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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Saddam Hussein's Fate; Bush's Iraq Strategy?

Aired December 29, 2006 - 18:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Saddam Hussein could be dead within hours. There are reports that his execution is imminent. It remains unclear if the former Iraqi president has been handed over to the Iraqi government yet by U.S. forces.
And this may not come as a surprise. The federal government is wasting your money. A new report says there's no competitive bidding for a third of government purchases, and the government routinely overpays for products.

We'll have those stories and a great deal more, straight ahead.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday, December 29th.

Live in New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good evening.

Saddam Hussein could be dead within hours. There are conflicting reports tonight whether the former Iraqi president has been turned over to Iraqi authorities for execution.

And the Pentagon tonight is preparing options for increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. This, as word comes that new casualties bring U.S. troop deaths in December to 106, making this month equal with October as the deadliest month this year for our forces in Iraq.

Aneesh Raman reports on the mood in the Iraqi capital as the death of Saddam looms.

Elaine Quijano reports on President Bush as he prepares his new strategy for Iraq.

Barbara Starr on the U.S. military's preparations to implement whatever changes in troop strength the president's plan may call for.

We begin tonight, though, with Aneesh Raman in Baghdad -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, good evening.

This is a capital on edge, a country in anticipation, waiting for the impending execution of Saddam Hussein, which we expect, by all indications on the ground, to come within the next few hours. All the government officials and court officials that CNN has contacted say that they are on standby, essentially waiting for word from Iraq's prime minister as to when this execution will take place.

We also understand from a Shia member of parliament that he has seen gallows within the highly fortified Green Zone where a cleric, a judge and a doctor are also on standby, waiting, again, for word from Iraq's prime minister as to the exact time of this execution.

Now, what has been a great deal of confusion today is the exact whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. Is he in U.S. custody or is he in Iraqi custody? That is critical, because the hand-over from U.S. to Iraqi officials is a final step before this execution can take place.

Earlier today, two of Saddam's defense lawyers said that they already had transferred Saddam to Iraqi authorities. U.S. officials, though, until a short time ago, have been adamantly saying he remains in U.S. custody. But a judge within the appellate chamber cautions that that hand-over can happen really at any moment up to execution, and that when it takes place, he believes the execution will happen almost immediately.

The judge in the appellate chamber confirming as well to CNN that within the docket that is waiting for Saddam Hussein at the gallows is a red card. Red cards were handed out by Saddam Hussein's regime to those who were about to be executed. This one signed by Iraq's justice minister, condemning Saddam Hussein to death.

Also from that appellate judge, word that this hanging will not be broadcast live. We don't know yet what, if any, images will emerge for Iraqis, if not the world.

But, again, Christine, the mood right now is tense. The expectation on the ground is that this execution could happen any time in the coming hours.

ROMANS: All right. Aneesh Raman in Baghdad.

Thank you very much, Aneesh.

Saddam Hussein's lawyers late this afternoon asked a U.S. judge to block Saddam's transfer to Iraqi officials who plan to carry out that execution.

Gary Nurenberg reports -- Gary.

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Christine.

As the clock ticks down to executions, judges in the United States are used to seeing last-minute appeals from lawyers of death- row inmates often desperate, often clinging to the slimmest of legal threads, and sometimes they work. That long-shot philosophy may explain the last-minute application made here in Washington today by Saddam's lawyers.

They want a federal court judge to issue a stay of execution because Saddam has not yet received official notice that he's the defendant in a civil suit here in the United States. That, they argue, violates his rights. This is apparently a suit brought by a man who claims his father was tortured and killed for opposing Saddam's invasions of Kuwait. The plaintiff wants monetary damages and the lawyers for Saddam argue he should have the right to respond to that suit because it could affect his estate. One option for giving Saddam notice, they argue, is to run a legal notice in Iraqi newspapers for 12 consecutive weeks.

