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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Panel Discusses Week's Top Stories

Aired May 12, 2006 - 21:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN HOST: Tonight, the stories you can't stop talking about, the government tracking your phone calls; what the president should say Monday night on immigration; those painful gas prices; breaking news in the Duke rape investigation, new DNA tests have just come back; plus, the Da Vinci Code debate and more, some of America's most outspoken talk radio hosts take on all the latest news and take your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
And, good evening, John Roberts in for Larry King on this Friday night, Larry is off. We're going to get to our A list of conservative and liberal talk show hosts in just a couple of minutes.

But, first of all, we've got some new developments in the Duke rape investigation. Within the past our defense attorneys for the lacrosse players who are accused in this case held a press conference to talk about new DNA reports that have come out from prosecutor Mike Nifong's office.

Among the revelations is that an acrylic nail that apparently came from the exotic dancer, who was accusing the lacrosse players of rape, was found in a waste basket that had other trash in it, including Kleenexes, used Kleenexes as well as Q-tips and may have possibly been contaminated and then also the presence apparently from this exotic dancer of another sole source sample of DNA.

We want to get right to Kevin Miller. He's with 680-WPTF Radio in Raleigh and, Kevin, give us the upshot of what the attorneys were saying here.

KEVIN MILLER, WPTF RADIO, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA: Well, the attorneys, John, were very upset. Joe Cheshire has come on WPTF and really led the defense team basically stating that he accused the prosecutors of leaking today, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong of leaking this case saying it's been in the press for three or four days.

They just got the written DNA test results back. This is the second DNA test results. The first DNA test results that came back really did not prove any link to the lacrosse players.

Mike Nifong had originally told us it was a DNA dragnet. He put a lot of his credibility into it. When that didn't come back the defense basically stated "Mr. Nifong, drop the case."

The second DNA results came back. That's what the press conference was about tonight. And then you had Joe Cheshire saying, "Look, there was semen and we know who it is. He's listed in the report," and again urged the Durham District Attorney to drop the case stating that there was no DNA inconclusive evidence linking any of the two suspects that have been indicted or anyone else. He said, "Look, if it was brutal, if it was this, it was that, why did they pick it up out of the wastebasket and hand it to the Durham Police Department?"

ROBERTS: Right, that was the big point that he was making, no conclusive evidence linking the DNA found underneath this acrylic nail that was detached and found in the garbage to any of the lacrosse players, even though there was a mixed sample of DNA. But let's zero in though on this semen sample. This is brand new is it not, Kevin?

MILLER: You know, about a couple hours, John, before we heard the rumors in Raleigh about this it happened -- the crime happened in Durham a month ago tomorrow if you will and the rumors have been swirling around here. And the person is very well known who this semen sample came from but because he's a private individual the defense officials did not want to release his name.

ROBERTS: All right. Kevin, hang with us. We're going to come back to you in just a second.

But right now we want to reach out to DNA expert Barry Scheck, who of course you'll all remember from the O.J. Simpson trial. We have contacted him at Yankee Stadium in New York, Barry, thanks for joining us. I know that you've got other things on your mind. What do you make of this latest report on DNA evidence under the acrylic nail and this apparently single source semen swab?

BARRY SCHECK, NY STATE COMM. ON FORENSIC SCIENCE (by telephone): Well, it sounds like as far as the single source semen swab is concerned this was probably part of the first round of DNA testing because it was always puzzling that they were saying that there was no DNA when they must have (INAUDIBLE) swab and seen some semen there.

Otherwise why would they be doing the DNA tests in the first place? So, it seems as though it came to another individual and it may well be that the prosecution could have said that was acquired from consensual partners. That would be the logical explanation.

ROBERTS: Right, but if you have only one semen sample and it's a single source and you know who it is does that exonerate the Duke lacrosse players or could they still be suspects in the case?

SCHECK: Well, I mean obviously it's evidence in their favor and there has to be some explanation as to why there wasn't any semen (INAUDIBLE) that there was some ejaculation maybe in condoms, maybe they're alleging that the sexual assault was done with an object. You know who knows? It's not right to speculate on any of (INAUDIBLE) and it's all unfortunate (INAUDIBLE).

ROBERTS: Right and, Barry...

SCHECK: As far as the nail is concerned...

ROBERTS: Right. SCHECK: ...it sounds like and, you know, again they're saying there's no conclusive (INAUDIBLE). It sounds like there's some number of DNA markers that could be consistent with somebody.

We don't know how many and we won't know until (INAUDIBLE) that report if there are (INAUDIBLE) defense lawyers start saying that was found in a garbage pail where there is other materials that have DNA from these people that could have brushed against the nail and that accounts for it.

ROBERTS: All right, Barry, we're having a little bit of -- we're having a little bit of trouble hearing you, Barry, so I think we're going to have to let you go.

Let's go back to Kevin Miller who is Durham for us and, Kevin, what's the defense saying about the prosecution's case now that they have this second round of DNA evidence?

MILLER: Well, they again urge Mike Nifong to drop the case. They've said that repeatedly. John, they've done an expert job of really derailing the theories that this happened. First, Mike Nifong said the DNA tests, he told me they would be more -- it would be more reliable than an eyewitness identification.

When that didn't come back he floated the theory of condoms, then the foreign object, when that didn't come back the second DNA testing. Then they attacked the credibility of not on the victim accuser as Joe Cheshire called her tonight, the false accuser. They attacked the credibility of the second stripper.

They've attacked the -- everything that we know of of this case with the time stamped photos, with the ATM receipts along with the ATM photos from Reade Seligmann has really derailed Mike Nifong's case.

Now the word on the street here is he has a silver bullet. It's pretty much late in the game if he has one based on the second DNA test results coming back tonight and the tone of the defense attorneys, John, he needs to use it.

