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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Bush-Blair Summit; Anger Mounts After FBI Raid of Capitol Hill Office; James Inhofe Interview; Tony Snow Interview

Aired May 24, 2006 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are preparing for a critically important summit about the war in Iraq that could determine how soon we can withdraw our troops from Iraq.
And tonight, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow joins me for an exclusive live interview. We'll be discussing, of course, the war in Iraq, our illegal immigration and border security crisis, and the president's sagging poll numbers.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, May 24th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet at the White House tomorrow to discuss the conduct of the war in Iraq. The war is entering a critical phase. A new government has been put into office in Iraq, and President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are facing rising demands for withdrawal of U.S. and British troops.

Today, the new Iraqi prime minister said that Iraqi troops and police could take over responsibility for security in the whole of Iraq by late 2007. But there are serious, persistent questions tonight about the capability of those Iraqi forces.

Ed Henry reports from the White House on tomorrow's summit between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. And Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on whether the United States can withdraw significant numbers of our troops from Iraq by late next year.

We turn first to Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Lou.

President Bush right now is at a fund-raiser in Philadelphia, a Republican fundraiser, of course, in advance of the midterm elections. He will be visiting tomorrow with Prime Minister Blair, who is just back from Baghdad. In fact, the first world leader to visit Iraq since the formation of the new government there. He'll be reporting back to the president on progress in Iraq.

The backdrop, though, for these talks, of course, is the fact that these two leaders are joined at the hip, defending this war that has brought their popularity numbers, both of them, down. When Baghdad fell in April of 2003, 49 percent of the British people were satisfied with the job Mr. Blair was doing. Today, it's just 28 percent, an even steeper drop, of course, for the president. His approval rating has gone from 70 percent in the spring of 2003, down to the low to mid-30s, now as we all know.

And that's why tomorrow night, when the two leaders get together about 7:30 Eastern Time, after their meetings, they will be at a joint press conference here in the East Room at the White House. And what they will try to do is pivot off some of the good news from Iraq, and basically try to urge the Iraqis to take a greater share of the burden. But the president was asked last night by a reporter about the fact that if the U.S. military, the strongest in the world, cannot stop the insurgents, how could the Iraqi military do it down the road?

Take a listen to the president's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If one were to measure progress on the number of suiciders, if that's your definition of success, I think it gives -- I think it will -- I think it obscures the steady, incremental march toward democracy we're seeing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: And that's why the president trying to walk a fine line there, not be overly optimistic about the progress in Iraq, talking about incremental reform. But the prime minister in Iraq, Mr. Maliki, seems to be very optimistic. In fact, today, putting out a written statement, saying, "Our security forces will be capable of taking over the security portfolio in all Iraqi provinces within one year and a half."

So basically the prime minister there saying that by the end of 2007, the Iraqi military could take over. But U.S. officials here continue to say that the president and the prime minister tomorrow night will not offer a timetable for withdrawing U.S. and British troops -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, thank you.

Ed Henry from the White House.

Insurgents have killed three more of our troops in Iraq. One of our soldiers was killed near Balad, north of Baghdad. Two of our Marines were killed in Al Anbar Province.

2,458 of our troops have now been killed in Iraq, 18,088 other troops have been wounded, 8,302 of them seriously.

The rising number of casualties in Iraq shows that insurgents are still able to launch deadly attacks against our troops more than three years after this war began. There are serious doubts tonight that Iraqi troops and police would be able to take sole responsibility for security in any Iraqi province in the months ahead, especially in Baghdad and Al Anbar province.

Jamie McIntyre now reports from the Pentagon.

Jamie, can Iraqi forces lead any combat operations without U.S. support?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the short answer to that is no, and it doesn't look like they'll be able to anytime real soon. Asked directly about that, last week on Capitol Hill, the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Peter Pace, said that certainly not within the next three months would any Iraqi province be able to be turned over solely to Iraqi control.

The Pentagon has put out a map of Iraq showing the increasing areas where Iraqi forces are in the lead. That means, of course, that they are planning and conducting operations. But listen to what the U.S. is doing when the Iraqis forces are in the lead. They are providing intelligence, logistics, communications, medical support, and, oh, by the way, if they need it, a quick reaction force to get the Iraqi troops out of trouble.

So that is all still needed and will be for the foreseeable future.

Now, the Pentagon still has a hope that they'll be able to draw down the number of troops from about 130,000 to 100,000 by the end of the year, but that -- no decision has been made on that yet. And again, that's been the plan for quite some time -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you.

Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

Another major issue for President Bush and Prime Minister Blair in their meeting will be Iran's nuclear defiance. Iran this week test-fired a long-range ballistic missile that could carry nuclear warheads. Iran is refusing to suspend its nuclear weapons program. The United States, Europe, Russia, and China today failed in their latest effort to agree upon a strategy to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Officials are trying to reach consensus on a package of incentives and threats to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.

Later in this broadcast, I'll be joined by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. We'll be talking about Iran's nuclear threats, the conduct of the war in Iraq, and our illegal immigration and border security crisis, and the president's sagging poll numbers.

On Capitol Hill, there's rising anger over an FBI raid on the offices of a senior congressman who is accused of taking a bribe. In a rare show of unity, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today demanded that the FBI return all the documents it seized in a raid on the offices of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson. They say the raid was unconstitutional.

Earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried and failed to force Congressman Jefferson to resign his post on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Congresswoman Pelosi said Democrats must uphold high ethical standards. Congressman Jefferson said he found Pelosi's request perplexing, because none of the issues involved in the investigation are under the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee.

The Senate tonight is on the brink of approving a so-called comprehensive immigration bill that would give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the Senate could vote on the bill as soon as tonight. President Bush's top political advisor, Karl Rove, made another effort to convince House Republicans to support that bill.

Louise Schiavone reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even White House political strategist Karl Rove seemed to be having a tough time navigating this one.

REP. PETE KING (R-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: He said he was listening and he would say the president's against amnesty. And we would say, well, he may say he's against amnesty, but what he is proposing is amnesty.

SCHIAVONE: And that's the way it went, as House Republicans from all over assured Mr. Bush's emissary behind closed doors that they were not about to lose their House seats just to be able to say they were standing with their president.

KING: The American people realize that we stood for them. I have never seen an issue where the American people are so strongly united, and that's seal the borders first and then go back and look at the other issues later.

SCHIAVONE: The Senate, meanwhile, marched toward final passage of their bill...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 73, the nays are 25.

SCHIAVONE: ... voting solidly to guarantee a final vote on the measure before the week is out.

Senators nudged the bill before them to the right, punishing employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, constructing 370 miles of a high-tech border fence, deploying the National Guard to the border, and establishing English as the nation's national language. But through a generous guest worker program, the bill would provide millions of illegals a blind path to citizenship, and that's where most House Republicans and the citizens in their districts seem to draw the line.

ROY BECK, PRESIDENT, NUMBERSUSA: This is an extremely expensive proposition to local -- local communities. It's an unfunded mandate. The Senate has not even sat down and tried to figure out at all what it would cost.

SCHIAVONE: Even Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist seemed to be hoping that the House wouldn't swallow the Senate bill whole.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: There are things that can be improved, and hopefully in conference, when we meet with the House, they will be improved.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHIAVONE: But, Lou, the clash of philosophies between the House and Senate sets up immigration bill negotiators for a political bare- knuckle brawl -- Lou.

DOBBS: Louise, thank you.

Louise Schiavone, from Washington.

The Senate today killed a last-minute attempt by Senator Jeff Sessions to block the Senate's so-called immigration reform bill. Senator Sessions tried to raise a budgetary point of order, saying the Senate bill will have a staggering effect on the federal budget. Senator Sessions says that legislation would cost taxpayers more than $50 billion a year over the next decade. But the Senate voted by 67- 31 against introducing Senator Sessions' point of order, waiving the budgetary implications of the legislation.

If you would like to read the complete list of how your senator voted in this debate in Congress, in the Senate in particular, go to LouDobbs.com. We'll have all the latest votes there for you.

And that brings us to our poll question. Do you find it reprehensible that the U.S. Senate is about to pass legislation without careful analysis and study of the number of illegal aliens in this country and the cost of that legislation to taxpayers? Yes or no?

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

Still ahead, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow joins me for his first primetime television interview to discuss the war in Iraq, Iran, illegal immigration and border security, and the president's poll numbers.

The president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, is also in the United States, stepping up his demands for amnesty for his citizens in this country. We'll have a live report for you.

And whatever happened to the 1.2 million illegal aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol last year? We'll have that special report for you.

And Senator James Inhofe joins me to tell me about his amendment to make English the national language and react to some comments by one Senate minority leader, Harry Reid. Stay with us for that and a great deal more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Mexican President Vicente Fox is spending much of his time in the United States pressing his case for illegal alien amnesty in this country. In Salt Lake City, President Fox insisted that Mexico does not support illegal immigration to this country. President Fox said Mexico is a trusted partner with the United States in the fight against illegal aliens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICENTE FOX, MEXICAN PRESIDENT: Mexico wants to be part of the solution, not of the problem. Mexico promotes new mechanisms that allow for a legal, safe, orderly migration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: President Fox addressed the Utah legislature this morning before taking off on the second leg of his trip to Washington State.