The stay of execution request is predicated on the United States still having custody of Saddam, and if that is, in fact, the case, the court could arguably say it does have jurisdiction. But it is also important to remember that the court proceedings that led to Saddam's death sentence were in Iraqi courts under Iraqi law. The question is whether a judge in the United States could actually intercede at this point to stop an Iraqi government function -- Christine.

ROMANS: Gary, then what are the options then for the judge here?

NURENBERG: Well, first of all, we should point out that the Justice Department is aware of the filing but hasn't filed a formal response. As for the judge, she has some options, essentially three: ignore it, reject it or say OK. No word yet on what choice that judge will make.

ROMANS: All right. Gary Nurenberg in Washington.

Thank you so much, Gary.

President Bush remains at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, tonight. The president working on a revised strategy for dealing with the crisis in Iraq.

Elaine Quijano reports -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the president is saying out of sight at his ranch here in Crawford, Texas. Now, the White House says that the president had his usual intelligence briefing today. That included information on the processes surrounding Saddam Hussein's execution.

Now, at the same time, aides have been very careful to try to dispel any kind of notion of coordination between Baghdad and Washington when it comes to the execution. In fact, when asked about what the U.S. today was hearing about the timing on that, Deputy White House Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said, "We are observers to that process. They are a sovereign government, and they will make their own decisions regarding carrying out that justice."

Now, these developments, of course, are taking place one day after President Bush huddled with his war cabinet for about three hours yesterday. The president after that meeting said that he, in fact, was making progress on crafting that new Iraq policy but made clear he is not ready to announce any changes just yet. He said, Christine, that he wants to consult further with the Iraqi government, as well as members of Congress.

As for what he is doing now, aides say that he is continuing to review the information, that he has received, including the information he received from that briefing and update yesterday. He does have National Security Council staff with him here in Texas to update him on the developments regarding Saddam Hussein -- Christine.

ROMANS: And Elaine, amid all of this, a tornado warning in the area of the president's ranch today.

What happened?

QUIJANO: Well, there's been severe weather all afternoon, really, including just a short time ago some severe weather passing through. And the president and the first lady, we are told, earlier, during one of the tornado warnings, had to be ushered from the house on the ranch property there to an armored vehicle, essentially, and they were taken to a shelter, but not actually placed inside that shelter.

We understand it was not very long, that they remained in that armored vehicle next to the shelter. But certainly an indication of the seriousness of the weather in the area.

We've had about three -- two or three tornado warnings this afternoon, but that just another development here as the president continues his holiday vacation here in Crawford.

ROMANS: All right. Elaine Quijano.

Thank you so much, Elaine, from Crawford, Texas.

Insurgents have killed three more of our troops in Iraq. The three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad.

One hundred six of our troops have been killed or died in Iraq so far this month. The toll makes December equal to October as the deadliest month of the year.

2,995 of our troops have been killed or died in Iraq since the war began. 22,565 of our troops have been wounded, 10,107 of them so seriously they could note return to duty within three days.

The Pentagon tonight is preparing options to deal with the changing conditions in Iraq. President Bush is expected to unveil his new Iraq strategy next month, and the military will have to be ready to implement his plan.

Barbara Starr reports -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, U.S. troops on the frontlines already are braced for possible violence with the announcement of the execution of Saddam Hussein. But commanders are keeping their eye on the long-term picture.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice over): U.S. military commanders have developed an option to increase troops in Iraq by 20,000, but it requires some combat units to extend their tours on the frontline and other units might have to cut training short in order to deploy more quickly. Military officials emphasize this is just an option.

President Bush has yet to make a decision about whether to increase troop levels. There may also be incentives to put young men to work and reopen Iraqi industries and businesses.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The key to success in Iraq is to have a government that's willing to deal with the elements there that are trying to prevent this young democracy from succeeding.

STARR: One military official said there is a proposed course of action. Two Marine Corps regiments scheduled to leave Iraq in February would remain. Marines serve seven-month tours, unlike the Army, which deploys for one year. Army brigades scheduled to go to Iraq in the spring may go more quickly, rather than extending Army units already on the ground. An 82nd Airborne Division brigade already scheduled to go to Kuwait would move into Iraq.

