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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Rumsfeld Again Implies Critics of Iraq War Don't Get It; Iranian President Says His Country Has Right to Pursue Nuclear Program; President Bush Traveled To New Orleans To Mark First Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's; Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Opponent Claims Current Policies Favor Big Business; United States military Says New Security Crackdown in Baghdad is Succeeding; Louisiana School Bus Controversy Continues; New Book Tackles Issues of Fixing Congress
Aired August 29, 2006 - 16:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is issuing his fiercest attack yet on opponents of the Iraq war.
And one of the largest storms of this hurricane season is taking aim at Florida. Southern Florida is under a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Ernesto approaches. Hurricane watches have been posted along the East Coast.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, August 29th.
Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, who's on vacation, Kitty Pilgrim.
PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, five more troops died in Iraq.
And Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is issuing a blistering attack on opponents of the Iraq war. His speech comes as foreign and domestic policies of the Bush administration are under increasing pressure.
Tonight, we have three reports.
Jamie McIntyre is live at the Pentagon with more on Secretary Rumsfeld's attempt to defend the Iraq war policy.
Aneesh Raman reports from Tehran. Iran's president is defying the White House again, vowing to push ahead with its nuclear program.
And Suzanne Malveaux is live in New Orleans, where President Bush remains under fire for the response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit one year ago today.
We begin with Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, for the second time in two days, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has delivered a speech in which he implies that critics of the Iraq war and the policy on terrorism just don't get it. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Secretary Rumsfeld picked a friendly venue, the American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, to deliver a history lesson that amounted to a blistering attack on his critics and a vigorous defense of America's war on terrorism.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated, or that it was someone else's problem. It was, as Winston Churchill observed, a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.
Once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism, but some seem not to have learned history's lessons. And that is important in any long struggle or long war where any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.
MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld said while tactics in Iraq had been adjusted to combat the rising sectarian violence, which some argue is a growing civil war, the strategy has not, empowering the Iraqi people to defend, govern and rebuild their country. But a fierce battle Sunday and Monday in Diwaniya raised new questions about just how well the Iraqi army has been trained and equipped.
According to an Iraqi general, during the fighting about a dozen Iraqi soldiers were executed by militiamen loyal to cleric Muqtada al- Sadr after they had the misfortune to run out of ammo. The U.S. military said the operation was under Iraqi control and that it had no details on the alleged ammunition shortage. But officials confirm that the unit involved was part of the 8th Iraqi Army Division that later this week transfers to an Iraqi command.
BRIG. GEN. DANA PITTARD, IRAQI ASSISTANCE GROUP COMMANDER: September 1st is going to be a big date. It will be the first time that an Iraqi army division will no longer be under the tactical control of the coalition forces.
MCINTYRE: Eventually, Iraq's government will have direct control of 10 army divisions, but as the fighting in Diwaniya shows, even the top units aren't quite ready, they're struggling. And as we reported last night, Kitty, one Iraqi unit refused to report to Baghdad as ordered, illustrating another problem, divided loyalties. Some of the army units feel more loyal to their local areas than to the central government in Baghdad -- Kitty.
PHILLIPS: Thanks, Jamie.
Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
Well, five more of our troops have been killed in Iraq today. Two Marines and a soldier died from wounds sustained fighting in Al Anbar province. One soldier was killed by a roadside bomb outside of Baghdad. Another died after his vehicle rolled over near the city of Balad.
Fifty-seven of our troops have been killed this month, 2,634 of our troops have been killed since the start of the war.
The president of Iran defied the United States again today. This is just two days before a key deadline on its nuclear program.
Now, the Iranian president said his country has every right to pursue a nuclear program and he issued an unusual challenge to President Bush.
Aneesh Raman reports tonight from Tehran.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hours ahead of a U.N. deadline, Iran's president, reveling in the flash of cameras, was from the start eager to change the subject, and within minutes he issued a challenge to the U.S. president.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Mr. Bush, the president of the United States, should participate in a direct television debate with us discussing world affairs, how to end world predicaments so that we can voice our point of view and they, too, can voice their point of view. But the condition is that there is no censorship, especially for the American nation.