ROBERTS: All right, well we're going to keep watching this case, of course. Kevin Miller of WPTF Radio in Raleigh, thanks very much for being with us.

This is a topic that we're going to get to as the hour progresses, as we now bring in our panel of talk radio hosts. Let's welcome first of all Dennis Prager in Los Angeles. He's the host of the Dennis Prager Show, nationally syndicated talk radio program, best-selling author and lecturer.

In Dallas, Texas tonight Big Ed Schultz, host of the Ed Schultz Show, nationally syndicated in the Jones Radio Network billed as America's number one progressive talker, also the author of "Straight Talk From the Heartland."

And we got to give a big tip of the Stetson to Big Ed tonight because he's actually skipping his son's graduation dinner to be with us. His son David is a student at Texas Christian University, an all American golfer and aspiring pro. We wish him all the best in his graduation and we thank you, Ed, for being with us.

BIG ED SCHULTZ: Thank you, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Joining us from D.C. tonight, Ben Ferguson, the host of the nationally syndicated Ben Ferguson Show on Radio America, billed himself when he was the tender age of 21 as the youngest talk show host in the country and the only one who could connect with young listeners.

And, in New York Randi Rhodes, who is the host of the Randi Rhodes show on Air America, veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and Air Force Reserves.

Thank you all very much for being with us, appreciate it tonight.

RANDI RHODES, AIR AMERICA'S "RANDI RHODES SHOW": Hey, thank you John.

ROBERTS: Where we're going to start tonight is actually by going ahead to Monday. President Bush has asked the networks for some primetime coverage of a speech that he wants to give on immigration.

The White House, Tony Snow, today said it's crunch time for the immigration bill but, Dennis Prager, I'm also wondering if it's crunch time for the White House as well and they got to get some traction here with conservatives.

DENNIS PRAGER, "THE DENNIS PRAGER SHOW": That's correct. There's no denying that. Oops, getting an echo guys here. I'm going to pull this out.

ROBERTS: All right, we'll fix it but go ahead.

PRAGER: There's no denying that this is a big issue for the Republicans and a real tense one for the administration. There's no question about it. But the interesting thing is why would voters who are worried about immigration Republican voters vote Democrat because everything they're worried about would be done less under the Democrats?

This is not even a partisan statement. There is no plan from the Democrats. At least there is a plan from the White House and it's not going to satisfy most people. I think the president has been non- demagogic, has been responsible on this issue but I believe and I think most Americans even liberals believe it's time to build a fence.

ROBERTS: Randi Rhodes, do you agree with that?

RHODES: No, not at all. Republicans were the ones that gave amnesty way back in the '80s and caused this influx. The Democrats have, you know, plans but it includes tying people to the minimum wage. It includes -- if you're going to do immigration reform then you've got to actually recognize that, a) they're not felons that Mexico needs to be engaged.

There's no leadership from the Republicans with engaging Mexico. Their economy has been like this for 70 years and we're going to start looking just like Mexico if we don't stop this (INAUDIBLE) that we've got going here which is exactly what causes the problems in Mexico.

But, the idea that you want to, you know, make them the poorest Americans, drive down the middle class wages by letting them come and work for less than minimum wage, $2, $3 an hour, that's not a solution. That's creating a new class of poor people. Democrats have a plan for immigration and they always have but it doesn't include indentured servitude.

ROBERTS: Let me bring Ben Ferguson in on this. Ben, does the president run the risk on Monday of alienating members of his own party? I was talking with the White House today. They said "We know that he may upset some Republicans but he feels that he really needs to lay down some markers now with this whole deal that's being worked in the Senate."

BEN FERGUSON, HOST, "THE BEN FERGUSON SHOW": Yes. He's got to lay down markers and I think that he's seen the outcry from the American people that they're saying, "Look, we want something and we want something now. We're tired of you guys playing politics with this issue."

I think the Democrats they have a plan. They want to get reelected to office and they know out of the millions of immigrants that are here they probably made friends with people that vote. The Republicans know that as well.

The problem is, is how far can you go and not alienate that new voting base? They all want the Hispanic vote. They saw how important it was in Florida especially, Texas, other places like that but you've got governors screaming right now saying "We're going to declare a national state of emergency."

You look at Arizona for that matter and they're going, "You got to help us. We need the National Guard" and that voice I think is finally making its way to Washington.

And most Americans are going, "Look, you fly the Mexican flag. You change our national anthem. You sing it in Spanish, not English, and now you want us to give you citizenship?" I don't think it's going to fly.

ROBERTS: And, in terms, Randi, we got to take a break here for a second. I was just going to say that in terms of the National Guard, the White House now considering the idea of putting the military on the border. That's an issue we'll get to right after this break.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE with an A list of talk radio hosts talking about all of the issues making news this week, all of the issues that you've been talking about.

And, Ben Ferguson, this plan to put the National Guard on the border, I'm sorry I want to go to Big Ed Schultz. Big Ed, this plan to put the National Guard on the border maybe somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 troops to help secure the border, is that playing politics with the military?

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SCHULTZ SHOW": Well that's an innovative thought having the military protect the United States of America isn't it? It's a little too little too late I think. It's a desperate move on the part of the president because he is definitely losing support in his own party.

The Democrats do have a plan. They came together. It was Ted Kennedy and John McCain. They've got a bill there and it was the Republicans who fell off the table on this deal, the hardcore righties out there that didn't want to do a deal on this.

Keep in mind the Democrats do not run the agenda. This is the White House, the House and the Senate controlled by the Republicans but here we are in the middle of an election year and the midterm and all of a sudden Bill Frist decides to make this the issue. This has really backfired on the conservatives. There's no question about it. All along the Democrats have been compassionate on this issue.

