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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Congress Refuses to Implement Solution to Immigration Crisis

Aired September 22, 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: Dangerous new pressures. And Congress refusing to implement what could be the single-most effective solution to our illegal immigration crisis. And Democrats call themselves the champions of our middle class, while ignoring the damaging effects of their own policies on middle-class working Americans and their families.
All of that, and a great deal more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday September 22. Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

President Bush and President Musharraf of Pakistan today tried to ease rising strains in their alliance against radical Islamist terrorists. Both leaders tried to play down Musharraf's claim that the United States threatened to bomb Pakistan if Pakistan did not cooperate in the war on terror.

But five years after the beginning of this war, Osama bin Laden still has not been captured or killed. Some intelligence officers say bin Laden is hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan. But earlier this month the Pakistani army abandoned its offensive against radical Islamists in those areas.

Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House on the rising strains in one of the country's most important alliances in the war on terror. Brent Sadler reports from Beirut on Hezbollah's refusal to disarm after its 34-day war against Israel. And Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon tonight on rising doubts about the reliability and tactics of the Iraqi security forces, and its implication for U.S. military strategy in Iraq. We turn first to Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Lou, the Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf has survived several assassination attempts. He has seized power seven years ago in a bloodless coup, he is a leader of a nuclear state, and one of the closest allies to the United States in the war on terror. But this latest controversy demonstrates he also has a relationship with President Bush that is complicated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice over): President Bush and Pakistan's leader Pervez Musharraf took turns flattering each other over the commitment to the war on terror.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I admire the leadership.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: I trust President Bush.

MALVEAUX: The alliance was forged out of necessity following the September 11 attacks. Mr. Bush desperately needed Musharraf's cooperation to go after bin Laden and the Taliban in Pakistan's neighbor, Afghanistan. But Musharraf now says he was coerced into cooperating. In an interview for CBS's "60 Minutes", Musharraf says after 9/11 the U.S.'s then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage threatened his intelligence chief, that Pakistan would face America's wrath if it did not help fight the terrorists.

MUSHARRAF: The director of intelligence told me that he said, be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard Armitage said, you should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age?

MUSHARRAF: Yes.

MALVEAUX: When asked about the alleged threat, with Mr. Bush by his side Musharraf said.

MUSHARRAF: I'm launching my book on the 25th and I am honor bound to Simon & Schuster not to comment on the book before that date. So --

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: In other words, buy the book, is what he's saying.

MALVEAUX: For now Musharraf's loyalties lie with the royalties. As for the alleged threat Mr. Bush said he knew nothing of the exchange.

BUSH: Secretary Colin Powell came in, and said president Musharraf understands the stakes and wants to join and help rout out an enemy.

MALVEAUX: The man accused of making the threat, Richard Armitage, said Musharraf's story is totally false. And he told him so when the two men met Thursday.

RICHARD ARMITAGE, FMR. DEP. SECY. OF STATE: I said, it never happened. I wasn't authorized to say such a thing, and I wouldn't.

MALVEAUX: But the post-9/11 message was clear, and tough.

ARMITAGE: This was black or white, that Pakistan was either with us fully, or not.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: Well, Lou, it's definitely a prickly relationship between these two. Another debate, of course, President Bush irked Musharraf earlier in the week, when he made comments to our own Wolf Blitzer, saying that if they saw or identified Osama bin Laden inside of Pakistan, he would go after him with or without permission from the Pakistani government. Today, both of the leaders tried to downplay the rift as well, and saying they are cooperating and in the hunt together -- Lou.

DOBBS: Did either man outright withdraw their remarks?

MALVEAUX: No, no. Musharraf did not withdraw that remark, and we can only assume that he stands by that remark. He simply says wait until his book comes out.

DOBBS: And the president did not withdraw his remarks?

MALVEAUX: President Bush didn't withdraw any remarks, the ones about the book, or otherwise.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

Hundreds of radical Islamists today protested in Pakistan against the United States -- and against their own president. The protesters accused their President Musharraf of selling out Pakistan to American interests. Demanding the Pakistani army remove President Musharraf from office and they called for a jihad against the United States.

The leader of the radical Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah also blasted the United States today and declared that his organization will not give up its weapons. Hassan Nasrallah told supporters, in Beirut, that Hezbollah still has more than 20,000 rockets after the war against Israel. The U.N. resolution that ended the war called for Hezbollah's disarmament. Brent Sadler now reports from the Lebanese capital of Beirut -- Brent.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Hello, Lou.

After more than two months in hiding, Hezbollah's Chief Hassan Nasrallah appeared before a massive crowd in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital, Beirut. He really was addressing the Hezbollah faithful here, declaring a divine victory over Israel in the 34-day conflict, much of the southern suburbs destroyed by Israeli bombardments.

