of the NSA for the many, many years that it has been in its existence. General Hayden may want to amplify.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Mr. Director, that answer isn't good enough for me. That answer is essentially, trust us. The Congress and the public just have to trust us. And Ronald Reagan put it very well, he said trust, but verify.
ENSOR: Frustrated Democrats pressed for details, including how many al Qaeda members have been monitored, communicated to or from the United States by the program.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Yes, sir. I do know that number, but I'm unable to give it in this kind of an environment, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And will you give us that then in closed session?
HAYDEN: I'm not at liberty to do that, sir.
ENSOR: Republican senators' ire was directed at leaks to the media about CIA secret prisons in Europe, as well as the NSA surveillance program.
SEN. CHRISTOPHER BOND (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The rampant leaking and uncertainty over detainees and intelligence techniques has shaken the confidence of our intelligence operators in the field.
PORTER GOSS, CIA DIRECTOR: I'm sorry to tell you that the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission.
ENSOR: Senators and spy chiefs. No one was happy.
David Ensor, CNN, Washington.
PILGRIM: National intelligence director Negroponte also warned today about a potential threat from Venezuela. He said president Hugo Chavez is trying to form closer ties with the dangerous regimes in Iran and North Korea.
Now this warning comes just a day before the United Nations is planning to honor Chavez. The U.N.'s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is awarding Chavez the International Jose Marti Prize, which is given each year to someone who the U.N. says contributes to the unity and preservation of Latin American cultures.
Chavez will receive the award tomorrow in, of all places, Havana. Cuban president Fidel Castro said hundreds of thousands of people will be there to join in the celebration.
In Iraq, insurgents have launched deadly new attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens. Over the past 24 hours, five U.S. troops have been killed in insurgent attacks. Two massive Baghdad car bombs have killed at least 16 Iraqis. Aneesh Raman reports from Baghdad.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Good evening. Iraq's violence continues to claim the lives of U.S. forces, the military announcing that on Wednesday, four U.S. soldiers and one marine were killed in combat operations.
The marine and one soldier died as a result of small arm's fire. The three other U.S. soldiers killed after their vehicle, while on patrol, hit a roadside bomb. It brings to just under 2,250 the total number of U.S. troops that have died in Iraq.
Meantime, today Iraqi civilians continue to bear the brunt of insurgent attacks, two car bombs detonating in the capital within minutes of each other: one at a gas station, the other at a very crowded market. At least 16 people were killed, upwards of 90 others wounded. It's the deadliest attack Iraq has seen in just about a month.
Also today, Baghdad police saying they found the bodies of four young men, their hands bound behind their back, all of them shot in the head. The bodies discovered all on top of each other in a hole. Police say they expect to find more bodies in that location in the days to come.
PILGRIM: That was CNN's Aneesh Raman reporting from Baghdad.
Back home, top military officials are outraged by a political cartoon published in the "Washington Post." The Joint Chiefs of Staff went as far to protest the cartoon in a letter to the editor. Kathleen Koch reports.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cartoon that ran in the "Washington Post" portrays the U.S. Army as a quadruple amputee. A Dr. Rumsfeld stands at bedside telling his patient, "I'm listing your condition as battle hardened."
The cartoon was based on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's response last week to a report concluding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are placing enormous corrosive strain on the army.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The force is not broken. It's battle hardened.
KOCH: The Joint Chiefs of Staff took the unusual step of firing off a letter to the editor, calling the cartoon, quote, "beyond tasteless" and "a callous depiction of those who have volunteered to defend this nation."
GEN. PETER SCHOOMAKER, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: We're all very upset about that. We think it is exactly what we said in our letter. That was not a letter that was hard to write. In fact, you know, as far as I was concerned, I'd written it a little bit stronger. KOCH: Rumsfeld defended the Joint Chief's right to send the letter, and the artist's right to draw the cartoon. Still he compared it to what he said were other terrible, vicious cartoons, directed in the past at prominent Washington figures.
RUMSFELD: That's the way it is here. It comes with the territory, I guess, is all I can say.