RAMAN: An unlikely prospect, but a sign that Iran sees itself as the balancing power to the United States, its president the leading voice for disenfranchised Muslims worldwide. A key reason Iran will not back down amid the nuclear dispute and calls for suspension of its nuclear program.
(on camera): Is suspension of the nuclear program at all on the table for any talks that might take place?
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Access to peaceful nuclear energy and power is our -- the right of the Iranian people. We have chosen our right, and under international law we want to use our right. Nobody can prevent us from it.
RAMAN (voice-over): And that is what the U.N. will now have to decide, will it invoke sanctions in an effort to prevent Iran from having a nuclear program, or will Iran's calls for peaceful negotiations give enough reason for the U.N. to avoid confrontation and embark on a new round of talks.
RAMAN: And Kitty, where does that leave Iran? It is offering extensive financial support tonight to the Lebanese government, support across the board to the Iraqi government, and is now desperate for the United States to see it as the superpower in the region -- Kitty. PILGRIM: Thanks, Aneesh.
Aneesh Raman from Tehran.
Well, the White House today is rejecting Iran's call for a debate, saying it's a diversion from international concerns over Iran's nuclear program. The White House statement comes as President Bush traveled to New Orleans to mark the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall. The president conceded that New Orleans has been slow to recover from the storm.
Suzanne Malveaux is live in New Orleans -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, President Bush spent most of the day in the Ninth Ward. That, of course, where the devastation was particularly harsh and the suffering quite severe.
President Bush spent part of his day really in a series of choreographed events, a visit to the famed jazz legend Fats Domino's house that was destroyed, damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Also, of course, the luncheon with volunteers from Habitat for Humanity. As well as early in the day attending a memorial service at the famed St. Louis Cathedral, not far in the French Quarter from Jackson Square. That is where the president delivered the very famous address three weeks after Katrina, promising to rebuild and to redicate the federal government's efforts to just that.
There are a lot of New Orleans residents who really doubt whether or not the federal government is committed. They are very disappointed in terms of where their lives are now. President Bush's main message today was that he acknowledged mistakes, but he also said he is committed for the long term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I take full responsibility for the federal government's response. And a year ago I made a pledge that we will learn the lessons of Katrina and that we will do what it takes to help you recover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And the president's trip really twofold here, to try to convince Americans that the federal government really is committed to this long-term effort. The second, of course, to try to diminish some of those initial images, Kitty, those images you saw a year ago of President Bush, who was vacationing in the Crawford ranch, slow to change his schedule to respond to those in crisis.
The wing of Air Force One dipping down, if you will, signaling, looking over to the devastation in Katrina, but the president not on the ground in those immediate days following that. Those are the kinds of images the Democrats say, who are also visiting New Orleans, shows a certain sense of incompetency and inconsistency, insensitivity of this administration -- Kitty. PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux.
Well, Tropical Storm Ernesto is taking aim at south Florida tonight. Landfall is expected within hours.
Now, where Ernesto heads next is still very much uncertain. Hurricane watches are now being posted for Georgia and the Carolina coasts.
Rob Marciano is live in Miami, Florida, with the very latest.
PILGRIM: Well, later in the broadcast I'll be joined by Max Mayfield, who's the director of the National Hurricane Center, for an update on the uncertain path of this storm.
Well, an about-face at the Kennedy Space Center tonight. NASA is rolling the space shuttle Atlantis back out onto the launch pad. NASA decided to return the shuttle to its hangar this morning, but then it changed its mind after receiving the latest forecast downgrading Ernesto's strength. NASA hopes to launch the shuttle Atlantis next week.
And as Florida braces for Ernesto, Hurricane John is taking aim at Mexico's Baja Peninsula. John strengthened into the sixth Pacific Ocean hurricane of the season today off of the Mexican coast. It is a Category 1 storm with winds of 80 miles an hour. It is expected to strengthen into a Category 3 hurricane by the weekend in the eastern Pacific.
Coming up, a special report on a growing national disgrace. The number of uninsured Americans is soaring. Washington refuses to address this middle class emergency.
Plus, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tonight is being portrayed as an enemy of this nation's middle class. Schwarzenegger is on the defensive and fighting to stay in office.