Katharine Barrett joins me now from Yakima, Washington, where President Fox arrived a short time ago -- Katharine.

KATHARINE BARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou, he's already come and gone, in fact. But a very warm welcome here in Yakima County for President Fox.

This is a county that's 40 percent Hispanic. Most of those Mexicans or Mexican-Americans. And an unknown but large quantity of those illegal migrants.

Fox spent the afternoon touring a cherry and apple orchard near here. Those orchards are really the heartland of the debate over immigration into this country. As many as six out of 10 seasonal orchard workers in this area may be illegal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARRETT (voice-over): Cherry grower Jim Doornick worked in orchards as a child. He now farms 150 acres of fruit trees, wishing it were easier to hire legal workers.

JIM DOORNICK, CHERRY FARMER: I think to make the whole thing work we have to have a comprehensive reform.

BARRETT: But he says there simply aren't enough. Even paying $9 an hour, growers last year faced labor shortages that had some crops rotting on branches. Farmers here fear a closed border without guest workers would leave them short.

DOORNICK: I mean, I'm for protecting the border, because you can have bad guys coming into the United States. By the same token, I'm interested in having individuals who want to work to have a legal way to get in here and work. BARRETT: The Mexican president supports that agenda. Vicente Fox insists fences are not the best border solution, one reason he's being welcomed here in central Washington.

He visits a fertile valley that has grown on the backs of Mexican migrant workers for generations. Yakima County's fortunes are tied to fruit-growing, a $1.6 billion crop that must be hand-picked. The interdependence with immigrants is such that at the local hospital citizenship is simply, don't ask, don't tell.

People would not come in to care if they felt that we were going to ask about their citizenship status, and if they didn't come in for care, if they had some kind of infectious disease, they really would stay out in the community, would not get the medications they needed, and would actually spread that disease throughout the community.

BARRETT: Infectious disease rates here are already higher than the state average. But who pays for that care? U.S. taxpayers.

Last year, a first-of-its-kind audit in Washington State found $83 million in questionable Medicaid payments made for non-emergency treatment provided to undocumented patients.

BRIAN SONNTAG, WASHINGTON STATE AUDITOR: It's a lot of money. It's a lot of taxpayer money. It's all public money. If the wrong folks, ineligible people are getting those services, that means somebody who is eligible is not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BARRETT: In his address here, which was just conclude moments ago, President Fox took pains to ask his countrymen and women to respect the sovereignty of the U.S. Congress and put his trust in Congress to reach an immigration solution to the mutual benefit of both countries. As I said, that address conducted entirely in Spanish, but, again, he made a conciliatory tone, and certainly a very conciliatory tone for this state and this region of the country -- Lou.

DOBBS: Katharine, thank you very much.

Katharine Barrett from Yakima, Washington.

In the U.S. Senate and its rush to pass so-called comprehensive immigration legislation, it's failed to take into consideration the ability of our government to carry out those new immigration programs. Emilio Gonzalez , the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says his department is not even close to being able to administer a new guest worker program. Gonzalez says immigration officials will never be able to process the millions of guest worker applicants in the time frame put forth in the Senate bill.

And Dick Corelli (ph), a spokesperson for the U.S. federal court system, tells us tonight that the Bush administration failed to consult the judicial branch on the impact that more National Guard troops on the border might have on court operations. Corelli says the federal court system is already overwhelmed by the number of illegal alien cases already in its system.

Despite the concerns our federal courts, more National Guard troops begin heading to the border with Mexico next week to assist our Border Patrol in catching illegal aliens. Lieutenant General Steven Blum, the chief of the National Guard, told Congress today that 200 additional National Guard soldiers will be in place on the Mexican border around the 1st of June. President Bush hopes to have 6,000 National Guard personnel on the border assisting our Border Patrol in the months ahead.

Two hundred more.

Well, still ahead, the Border Patrol apprehended more than a million illegal aliens crossing the border last year. But the government won't say what happened to them right after that. We'll have a special report for you.

And White House Press Secretary Tony Snow joins me for his first prime-time television interview. We'll discuss the Bush presidency, illegal immigration, the border security crisis, Iran, Iraq, and other challenges facing the nation and President Bush.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight we wanted to report to you what we believe to be a simple, straightforward story. We wanted to find out and report to you just what happened to the 1.2 million illegal aliens reported apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol last year. That may seem to you to be a simple and straightforward question, but there is anything but a simple answer, as Casey Wian now reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 90 percent of the illegal aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol each year are Mexican nationals. Almost all of them are quickly deported back to Mexico. But figuring out what happens to the rest is more difficult.