These moves would result in an increase of up two 20,000 combat forces. There are about 134,000 troops in Iraq now. Senior commanders are concerned such a major disruption in the rotation schedule will only strain the force further. And fundamentally, many say, more troops may not improve security in Baghdad and Al Anbar Province without significant progress by the Iraqi government.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: Significant challenges do remain. And violence is likely to remain at unacceptably high levels in the very near term.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Still, Christine, President Bush has yet to make any public announcement about what his decisions are about Iraq. That is not expected, of course, until after the new year -- Christine.

ROMANS: And Barbara, you say here in the near term, the Pentagon obviously on high alert for any possible violent reaction to the execution of Saddam Hussein.

STARR: Well, certainly. Let's be clear, U.S. troops in Iraq are always in combat, literally 24/7, so they are always on a state of high alert. But inside their bases they are even more watchful, more careful as the clock ticks down.

ROMANS: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Thank you so much, Barbara.

Two Iranian diplomats detained by U.S. forces in Iraq have been released, according to Iran's official news agency. The Iranians had been held in Iraq -- had been in Iraq, rather, at the invitation of Iraq's president. U.S. military sources though say the two were involved in bringing deadly IED technology into the country, including the type of armor-piercing bombs that have killed hundreds of American troops.

Somalia's prime minister returned to Mogadishu today in a victory over radical Islamist forces that had held the city for the last six months. A joint force of Ethiopian and Somali troops drove radical Islamist forces from the Somali capital yesterday. But those radical forces have vowed to fight on.

Refugees have been fleeing from the violence, and for some it turned deadly. More than 150 people are presumed dead after their boats heading to Yemen capsized. The boast crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia were being chased be Yemeni patrol boats when they overturned.

Coming up, we're monitoring the situation in Iraq. We'll bring you the latest on the imminent execution of Saddam Hussein from our correspondent in Baghdad.

The city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is fighting to preserve its law cracking down on illegal aliens, but they may be making some compromises. We'll have a report.

The federal government is being taken for a ride, and you are footing the bill. We'll have a report on the outrageous way government wastes taxpayer dollars.

And winter takes another swipe at Colorado. The second severe snowstorm in a week hits that state. We'll have the latest.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: The investigation into the shooting of two Long Beach, California, police officers by an illegal alien came to an end this week. The criminal illegal alien was shot and killed in a separate incident with police. Border security advocates are now asking how that man, who had been previously deported, was able to return to the United States to commit this crime.

Casey Wian reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The man responsible for the chaos that followed this shooting of officers Abe Yap and Roy Wade was no stranger to Long Beach Police. A Mexican national, Oscar Gabriel Gallegos had been deported from the United States three times. Since his most recent deportation in 1996, Gallegos had at least four run-ins with Long Beach Police.

CHIEF ANTHONY BATTS, LONG BEACH POLICE DEPT.: He had an assault with a deadly weapon with great bodily injury. He had terrorist threats that came up on his record and weapons charges prior that he was arrested for.

I think this guy was practiced. I think he was very versed in using a weapon. I think he was a danger to society as a whole.

WIAN: So what was the criminal illegal alien doing on U.S. streets? Long Beach Police could not confirm whether they checked Gallegos' immigration status during his arrest. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says local police departments do have the ability to make those inquiries.

Long Beach resident and Minuteman Project board member Marvin Stewart plans to voice his concerns to the Long Beach City Council next week.

MARVIN STEWART, MINUTEMAN PROJECT: They have a responsibility to enforce the laws of the land. They swore to do it. And they owe the people, particularly of Long Beach, a formal apology.

WIAN: Border security advocates say the message of this crime is that it could have been prevented by simply enforcing existing immigration laws.

Meantime, the two wounded officers remain in critical but stable condition in a Long Beach hospital.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: ICE says it has a good working relationship with the Long Beach Police Department. Still, the Gallegos case clearly highlights the need for better cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities -- Christine.