KOCH: Veterans like Steve Robertson who've met with amputees at local military hospitals are not so forgiving.
STEVE ROBERTSON, AMERICAN LEGION: I believe if this cartoonist had had that opportunity, that cartoon would have been the furthest thing from his mind.
KOCH: Cartoonist Tom Toles says he doesn't regret what he drew but that he, quote, "never intended it to be in any way a personal attack on the service or sacrifice of American soldiers." The "Washington Post," for its part, says it doesn't censor Toles, calling him an independent actor like its columnists -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Kathleen Koch.
Well, joining me now for more on this story is General David Grange. Good to have you with us, sir. What's your reaction to this?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it's a terrible cartoon. And granted that the journalist has all of the right in the world with our First Amendment to produce a cartoon like that.
And even if you say you didn't think it would have that type of response, the results of the cartoon, you have to understand second, third order effects if you're going to do something like that. I think it would be scorned upon by those that are very concerned in the field of journalism on standards and ethics in a print press or the news room.
KOCH: You know I'm looking at what's written also at bottom of this cartoon, which is a little postscript that says, "I'm prescribing that you be stretched thin. We don't define that as torture." It really is almost more aggressive than we brought out.
GRANGE: I believe so. And it is just terrible. And if you know GIs that have been wounded in that, you know, most people are not going to take in a favorable light. And it looks bad for that newspaper as well.
KOCH: Yes, all right. Let's move onto something else. And it's related to wounding issues, and that's the Marine Corps armor issue -- 26,000 troops will get this side armor by April, and the Army hopes to have 100,000 sets of side plates of armor delivered by June. This is an emergency contract. What's your assessment of this situation, General Grange? GRANGE: Yes, the situation on body armor is sometimes not -- the whole story is not really discussed. And the issue is that body armor is constantly improved and developed for years and years. I mean I've watched throughout 30 years of service. And from lessons learned in the battlefield you find new improvements to put out there for the troops.
Now it's a balance between too much body armor and not enough. And what happens is, a commander will make a decision on the ground. If I put on too much body armor, I have no mobility. I can't even fight. I can't even carry the ammunition I need for my task at hand.
And so as body armors develop, it's then brought to troops as quickly as possible, produced with proper standards so there's not mistakes, hopefully. And then the troops use it as the conditions warrant.
PILGRIM: You know, my understanding was that it was initially a medical assessment on the wounds that brought this it light and yet it didn't take into consideration the strategic use of this armor.
GRANGE: Well, medical consideration should be in the assessment. There's no doubt about that. And I think that from all now the press on this is that the enemy know the vulnerabilities of a protective armor and so that could be a problem as well. But a lot of the injuries are going to occur because body armor's not worn in certain situations.
Now if I was in a vehicle, I'd wear all of body armor I could get my hands on, but when you're on foot fighting street to street and climbing over walls and windows, it's tough to have a lot of body armor. You have to decide depending on situation.
PILGRIM: You know, I want to get to one more point. And I know we're quick on time, but Congressman John Murtha wrote a letter to President Bush yesterday and I'd like to read from it.
"The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it. Our continued military presence feeds the strong anti-foreigner fervor that has existed in this part of the world for centuries." What's your reaction to this letter, General Grange?
GRANGE: The war in Iraq I do not believe is fueling terrorism any more than just being an American fuels terrorism. I mean, the enemy, the terrorists are going to come after Americans and others like us no matter where we are in the world and so it's best to take them down where we can, when we can, away from homeland of America.
PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much. General David Grange, thank you, sir.
GRANGE: Thank you.
PILGRIM: We would like to draw your attention again to what we feel is an extremely worthy cause. Now the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is raising $35 million to build a brand new medical rehabilitation facility for our most severely wounded servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now the Center for the Intrepid will be located in San Antonio, Texas. That's near the Brooke Army Medical Center. It will offer what they call "state of the world facilities and technology" to help our men and women who have been severely injured in line of duty.
The foundation has turned down government money to build the Center for the Intrepid. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has raised $30 million. They need to raise $5 more in the next five weeks to meet their goal. And to contribute, if you would like, you can go to their Web site, fallenheroesfund.org, or you can link it through loudobbs.com.