And it's still clear where Ernesto will go -- still not clear after hitting south Florida. And Max Mayfield, the head of the National Hurricane Center joins me with an updated projection.
PILGRIM: The nation's poverty rate last year remained unchanged, and that's little comfort because the level is still very high. Thirty-seven million Americans are now living below the poverty line. And the number of people without health insurance continues to climb. More than 46 million Americans are uninsured.
Christine Romans has our report.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The story is remarkably consistent: stubborn poverty levels, rising number of uninsured, and income growth that is stagnant at best. Even the brightest spot, a new census data, is grim.
DAVID JOHNSON, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU: Well, median household income in 2005 rose by 1.1 percent. Real median earnings of men and women working full time all year declined.
ROMANS: That's right. For men and women, earnings after inflation fell. More women are working full time. More evidence it takes two workers to support a household.
Census data also show the number of people without health insurance grew to 46.6 million in this country. And the number of uninsured children rose.
DIANE ROWLAND, KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION: People are not getting the kind of health insurance through the workplace that they previously did. So most of the increase in our uninsured population is coming from people without job-based coverage and from children and families losing coverage from the family worker.
ROMANS: Poverty rates were essentially unchanged. The first time since 1999 that poverty has not risen. Thirty-seven million Americans live in poverty. That's more than the entire population of California -- 12.6 percent in poverty today, better than a decade ago and in line with poverty rates in 1985.
Broken down by race, almost a quarter of blacks live in poverty, one in five Hispanics, 11 percent of Asians, and 8 percent of whites. Whites, the sole group that saw the poverty rate decline in the most recent census figures.
ROMANS: All these numbers illustrate the trouble facing both America's poor and its middle class. In fact, digging into those income numbers show real median household income for working age families fell half a percent -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: How did the census numbers change with Katrina and Rita, the hurricanes?
ROMANS: The census researchers say they don't think there's a big impact from Katrina and Rita in these numbers. It's calendar 2005, but they think it happened late enough in the year. We could see that impact next year.
Thanks very much.
Well, the war on the middle class has become a central issue in the race for the California governor's mansion. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Democratic opponent claims the current policies favor big business over middle class Americans.
Casey Wian reports from Los Angeles.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise visit to Cal State Long Beach to welcome students back to school. For the first time since he took office, their tuition will not increase this year.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Our economy is booming. As a matter of fact, $1 billion of additional revenues that were not anticipated every month since January. So this is why we could afford the $55.1 billion for education, the highest amount ever.
WIAN: But the governor's Democratic opponent, state treasurer Phil Angelides, points out state college tuition jumped 76 percent in the previous three years. It's one reason Angelides claims the governor is ignoring the middle class while coddling big corporations and President Bush.
PHIL ANGELIDES (D), CALIFORNIA TREASURER: As I stand here today, the oil companies, the HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies are making $556 million a day in profit. It's pretty clear who is winning, who's losing. And the fact is, when America's middle class loses, when California's middle class loses, America and California lose.
WIAN: Angelides this week released what he calls the Bush- Schwarzenegger or BS. Index. It claims a middle classical California family of four with one child in state college shells out $4,400 a year in extra college, healthcare and gas costs since Schwarzenegger took office. The governor has responded by agreeing to raise the state's minimum wage to $8 an hour by 2008.
Another issue dividing the campaigns is illegal immigration. The governor has made several contradictory statements on the issue, the latest that he supports increased border security and amnesty for illegal aliens. He's criticized Angelides for opposing the deployment of the National Guard to the border and favoring driver's licenses for illegal aliens.
WIAN: All this has added up to an eight-point lead in the latest polls for Governor Schwarzenegger. Political analysts in California say it's still the governor's election to lose -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much.
Well, coming up, the Battle for Baghdad. CNN is embedded with U.S. troops fighting to reclaim the Iraqi capital from insurgents.
Ernesto takes aim at Florida. We'll talk with Max Mayfield live from the National Hurricane Center about how strong the storm is and where it's headed.
And black students ordered to sit in the back of the bus. The president of the NAACP will join us.