Now Hassan Nasrallah accused the United States of colluding with Israel, in effect helping Israel start the war against Hezbollah. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HASSAN NASRALLAH (through translator): The war was an American war by providing the arms, and the planning, and by giving deadline after deadline to the enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SADLER: Hassan Nasrallah also had plenty to say about United Nations peacekeepers who are re-enforcing the mission to stabilize the Israeli/Lebanese border. Nasrallah told them they were not here to spy on Hezbollah nor to disarm the group. Nasrallah said no army, quote, "In the world could disarm Hezbollah."

This was a day of mass celebration for Hezbollah's legions of Muslim Shia supporters. It was also an occasion when Hezbollah leader really laid down the law as far as he's concerned about the future of Lebanon. He says he wants to see the current pro-U.S.-backed government, led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to step down and to make way for a new unity government that will be more pro-Syrian, and in effect close to Iran, Hezbollah's main supporter in terms of money and logistics.

Now, this was Hassan Nasrallah appearing not without risk, he said, even some 30 minutes before he appeared, he said he was arguing with his own security advisers about whether or not he should appear in public. In the end he was on display throwing out rhetoric against Israel, against the United States, for more than an hour.

"A very important day," he said, "A historic day, a day in which all Lebanese could celebrate what he called a divine victory over Israel."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Brent Sadler reporting from Beirut.

In Iraq, insurgents have killed four more of our troops. One of our soldiers and one of our Marines killed in Al Anbar Province. Another soldier killed in Baghdad. The military confirms the death of a soldier who was reported missing after a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad last week. And 52 of our troops have now been killed in Iraq, so far this month; 2,695 American troops have been killed in Iraq since the war began.

The powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Congressman Duncan Hunter declared his support for the treatment of a new deal on the treatment of foreign terrorist suspects. Congressman Hunter says he's confident the deal between the White House and Senate Republicans will pass.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CHRM., ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: This is a big bill, it's very complicated, we're continuing to walk through the rest of the provisions, but in the key area that the House was especially concerned about, that's protection of American agents and American troops, that those provisions are excellent.

DOBBS: I'll be talking about those issues and this legislation with Chairman Hunter when he joins us Monday. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the increasing strain on our troops among the other issues we'll be discussing.

There are troubling claims tonight that torture in Iraq has risen sharply since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. The United Nations special investigator on torture said Iraqi terrorist groups, militias, and even government forces have been routinely torturing their prisoners. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government today admitted it cannot find enough troops to fight the insurgents and terrorists in Baghdad. Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): In the town of Tikrit, Saddam's birth place, a rally calling for his release, just as he faces charges of ordering chemical attacks in the 1980s that killed thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq.

Now, two decades later as torture, murder and sectarian violence rages, the top U.S. commander for Baghdad is putting the new Iraqi government on notice about cracking down on militias and death squads.

MAJ. GEN. JAMES THURMAN, CMDR., MULTINATIONAL DIV.-BAGHDAD: I consider that issue a problem that the government must deal with immediately.

STARR: Major General Thurman says he needs 3,000 more Iraqi army troops in the capital immediately, but are some Iraqis still reluctant to fight?

THURMAN: Some of the soldiers, due to the distance, did not want to travel into Baghdad.

STARR: The United Nations special investigator on torture says the violence is, quote, "out of hand." Manfred Nowak told reporters the situation is so bad that many people say it is worse than in the times of Saddam Hussein.

But Human Rights Watch estimated that during the 25-year reign of Saddam's Baath Party rule the Iraqi government murdered some quarter million of its citizens.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, U.S. ARMY: We have a sense from them that most Baghdad residents do not feel safe traveling outside the neighborhoods, because of the current security situation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: And, Lou, while the violence has dropped in the Baghdad neighborhoods where U.S. troops are patrolling, nonetheless, officials know that many Baghdad residents remain very afraid of the torture and killing right outside their front doors, Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much. Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon.

Still ahead here tonight, Congress all but ignoring the most effective possible solution to our illegal immigration crises. We'll have that story.

Also tonight, the Democrats call themselves the champions of the middle class but their policies actually hurting middle class Americans and their families. We'll have that report.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in communist China. Critics say his policies, like many of our imports, are made in China. Stay with us for that and a great deal more straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The Senate is set to vote next week on a bill approving construction of hundreds of miles of new fencing on the U.S./Mexican border. But Congress still refuses to consider equally important illegal alien employment enforcement measures that are already proving effective all around the world. Casey Wian reports on why new border fencing, in the opinion of some, will not solve the nation's border crises. And Lisa Sylvester reports on the lawmakers whose say they are fighting for the middle class, while pushing foreign worker programs that hurt middle class workers and their families. We begin with Casey Wian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): The maximum penalty for hiring an illegal alien is six months in jail and a fine, which is often difficult to collect. The sanctions are largely ineffective. While Congress is passing several border security laws, it's putting tougher work site enforcement on the back burner. The strategy could be a disaster.