FERGUSON: Ed, Ed, Ed this is not the Republican issue. This is the American people's issue. Over 70 percent of Americans are worried about this issue. And to say that the Democrats are the ones who are trying to lead this cause, is ridiculous. Harry Reid -- hold on -- Harry Reid, hold on, hold on...

SCHULTZ: Excuse you said that the Democrats didn't have a plan.

FERGUSON: Big Ed.

SCHULTZ: That's not the truth. That is not the truth. That's being disingenuous.

FERGUSON: Hey, who pulled this -- who pulled this off the table? Harry Reid said...

SCHULTZ: You have got a president who is from a border state, a president from a border state, a president who said he had all this experience on dealing with immigration. Now we're into year number six and where is it?

FERGUSON: And I thought I talked loud.

ROBERTS: All right, let's hit the timer on the chess board. Ben, go ahead.

FERGUSON: Here's the thing. Harry Reid said that he did not want his members on the record before these elections on immigration. That's why they pulled it off at the last hour. So, I don't understand how they can claim they're trying to fix it. When he said in a newspaper "I don't want my guys, I do not want my people on the record."

RHODES: Ben, Ben.

ROBERTS: Randi, check in on this here.

RHODES: Ben, you might be a little naive here. First of all, 75 percent of the American...

FERGUSON: That's your guy talking.

RHODES: Hey, the Democrats do not control a thing. They don't control what's introduced on the floor.

FERGUSON: They can block stuff.

PRAGER: Exactly.

RHODES: They can't do anything. They can't do one thing. They can't -- they don't have subpoena power. They can't have a hearing.

PRAGER: You can block stuff.

RHODES: They can't introduce a piece of legislation.

PRAGER: You can block stuff.

SCHULTZ: Ben, why can't your party get on the same page? Why can't the Republicans get on the same page with this?

FERGUSON: We are on the same page.

RHODES: Really, I mean the Ted Kennedy plan is the plan to go with. The Ted Kennedy plan makes sense for everybody.

FERGUSON: That's a new one in America, Ted Kennedy.

RHODES: Ted Kennedy understood this issue from a very compassionate point of view and the reason why there are so many protests on the street are simply because of the House plan.

The House plan would make being a good Samaritan a felony. It would take the priests in the church who gives communion to a young girl who happens to be part of a family that's not naturalized or not here legally a felon. You want to make priests into felons your party's got that plan.

ROBERTS: OK, Dennis has got his earpiece back in and he's hearing all this -- go ahead, Dennis.

PRAGER: Well there is a place, in fact, where Democrats are in control. It's the state I live in, in California, so it's pretty educational to find out what the Democrats do when they do have complete power. SCHULTZ: Arnold's a Democrat huh?

PRAGER: I'm well aware of that so I'm talking about what the California legislators did. You can laugh and chuckle but this is a serious issue, Ed, and you should keep it that way.

SCHULTZ: It is a serious issue and your party is in charge.

PRAGER: OK, then don't sit there chuckling. Well, right but they're in charge in California and they came out the day of the protest boycott march by Mexicans and other illegal and legal immigrants in support of those kids leaving school, in support of people boycotting their places of work.

FERGUSON: Absolutely.

PRAGER: That's what the Democrats do when they have control.

RHODES: Because, Dennis, they were going to turn them into felons, OK.

PRAGER: OK, you're not answering what I'm raising.

RHODES: And these people are not felons. They're just poor.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: All right, folks.

RHODES: They're just poor.

ROBERTS: Let's call time and move on to a related topic. The House yesterday voted to permit the Pentagon to assign active duty military forces to the Department of Homeland Security. Randi Rhodes, does that fly in the face of the Posse Comitatus Act which prohibits the U.S. military from acting in a law enforcement capacity?

RHODES: No, and you know something. I was in the Air Force for six years and let me tell you something. There are no National Guardsmen left. There are no reservists left to do this work. Why not just fund the border patrol? Why not just give them what they need so that they can give us safe and secure borders?

PRAGER: I couldn't agree with you more.

RHODES: But I will say this to you, OK. There is no way to secure a 2,000 mile border without cooperation from Mexico and this president has not led on this issue. He hasn't engaged Vicente Fox. Vicente Fox comes to America and where does he go? He goes to Microsoft.

FERGUSON: Randi, Randi.

RHODES: He goes to Boeing. This president is absent.

FERGUSON: Randi, why -- hold on. Just give me a second. Hear me out here. Why would the president of Mexico want to help us secure the borders? The number two stimulant of the Mexican economy...

RHODES: It's not a question of wanting to. It's a question of requiring him to.

FERGUSON: Hold on. The number two stimulant of the Mexican economy is illegal immigrants sending money home. Their own government in Mexico puts a booklet out that says how to get across the border and not get detected.

RHODES: Exactly, Ben, so where is your president? Your president -- I'm not going to yell over you. This is ridiculous.

FERGUSON: So how can the president lead when you have a president, Vicente Fox? What do you want to do put Vicente Fox in jail? No it's reality.

RHODES: It's called diplomacy. You just give this president a pass.

SCHULTZ: Ben, you got the typical conservative answer. You think the president has absolutely no responsibility whatsoever.

RHODES: Right.

FERGUSON: You can't control another country.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: You exonerate the president at every corner.

RHODES: He's not responsible. He's not accountable. He doesn't have to lead.

FERGUSON: You guys are telling me we can't go around the world and police the world and now you're telling me to go to Mexico and like practically lock up their president.

RHODES: Absolutely, yes.

FERGUSON: That's a new one.