In fiscal year 2004, the most recent year for which detailed information is available, the Border Patrol arrested 1, 160,000 illegal aliens -- 1,035,000 were voluntarily deported to their home countries, 17,100 were criminally prosecuted. What happened to the remaining nearly 108,000 apprehended illegal aliens is clear, according to TRAC, a Syracuse University organization that studies immigration statistics. It's suing the Department of Homeland Security, seeking the release of more detailed information on immigration law enforcement.

DAVID BURNHAM, TRAC IMMIGRATION PROJECT: If the public's going to decide what policy what they want, what kind of immigration enforcement they want, what kind of Border Patrol they want, what kind of -- how they want people to be treated, they have to know. And at the present -- what the numbers are -- and at the present time, many of these areas are very big question marks. WIAN: A small number of illegal aliens, about 3,000 annually, are granted conditional political asylum. Most of the rest are non- Mexicans and begin proceedings for involuntary deportation. That often leads to the controversial practice of catch and release, illegal aliens let go for lack of detention space.

In 2005, more than 70 percent of the non-Mexican illegal aliens caught by the Border Patrol were released.

BUSH: We've ended the catch and release for illegal immigrants from some countries. And some would asks Congress for funding and legal authority to end catch and release at the southern border once and for all for all countries.

WIAN: The Department of Homeland Security would not comment, though it is making some progress on border security. The new expedited removal program has resulted in a 70 percent increase in deportations of non-Mexican illegal aliens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: And prosecution of criminal illegal aliens has more than doubled since 2001. In fact, Lou, immigration cases now make up more than a third of all federal criminal convictions. And that's more than the FBI and the DEA combined -- Lou.

DOBBS: That's incredible. Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian, from Los Angeles.

Let's take a look now at some of your thoughts.

Joe in Florida wrote in to say, "Lou, the three greatest threats to our country are not China, Iran or Venezuela. They are Mexico, the White House and Congress. Wake up, America. You are losing your country."

And Dee in Georgia, "Lou, I half expected to hear a band play 'Hail to the Chief' when Mr. Fox deplaned yesterday."

Joe in New York, "Lou, if con is the opposite of pro, then is Congress the opposite of progress?"

You might say.

And Dave in Tennessee, "Lou, you were wrong. Our government is not, I repeat, not, incompetent. Not enforcing the Constitution and the laws of the land when you take an oath to do so is a crime. So therefore, our government is criminal."

Send us your thoughts to LouDobbs.com. We'll have more of your thoughts later here in the broadcast.

Coming up next, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow joins me. And we'll be talking about so-called comprehensive immigration reform, Iraq, Iran, and a lot more. And Senator James Inhofe wrote the amendment recognizing English as our national language. How could anyone object? Well, they do. The senator will be here to tell us what he thinks about those objections and more.

And legal guest workers are taking skilled jobs from Americans. Yet, the Bush administration wants more guest worker programs. It is just the latest battle in a war on our middle class.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Big business interests in this country are pressuring Congress to expand the H1B visa program. Business leaders couldn't care less that this failed, mismanaged guest worker program is taking jobs away from hard-working middle class Americans. All the corporations seemed to care about is continued unlimited access to ever-cheaper foreign labor.

Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The H1B guest worker program is out of control. The U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services is supposed to publish an annual report on the program, but no report has been issued since fiscal year 2003. There is no requirement forcing companies to disclose how many H1B visa workers they employ.

Microsoft and other tech companies want the cap on the guest worker program completely lifted, but they do not disclose the number of H1Bs on their books. Their argument, that there's a shortage of engineers in America. If that's true, the executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers wants to know...

CARL MACK, NATIONAL SOCIETY OF BLACK ENGINEERS: If there is such a shortage, then why is their unemployment in the engineering ranks number one? If there is such a shortage, why isn't there an increase in salary?

TUCKER: Contrary to widely-held belief, there is no requirement that the employer show it tried to hire an American worker first. Only companies whose workforce is 15 percent or more H1B workers are required to say that they will "take good faith steps to recruit U.S. workers."

It's no secret that the program's broken. In 1996, the Department of Labor issued a report saying that it was, quote, broken and needs to be fixed. In 2004, the Office of Management and Budget called it, quote, vulnerable to fraud. In 2005, the Department of Labor again acknowledged the abuse, and the office of the inspector general warned of, quote, corrupt employers, labor brokers and lawyers making fraudulent applications. RON HIRA, ROCHESTER INST. OF TECHNOLOGY: It's amazing to me that the president has been asking for an increase in the cap when his own management team is saying that the program doesn't work. It has major flaws that leave it vulnerable to -- to abuse and fraud.