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We just secure the border and we don't do anything about enforcing the immigration laws inside the United States, the illegal population of the United States is going to skyrocket.

That's because a lot of people here now, they often go home, and they are not going to be able to get home. And 12 to 15 million now, in two or three years by the time they get around to doing workplace enforcement it could be 18, 19, 20.

WIAN: Thought Congress is stalled Immigration & Customs enforcement agents are busting more illegal alien employers than ever. ICE has arrested 668 criminals at worksites this year, nearly four times as many in 2005. And more than 25 times the number of arrests made during 2002, the final year of the old INS.

ICE is using laws prohibiting money laundering and harboring fugitive aliens to go after employers, those laws enable the government to seize assets, and seek long prison terms. Still, only a tiny fraction of illegal employers are busted.

Other measures are needed. Such as requiring employers to resolve cases of mismatched Social Security numbers. But an ICE official says that effort is being thwarted by lobbyists from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

REP. PETE KING, (R) NEW YORK: This issue brings opponents in the left and right. The left, who have no problem with illegal immigration, and those on the right who want to use cheap labor and don't want business to have any extra burden at all.

WIAN: The Chamber would not comment on the issue saying its experts are busy as a conference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Congressman King says the only way work site enforcement will be considered this year if voters in November send a clear message. That message would be voting out lawmakers whose refuse to hold employers of illegal aliens responsible for their actions, Lou.

DOBBS: And the Chamber of Commerce, Casey, refusing because they are lobbyists, their spokesman are at a conference?

WIAN: That's what they said. We gave them an opportunity to comment in any form they like, either on camera, or off. They said they didn't have anybody who could address the issue.

DOBBS: While they just, apparently without any embarrassment whatsoever continue to shove it up the nose of working people, and their families in the country. IT would be delightful to hear them explain some of the policies on this broadcast. Perhaps their conference will end soon enough for that to occur in the next week or so.

Thank you very much, Casey Wian.

WIAN: OK.

DOBBS: Congressman James Sensenbrenner is hailing an important report on the effectiveness of tough illegal immigration laws, that include workplace enforcement. The report from the Law Library of Congress studied tough immigration laws that are in place in Brazil, Egypt, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland, and even, Mexico.

The report shows these laws have drastically reduced illegal immigration in those countries. Congressman Sensenbrenner is the author of the tough border security bill passed by the House of Representatives last year. The Congressman Sensenbrenner says the study, quote, "refutes the canard that tough illegal immigration laws cannot work in the country."

Democrats held a pre-election forum in Washington, D.C. today, to discuss the nation's growing war on the middle class. They talked about slow job growth, stagnant wages, and the rising anxiety of middle class workers. But they refused to discuss how their fight for cheap foreign labor is hurting those very same people. Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): The election is 45 days away. Democrats are billing themselves as the party that's the defender of the middle class worker, who is struggling to live paycheck to paycheck. REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: This is called the middle-class squeeze. It is a reality in our country, one that the president does not seem to be aware of.

SYLVESTER: Democrats may point fingers at Republicans, but the reality is they, too, are contributing to a cycle that pushes down wages for American workers. While many Democrats want to stop the exporting of jobs overseas to China and India, the same lawmakers are pushing to import cheap labor, that could directly compete for American jobs, under the banner of comprehensive immigration reform. Labor economists say they are two sides of the same coin.

JARED BERNSTEIN, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Look, if you're worrying about exporting jobs, you may also worry about importing workers. You're also going to worry about immigration creating excess competition for a fixed supply of jobs.

SYLVESTER: But Democrats haven't seen it that way. Neither have the major labor unions. Both are hoping legalizing illegal aliens will boost their membership ranks and potential voters. And American workers?

MIKE CUTLER, FMR. INS AGENT: It's not for nothing that they're the middle class. They are caught in the middle. They are caught in the middle of unions that don't want to represent them, a Democratic Party that seems less concerned with their well-being than they are with the illegal aliens in the United States. And, meanwhile, they are losing jobs all at the same time because of this influx of alien labor. So, yeah, they are getting hammered from every direction at this point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Now there are a few notable Democrats who are fighting both the exporting of jobs and the importing of cheap labor. Senator Byron Dorgan, for example, but, Lou, that's the exception, not the rule -- Lou.

DOBBS: Unfortunately, but fortunately for the Senator Dorgan, who could well establish himself as a model follow Democrats, heck, even Republicans, as well.

Lisa, thank you very much. Lisa Sylvester reporting from Washington.