ROBERTS: Well, the White House certainly seems to be able to influence the Mexican president when it comes to making drugs partially legal.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be back after this. We'll talk about the president's falling poll numbers and what he can possibly do about it before the November election. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So, it turns out that those Verizon ads were correct. Every time you pull out your phone there are hundreds of people behind the telephone. It just turns out they work for the NSA and not the phone company.

Dennis Prager, what about this NSA data mining operation that the president was talking about where the NSA is collecting as we have learned today trillions and trillions of records of phone calls?

PRAGER: Well, let me say and I believe that I speak on behalf of most Americans, God bless them for doing it. The idea that computers...

SCHULTZ: Settle down, Randi.

PRAGER: OK, allow me three sentences, how's that folks?

SCHULTZ: OK.

RHODES: Go for it.

PRAGER: It's not Air America. Let me speak.

SCHULTZ: Oh, nice shot.

RHODES: You can come on.

ROBERTS: Randi, Randi.

PRAGER: We'll swap. You know you're invited on my show anytime. I'd love to swap shows.

ROBERTS: Randi, chill, chill out for a second. Go ahead, Dennis.

PRAGER: OK. If our government were not doing this it would be exceedingly irresponsible. There are communications between possible terrorists and bases elsewhere and they may be within the United States, the United States abroad, abroad, abroad. I want telephones monitored in that way. They're not monitoring my conversation or yours.

Computers are monitoring a trillion conversations but not even conversations. They're monitoring phone numbers to look for patterns. What is wrong with that? It is such a minuscule price to pay for security.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Now, the way that I -- hang on, Big Ed. Big Ed, let me just frame this for -- let me just frame this for everybody. The way I understand how it works is they get some phone numbers that they know about that they capture from people overseas and then they run those phone numbers against records here in the United States to see if they can pick up any calling patterns.

RHODES: No.

ROBERTS: So, Randi, what's wrong with that?

RHODES: What's your phone number, Dennis?

PRAGER: You want it?

RHODES: Yes, go ahead what's your phone number?

PRAGER: Well, the difference is...

(CROSSTALK)

RHODES: It's not private. You're thanking God. Give us your phone number.

PRAGER: Listen, Randi though sometimes...

RHODES: It's not private. Dennis, Dennis...

PRAGER: You are not a computer. I would give my...

RHODES: Give me your phone number.

PRAGER: No. See, Randi, that's not an -- that's not an intellectually honest argument. I am happy to have computers...

RHODES: What's your phone number?

SCHULTZ: But, Dennis it is a question of oversight.

PRAGER: ...monitor.

SCHULTZ: That's really where this issue is right now.

RHODES: See all of a sudden when it gets real personal it's not going to happen to you.

SCHULTZ: There's a lack of oversight. Dennis, I agree with you on the issue of having to do security...

RHODES: It's illegal. It's wrong.

SCHULTZ: ...electronically. I agree with you, Dennis, on doing security electronically but you have to admit there has been a lack of oversight. There has been a lack of involvement. There has been, you know, there's been -- the balance of powers have been violated in the government. Even people in the Republican Party such as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, he doesn't even know if it's legal. Now you got to be fair about this.

RHODES: It isn't. It's not legal.

SCHULTZ: Protecting the country is one thing.

RHODES: Wait, please.

SCHULTZ: But not having oversight is something else. Where's Jay Rockefeller on this?

ROBERTS: Let me throw a quote out here folks from today's "New York Times" editorial. It says, "What we have here is a clandestine surveillance program of enormous size which is being operated by members of the administration who are subject to no limits or scrutiny beyond what they deem to impose on one another." Ben Ferguson, is this presidential power unchecked?

FERGUSON: No, I think here's one of the interesting things that no one has brought up tonight is the fact that this started right after 9/11 and...

RHODES: No, it started before 9/11.

FERGUSON: And shockingly -- all right, hold on.

RHODES: They've been doing it since they've taken office.

ROBERTS: All right, hang on Randi.

RHODES: It's illegal.

FERGUSON: Randi, Randi, Randi...

RHODES: It's illegal. Listen you can opine about what you want in the government. It's illegal. The NSA is...

FERGUSON: Randi, can I have your phone number? We'll talk about this later.

RHODES: Hey, hey, the NSA this is important, people were polled so quickly so that they couldn't get their brains wrapped around the facts.

FERGUSON: Listen, all right listen to me. After -- Randi, after 9/11 this started.

RHODES: Before 9/11, Ben.

FERGUSON: Randi, let me finish what I was going to say.

RHODES: Ben, do your homework young man, before 9/11 and let me tell you something right now.

FERGUSON: Randi -- Randi -- Randi...

RHODES: The NSA -- Ben, I'm not going to stop until I get this out.

ROBERTS: OK, let her get it out. RHODES: The NSA is a foreign spy agency. It is not to spy on Americans. I talked today to Jonathan Turley, who is a constitutional scholar. He's a civil libertarian. We have a lot of disagreements on, you know, various issues but all the constitutional scholars in this country agree that this is illegal. The NSA has spoken up. Mr. Tice is going to testify in front of Congress next week.

FERGUSON: Randi, here's -- all right, look. I've been sweet. Now let me have my time.

RHODES: He's going to tell you that they broke the law. The NSA is not to spy on Americans ever.

FERGUSON: Randi -- Randi...

RHODES: The CIA is not to spy on Americans ever.

ROBERTS: Randi -- Randi -- Randi.

RHODES: It's illegal, illegal.

ROBERTS: Randi, he's going to hit me if you don't let him get in here, so let's let Ben get in.

FERGUSON: Here's the interesting thing. Democrats have been briefed on this program consistently.

RHODES: That's a lie.

FERGUSON: We know that's a fact. Randi -- Randi, this...

RHODES: Oh, I can't stand the lies.