ROMANS: Well, exactly, Casey. I mean, to what extent is there any cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement?

WIAN: Well, in southern, California, for example, most of the larger counties in this area, the sheriffs departments, Los Angeles and Orange county, to name two, do have agreements to help ICE identify illegal aliens in their jails. Cities, though, for the most part, other than Costa Mesa in Orange County, basically don't cooperate -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Casey Wian.

Thank you so much, Casey.

WIAN: OK.

ROMANS: Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is seen as the test case for cities trying to crack down on illegal immigration within their city limits, and Hazleton faces serious challenges. Among other things, it's trying to prevent landlords from renting property to illegal aliens.

Last night, the city council passed an amendment to its Illegal Immigration Relief Act. It allows some landlords to rent property to illegal aliens without being penalized.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS (voice over): The Illegal Immigration Relief Act is now law in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, but a federal judge won't allow to it be enforced and the statute has been amended several times. The latest change allows current landlords to continue to rent to illegal aliens under some conditions.

Mayor Lou Barletta says he is fine-tuning the law in the face of daunting legal challenges by the ACLU, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and anonymous residents. "Our ordinance will be even stronger when we get in court. We're going to defend this, and we're going to make it as strong as we can."

But his opponents see a faulty law.

CESAR PERALES, PUERTO RICAN LEGAL DEFENSE & EDUCATION FUND: It really was an effort to control immigration, to do something that local governments should not be doing. The reality is, they are continuing to try to do it.

They think that by fiddling with the language, they will succeed. But we don't believe they will do that. This is an issue for the federal government.

ROMANS: The ACLU says even watered down, "The legal issues, the most underlying legal and constitutional issues, remain."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Hazleton's crackdown has been fraught with setbacks. A federal judge says the town cannot enforce its own immigration laws and has allowed some of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit to remain anonymous.

That brings us to tonight's poll.

Do you believe local communities should be able to enact their own immigration legislation? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll bring you the results later on in the broadcast.

In the absence of federal immigration reform, many states have been proposing their own immigration laws. Republican state lawmakers in Virginia are already introducing bills for next year's session. They want to make it a crime to transport illegal aliens and to be in the state without proof of legal U.S. residence. They also want to fine businesses who knowingly hire illegal aliens.

Across the country this year, more than 30 states introduced some 570 bills relating to immigration. Eighty-four of those bills were signed into law. That's more than double the number from last year.

Still ahead tonight, the best government money can buy. Why you're paying too much to fund government projects.

We'll have that story. And flights canceled, highways and businesses closed. How Colorado is coping with its second major storm of the season.

We'll have a live report from Denver.

And tributes to President Ford are under way in California. Details from Palm Desert, when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: The U.S. government has been on a spending binge. Expenditures increased 63 percent in fiscal year 2005, in part due to Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. But the government may not be getting its money's worth.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The United States is running a deep budget deficit, but instead of bargain shopping, the federal government has been paying too much for goods and services, according to a new report.

DAVID WALKER, U.S. COMPTROLLER: There's no question that there's -- there's billions of dollars of waste with regard to contracting each year. And that is a shared responsibility. It's a shared responsibility of the government and the contractors.

SYLVESTER: An acquisition advisory panel of government and private officials finds at least one-third of the government's $400 billion a year in purchases is not competitively bid. And of those that are, nearly 20 percent received only one proposal.

MARCIA MADSEN, ACQUISITION ADVISORY PANEL: What looked to us like the federal process, which actually is supposed to in many respects emulate commercial practices, was not measuring up with respect to how much competition is actually being achieved.

SYLVESTER: Without competition, companies can take advantage. The Defense Department's inspector general found Hamilton Sundstrand, a subsidiary of United Technologies, has been overcharging the Pentagon for spare airplane parts.

An $8.50 insulation sleeve used to protect wiring on the T-38 aircraft was sold to the Pentagon for $85. Generator housings like this cost about $300. The Pentagon negotiated a price with the contractor for $5,000.