TUCKER: A bill to reform the program and tighten protections for American workers was introduced in the House last November. It remains buried in the Immigration Subcommittee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: The immigration bill in the Senate would do nothing, except expand the number of visas available to employers by 60 percent. The number would increase to 115,000, and then, Lou, automatically increase by 20 percent every year after that cap gets hit.

DOBBS: And then we get to watch the America with compound interest.

That is insane. This administration, this Senate, are so out of touch with what is happening or absolutely indifferent to what is happening. One or the other. Bill, thank you very much. That's incredible. Bill Tucker.

Well, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma has come under attack in the U.S. Senate for introducing one of the most controversial amendments to the Senate immigration reform bill in the minds of some. Senator Inhofe's amendment, which was successful, making English the national language of the United States has been called hateful and even racist by at least one senator, but this amendment passed the Senate by a wide margin of 63-34.

Senator Inhofe joins me tonight from Capitol Hill. Senator, good to have you with us.

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: It was nice to be with you.

DOBBS: Senator, I can't for the life of me figure out what's so controversial about making English the national language.

INHOFE: Let me tell you what it is. Those who don't want it are the ones that are listening to some of the left-wing extremist Hispanic groups, La Raza, for example. And they don't have the support of the vast majority of Hispanics.

Look, it was only two months ago that they had the Zogby poll showed that showed that 84 percent of Americans want to have English as the national language, 77 percent of the Hispanics did. Now, they are not reading that right. And the devious ways that they did away with this. Yes, I was successful in passing my amendment by getting 63 votes. The very next amendment was the amendment with the Democrat alternative, I guess you could call it, that did away with ours.

And what it did was theirs, then, would make government services an entitlement to people. Now, all I was doing with mine was making it the official national language. It didn't mean that you couldn't put up -- you know, you couldn't use Spanish or any other language if you wanted to. But it didn't treat it as an entitlement. It actually gave it the status of law.

DOBBS: And the idea that it would give it the status of law, the effect would be?

INHOFE: Well, you'd be able to -- you would do away with entitlements. Right now, people are really outraged by the fact that in order to do -- well, you might remember during the Clinton administration, he had the Executive order 13166.

DOBBS: Just about ten days ago.

INHOFE: That mandated that it be an entitlement. Well, the substitute that came right up after my vote would do the same thing yes, mine passed but now it's watered down with the other one. And it's going to end up going to conference and it's not going to happen. But the arguments against it were just outrageous.

DOBBS: Speaking of outrageous, the fact that Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation had to suggest to the United States Senate that there would be at the very least 103 million new legal immigrants in this country within the next 20 years, and until Robert Rector and the Heritage Foundation pointed that out, the Senate did not see fit to do anything about it, until Senator Binghaman introduced his amendment to reduce those visas to a level of 200,000 a year. I mean, what is going on in that august body?

INHOFE: Well, I just talked to Robert Rector. He was in my office. We had a long visit. What is worse than what you just characterized is what's going to happen 11 years from now. This cost, according to Rector, he has some really good documentation, would be $50 billion a year. And the reason it doesn't start until the ten years is up is because that's when the benefits start.

And, of course, the CBO, they only look at the next ten years. They can't go beyond ten years. So as far as they're concerned it's not going to be that expensive.

DOBBS: Well, senator, I love the idea that illegal aliens won't have to pay under the terms of this bill, would only have to pay three of the past five years back taxes they owe, and there's a very reasonable construction in point of fact that there would be earned income tax credits for them rather than paying taxes.

The ideas that having committed felonies, that is with forged documents and Social Security cards acquiring employment, which are felonies, they would be given amnesty and also be entitled to Social Security under the terms of this bill. This is madness.

INHOFE: Well, it is madness. But and speaking of madness, you should have heard the arguments against making English the national language. One, Senator Durbin, it was really kind of -- he said it with a straight face, he said why, Inhofe, if your amendment passes, Hispanics are going to drown in the Potomac River because they have no swimming signs up in Spanish, and you'd make them come down. So now I'm drowning people in the Potomac.

And then we had the Pat Leahy from -- coming in from Vermont, and he had all these flags. Every state flag that has a foreign language like E. Pluribus Unum, said they have to do away with all their flags. I said, you guys, I don't know what you've been smoking, but it's not my amendment you're talking about.

DOBBS: There could be another felony at work there. Senator, I admire the compassion and the sentiment of Senator Durbin, as I'm sure you do, but I'm a little concerned about his lack of concern and sentiment and compassion for all of those other languages that people who speak only those languages, whether it be Italian, French, Russian, whatever it might be, would he permit them to drown in the Potomac

DOBBS: Well, apparently so. I didn't get a chance to -- we didn't really have the time that they had on this amendment.