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: This came out.

SCHULTZ: That is a false statement. That is wrong. They have not been briefed on this.

FERGUSON: You're wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

RHODES: They have not been briefed. They have not been briefed.

SCHULTZ: That is not the truth. They have not been briefed on this.

FERGUSON: Ed, have you read the Harman papers?

SCHULTZ: Jane Harman had a press conference yesterday.

FERGUSON: Have you read the newspapers? Have you read the newspapers?

SCHULTZ: Let me tell you something. You're saying things that aren't true.

FERGUSON: Can I finish? No, let me finish what I was saying. They've been briefed on this program.

SCHULTZ: Who?

FERGUSON: They know what's...

SCHULTZ: Who's been briefed?

FERGUSON: The Democrats.

ROBERTS: I think we can stipulate Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi were briefed.

FERGUSON: Thank you. They were briefed on this.

RHODES: No, they were not briefed on this.

ROBERTS: They were given -- they were given information about it.

(CROSSTALK)

RHODES: Carl Levin on the Armed Services Committee they read it in the newspaper.

FERGUSON: If this was breaking the law why would they have leaked -- why wouldn't they have leaked this in 2001? Why wouldn't they have leaked it in 2002? Why wouldn't they have leaked it in 2003?

RHODES: Because they didn't know.

FERGUSON: Because why? This comes back to politics and the president's nomination of Hayden (INAUDIBLE).

RHODES: No.

ROBERTS: All right, we seem to have definite -- we seem to have definitely touched a nerve here. We're going to take a little break. We're going to get everybody calmed back down and we'll be right back after this.

And, don't forget coming up on the show we're going to take your phone calls. And I know that Randi is looking forward to fielding a few of those. We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We're going to get right to the president's poll numbers in just a moment or so. But first of all, we've got our first call of the evening. Denver, Colorado, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Mr. Roberts, how you doing today?

ROBERTS: Very good. Very good. I feel like I'm the referee in a four-way boxing match here, but it's great.

CALLER: I'm watching on television. I know exactly what you're saying. Hey, listen, I just have a quick question for Ben Ferguson and Dennis Prager, and it's just two questions.

ROBERTS: Go ahead.

CALLER: The first question is why did they not make this an issue in 2004 about illegal immigration? How come they didn't say Mr. President, before you go forward with the foreign policy, why don't you tell us what your policy is going to be about the illegal immigration problem? They knew all the things that they are saying right now about illegal immigration.

Secondly, I want to know why their colleagues, Dennis Prager, in July -- why Dennis Prager's colleague Hugh Hewitt, in fact, in July 2002 had said on his radio show that Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo had hired illegal immigrants to do repair work on his vacation home. So when he goes out last summer over saying he is going to jilt people who hire illegal immigrants, is he talking about himself?

ROBERTS: Why wasn't it an issue in 2004?

PRAGER: OK. Let me just say, I can't speak for Hugh, my wonderful colleague, and I don't know that specific situation.

Why wasn't it an issue? I think this president is exactly what he calls himself, a compassionate conservative. And I think that he has a very strong sense of identification coming from Texas and knowing Spanish and working with a lot of Hispanics. I think he has a lot of compassion for these people.

I don't think that he saw it quite as much as a threat to the society as it has developed since then. The president is a human being too. He is not merely a political machine. And he has been pushed by events to take this into consideration. That is a normal thing.

ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you this, Ben. Dennis just said it wasn't as critical an issue as it is now, but, I mean, this has been a critical issue...

PRAGER: To him. To him.

ROBERTS: ...since 1986. Oh to him?

FERGUSON: I think to him it wasn't. And also, I think he knew that it was an issue that he was going to have to make sure he heard from a lot of people before he made a rushed decision to come down on these people. You notice that this president has actually been criticized by some conservatives of not being strong enough on the issue. And I think part of that is because he has come from Texas.

He wanted to make sure everybody talked about it. They figured out all what was going on. And also, I think the president is doing what the president is supposed to, listen to the American people. And right now the American people are crying out for us to do something on immigration, and that's why it's become his No. 1. Whereas it wasn't American people's No. 1 issue in 2004.

And so, you know, the president is elected by the American people, and he's supposed to listen to them, and that's what he's doing.

ROBERTS: Big Ed, you want to ring in on that?

SCHULTZ: Oh, I just think that this is grandstanding by the president in a big way. He's been in there for five years, has not done anything about it. They are worried about losing the Senate and the House, and they thought that this was going to be one of their trump card issues that they were going to be able to get political gain on in this midterm.

Look, the bottom line is the president has been on the sideline on this issue for five years. They've had the power to do everything they want to do, and now they're coming up with the idea of national guard troops and a fence. That's lame.

FERGUSON: Sounds like a good idea.

SCHULTZ: It's absolutely lame. You're not going to move 12 million people out of this country.

FERGUSON: Sounds like a good idea.

SCHULTZ: You have got to bring them into the fold, go along with the Kennedy and the McCain bill because that's where most of the country is right now. It's just a few conservatives that are screwing this up.

FERGUSON: Ed, I don't think everybody's there. I think what you're missing is the fact that look, you have 12 million -- and let's be honest, when have we ever trusted the government as a whole to give us a real and actual number about anything? I mean, they're terrible with numbers.

SCHULTZ: You're right. They're not good with their math.

FERGUSON: Well, if they are telling us -- I mean, we can all agree on that. If they are telling us there's 12 million, there's probably more than that. And I think what we realize is look, they're not spending their money here, they're sending it back to Mexico. The other thing is that they know they have to secure the border.

(CROSSTALK)

RHODES: Yes, because they have so much disposable income. They have got so much disposable income working for $2 an hour to just send everywhere.