U.S. diplomats tonight are once again urging Mexico to send troops into lawless Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. and Mexican officials meeting in Laredo, Texas to discuss the relentless drug gang violence that has gripped the border and forced American travel warnings in the northern parts of Mexico.

Mexican officials briefly sent troops to Nuevo Laredo last year, after a surge of drug-gang related murders. Those troops, however, were quickly pulled out. Drug-gang violence is back and in control of the town. In Tijuana, yesterday, suspected drug gang hit men shot and killed a police officer. The United States is warning now all Americans to take extreme caution when traveling to Mexico as this, quote, "brutal violence is escalating." Americans are being urged to avoid Oaxaca completely.

Demonstrators in the province are trying to overthrow the local government. Five people have been killed during the violent protests. Aides to Mexican president-elect, Felipe Calderon, this week said, ending the crises in Oaxaca will be his biggest challenge when he does take office. Calderon is set to take office in December despite continued claim by the opposition that he stole the election.

Still ahead here Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says his talks with the Communist Chinese government, a complete success. A complete success for whom? We'll examine the answer to that question.

And new states across the nation alarmed over unreliable electronic voting machines. A clear threat to our democracy. They are racing against the clock to create a solution as Election Day fast approaches.

Tense moments for a Shuttle Atlantis astronaut just back from space. We'll have the latest. Still ahead, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson tonight is claiming significant progress in his efforts to change the trade tone of talks with Communist China. Paulson won unprecedented access to Communist Chinese leaders who called him a friend of china. Afterwards Paulson praised his Chinese hosts and counterparts to such an extent that some of his critics are saying now his policies sound like they were made in China. Christine Romans reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has the ear of the top man in China.

HENRY PAULSON, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I am absolutely delighted to make my first trip to China as Treasury secretary.

ROMANS: This former chairman of Goldman Sachs is well known to China's Communist elite. Wherever goes in China, the cabinet's old friend change gears and represent the American people.

TED FISHMAN, AUTHOR, CHINA, INC.: Paulson goes to China as a billionaire who has worked with the world's largest groups. Now, he is a representative of all the American people. China will give him credibility if he's a billionaire representing big companies. He has to make himself a credible voice for all of America.

ROMANS: But Paulson essentially on a listening tour. Critics say playing right into China's go-slow national strategy. A strategy that includes manipulated currency, rampant intellectual property theft, and subsidized manufacturing. Paulson coy on the, quote, "individual issues" he discussed with the Chinese.

PAULSON: As global economic leaders we share the responsibility to establish and maintain open markets at home and further economic liberalization and free and fair trade in all countries.

ROMANS: Paulson and the Chinese promising a new strategic economic dialogue, more talk that does little to quell concerns that U.S. economic policy is tilted dangerously in China's favor.

But Paulson supporters say, give him time.

ANDREW BUSCH, BMO MARKETS: The other plans, in the past, have been just so shallowly focused on such sign posts as the currency, or getting one particular sector to open. They failed miserably. Been able to talk, the Chinese have been able to talk as much as they want, and not change anything. Now I think that's going to be quite different.

ROMANS: Mostly he says because Paulson has the deep respect of the Chinese leadership.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: We'll see if Paulson has more friends in Beijing than he does inside the Beltway. Tough legislation likely to be introduced next week, in the Senate, perhaps to at least symbolically slap a tariff on China to do essentially what the administration can't or won't.

DOBBS: And hasn't, nor has its predecessor, the Clinton administration. The Schumer-Lindsay legislation would put a 27 percent tariff on Chinese exports to this country.

The fact Paulson is talking about a dialogue, the suggestion that by Andrew Busch, there, that personality politics will drive trade talks with the Chinese government is, I think, at the best hopeful, if not just wildly unrealistic.

But let's hope we're wrong because we can't afford much more of this. Christine Romans, thank you.

That brings us to the subject of tonight's poll. Do you believe Congress should pass tougher sanctions against employers of illegal aliens? Yes or no. Please cast your vote at loudobbs.com. Results coming right up.

Time now to look at some of your thoughts. Hundreds of you wrote in to us about the placement of virtual fence on our southern border with Mexico.

Buster in Arizona saying, "Hey, Lou, what's all the fuss about a virtual fence? After all, it will be built by our virtual government. Of course, this will all change on November 8."

And David in Alabama, "Tell, W, we want a virtual president, see how he likes it."

Donna in California, "I have a question. How can Congress remain fence-sitters on the illegal immigration controversy when there is not fence for them to sit on?"

Send us your thoughts to Loudobbs.com. More of your thoughts coming up later in the broadcast.

Next, democracy at risk. States all across the country now sounding the alarm against electronic voting machines. We'll have that special report, and tell you about some states that are actually doing something about it.