But we had a very interesting day. One last thing on this. You know, people wonder why is it we just don't pass it, make it the official language, make it the national language, and the reason is what I went through a few days ago. It's been 23 years, 1983, the last time they brought this up for a debate and a vote.

DOBBS: Amazing. And we should point out, 51 countries have English as the official language, 31 of them, solely English as an official language. Senator --

INHOFE: It's good enough for Ghana and Uganda and Cameroon but not for the United States. Besides that, 27 states have it on the state basis.

DOBBS: Yes, sir. Senator Inhofe, thank you very much for being here. It is fascinating to watch your Senate at work. Thank you, sir.

Our nation's elected officials need to hear your thoughts on a host of issues as they ready their votes this time on what they call comprehensive immigration reform, to send your senators and congressmen a message, please go to our Web site, LouDobbs.com. There are e-mail links there that will take you straightaway to each of your lawmakers.

Coming up here next, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow joins me for a live exclusive interview. We'll be talking about Iraq, Iran, illegal immigration, the border security crisis and the president's political position. All of that and a great deal more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, today went over to Capitol Hill trying to drum up support for, quote, "comprehensive immigration reform," end quote. The president's push for illegal immigration legislation is only one of the challenges, of course, facing the Bush White House and, indeed, the nation. The war in Iraq increasingly unpopular, the president's approval ratings have plunged to an all-time low for his presidency, and nearly three- quarters of all Americans surveyed say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow joins me now from the White House lawn.

Tony, good to have you here.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Good to be here. Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: Let me say, if I may at the outset, because I have been particularly critical of this administration's policies over the year there has been a -- I have been blackballed by the White House and -- for about four years now, because I've said things like radical Islamists when referring to the enemies in the war on terror, criticizing many of the president's policies.

And I just want to compliment you in your early tenure as press secretary for having the fortitude, the intelligence and the class to break that embargo and come on here and talk.

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: Oh, Lou, don't get me into situations like this.

It's just a delight to be here. Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: Good to have you here.

Let's start with illegal immigration and the border security crisis. The Senate put forward a waiver moving any budgetary considerations out of the path of comprehensive immigration reform, as the president and this Senate like to call it.

It looks like we're going to have a bill, doesn't it?

SNOW: It does look like we're going to have a bill.

DOBBS: And with all of the issues, which are, first, border security four and a half years after September 11th, why do we have a border that is so porous that 3 million illegal aliens can still cross it each year?

SNOW: Good question, Lou.

The question is not why we have it, it's how we fix it, and that's what the president is talking about.

When the president went before the nation -- what was it -- nine days ago, the first thing he talked about is figuring out the smartest and best way to patrol the borders. That means that some places will need fences, some places will need sensors.

One thing we're sure we need is a lot more Border Patrol agents, and so he's getting to work on that right away. As a matter of fact, something else that we hope will happen before the end of the week, it's an appropriations bill. A supplemental appropriations bill will put the money in the pipeline so that can start happening right now.

So for everybody out there who says we need to do border security first; the president agrees, he wants to get started within the next couple of weeks.

DOBBS: Getting started, Senator Judd Gregg, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee is despairing because the president's call for 6,000 guardsmen who will apparently be unarmed but in some sort of rear support, adjunct role to support the Border Patrol. He's concerned that, that money, that $1.9 billion will be all that will be appropriated and he will lose that for the Border Patrol itself.

SNOW: Well, no.

The president's already talked about doubling the amount of funding for Border Patrol, and we've put together a plan to make sure that there are offsets within the budgetary numbers.

We're not stealing from the Border Patrol to help the Border Patrol, for Heaven sakes. But I'm going to let Senator Gregg continue to air his differences with our legislative department.

Here's what the president wants: He wants to get started right now on the business of training up Border Patrol agents so that we can double during his tenure the number of Border Patrol agents.

You don't do it overnight. They have very specific skill sets that are necessary for somebody who is trying to apprehend and detain people who have crossed their borders illegally. It includes language skills, understanding the laws and all that sort of thing.

What we're trying to do is to deploy maximum number of Border Patrol forces right now and to get more trained up and ready to go into the field as soon as possible.

DOBBS: Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, Tony, has said that he wants to have operational control of the borders. How soon will the president of the United States be able to say to the American people that our ports are secure, that our borders are secure, as this government prosecutes a global war on radical Islamist terror?

SNOW: Don't know.

And the reason I don't know is that the business of securing a border, as you know, Lou, is enormously complex.

But I can tell you this: The action's already started.

The president is trying to get the resources to the border. Rather than sitting around and having the extended debate -- and this is what I like about the plan -- it's devoted to action. He's already put in the budget request. He wants Congress to act. Pretty soon that's going to happen so that they can get started.