PILGRIM: In Iraq today, 62 people were killed and more than 50 were injured when a massive explosion tore through an oil pipeline. Police say the victims were trying to steal fuel from the pipeline when it exploded.
Twenty-six bodies were found dumped in different Baghdad neighborhoods today. Despite the ongoing violence, the United States military says its new security crackdown in Baghdad is succeeding.
Michael Holmes reports.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cleaning up the Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah in Baghdad has entered the literal phase. For $15 a day, these men sweep away the garbage that litters the streets. A month ago, many of these men wouldn't have dared be on the streets.
LT. COL. GIAN GENTILE, 10TH CAVALRY, U.S. ARMY: We would not have been able to get local workers to pick up garbage because they would not have had a basic sense of security to be able to come out and do that.
HOLMES: This was an insurgent stronghold, a wild west of sectarian killings and daily bombings of U.S. and Iraqi patrols. Then earlier this month in Operation Together Forward, which has also become known as the Battle of Baghdad, aimed at finding weapons and flushing out insurgents, it worked. Insurgents fled. And here, some of the impressive amount of weaponry the troops found as they searched thousands of buildings.
Now the operation is about keeping the peace, building trust and trying to stop those insurgents coming right back. That's the tough part.
GENTILE: This mosque is -- it's an important part of the community. But we also know that it's been used for insurgent activities.
HOLMES: Acts of violence are down 50 percent here, but far from over. These weary soldiers lost one of their own to a sniper just two days before this patrol. And on this patrol, the body of a young man in the street. What happened, no one knows for sure, or isn't saying. Just another body in Amariyah, hands bound, shot in the head.
Lieutenant Colonel Gian Gentile takes it personally.
GENTILE: It's heartbreaking. I mean -- and it's heartbreaking for the people that live here. HOLMES (on camera): It may seem quiet back there, not much traffic, but we're told it used to be a whole lot quieter. Things are improving since this operation began.
(voice-over): On Market Street, the main road, a few shops are opening, but the shuttered storefronts of dozens of other businesses are a stark illustration of how tough the job will be of getting Amariyah back to normal.
Michael Holmes with the 810 Cavalry of the U.S. Army, Baghdad.
PILGRIM: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last night in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that he will -- we will not abandon 50 million Afghans and Iraqis. He said that if Americans have the patience and the perseverance to see an effort through, we will prevail.
So that brings us to our poll tonight.
Do you believe Americans need to be patient when it comes to the conduct of the war in Iraq?
Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll bring you the results later in the broadcast.
Coming up, Ernesto beginning to batter the Florida coastline. Max Mayfield joins us live from the National Hurricane Center next to tell us where the storm is likely to strike first.
And also ahead, black students ordered to sit in the back of the bus in Louisiana. We'll have a report from Louisiana and we'll talk to the president of the NAACP.
And the authors of the provocative new book, "Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track." Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann will be our guests.
PILGRIM: In a moment we'll have the latest on Tropical Storm Ernesto with Max Mayfield from the National Hurricane Center, but first, these headlines.
One of the FBI's 10 most wanted was arrested today near Las Vegas, Warren Steve Jeffs. He is the leader of a polygamist sect who was charged with arranging child marriages and having sex with a minor. He is believed to have at least 40 wives and 60 children.
Boulder County district attorney Mary Lacy today defended her actions in extraditing Mark Karr. He was charged in the killing of JonBenet Ramsey. But Karr was cleared yesterday after his DNA failed to match DNA found at the crime scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARY LACY, BOULDER CO. DISTRICT ATTORNEY: John Karr himself sincerely believes that he killed JonBenet Ramsey. There's no question in anybody's mind about that. So I have very little sympathy for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: The FAA today said it violated staffing policies when Comair flight 5191 crashed on Sunday in Kentucky. Only one person was on duty in the control tower. FAA's policy calls for two controllers to be on the job. Forty-nine people were killed in that crash. Separately, investigators are trying to figure out why that plane took off from the wrong runway.
Southern Florida bracing for Tropical Storm Ernesto. Ernesto is expected to cross the Florida Keys around midnight tonight and hit the Everglades around 2:00 in the morning. Now, Ernesto is not expected to strengthen into a hurricane before it makes landfall, but some areas of south Florida could receive as much as 15 inches of rain.