And more protests today against the pope as he tries a new tactic to calm Muslim reaction to his remarks. And heroes, our weekly tribute to our men and women in uniform after a face-to-face gun battle in Fallujah, this Marine sergeant received one of the nation's highest for heroism. His story and a great deal more still ahead, here, tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Pope Benedict will meet Muslim ambassadors to the Vatican next week trying to calm global protests against his remarks about Islam and violence. The protests against the pope continued today, thousands of Muslims demonstrating against the pope after Friday prayers in the Middle East, Pakistan, Malaysia. A senior Vatican official said the purpose of Monday's meeting with those Muslim ambassadors is to, quote, "relaunch dialogue with the Islamic world."

Health officials say spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria could be behind the deaths of a 2-year-old Idaho boy Wednesday and a Maryland woman September 13th. The FDA asking consumers not to eat spinach a week ago after E. coli was traced to crops in California's Central Valley. A third death has also been tied to the outbreak.

An accident on a test track for a German high-tech magnetic train claimed the lives of at least 25 people, and left as many as 10 more injured. The Trans-rapid train was going at least 120 miles an hour when it smashed into a maintenance truck and it's two-man crew. The victims are said to be friends and relatives of Trans-rapid employees and German utility workers.

California firefighters tonight struggling to contain a three- week old Los Angeles area wildfire before the onset of high winds this weekend. The U.S. Forest Service says that while the fire's growth potential is extreme, it's not yet an emergency. The flames have been burning since Labor Day and have already consumed 175 square miles of Ventura and Los Angeles County.

It's not easy adjusting to life on earth after spending 12 days in space. A Shuttle Atlantis astronaut today collapsed not once, but twice, during a welcome home celebration in Houston. Atlantis Astronaut Heide Marie Stefanyshyn-Piper and the rest of the shuttle crew landed in Florida just yesterday. Officials say she is having trouble adjusting after almost two weeks in zero gravity. Who wouldn't? She wasn't taken to the hospital and she is doing fine tonight.

Six weeks before this country's midterm elections and this nation faces rising numbers of problems with electronic voting machines and the threat of illegal aliens being allowed to vote.

Tonight, Kitty Pilgrim reports on states all across the nation suddenly alarmed by the vulnerability of e-voting technology and the threat to our democracy. Bill Schneider reports on the fight to ensure that only American citizens are allowed to vote in our elections.

We begin tonight with Kitty Pilgrim -- Kitty.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, problems with electronic voting machines are now nationwide. And activists and some government officials now are pushing for stricter rules, more security. They are even trying to decertify some machines altogether.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM (voice-over): Across the country, there's a groundswell of action to challenge electronic voting machines and their use in November. In Colorado, half of the two million voters use electronic voting machines. But a nonpartisan group of activists has filed suit saying, state security testing was inadequate.

PAUL HULTIN, ATTORNEY FOR COLORADO VOTERS: The secretary of state completely delegated that to the vendors. All that's required is that the vendors submit their documentation and recommendations and the secretary of state says that's good enough and approves the security of the machine.

PILGRIM: In Maryland, after a botched primary last week, Governor Ehrlich wants to dump the electronic voting machines and go with paper ballots. The electronic voter records kept crashing. He says in the ensuing chaos, people standing in long lines were discouraged from voting.

GOV. ROBERT EHRLICH (R), MARYLAND: I doubt whether it can be fixed in seven weeks. And so my issue here is, you have an election coming, you're going to have a lot of people, a couple million people voting. Why take a risk? Let's just go low-tech. Let's err on the side of safety, get an election everybody can count on, and then go higher-tech next time.

PILGRIM: California was among the first states to require a voter verified paper trail in case a recount is needed. Back in 2004, California decertified certain Diebold machines and demanded those models be put through stricter security and reliability tests before they could be used. The state also demanded stricter federal testing.

In New Mexico, the governor simply gave up on touch screen technology, signing a law last March to require an all paper ballot. Governor Richardson said he wanted to restore confidence in elections.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PILGRIM: Now, we have word just now that the judge in Colorado has ruled that the electronic voting machines can be used in November. But he also said state officials will have to make sure that they can't be tampered with, and he also ruled that the secretary of state's office violated state law and did an abysmal job in testing those machines -- Lou.

DOBBS: Yet ruled that they can still proceed.

PILGRIM: Yes, but tighten up every rule and have them tested.

DOBBS: Amazing judgment ...

PILGRIM: Amazing.