SCOTT AMEY, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: Why is the government, who is the largest customer and consumer in the world, buying and paying prices that are much higher than what are being offered in the normal commercial marketplace?

SYLVESTER: Hamilton Sundstrand denies any wrongdoing, saying, "We are comfortable and confident that the contracting process met all the requirements of the regulations. The Department of Defense Inspector General's Office report makes no finding to the contrary." But the project on government oversight says the problem extends well beyond one company, highlighting concerns with the lack of transparency, conflicts of interest, and incentives and bonuses paid to contractors, even those who do not complete the job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: The problem with government contracting applies not just to goods, but also to services like information technology and consulting. Services now make up more than half of the government's overall purchases -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Lisa Sylvester.

Thank you very much, Lisa.

So now it's time for some of your thoughts.

David in California, "I'm still hoping for a pardon for our brave Border Patrol agents, but if it isn't granted maybe they should both seek sanctuary in a Chicago church."'

Harold in Florida, "The Bush administration proposed listing polar bears as a threatened species. They may want to continue doing the same thing for the middle class workers and Border Patrol agents."

Richard in Minnesota, "President Bush took an oath as president to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. He forgot one important fact. The Constitution of the United States begins at our borders."

E-mail us at loudobbs.com. We'll have more of your thoughts later in the broadcast.

Each of you whose e-mail we read here will receive a copy of Lou's best-selling new book, "War on the Middle Class."

One German tourist had learned the hard way to double-check his spelling after a typo sent him more than 8,000 miles out of his way. The 21-year-old tourist planned to visit his girlfriend in sunny Sydney, Australia, for a holiday, but instead he landed in chilly Sydney, Montana. He spent three days in a Montana airport in a T- shirt and shorts before being able to buy a new ticket to the right continent.

Globalization at work.

Still to come, the very latest on the fate of Saddam Hussein.

We'll have a live report from Baghdad.

And three of the nation's best political analysts join us to discuss the impact on the United States.

And in "Heroes," our tributes to the men and women in uniform, tonight a naval hospital corpsman is awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in Iraq. He saved the lives of soldiers and civilians, including a 4-year-old boy.

And Colorado braces for more snow as the governor declares a second state of emergency this season.

We'll go live to Denver for details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: For the second time in a week, the governor of Colorado has declared a statewide disaster as the region is walloped by a new wave of severe weather. Winter storm advisories have been issued all the way from the Rockies to the high plains.

Reynolds Wolf has the latest from Denver -- Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we still have winter storm warnings that are in effect for the Denver metropolitan area through 6:00 tomorrow, and we have a winter storm watch that will be in effect through Sunday.

Take a look at this video that we have of some heavy snow that has been falling around the Denver area. Right now it's pretty quiet, but we did have some heavy snowfall.

The official total in Denver was right around eight inches of snow, but that's kind of deceptive, because there were many places around the Denver metropolitan area that far exceeded that number. In fact, Evergreen had 28 inches of snow. Black Hawk, about 27.1. Conifer, about 23. Even up in Boulder, they had well over a foot of snowfall.

Now, let's talk for a moment about the roadways. Here is a look at I-70, both I-70 and I-25, as you take a look at this live shot that we have showing you some of the roads.

The roads have actually been in pretty decent shape. We've seen many snowplows out there. Seen many salt trucks. In fact, right behind me on I-70, we've had some cars zipping up and down the freeways without any problems.

Now, we have had, of course, there are some closures on both of those roads during times during the day. In fact, CDOT is telling people that if you don't have to go out on the road, by all means, don't. Even though the roads are in decent shape, there are still going to be some patchy spots out there. The last thing they want you to do is get on that patchy ice and lose control and then cause some accidents or hurt yourself.

Now, let's talk for a moment about the airports. In fact, take a look at this video. We've got great video of a plane that's coming in. It's actually looking very good out at DIA at this time. In fact, the airport, of course, is open. Five-minute waits are at security checkpoints, so that's pretty good. I mean, a five-minute wait at a security checkpoint in any airport in any weather condition is always a favorable thing.