Coming up next, outrage in one state after defense attorneys play the language card to get crucial evidence dismissed. We'll tell you all about that.
And then conservative Republicans breaking with President Bush on a wide range of issues. We'll talk about what it means with two of our nation's top political minds, so stay with us.
PILGRIM: In North Carolina, some defense attorneys are using a language barrier between the police and suspects to have evidence against drunk driving suspects thrown out of court. And what's even incredible is that in some cases, that's actually working. Christine Romans is here with the report. Christine?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, a judge threw out the Breathalyzer test results of one defendant because the suspected drunk driver only spoke Spanish, the police officer didn't. The judge said law enforcement should be able to figure out how to handle Spanish-speaking suspects and officers must make sure the defendant understands his rights.
ROMANS (voice-over): The judge, reportedly telling the court, quote, "if you're talking about someone who speaks Chinese, you might have a different issue." That comment in particular raising some interesting legal questions. Why should a Spanish-speaking defendant in a field sobriety test be treated any differently than a Chinese speaker? The district attorney in Durham, North Carolina said, "it's not fair to apply different standards to different languages."
And while he'd love to give every suspect their rights in their own language, it's impractical. Indeed in the North Carolina Research Triangle, more than 70 languages spoken. And 50,000 residents speak a language other than Spanish or English at home.
Regardless of language, district attorney Mike Nifong says, "North Carolina is an implied consent state, meaning by driving on the highway, the defendant gave implied consent to chemical analysis. That's true for all drivers."
Meanwhile, English language advocates are predictably outraged.
MAURO MUJICA, ENGLISH LANGUAGE ADVOCATE: You know, I have a name like Mujica is on my driver's license. I could say to the policemen, "no hablo ingles." And I could pretend not to speak English knowing that I'm going to get out of it.
ROMANS: Indeed there is concern that defendants -- or actually more likely their lawyers, will automatically raise the language barrier defense in drunk-driving cases. And Breathalyzer tests could be thrown out. These are very powerful -- powerful pieces of evidence in a courtroom, Kitty.
PILGRIM: You know, I hate to be obvious about this, but can't they carry signage that says "We think that you're intoxicated. You need to take a Breathalyzer test."
ROMANS: In many cases, they have in many different languages, they have translations on the scene. But in some case, defendants don't read the language that they speak. In some cases, frankly in a DUI case, the person is intoxicated. They could always just claim later, "I didn't understand whatever language you said, I was drunk."
PILGRIM: It's too simple, too simple.
ROMANS: And absurd.
PILGRIM: And ridiculous. Thanks very much, Christine Romans.
Well a reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. Do you believe the Mexican military's incursion into this country are proof of the United States unwillingness to secure our border? Mexico's unwillingness to control its military? Both? Or neither? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com and we'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.
On Capitol Hill, Senator Frank Lautenberg is proposing a name change for a tax bill now before the Senate. Now the bill's official name is the Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005. But Senator Lautenberg says a better name would be, the "More Tax Breaks For The Rich And More Debt For Our Grandchildren Deficit Expansion Reconciliation Act Of 2006."
Senator Lautenberg said in a statement, quote, "Congress passes laws that require truth in advertising. I think we ought to apply the same standards to ourselves." Well, perhaps not surprisingly, Senator Lautenberg's amendment is not expected to pass.
The National Prayer Breakfast brought together religious leaders from around the world, members of Congress, the president and Bono. The U2 front man pushed debt relief and medicine for Third World countries. He thanked the president for his fight against the spread of AIDS and malaria and urged the United States to increase aid to the world's poor. In turn, the president praised Bono for his work around the world, calling him a doer, and an amazing guy. But the president stopped short on commenting on Bono's proposals.
Still ahead, more of your thoughts on the State of the Union and then Republicans choose a new majority leader. Will their choice be the right one to clean up corruption on Capitol Hill? Now two of our country's top political minds will join me next. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Kitty. Ahead, we'll go on land and on sea, rolling out super security for the Super Bowl. We're live in Detroit to show you exactly how security forces are getting ready.