You know and I know that patrolling the border is not something that has a sort of simple answer. In some places when we get fences up, people are going to try to go elsewhere. There are going to be some places where it's just flat impassable -- you don't need fences.

There are road sensors, surveillance techniques we'll do. And in some places where maybe folks are going to move away from fences but toward other areas, you're going to need to beef up your Border Patrol presence.

The real stress point here for the president is, put the appropriate resources in the appropriate places.

But I don't think either you nor I can figure out exactly how long it's going to take. We're going to try to get as many people and as many resources to the places they're needed as possible. So I can't give you an absolute drop-dead date.

DOBBS: You know, and I appreciate that. I appreciate your candor, Tony.

There is, though, a broad, if I may say, in this country right now, particularly amongst our political elite, sort of a libertarian fatalism, if I can construct it that way, that says we can't secure our borders; we can't control illegal immigration; we can't prosecute with urgency and immediate targets of success a war in Iraq.

There is a flailing on the part of government, and in a previous incarnation, you, yourself, wrote about much of that.

We have a compassionate conservative in the White House who has raised federal spending by more than 50 percent in the first five years of his presidency.

This is a peculiar time, whether one looks at it historically or whether one just senses the moment we're all living in, don't you think?

SNOW: Do you want me to respond to all of those brickbats or just one at a time? You threw out such a list of particulars.

I think the point you're trying to get to is why is the president doing this now? Is that what you're trying to get at?

DOBBS: I'm trying to get to the point that with -- the fact that three-quarters of the country, just about, as they're surveyed say we're going in the wrong direction; that there is a government that is unable to secure its borders or unwilling; there is a government that is coming to terms with illegal immigration at a time when there are more urgent and immediate priorities, it seems to many people, at a time when we're looking at trade deficits that are overwhelming us, budget deficits. We're spending $6 billion a month alone in Iraq.

SNOW: OK. Again, you've given me too much to respond to, but let me try to...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: We've got all the time in the world.

SNOW: ... bite off a couple of little pieces.

When it comes to the war on terror, since September 11th there has been command attention to try and prosecute and win it.

You talk about borders that are insecure. There are borders that are porous, but I deny the "insecure" characterization. One of the things we've managed to do in a number of cases is to intercept people who came here intending to do harm to American citizens -- they did not succeed. Why did they not succeed? In many cases it's because measures put in place by this president.

You also mentioned the fact that poll data show people think the country is going in the wrong direction. Ask a different question: How are you doing? Are you doing better off than you were a year ago? Turns out that we are.

You mentioned trade deficits. As you know, the trade deficit went down last month. As a matter of fact, exports are responding pretty briskly.

There's a lot of good economic news out there, including -- just a handful -- real wages up 5.7 percent in the most recent quarter, big growth rate, unemployment down to 4.7 percent.

When people look at their real lives, they understand that there's a war on terror going on out there -- and I understand the vague apprehension that goes on, because we all remember September 11th, we don't want it to happen again.

But meanwhile, how are people acting? They're taking vacations. They're buying homes. They're buying goods and services. They're acting as if they're living in good times -- because they are.

DOBBS: Tony Snow, White House press secretary.

We're going to continue our discussion here in just a moment.

But as you may recall, Tony, there are times where we have to pause for commercial and economic interests. This is one of those.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We continue now with our guest, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.

Tony, you were talking about people feeling better now than a year ago. In point of fact, we have actually seen fewer jobs created during this stage of the recovery than historically. Real wages have actually declined for working men and women in this country.

The middle-class is facing a failing education system.

I understand the president has tried to work with No Child Left Behind. But we're -- just about half of black Americans are dropping out of high school, half of Hispanic Americans. In every state recently in which teachers were tested, the state failed.

We're looking at a mess in public education, which is the backbone, the equalizer in this great society of ours.

Why isn't there a sense of urgency emanating from the White House to deal with these issues?

SNOW: Wait. First, President Bush -- let's start with the economic picture.

DOBBS: You bet.

SNOW: The president has been adamant about securing forever the tax cuts that were put in place earlier. Why? Because that creates a basis of economic growth.

Now, what you've done is you've sort of salami sliced some of the economic statistics. I've given you the most recent numbers.

And it's true, President Bush came into office at a time when the economy was in a downturn. Then you had September 11th. And what happened is we have had a recovery, and first it was led by productivity increases, but now you're starting to see wages catch up, which is why I pointed out most recent quarter 5.7 percent in real hourly wages.

That's the middle class, so the people are beginning to feel it.

Now, when it comes to education, what's the first thing he did? No Child Left Behind.