Strong wind gusts and heavy rains are already hitting south Florida tonight. South Florida gas stations began running out of gas today after residents began stocking up on gas and other supplies. Residents also spent the day boarding up homes and preparing for Ernesto's arrival. People living in mobile homes and damaged residences have been urged to evacuate tonight.
Well, Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, joins me tonight from Miami with his latest projections for the storm. Nice to see you, Max. Where are we headed here?
MAX MAYFIELD, DIRECTOR, NATL. HURRICANE CENTER: Well, Kitty, the good news here is that it definitely has not strengthened and it has really run out of time to do so. So we're going to have a mediocre tropical storm in the lower Florida Keys and south Florida.
The rain bands are already moving over those areas. They'll move inland without strengthening and likely by this time tomorrow night, be moving off the Florida east coast, and then head up into the Carolinas. If the center doesn't stay over land very long and comes out into the Atlantic, it does have a chance to strengthen again.
If it stays farther to the left of our track over the peninsula longer, it will not do that. So, you know, we'll be looking at this carefully during the night here. But the main thing -- and this is really good news to folks down here that still have a lot of blue tarps over their homes in south Florida.
PILGRIM: Yes. What about the winds, Max?
MAXFIELD: I really don't think we're going to have a big problem with that. On the radar here, you can see some of the rain bands. And there's some tropical storm force winds in those rain bands there, but they're going to be relatively brief.
There may be some isolated spots there where those blue tarps are blown off the roofs and people get some rain inside their homes here, but this is not going to be a really big event for Florida.
You know, we've gone through the drills many times down here, and I think we should have it down pat now. If the people are just careful and exercising their commonsense, there's no reason for anyone to lose their life in Ernesto.
PILGRIM: There were some earlier reports of tornadoes. What of those?
MAYFIELD: I think that there's still a good chance of at least some isolated tornadoes with a system on a track like this, mostly near and to the right of the center as it moves up the state. So we'll still have to watch that.
PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much, Max Mayfield.
MAYFIELD: Thank you.
PILGRIM: Well, stay tuned throughout the night here on CNN for the very latest on Ernesto as it heads towards Florida. We'll have complete coverage from our hurricane headquarters here at CNN.
Well, this broadcast is reporting extensively on the case of a white school bus driver accused of forcing black students to sit at the back of the bus. And tonight, the town in Louisiana where this incident took place is still trying to come to grips with this case, and the bus driver is telling her side of the story.
Bill Tucker reports from Coushatta, Louisiana.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The training day for Red River Parish's bus drivers lasted less than a couple of hours. The purpose of the meeting? To review procedures and policy. The bus driver at the center of the controversy was not at the meeting. Following the meeting, the school board's attorney would not comment on the driver or any potential action except to say ...
JON GUICE, SCHOOL BOARD ATTORNEY: We've met with the employee at issue. We've done an investigation as to what was said, what was not said, what was going on at the time things were said. Then certain decisions have been made as to how that matter will be handled as a personnel matter.
TUCKER: Under state law, the school board is prevented from commenting any further.
KAY EASLEY, RED RIVER PARISH SCHOOL SUPERINT.: There are laws that we go with and bus drivers have tenure just like teachers.
TUCKER: But the driver seems fairly certain of her fate.
DOLORES DAVIS, SCHOOL BUS DRIVER: What it's going to boil down to is that I'm going to have to retire, and probably sign that sheet. All over this simple matter and -- that I didn't even think anything about, because I am not racist.
TUCKER: The driver continues to insist that her putting the black kids at the back of the bus was just a coincidence. But for at least one member of the town council, the outcome is not so certain and it points to a deeper problem.
ROSETTA WILSON, COUSHATTA TOWN COUNCIL MEMBER: They don't want to face up to the bus driver they done hired, and it is more than her. It's not just with the buses in the school system. There's other things that go wrong, and when they first get a whim of it, check it out. Don't just push it down the road, because it's not going to go away.
TUCKER: The school board is expected to announce its decision about the continued employment of the bus driver at its next meeting on September 5th.