DOBBS: ...or lack of it on the part of the judge. Good for Governor Richardson taking a stand he has. Good for Governor Ehrlich trying to protect his elections in Maryland. Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

Senate Democrats tonight announced they are completely opposed to the national voter I.D. law that passed the House last week. The law would eliminate the threat of illegal aliens voting in our elections. Democrats say the law is discriminatory and little more than a poll tax. Really? Bill Schneider has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Should you have to show a valid photo ID in order to vote? The bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker, said yes. The public also says yes. Over 80 percent of Americans polled earlier this year said they favored requiring voters to produce a valid photo ID.

In a vote this week, the House of Representatives also said yes, but by a close margin. Republicans voted almost unanimously to require a photo ID. Almost all Democrats voted against it. For Republicans, the issue is voter fraud.

REP. CANDICE MILLER (R), MICHIGAN: This important reform will ensure that every voter who presents themselves at the polls is who they say they are, and will limit diluting the vote of lawful voters by rooting out fraud.

SCHNEIDER: For Democrats the issue is voter suppression.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Call it what you may, this bill is a modern-day poll tax.

SCHNEIDER: It can cost money and take time to get a government issued photo ID.

DOUG CHAPIN, ELECTIONLINE.ORG: Democrats, generally, but not uniformly, worry about access of people to the franchise. Republicans generally worry about the integrity of the process. SCHNEIDER: Why is the issue coming to a head this year? Because the race looks so close. Control of the House and Senate could come down to a handful of seats, and because of the illegal immigration issue. Supporters of the Voter ID Bill worry that many non-citizens who marched last spring may try to vote this fall.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHAPIN: One side claims that there is rampant voter fraud, but we really don't have any studies that support that. The other side worries that tighter ID requirements will disenfranchise people and we don't really have data for that either. So the resulting debate looks like almost more like a religious argument than it does a policy debate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: You need a photo I.D. to get on an airplane so why not to vote? Well, it could cost money. So, the Carter-Baker Commission recommends that states provide a photo I.D. to non-drivers free of charge -- Lou.

DOBBS: The madness goes on. We're spending 400 -- we've appropriated $469 billion for the war in Iraq and somebody is worried about the price tag of assuring our democracy here?

SCHNEIDER: Well ...

DOBBS: That's about as idiotic as it gets, isn't it?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they have very different priorities. The bill could get hung up in the Senate where the minority -- Democrats are the minority, but the minority in the Senate has a lot of power. And the people I spoke to said it's very unlikely to pass the Senate. And in any case, even if it did and the president signed it, it would not apply to 2006.

DOBBS: Well, we do have 2008 coming up. We don't another contested presidential election.

SCHNEIDER: Oh my God.

DOBBS: Let me ask you this. What in the world, with all due respect to Congressman Lewis -- what in the world kind of specious reasoning is it to suggest that a law that would apply to every, single American is in anyway discriminatory whatsoever?

SCHNEIDER: Well the argument you hear from him and many Democrats is it costs money. It's time and trouble to go get a government issued I.D. You have to pay for a driver's license. You have to pay fees, $10, $25 sometimes.

DOBBS: Are you saying a driver's license is in some way discriminatory in the country? I mean that's absurd.

SCHNEIDER: Well, the idea is the right to vote is a right. One should not have to pay to exercise a right.

DOBBS: We appreciate the view as wrong-headed as it is, Bill Schneider. Thank you very much.

We'll tell you what, we'll make it free. How is that for those who can't pay, just like we do everything else in this country. We wish almost everything else.

Only 24 states and the District of Colombia currently require voters to bring identification with them to the polls. Just seven of the states have passed legislation requiring photo I.D.s.

Coming up next here, President Bush says he's unaware his administration ever threatened to bomb Pakistan into the Stone Age. Three of the brightest political minds in the country join me to find out just how far that is and how such a misunderstanding could possibly arise.

And in Heroes, our weekly salute to our men and women of the U.S. military. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now three of the country's top flight political analysts. James Taranto, editor of the "Wall Street Journal's" OpinionJournal.com, Michael Goodwin, columnist "New York Daily News," syndicated columnist Miguel Perez. Gentlemen, thanks for being here.

Let's start out with Musharraf. What do you think?

JAMES TARANTO, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: I think there's no news here. Musharraf gave a speech in October of 2001, as the Afghanistan campaign was beginning, a speech to his people in Pakistan. And he essentially said look, folks, I'm really sorry, the Americans are making me do this. This is what he said five years ago. I think the most telling thing about what Musharraf said today was when he said I'm honor bound to Simon and Shuster. He's trying to sell books and he's jealous of Noam Chomsky for upstaging him.

DOBBS: What globalization. You have Hugo Chavez pushing Noam Chomsky's book, that shoots to, at least the last I heard and looked, number ten on the Amazon.com list. You've got Musharraf the president of Pakistan worrying about his deal with Simon and Shuster. I mean Bush has got to be wondering where the heck is his book contract.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": And probably all those books are printed in China. I think with Chavez, of course, the issue here at home, Lou, is the Democrats running away from Chavez. Charlie Rangel, Nancy Pelosi, because I think they realize --

DOBBS: We have to say this. Charlie Rangel, in my opinion, showed such class, as we pointed out here last night, when he sat there and slapped the dickens out of him, the man Hugo Chavez in his district. I loved it.