Plus, drug puppies. Drug dogs used to smuggle heroin -- illegal and cruel. I'll speak with a top veterinarian about the risk to the dogs.
And look out for La Nina. Could this year's hurricane season be even worse than last year's? And what will it mean for you and for the weather? All of that coming up right at the top of the hour in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks, Wolf.
Well, as we reported, the House Republicans today elected a new majority leader to replace Tom DeLay, that's after his indictment on money laundering charges.
Congressman John Boehner of Ohio will take over the leadership of the Republican majority in the House. Now in a moment, I'll be speaking with law professor and political columnist Horace cooper (ph), but first, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins me. Now Bill, is this change going to be enough for the Republicans to distance themselves from the DeLay scandal and also the Jack Abramoff scandal?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well it's a step. I'd say what they did was take the middle position here. They had three candidates, Roy Blunt, who was supposed to be the front- runner and claimed he had the vote sewed up.
He was very closely associated with Tom DeLay. His political action committee had received money from Jack Abramoff, which he gave back and he was really seen as the candidate of the status quo by a lot of the Republicans and came very close of winning majority on the first ballot. But when he didn't, the whole race opened up again.
They elected John Boehner, who was a very close competitor. Boehner has experience. He has zeal. He was part of the Gingrich revolution in the early 1990s, but he does represent something of a change. He is not that close to Tom DeLay, was actually a Gingrich lieutenant in the 1990s and has no ties that we know of to Jack Abramoff. So it was a step away from the status quo. But Boehner himself does have a lot of close ties to K Street and the Washington lobbying industry.
PILGRIM: Now Blunt said he could work with Boehner. How do you assess that?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think they can work together. I mean obviously there are some bitter feelings are a defeat like this, which was a big surprise, apparently even for Boehner. But in the end, there is one thing that will compel them to work together -- the survival of their majority. That's very much at stake.
We are told at their closed-door meeting, one the House Republicans recited poll figures to show just how much trouble Republicans were in in order to make the case, we've got to show ourselves to be a party of change if we represent the status quo, which was Roy Blunt, then we may lose our majority and both Blunt and Boehner have a big stake in that.
PILGRIM: Yes, the Bush agenda now outlined in the State of the Union speech, how do you see them moving forward on that? Do you think there's a good way to start this anew?
SCHNEIDER: Yes, well, they barely passed the budget cuts that President Bush wanted. I think there's a lot of discontent particularly among conservatives who wanted to go a lot further.
I think there's a feeling that the Republicans -- the Republican majority, their survival is at stake here and if they have to strike out on their own path, so be it. Particularly if the president remains fairly unpopular. His ratings are hovering just above 40 percent. Some polls show it just below that. If the president doesn't look like he's going to do them much good, they're going to strike out in their own direction.
PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much, Bill Schneider, thanks, Bill.
PILGRIM: Well my next guest says Boehner will bring change to the Republican Party. Joining me now is constitutional law professor and political columnist Horace Cooper. And thanks very much for joining us, Mr. Cooper.
HORACE COOPER, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Thank you for having me today.
PILGRIM: You know we been just witnessing the worst partisanship crisis on Capitol Hill we've seen in decades. How do you think that everyone will step forward to resolve this, particularly Mr. Boehner?
COOPER: Well, for one thing, we have to realize is that Tom DeLay, the former majority leader had very, very big shoes that he filled and you needed to replace him with someone who was competent and capable of filling those shoes. You didn't want to make simply a symbolic change.
You wanted someone who could deliver, who was capable, who would have a vision as well, but wasn't going to be someone seen as extreme. In the particular partisan environment that you find yourself in, you're going to need someone who's going to have those kind of strong leadership skills and that's what John Boehner brings.
PILGRIM: OK, let me go to some specific issues. Representative Boehner voted against several immigration bills, border protection bills lately. And how does this put him in relationship to the Republicans' stance on immigration? Some accuse him of being somewhat soft on immigration.