Bill Tucker, CNN, Coushatta, Louisiana.
PILGRIM: Now, Bruce Gordon, the president of the NAACP, joins me tonight from Baltimore with his thoughts on this case. And thanks being with us, sir.
BRUCE GORDON, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Thank you.
PILGRIM: You know, many people have expressed outrage and shock that this could happen in 2006. How far along have we come?
GORDON: Well, the outrage they should feel, the shock, they shouldn't. Rosa Parks, we celebrated her life less than 12 months ago. Many thought that civil rights issues like where you sit on a bus were old history.
Obviously, they are not. I think it's important for people to understand that life in America is certainly different and improved since 1950 or 1960, but the fact of the matter is race is still an issue in this country.
This example in Louisiana is not an isolated case. Around this country, unfortunately, every day some form of discrimination has a negative impact on the lives of people of color. And we need to understand that and deal with it.
PILGRIM: Let me refer to a comment that Congressman Melvin Watt, who is the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he was less than surprised about the incident. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MELVIN WATT (D), NORTH CAROLINA: We get preoccupied with these kind of open acts of racism and we make a big deal of them, but these kinds of thing are going on subtly in the workplace, in the community, in our neighborhoods all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Now, do you agree with these thoughts?
GORDON: Mel is absolutely right. Once again, the fact is that while we might not see the blatant type of lynching from trees that we once upon a time did see, the fact of the matter is there are 21st century kinds of lynchings that happen.
There's a tenant in Stillwater, Oklahoma, who was killed at point blank range by his landlord. And that landlord -- obviously, a white landlord, a black tenant -- was acquitted by an all-white jury. These kinds of incidents are sad, tragic, not shocking to those of us who are in touch with America as we see it today.
The fact is we still have a race issue. It is maybe in certain cases more subtle, but it is still there and until we face up to it and deal with it, these cases will continue to occur across the country.
PILGRIM: The school board of Red River Parish has not said a lot in response to this, but they did have a statement. And let me read the statement for you. The superintendent says, "While we regret that this situation occurred, we feel we have responded to it in a prompt and firm manner."
In addition, "Training for our entire staff of bus drivers has been scheduled for next week. The Red River Parish School Board has worked hard to establish that it does not discriminate in the school system." Do you believe this is an adequate response?
GORDON: I've been in touch with my branch president in the area. He tells me that, in fact, the school district was very slow to respond. While training is important, while discipline is necessary, I'm not totally satisfied that that community has fully faced up to the abusive behavior of the bus driver.
Here we are on the 29th of August reflecting a year back on what happened in the Gulf Coast where once again Americans, some of the anyway, were surprised by the dramatic display of classism in this country. I think that we've got to face up to our issues. I think that that school district is not quite doing that yet and we will continue as the NAACP to follow up and to make sure that there is sustainable change in that community.
PILGRIM: What action is the NAACP planning?
GORDON: Our preference early on is to engage in dialogue, to have a town hall meeting. To get the school board to speak to the community, address the issues head on. If they do not, we will go from advocacy to a -- we'll advocate, and then we'll litigate, if we must. These kinds of cases, while they seem, I think in some Americans minds to be isolated and small are symbolic. And we've got to take them on and that's exactly what the organization will do.
PILGRIM: Well thank you very much for being with us this evening, Bruce Gordon, president of the NAACP. Thank you very much, sir.
GORDON: Thank you.
PILGRIM: Just ahead, the authors of an important new book say Congress is failing America. Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein will talk about what must be done to fix our first branch of government.
And a disturbing report says the government's billion dollar anti-drug campaign has done nothing to help our youth. We'll have a special report, next.
PILGRIM: A provocative new book is out this month and it takes a hard-hitting look at the failures in our most vital branch of government. In "The Broken Branch," Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein examine the recent decline of Congress and they have clear ideas about what must be done to get Congress back on track. So joining me now are the authors of that book, Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann. Thanks for being with us.
THOMAS MANN, AUTHOR: We're happy to be here.
PILGRIM: You know, I think we have a quote from the book that really sums up a lot. And let's take a look at it. In your book you say, "Congress has had its ups and downs in realizing the intentions of the framers. Sadly, today it is down, very much the broken branch of government."