GOODWIN: May I disagree?

DOBBS: OK.

GOODWIN: I think Charlie Rangel.

DOBBS: Can I stop you?

GOODWIN: Charlie Rangel has said some of the very same things about George Bush.

DOBBS: Yes, but he is a Congressman. He's an American citizen. He's got a right to.

GOODWIN: No, but I think the issue is these personal gratuitous attacks on the president that demean the office of the president. I mean Charlie Rangel talked about Bush being an alcoholic. Charlie Rangel called him our Bull Connor. These are not policy disagreements. These are personal gratuitous attacks and people like that have opened the door so people like Chavez come here and feel comfortable making those accusations.

DOBBS: I take your point entirely and you're quite right. I still love Charlie Rangel for slapping Hugo Chavez down on it. What do you think Miguel?

MIGUEL PEREZ, "THE RECORD": I was impressed with what Mr. Rangel said. I agree with Michael though. I wish when Fidel Castro speaks the same way about this country, Mr. Rangel would say the same thing about Castro and he doesn't. He's very friendly with Mr. Castro. But let me say about Hugo Chavez. As a Hispanic, I feel ashamed that this man is giving all of us a terrible image. I think a lot of people see him and see Latinos having this anti-American attitude, which is not true. The overwhelming majority of the Latinos in this country love the country and are very, very much ashamed of what Mr. Chavez has done.

DOBBS: Well they can, you know, but I think, let me say this to you, Miguel. Don't feel ashamed ever to be Hispanic because of the actions of this idiot. Because whether you're Hispanic, you're White, you're Asian, you're Black, they are idiots out there doing all sorts of nonsense. We just can't assume --

PEREZ: I'm just concerned about the image he portrays. This is a man, this is a man who is going around the world buying loyalty with his oil, including people in the United States.

DOBBS: Absolutely. Including people right down there in Harlem.

PEREZ: Fifty percent of the Venezuelan people live in poverty? What is he doing about them?

DOBBS: By the way, it's unconstitutional in Venezuela to say anything disrespectful about the president.

PEREZ: Don't you dare. Don't you dare. DOBBS: But, I mean the idea, I really think in 2006 and I really fervently believe this, I think we have come a long way from listening to some idiot from Venezuela, who is a certified, card carrying idiot, have any reflection on anybody in this country except for those people who showed up to, you know, hold hands with him, like Danny Grover and a few of the other jerks.

GOODWIN: And I think also, what is the U.N. doing? Why are Ahmadinejad and Chavez being given these prime spots to speak at the U.N., when it's all such an agenda that it is personal?

DOBBS: Is it a Republican conspiracy James?

TARANTO: Well, I was going to say I think that it's useful for us to hear what these crazy people have to say. I mean, this is what we're up against.

DOBBS: Well these crazy people --

GOODWIN: Was there any doubt?

TARANTO: Yes, there was a lot of doubt in a lot of people's minds. I think it helps to hear it, to have it said straightforwardly.

DOBBS: Well, straightforwardly, I mean, the other couple of issues here are some rising poll numbers for the president. And some sinking poll numbers for Congress. What are we to make of this? This is a Bush bounce just before the election. Gas prices are declining. I mean --

PEREZ: Well the gas is definitely helping him and the war in Iraq has, sort of, like quieted down a little bit.

DOBBS: Quieted down? Not for 2,700 Americans almost, who have been killed here, not for the 20,000 men wounded.

PEREZ: But we don't see the blood and gore that we were seeing before. I think things are --

GOODWIN: Well I think it's off the front page this week. I think it's off the front page because of the U.N..

DOBBS: Sure.

GOODWIN: And I think it's another thing, Lou, going on. I think we're, basically I think of it as a baseball game. We have about six more innings to go. So we're in the third inning here of the sort of Labor Day through election day contest. I think we have seen some shift already, but I think there is a long way to go. It could go either way at this point.

TARANTO: But the Democrats have really been complacent up to now. They thought they were destined for a big victory. And I wonder if we'll see them get more aggressive and smarter. These Rangel and Pelosi comments about Chavez are perhaps an indication in that direction. Although, I agree with you, Rangel did show class in this instance.

DOBBS: Good, and I should point out that so did Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats as well, which to me is the way it ought to be. I know you take exception to what Charlie Rangel says and the way he says it. I take exception to all name calling. But the fact is, he's an American citizen. He's got a right. He's Charlie Rangel's president too.