FERGUSON: They're not making $2 an hour. If you go out and you talk to them they are actually making decent cash.

RHODES: Oh, right. Yes right.

PRAGER: They are not getting paid under the table, you're right. Come on.

FERGUSON: No, they are getting paid good cash.

RHODES: Let me tell you something. In New Orleans where a lot of immigrants went to do the really tough work of cleaning up, they told stories about being treated like animals. They worked all week long for these contractors...

FERGUSON: Randi, do you not think they're doing that so that they will hopefully get this new legislation?

RHODES: Can I please finish, please? And when they were done working 40, 60, 80-hour work weeks for so much less than the minimum wage, they didn't get paid anything. And they were told go tell somebody that you're an illegal alien and that you didn't get paid, and see who's going to cry for you. That's how people are treated in America.

FERGUSON: Randi, they're breaking the law by being here illegally. And if they are breaking the law and if they don't like it, go home.

RHODES: Then fine the corporations that hire them.

ROBERTS: Actually, if I could just interject here.

RHODES: Fine the corporations who want them here.

ROBERTS: If I could interject here because I want to move back to a different topic. Apparently, as I understand it, the law is crossing the border illegally. Once you're here, you're actually not breaking the law.

RHODES: Exactly.

ROBERTS: But let me come back to this data mining idea. And Randi Rhodes, do you think the Democrats could make a big mistake by making General Michael Hayden's confirmation hearings be all about this because the Republicans will be able to take this NSA, this national security stick and beat them over the head with it?

RHODES: Look, this is creating more problems than it's solving on any number of issues. First of all, get a damn warrant. If you want to know if I call Papa John's five times a week or where I go or what I do or who I speak to, get a damn warrant, make a showing of probable cause, get a warrant and wiretap me. Have at it.

But truthfully, right, there's a FISA court. It's set up for this exact purpose. The NSA is never to spy on Americans. The CIA is never to spy on Americans. Hayden has been doing this since before 9/11. And he needs to be accountable for what he's done.

ROBERTS: Dennis Prager... RHODES: Why not -- why would the NSA and the total information awareness office that we were told was scrapped, now it's shown up again. Why, if Congress didn't want the total information awareness program, are they doing it under a new name, the terrorist information awareness? Tell me one person they've caught. Tell me one person that they've found that was, you know, here to hurt us through this program.

ROBERTS: Dennis Prager, do you...

RHODES: March that out and show me the result that is No. 1. No. 2, get a damn warrant, and No. 3, do not use foreign spy agencies to spy on Americans. Those who surrender liberty for security end up with neither. These are wise words.

ROBERTS: OK. Dennis, look, we've got to go to a break here in a second, but let me ask you this question. Do you think that this latest NSA controversy is going to help or hurt the president's poll numbers?

PRAGER: If the president makes the case well, it will help him. Because common sense dictates that the best thing the government can do in terms of intelligence is something like this. They're not spying on me.

RHODES: Get a warrant.

(CROSSTALK)

PRAGER: They can't get a warrant because they don't know who to get a warrant on.

SCHULTZ: Dennis, do you think the American people believe George Bush?

PRAGER: They are monitoring phone numbers.

SCHULZ: Don't you think it's a trust and credibility issue at this point? Anything the president says...

FERGUSON: It's a national security issue to make sure that we don't have another 9/11. That's a no-brainer in my opinion.

RHODES: Oh please. I am sitting here in New York City. And I am sitting here a half a mile away from where this happened, and you know something? Michael Hayden received a warning on September 10 that said tomorrow is the match game, tomorrow is zero hour.

FERGUSON: So let's talk about the next one the way you just did.

RHODES: And guess what he did?

FERGUSON: Let's talk about the future 9/11 the way you just did.

RHODES: He didn't translate it. He didn't translate it until the day after 9/11. (CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: What we are going to need to do is we are going to need to take another break, and we promise you we are going to be talking about those poll numbers some more just as soon as we come back. We are trying to get Randi excited, but it is not working. I don't know what is going on here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: All right. We're back, and the blood is flowing on the floor here. Let me keep it in the studio here. Ben Ferguson, the president's poll numbers, average of a lot of polls that have been out for the last couple of weeks, he's about 33 percent. Are you worried he's going to go lower?

FERGUSON: No. I think -- I said this on my show. I said if gas prices hit $3 a gallon nationally, he'd go to 30 percent. If they went back up, he would go back up. So I think a lot of people, you know, instantly they say no matter who's in office, if gas prices are high, they claim, you know, out of lack of information, whoever's at the top -- and I understand that.

I think that's part of the reason why his approval ratings have been so low is because you have seen the prices go up. But I think part of it now, as you've seen, there's been some switches at the White House. You have seen Tony Snow come in. I think they are going to do a much better job of -- I think you are going to see a much better job of them communicating to the American people about what their agenda is to get them back where these approval ratings can go back up again.

ROBERTS: Dennis Prager, have Republicans pretty much given up on the idea that President Bush can get to 40 percent before the election?

PRAGER: I can't speak for Republicans on it. I can only tell you that I think that when people enter the polls in November, they will have -- the Republicans certainly will have the following choice. They will have to choose a Republican Party that they're not all that happy with versus a Democratic Party that they believe is hurting the country.

I think that most Republicans will not act like children and say because I didn't get everything I wanted from my party, I will stay home. Some will. I don't consider that particularly sophisticated or mature, but so be it. People are very emotional creatures and they may not show up that day. By and large, the thought of John Conyers and Nancy Pelosi running the Congress will push Republicans to vote.

ROBERTS: Now, big Ed Schultz...

SCHULTZ: Can I respond to that?

ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you the question. Let me get you to respond in this context. Nancy Pelosi came out today and said I will not seek to impeach the president should the Democrats take over the control of Congress. But that idea is out there. And is that not potentially going to play as a negative for the Democratic Party this year?

SCHULTZ: Well, you know who's saying that? The right wing talkers of America can't say the word impeachment enough. They are trying to pin that on the Democrats.

FERGUSON: I have never talked about.

SCHULTZ: You know, excuse -- I'm done with the shouting tonight. I'm going to talk for about 30 seconds.

ROBERTS: OK. Go ahead. Let's give Ed his forum here.

SCHULTZ: OK. I'm going to talk for about 30 seconds here. Here's the reality of it. You've got a president that's in the low 30s, maybe even at 29 percent. He is scrambling. Every president that's been down that low has not been able to recover in a short period of time this close to the midterms. Every Republican senator is in trouble in the polls, and at least a push in the House.

The country doesn't like the agenda. These guys did more tax cuts over this week. This is ridiculous. It's like a drunk at the end of the bar, and regardless of the outcome, just give me another one. That's what their mentality is when it comes to tax cuts. What about the foreign debt? What about the record deficits?

FERGUSON: What about unemployment at a really good level right now?

SCHULTZ: Unemployment is not a measure of the future.

FERGUSON: What about the economy doing really well right now? I hate it when that happens. It ticks me off.

SCHULTZ: It's not the measurement of the future of the country, the stability of the economy.

FERGUSON: I know, the economy, it's something that people obviously don't care about. I mean, we're in a good economy. The unemployment rate is low. I hate it. I can't wait to vote for a Democrat.

RHODES: The unemployment rate is only low because they stopped counting people after their benefits run out. And that is how they keep that number artificially low.

FERGUSON: Yes, good idea.

RHODES: The truth of the matter is that the president was warned about 9/11. He did nothing. He stayed on vacation. Katrina happened. He stayed on vacation. He didn't listen to his generals about Iraq. All these warnings that the president got, he ignored.

And the American people are saying that's not leadership. That's why he's below 30 percent. The poll numbers are going to go lower and lower. Look, his father was at 29. He's at 29 in some polls. And he's going to beat his daddy.

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: Randi, I want to -- Randi, I want to ask you a question, seriously. You just said a minute ago that the president ignored and that's why 9/11 happened, do you genuinely believe that 9/11 happened because of this president?

RHODES: I know it did. Yes, because on August 6 he was briefed at the ranch that Osama bin Laden determined to strike within the United States. That's not exactly...

FERGUSON: Can you explain the entire Clinton administration when they could have gotten him then?

RHODES: Yes, well, we were attacked in 93.

FERGUSON: I am just curious because if you are going to point at one, let's point at the entire thing.

RHODES: When the World Trade Center was bombed in 93 when Clinton was president for only a few months, you didn't see him turn around and blame George Bush Sr.

FERGUSON: No and he didn't do anything to fight terrorism either.

RHODES: He got Ramsey. They are sitting in federal prison.

FERGUSON: He didn't do anything to fight terrorism.

RHODES: I mean, what is wrong with you?

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: He didn't fight terrorism. And this president has.

RHODES: Do your homework before you lie to people.

ROBERTS: Folks, I have got a little bit of business I have to do. Anderson Cooper is standing by in New York. He's got "360" coming up in just a few minutes. Get me out of this one, buddy.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, thanks, John.

Coming up at the top of the hour on "360," the battle on the border over illegal immigration is heating up again. We'll bring you the latest on a possible plan to send National Guard troops to protect our borders.

Also tonight, the latest on the hunt for fugitive polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. The FBI says tips are pouring in. Also, another polygamist tonight -- another polygamist leader who is opposed to Warren Jeffs says he is concerned that authorities are on the verge of moving against him as well. I have an exclusive interview with him. All that and more and no shouting, John, at the top of the hour.

ROBERTS: Yes, we're looking guard to that. Anderson, thanks very much.

We are going to try to cool down the reactor here, pull out the rods and see if we can avoid critical mass. We will be back right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We're going to take another call now. Get me off the hook here a little built. Atlanta, Georgia, go ahead.

CALLER: Hi. I was calling just to ask the few gentlemen who support Bush and the Iraq policy.

ROBERTS: Yes.

CALLER: I was curious as to, you know, obviously what's trying to be accomplished is admirable, but at what point would those two gentlemen concede that it's probably not going to work out? I mean, how many more years do we need to go down this road for people to finally -- for people to support it right now, to come to the conclusion that it's probably not going to work out?

FERGUSON: I don't think you can have that mentality. I think you have to win this thing because I think the rest of the world is looking at us right now. And who else would ever trust us to come to their aid if we just back out? We have to win this thing. We're over there. We've got to make sure we help them see this through and then we walk away.

If we even have the talk of pulling out early, the insurgents over there are going to think they're genuinely winning this war. When you hear all the talk from many people saying it's a quagmire or we're losing, the insurgents over there they take that as reality. They genuinely believe that they're winning, and they go -- and they go after soldiers.

RHODES: Because they are sitting around watching CNN, right? With no electricity.

FERGUSON: When you have...

RHODES: Yes, you're really influencing the war.

FERGUSON: When you have congressmen and senators claiming that the war is a quagmire, you don't mean to tell me that you don't think that their leaders are going to give them that information to make themselves blow themselves up?

RHODES: Hey, Ben, who's the prime minister of Iraq?

FERGUSON: What does that have to do with anything?

RHODES: Because there's no government. ROBERTS: Well, Dennis Prager, how long can the president continue to wait when all the polls are showing that the majority of the American people don't think Iraq is a good idea?

PRAGER: Look, the issue for a president is to use it as a bully pulpit. If I were president, I would have made the case virtually every day of my administration that we are fighting the greatest evil since World War II.