You've got a lot of people squealing and complaining, but the fact is the president is dedicated and determined to make sure that kids get the educations they deserve and they have the teachers they deserve.

So I don't think you can blame the president for this. A lot of times -- it is impossible to wave the wand or snap your fingers.

But, look, you talk about issues he's passionate about -- that's real close to number one on the list.

DOBBS: I certainly would not blame the president alone. The No Child Left Behind was a step forward -- it's a slow step. It's incrementalism, in my opinion, at its worst at a time when we need urgently to support our public schools and to take control of those public schools for the benefit of children. But the issue...

SNOW: Well, wait, I can't let you get away with that.

That's exactly what he's talking about.

I mean, I don't know how you turn public schools around. You have to deal with a whole series of varied interests and the president's done his best. You got to deal with teachers' unions, you have to deal with students, you have to deal with parent groups, you have to deal with textbook producers.

I mean, I used to be a teacher. My father was a teacher. My grandmother was a teacher. You don't have to tell me how schools work.

But the fact is, you have to raise the standards and you have to make sure not only do kids perform, but also teachers.

DOBBS: Well, Tony, as a former teacher, you know that we're facing nothing less than an educational crisis.

I don't know about you philosophically, but I happen to believe our public education system is the absolute foundation of equality in this country, equality of opportunity, equality of education, economic opportunity.

We simply can't allow this to continue. We're failing a generation of Americans.

SNOW: Preaching to the converted.

You went to public schools, I went to public schools, my kids go to public schools, so couldn't agree more.

DOBBS: All right.

So let's move on to the issue of productivity. And one of the reasons I'm concerned, because this White House seems to never hear a proposal from big business, corporate America that it doesn't like.

I can't think of a single initiative by corporate America that it has not embraced in point of fact at a time when we are watching middle-class families with public education failing them, with economic insecurity facing them through outsourcing -- 3 million jobs over the course of the past five years, estimated to have been...

SNOW: OK. Wait, wait.

DOBBS: Sure.

SNOW: I just want to jump in, because you're a lot gloomier than I am.

DOBBS: I'm not gloomy at all.

SNOW: Sure you are. (CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: If I didn't think that we had the capacity to change the direction and the future of this nation, I wouldn't say a word.

SNOW: All right. Well, the president...

DOBBS: I'm just not a fatalist.

SNOW: The president is talking about tax cuts for individuals. He believes the markets work.

You talk about big business. I'm not sure exactly what you're talking about here, because a lot of times proposals that free up the economy are also aimed at the little guy. For instance, individual tax cuts -- a lot of these individual tax cuts, as you know, are for mom-and-pop businesses who filed their taxes as individuals, not as big old corporations. Those are people that we deliberately have been reaching out to, and as you also know, in recent decades they've been the number one engine for economic growth here in the United States.

DOBBS: Let me ask you one final question in the conduct of the war in Iraq.

The president and Tony Blair, tomorrow, Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet. No suggestion whatsoever that they're going to be able to offer a new strategic direction in the conduct of the war or the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

SNOW: Well, first thing, you don't just sort of willy-nilly announce withdrawal.

Here's what's interesting, Prime Minister Blair was in Baghdad last week. He was there when the new government took over and he met Prime Minister Maliki.

Now, my understanding is the prime minister is a guy of action, the kind of guy you would like, somebody who doesn't -- who says we've got problems, we have to deal with them. They're going to talk about it.

See, I think we now have new opportunities in Iraq. The prime minister has said that he wants Iraqi forces to take control of combat as soon as possible -- we agree.

The president would like to be able to move U.S. forces into support roles, but you're going to do that as conditions on the ground dictate. You're not simply going to say, "You know what, we're going to do it in March, we're going to do it in April."

You have to find out the shifting realities on the ground, and as the Iraqis become more capable of providing peace, security, prosperity and becoming reliable allies in the war on terror -- as the president's often said, as they stand up, we're going to stand down.

I expect the two leaders to talk in very practical terms about how to make that happen, not in terms of skedaddling out of Iraq, but how to strengthen the Iraqi people so that you really do have a success story.

DOBBS: Tony Snow, White House press secretary, we thank you for being here, ending what has been just about a four-year embargo.

We hope you will feel suited to come back and so move. It's been a delight talking with you and we wish you all of the best, Tony.

SNOW: It's a delight. Talk to you soon, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Now the results of tonight's poll. Ninety-eight percent of you say you find it reprehensible that the Senate is about to pass legislation without careful analysis and study of the number of illegal aliens in this country and the cost of that legislation to taxpayers.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. Senator John Ensign joins us. He says paying Social Security to people who work in this country is legally is appropriate, otherwise not. For Senator Ensign and more and for all of us, thanks for watching and good night from New York.

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

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