Now, how is this Congress failing the American public?
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AUTHOR: Well, it's failing it in a lot of ways. One is in the process. The regular order is something we call the kind of web of rules and norms that govern any institution. Now they're stretched beyond belief. Votes that are supposed to take 15 minutes take three hours. There's no sense of bringing a bill to the floor after people have taken a look at it, 1,000, 2,000-page bills come up in the middle of the night with nobody having examined them beforehand.
There's no oversight of what the executive branch does. And bad process in this case leads to bad policy, whether it's the Medicare prescription drug bill, the bankruptcy bill, or the Congress operates in protecting Americans in a variety of places.
PILGRIM: It does on occasion seem quite chaotic. Why is this? Why suddenly?
MANN: Well, it didn't develop overnight. The seeds of the problems of the broken branch were planted decades ago. Certainly near the end of the democratic reign in the House, many of these same problems were emerging, but they took on a sort of special form when we had the first united Republican government since Dwight Eisenhower.
The focus was on passing the president's program and nothing else mattered. So the major leaders in Congress saw themselves as lieutenants of the president, not as custodians of the first branch of government, the lynch pin of American democracy, and so they didn't look out for how that process ought to operate, how they ought to stand up to the executive.
PILGRIM: So we can clearly blame our elected officials for not representing the American people?
ORNSTEIN: You can certainly blame them, you bet. This is not a way to operate. And what Congress has done is to in this year in particular, we have the smallest number of days in session. Every day on this show you talk about the important problems facing this country: the squeeze on the middle class, immigration. We've got Iraq, we have the war in the Middle East. Less than 100 days in session out of the 365. Here in most of those days for only a couple of hours, they don't do deliberation. They don't do debate. They're not addressing the policies that matter for the country.
PILGRIM: You know, it's -- what should the American public do? They can't just throw up their hands and say what can you do with these people, can they?
MANN: Well, it all begins with the American voters because we can talk about rules changes, procedural changes in Congress and we have a lot to suggest. But in order to get the attention of the leaders in Congress and the members, you have to have a public that's energized, that's angry, that threatens to throw the rascals out if they don't act in a responsible and accountable fashion.
It all has to start with the voters. But it's not just this populist attack on the institution. We love the Congress. It is an institution we've admired for years. We need the public to be nuanced to say, "We don't want you back here all the time campaigning or raising money. We want to you spend some time doing serious work. Talk about policy and grapple with these problems. Don't engage in these games with us."
PILGRIM: Well you certainly have spent enough time looking at the system to know that some shifting could be done in terms of rules. Is there anything that you can suggest?
ORNSTEIN: Well, there are a lot of things. We need ethics and lobbying reform desperately. And Congress has just given the back of the hand to that. We need to have a series of clear rules when it comes to earmarks, which have just careened out of control and frankly create a corrupting atmosphere, waste an enormous amount of money and don't set priorities.
Even starting with disclosure of who is sponsoring these things and where the money is going and even resistance to that. We've got to get back to doing some oversight. But just as much as we need these kinds of rules, reforms, we have got to have members of Congress who will say that we're going to abide by the rules that we have. Frankly, we need a press corps that is even more vigilant that holds them to account, their feet to the fire. We haven't had as much as we need, in the last few years.
PILGRIM: Do you believe that's true that the press has not done their job?
MANN: I think that's right. Listen, local reporters in some cases have done quite a good job. Look at those in California who uncovered Randy "Duke" Cunningham's real estate transactions. Just looking at the core real estate documents back home, which set in motion a whole series of further investigations.
So the press needs to be tough, not just scandal-mongering, but holding Congress to account to see that it runs and conducts its own business in a way that's faithful to its rules and to the grand design of the framers of our constitution to have this really be the core of our democratic system.
ORNSTEIN: Kitty, the most important point here is this is not just something for wonks like us who have been immersed in Congress for a very long time. This is of vital interest to every American. Every day there are policies that shape our lives. For older people who have to go and get pharmaceuticals, for people who are concerned about the borders, for issues whether we're actually going to be able to deal with Iraq, for the spending that we do, all of us are affected. And if Congress doesn't operate, if it's dysfunctional, as it is now, deeply dysfunctional, then it is not just something that affects the two of us. It affects everybody.