They are saying that if you have any questions regarding flight status, simply call the 800 numbers, or simply go online for the respective airline of your choice. And if you have any travel plans taking you back into the Rockies, maybe doing some skiing, hold on for a second. Take a look at the snow for a second. Going to reach in here. Look at this. This is absolutely perfect powder. Perfect powder.

And with the airports back in the mountains, namely in places like Breckenridge or back over to Telluride, Aspen, or even into Steamboat, they've had zero problems at their airports. They've had no issues in the Rockies. So if you have any travel plans going out there, fear not, you're going to be in great shape.

Now, we are expecting an additional eight to 16 inches of snowfall to move through the Denver area between now and between Sunday. So far, they've done a great job of handling things, but with the additional amounts, let's hope that they are able to handle that. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Reynolds Wolf. Thank you very much, Reynolds. In other news...

WOLF: Absolutely.

ROMANS: In other news tonight, Chrysler Motors has struck a deal with a Chinese automaker that will send more American jobs overseas. The unit of ChryslerDaimler wants the Chinese firm Chery to build a line of small cars to be sold worldwide. The bottom line, the struggling Detroit automaker says it can't make money building small cars in the United States.

Striking Goodyear tire workers have approved a new contract, ending a 12-week walkout. Union officials say the contract allows Goodyear to close a Texas plant, but protects health care for active and retired workers. The settlement affects about 14,000 Goodyear workers in 10 states. They represent about 17 percent of Goodyear's workforce, which is now spread across 29 nations worldwide.

British scientists say they are on the verge of producing a flu vaccine that would protect against all the most serious forms. Current vaccines have to be reformulated and administered every year. Researchers say this new vaccine might provide long-lasting immunity against influenza A. That's the virus behind both bird flu and the worst forms of winter flu.

Saddam Hussein could be dead within hours. There are new reports that Saddam will be executed before 10:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight. Aneesh Raman is in Baghdad, and he has the latest -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, good evening. CNN has been told that the execution of Saddam Hussein will take place by dawn today. It's now Saturday in Iraq. Essentially, that means by around 6:00 a.m. local, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. That's coming from an appellate judge in the Iraqi high tribunal, who expects to be a witness at the execution.

For the past few hours, government and court officials alike have essentially been on standby, waiting for word from the office of Iraq's prime minister as to when exactly the execution will happen. A Shia member of parliament has told CNN he's seen the gallows within the highly fortified green zone, where Saddam could perhaps be hung there. A cleric, a judge, as well as a doctor have been on standby, also awaiting word from Iraq's prime minister.

Now, there has been great confusion today, centering on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein himself. Is he in U.S. custody? Is he in Iraqi custody? It was sparked by comments from Saddam's defense lawyers early this morning, that he had transferred over to Iraqi authority. That's critical, because that's a final step before this execution can take place.

U.S. officials have maintained today, though, that he remains in U.S. custody.

That said, we've been told by an appellate judge that the handover could take place, and that he expects when it does, the execution to come almost immediately thereafter. But again, CNN has heard that the execution of Saddam Hussein, the once-leader of Iraq, will take place by dawn Saturday, Iraqi time -- Christine.

ROMANS: And Aneesh, you reported to us earlier that a red card is being prepared. I guess for Saddam's victims, at least, there's a poetic significance in that.

RAMAN: There is. It's laced with emotions on the ground. Before those under Saddam's regimes were executed, they were handed a red card, signifying that they were condemned to death. We understand that waiting for Saddam at the gallows is a red card that has been signed by Iraq's justice minister, condemning Saddam Hussein to death. It's a small example of the high emotions that surround this moment, an historic moment for Iraq. Politicians and people alike, viscerally were eager to see swift justice, especially Iraqi politicians.

The prime minister, after the sentencing on November 5th, said he expected Saddam Hussein to be killed by the end of the year. That was before the appellate process had even begun. So you get a sense of the emotions, of the historical context that exists here tonight -- this morning, I should say, in Iraq -- Christine.

ROMANS: OK. Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, thank you so much, Aneesh.