COOPER: Well, as the president indicated in his State of the Union address, one of the issues that we have to be careful about is not becoming too protectionist or isolationist in our outlook.
Now we are looking at one of the most thriving and dynamic economic eras that this country has experienced over the last five or six years. We came out of a recession and every year we've seen these substantial improvements.
What the president and what I believe John Boehner also recognizes is, we've got to take steps to make sure that we can build on that. Building a wall around the country and protecting various industries to prevent them from achieving competition will turn us into a ...
PILGRIM: ... Mr. Cooper, I have to interrupt.
COOPER: Same basket case that Europe's in.
PILGRIM: I understand totally, but he did vote against Social Security cross checks for illegal aliens being hired by employers. It's kind of hard to justify.
COOPER: No, not at all. His vision is that you need a comprehensive program, one that recognizes these employees are going to come, are needed and at the same time, make sure that we take special safeguards. And his view was you didn't want to do one or the other and leave out that balance.
PILGRIM: And how do we stand on the Abramoff scandal? How will he wipe the slate clean? Present himself as a reform candidate? And will the rest of the country accept this?
COOPER: Well clearly he doesn't have any ties to the whole Abramoff scandal. He's someone who understands, first of all, that part of the problem, part of the major reasons for so many people on K Street coming to Washington is the size and scope of government.
As intrusive and as extensive of government is, they're people who feel they need help in figuring out how to get a handle on that. So he doesn't view that the K Street community is the enemy.
On the other hand, he is not someone who's gotten any kind of a record that he's a lap dog from the K Street crowd. He is someone who has his own vision, his own plan, his own attitude. And for four years when he was conference chairman, he demonstrated that idea, that vision.
He was never the lap dog of the K Street community. He was never following, he was always setting the direction. If there are people on K Street that want to go in the same direction that John Boehner wants to go, he's happy to let them follow him.
But he's the leader. And that's what his colleagues recognize. And that's one of the reasons why he got selected. I don't believe it came to him as I surprise at all, that he ended up winning this election.
PILGRIM: Well it certainly is a very delicate balance at this point, no matter what the historical record, to get that balance between lobbying and staying clear of it. Horace Cooper, we are out of time, but thank you very much for being with us.
COOPER: Thank you.
PILGRIM: Still ahead, how you voted in our poll tonight and your thoughts. Also, why California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's drive for re-election may be running on empty. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, running for reelection with campaign coffers that are almost empty. Newly released records show that Schwarzenegger's campaign raised $2.5 million last year. That's not bad, but the campaign spent all of it, plus another half million. Schwarzenegger also spent more than $8 million of his own money to promote his controversial ballot measures last November, and it wasn't exactly money well spent. California voters rejected every single one of those.
Let's look at the results of tonight's poll: 82 percent of you believe the Mexican military's incursions into this country are proof of both the United States' unwillingness to secure our borders and Mexico's unwillingness to control its military.
We love the e-mails. Let's look at some of them.
Anne in Indiana: "Regarding the State of the Union, it's what Bush does that matters, not what he says."
Larry in New Jersey: "Why in the world would President Bush speak of any of the issues you mentioned? Then he would have to acknowledge that they are problems."
Gary in Florida: "We keep hearing that we must retrain the American workforce. Could someone please explain what we're going to retrain the workforce to do? The jobs have all gone overseas."
David in Maine: "Why be innovative and resourceful and retrain for the global economy when our government gives our efforts away?" And Larry in New Hampshire writes: "I work for a national delivery company and was surprised when I saw two boxes with 'made in the USA' on the packages. I asked a coworker if we were delivering antiques."
We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts, loudobbs.com. And each of you whose e-mail is read on this broadcast will receive a copy of Lou's book, "Exporting America." Also, if you'd like to receive our e-mail newsletter, sign up on our Web site at loudobbs.com.
Well, thanks for being with us. Please join us tomorrow. Our guests will include former presidential advisers David Gergen, plus Ed Rollins, plus John Fund of "The Wall Street Journal" and Michael Goodwin of "The New York Daily News."
For all of us here, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
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