PILGRIM: Let's hope that people read the book and pay attention. Thank you very much for coming on the program. Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, thank you.
MANN: Thank you.
PILGRIM: And a reminder to vote in tonight's poll. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last night said in a speech that we will not abandon 50 million Afghans and Iraqis. He says that if Americans have the patience and the perseverance to see an effort through, we will prevail. In our poll tonight, do you believe Americans need to be more patient when it comes to the conduct of the war in Iraq? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. And we'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.
Up next, the forgotten war, the war on drugs. New evidence tonight that we're losing it. We'll have a special report.
PILGRIM: There is a forgotten war in this country, it's the war on drugs. And tonight, a new government report warns that after eight years and almost $1.5 billion, there's little or no evidence that a government anti-drug campaign is working.
Louise Schiavone reports.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what happens to your brain after snorting heroin.
LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The government's longstanding media campaign against substance abuse is familiar TV fare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never paid much attention to them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I personally like them because I think they're sending a good message out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you tell a kid that you shouldn't do that, you shouldn't do that, then it's like telling him you should do that.
SCHIAVONE: A multimillion dollar government funded study produced by Westat and the University of Pennsylvania found that the ads were indeed memorable, but changed few, if any, attitudes. And now methodologists from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says that study is sound.
NANCY KINGSBURY, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: There is not much evidence that the campaign, per se, has much effect on drug use.
SCHIAVONE: The GAO report specifically states, quote, "exposure to the advertisements generally did not lead youth to disapprove of using drugs and may have promoted perceptions among exposed youth that others' drug use was normal" end quote.
Why does it matter? Since 1998, this government ad campaign has cost $1.4 billion. And the White House is recommending the campaign get an increase in this year's funding.
KINGSBURY: And our suggestion to the Congress is in these tight fiscal circumstances that we're in, that maybe this is not the time to increase it.
SCHIAVONE: Tom Riley at the White House office on national drug policy objects strongly, telling CNN, quote, "this campaign has been a striking success. Teen drug use is down sharply for all drug, all groups and all regions. Teen perception of the harmfulness of drugs is up sharply. That's the definition of successful advertising" end quote.
Research quoted most recently by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds that while most illicit drug use was down last year, exactly half of the students today have tried an illicit drug by the time they finish high school.
SCHIAVONE: Kitty, all agree the picture's complicated and the temptations are everywhere. Does the ad campaign set a positive goal? Of course. Is it working? Maybe not -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much, Louise Schiavone. Well still ahead, the results of tonight's poll. Some of your thoughts on the incumbents in Congress, employers of illegal aliens and a lot more. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Now, the results of tonight's poll -- 84 percent of you do not believe Americans need to be patient when it comes to the conduct of the war in Iraq, as Secretary Rumsfeld suggested.
Well, it's time now for some of your thoughts.
And Jeffrey in Georgia writes, "please don't be so hard on NAFTA and CAFTA. Thanks to those treaties, I'll soon be able to visit a third world country without having to travel far -- the USA."
And Fred in Arizona writes, "Washington politicians have turned a deaf ear to the majority of Americans on the illegal alien crisis, so we must exercise our civic responsibility and turn a deaf ear to all incumbents on their re-election requests."
And Barry in Ontario writes, "illegal immigration is not the issue, employers who hire illegal immigrants with impunity is the issue."
Jim in Nevada, "there is one bright spot in American politics, election day is coming, so we can throw all the bums out."
Patty in Nevada, "after seeing your piece on foreclosures, I guess we're due to hear George Bush say that these are homes Americans really didn't want to buy and keep. Maybe he'll find a way to give them to illegal aliens, too, along with free healthcare, jobs and other benefits."
We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at loudobbs.com. And each of you whose e-mail is read here will receive a copy of "The Financial Report of the United States" with a forward by Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee and also a copy of Senator Byron Dorgan's important book "Take This Job and Ship It."
Thanks for being with us here tonight. For all of us here, we thank you from watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with John King -- John.
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