GOODWIN: But, on the issue, though, of the polls. I think what Charlie Rangel and Nancy Pelosi are reacting to is the fear that they will be tarred with Chavez brush. They have got to separate from the anti-American nuts, although they are guilty of many of the same accusations.

TARANTO: And Chavez actually expressly endorsed Islamist terrorism. He answered something the president said about extremists during 9/11 and Hezbollah and so forth. And Chavez said we're not extremists. We are just standing up to the imperialist hegemons. So this is an explicit endorsement of our deadliest enemies.

PEREZ: Well he also gathered in Cuba with the non-aligned nations. This is the non-aligned nations aligned against the United States, that's what this meeting was about. And Mr. Chavez, you know, if you are part of the axis of evil, he loves you.

DOBBS: Right. But the other part, too, Miguel, is, this country doesn't have a strategy that is -- that is rational or let alone effective right now for this hemisphere. And that being the case, we better be worrying more about what we're doing than what a couple of idiots trying to live past glory of Bolivar have on their minds, or whomever.

Anyway, Miguel, good to have you here. Good to see you. Michael, thank you very much. James.

TARANTO: Thank you.

DOBBS: The federal government tonight says more than 1,100 laptop computers have disappeared from the Commerce Department over the past five years. Hundreds of these computers contain personal data from thousands of U.S. households. The Commerce Department assures us that this personal data is completely safe because it's password protected. Don't worry. Maybe the Commerce Department officials didn't see the recent study showing the most common password is the word password. Perhaps that is not the case for those employed by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Still ahead, we'll have more of your thoughts on the proposed virtual fence along our southern border with Mexico, and "Heroes," our weekly tribute to our men and women in uniform. Tonight, the story of Marine Sergeant R.J. Mitchell. He put his life on the line to save his fellow Marines. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, the story of Marine Sergeant R.J. Mitchell. Sergeant Mitchell became just the 15th Marine to ever be awarded the second highest award in this nation for heroism: The Navy Cross for his combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today R.J. Mitchell tinkers with Harleys in Phoenix with his best friend, one of the men he served with and saved in Iraq. It's a long way from those days in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Corporal Robert J. Mitchell Jr., United States Marine Corps.

TUCKER: Squad leader Mitchell received the medal for bravery and courage during face-to-face combat. A group of insurgents inside a house in Fallujah in November of 2004, also trapped in that house were a group of five wounded Marines from the 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Division including his buddy Alex Nicholl.

LANCE CPL ALEX NICHOLL, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): To see him run in that room I was stuck in was like a shining light. I said, well, all right.

TUCKER: Mitchell entered the house amid a heavy firefight and was wounded. He suffered shrapnel and ricochet wounds to his legs and face. Despite his own wounds, Mitchell applied medical attention to the other injured Marines.

SGT. R.J. MITCHELL, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): You know that guy on the other side of the wall, you can't see him. You can hear him scream. And you know he's there. I guess it's human nature just to want to make the wrong right at what any cost.

TUCKER: The Marines awaited reinforcement. All but one came out alive.

MITCHELL: This is what we call therapy.

TUCKER: Now a friendship that started early on in the service continues. Retired Lance Corporal Alex Nicholl now lives with Mitchell and his family.

MITCHELL: If it wasn't for Alex, I wouldn't have anybody that has experienced the same sort of thing and at the exact same time, in the exact same house and the exact same everything. You know, I wouldn't have anybody else to talk to about like that.

TUCKER: It was the second deployment to Iraq for Mitchell. He entered at the age of 21. He spent four years as an active Marine.

R.J. Mitchell graduated from the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute on September 1st.

Bill Tucker, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Still ahead here, we'll have more of your thoughts and the results of our poll tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Now the results of our poll: 98 percent of you say Congress should pass tougher sanctions against employers of illegal aliens.

Time now for more of your thoughts.

Robert in California saying, "Lou, I am tired of President Bush's comprehensive reform and amnesty program -- C.R.A.P. for short."

And Charles in Georgia -- "If Congress wants yet another virtual fence along our border, then it is time to pay congressmen in virtual paychecks."

And Gaylen in California -- "Lou, I suppose the virtual fence on the border will be built to match the virtual enforcement of immigration laws."

And on the backlash against requiring photo IDs to vote in this country, Wayne in Illinois writes to say -- "How can a law that applies to everyone be deemed to be discriminatory?" An excellent question.

We love hearing from you. Send us our thoughts at loudobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of Senator Byron Dorgan's new book, "Take This Job and Ship It."

We thank you for being with us tonight. Have a very pleasant weekend, and please join us here Monday when among our guests will be Congressman Duncan Hunter, the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with John King sitting in for Wolf Blitzer -- John.

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