FERGUSON: Absolutely.

PRAGER: That this is this generation's form of Nazism. The president, however, felt that it was so obvious that we're fighting extremely evil people that he didn't have to make it, and he can go on to things like responsible Social Security reform.

RHODES: Oh, my God.

PRAGER: He made a mistake. He made a political mistake. He should have been making the case for this war. It can still be made. It is an evil. It's interesting. I'd like to ask my two liberal colleagues there one question. And I'm not asking you to support the war or anything. I just want to know if you're prepared to say -- I swear it's not a trick question. It's just to understand your view. Would you say that by and large the people that we are fighting in Iraq are evil?

RHODES: No. They're Iraqis, and we occupy their country.

PRAGER: OK. OK. There you go, folks.

RHODES: There's a civil war going on.

PRAGER: That is what the left believes. We are not fighting evil.

RHODES: Of course, the left believes it because there were no weapons of mass destruction.

PRAGER: And that is what they will not win. That is it. You heard it now.

RHODES: And the generals warned you, if you went there, you'd open up the gates of hell, and that is what you've done. You've encouraged terrorism. You've encouraged hatred for the United States.

FERGUSON: Who said war was easy?

RHODES: Our troops don't get the support they need. They're there without the proper troop numbers.

FERGUSON: Because you guys are say that it's a quagmire.

RHODES: They are there without the proper body armor. They're there without the proper exit strategy. FERGUSON: You're right. There's no support from the left because you say it is a quagmire, it's a waste of time, we shouldn't be there. We need to come home.

RHODES: There is no leadership. Eight generals have come out, and maybe they know a little more than you do...

FERGUSON: They don't need your support, you're absolutely right.

RHODES: ...Ben and Dennis Prager.

FERGUSON: Randi, I have friends in Iraq, OK?

RHODES: Listen, you should be in Iraq. You're 22. When I was 22, I was in the military. Why aren't you there?

FERGUSON: I'm 24 years old.

RHODES: Why aren't you there? Then go.

FERGUSON: And just because I support something doesn't mean I have to always go fight.

RHODES: You go. You go. Go ahead. You go and then you come back because you know what happens when we come back?

FERGUSON: I support the Yankees doesn't mean I wear their uniform.

RHODES: Once you've served, you come back, and you're suddenly a liberal. Do you know why, Ben? Because you're only as good as the weakest. And that's why you aren't in the military.

FERGUSON: Then why did so many people vote for the president that wore a uniform, Randi?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: We are going to for a couple of minutes and we are going to be back in just a couple of seconds with one final segment, one more go at it, one more kick at the can. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We're back with one final segment, if the furniture can stand it. We've got a call on the line here. This one is for Randi. Herndon, Virginia, go ahead. What's your question?

CALLER: Oh, yes. I was just wondering how Randi can say that Senator Kennedy has any credibility on immigration because, I mean, what he's proposing now is pretty much what he proposed in 1986. And all of those proposals that he made on reforms for immigration have yet to come to fruition. So I would just like to ask her how she can say we can trust him when nothing was done in 86.

ROBERTS: Do you want to go ahead?

RHODES: Nothing was -- 87 they gave everybody amnesty. Three million were here. They gave them amnesty, and now we have, you know, somewhere in the neighborhood of anywhere from eight million to 12 million. Amnesty is, you know -- it has to be earned, and that's what Senator Kennedy has proposed repeatedly. And Republicans have said no. We don't want amnesty to be earned. We don't want citizenship to be earned.

And yet there's 7,000 what you call illegals in our military right now fighting this war, and they're doing it to earn their citizenship. How can you win with people who really don't want to give them a path to citizenship?

ROBERTS: Dennis Prager, will conservatives ever accept this idea of a guest worker program, which really is for all intents -- not the guest worker program, I am sorry -- but the route to citizenship which, for all intents and purposes, is amnesty?

PRAGER: No, not amnesty as such. I know it's not a big distinction. I think conservatives are prepared to, if they believe that the hemorrhaging at the border will stop. That is what I believe from my callers to my own show and from speaking to people. And that's what I believe, frankly.

I believe that if you stop the hemorrhaging at the border, that's why I believe in a fence. Fences make good neighbors. And this would be a good example. I think it would help Mexico. Mexico does not have to address a single one of its massive corruption problems because it exports its poor to the United States of America.

ROBERTS: Ben?

PRAGER: When Mexico can no longer do that, it will actually have to grapple with its own problems.

FERGUSON: And, Dennis, I think one of the things that he said is look, we'll let them stay or we'll figure out a way to allow them to have citizenship, as long as they want to become citizens and not set up their countries inside of America, but we also have to stop the bleeding at the border.

What good does it do if we give amnesty again like we did in the 80s, if we're going to have to do it again 10 years from now with three times as many people? You just can't do that.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, folks, it's been grand talking to you all. I know one thing, we're all going to sleep well tonight. That's for sure. This was like running a marathon. I am going to say thanks to you in just a second.

But before we go here, one piece of good news. For the past year, Larry King's Cardiac Foundation has worked to bring an 8-year- old boy named Omar from Afghanistan to the United States for life- saving heart surgery. We now have word that Omar and his father will be coming to this country early next week. Omar will undergo treatment at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the Larry King Cardiac Foundation is going to be picking up the medical tab. Here's hoping for a happy, healthy ending.

Dennis Prager in Los Angeles, big Ed Schultz in Dallas, Texas, Ben Ferguson here in Washington, D.C., and Randi Rhodes in New York, thanks for being with us. We really appreciate it. Don't forget on Monday, LARRY KING LIVE coming to you from the border. More talk on immigration.

But right now, let's go up to New York City.

Anderson, how are you?

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