Still ahead, thousands line up in California to pay their last respects to former President Gerald Ford. We'll have a live report from Palm Desert, and perspective from three of the sharpest political analysts in the country.

Also ahead, we pay our respects to a special Navy man in our tribute to the men and women in uniform. Hear how saving lives in Iraq is anything but routine. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: The first of many funeral events for former President Gerald Ford is under way in California. Six days of national mourning have been declared to honor Ford, who died Tuesday at the age of 93. Ford's casket was moved today to the California church where the Ford family worshipped for nearly 30 years. Dan Simon is standing by in Palm Desert -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this was the first time we had seen Mrs. Ford since her husband passed away. She greeted the casket as it came up to the church earlier today. There was a private service for close friends and family. Among those in attendance included former Congressman Jack Kemp, as well as former Secretary of State George Shultz. That private service just wrapped up a few minutes ago. Mr. Ford's body is now lying in repose inside the church.

In about 20 minutes, they are going to open up the church doors and allow members of the public to come in and say goodbye to Mr. Ford. That church is going to stay open all night. They want to allow as many people as possible to be able to pay their respects to Mr. Ford.

Tomorrow, his body is going to be flown to Washington, D.C. Mr. Ford's body will lie in state in the rotunda. There's going to be a service on Tuesday at the National Cathedral. And then on Wednesday, his body's going to be flown to Michigan, where he will ultimately be laid to rest at his presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan -- Christine.

ROMANS: Dan, he wanted an understated event. Is that what he's accomplished here, what his family has accomplished?

SIMON: Well, Mr. Ford was actively involved, in terms of the intricate details, of his funeral. And one of the things he insisted upon is that things were sort of low key in Washington, if you will. If you can call it that. For example, when they -- when the presidents typically have funerals, the body's usually placed on a horse caisson. In Mr. Ford's case, he didn't want that. He wanted his body to be in a hearse and have a simple motorcade.

Also, usually there's a flyover in Washington, D.C. and they have the missing-man formation. He didn't want that either. They will have some type of flyover in Michigan, but not in Washington, D.C.

And Christine, one other thing. One of Mr. Ford's favorite song was the University of Michigan fight song. Of course, he attended the University of Michigan, played football there. And we are told that he wanted the Michigan fight song to be played in Washington. So we understand a somber version of that is going to be played by a military band.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right.

Dan Simon. Thank you very much, Dan. Appreciate it.

Joining me now: former White House political director for President Reagan and Republican strategist Ed Rollins, syndicated columnist Miguel Perez and Michael Goodwin of the "New York Daily News".

Welcome to all of you.

Michael, I want to start with you first because we haven't had a chance to get your thoughts, I guess on the legacy of Gerald Ford. We have six days to reflect on it, and it's been a -- it's been a very rich remembrance so far.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Right. I think most of it has gotten it right, which essentially comes down to two things. The first, of course, being the pardon, which I think was the most controversial thing. And the second of course, just this notion that he was a decent man, a good caretaker for a very turbulent time in history.

I think for the pardon, especially, it is fascinating because as a young man, I thought it was outrageous. And over time, I've come to believe it was the right thing. I think that's what a lot of people, as we grow older and wiser, hopefully, we do understand that it would have been worse for the country.

It didn't matter, it wasn't for Richard Nixon, really. It was for us that he had to be pardoned.

ROMANS: You know, Miguel, it's an interesting time to be talking about presidential legacies because we are in the midst of some really dramatic events happening in this nation's history and with this president.

Give me a sense about what's happening right now with President Bush. He's at the ranch. He's talking about a new plan for Iraq. Will Iraq be his legacy? Can he do something with -- with his Iraq plan to change the course of events there?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the plan will determine his legacy. I think that he still has a chance to come up with something positive here. But this is his last chance. He better do something really drastic, dramatic, in terms of really changing the course of things in Iraq. If he doesn't do that, his legacy will go down the drain.

ROMANS: Ed, if you were in his ear, what would you be telling him? What does he got to tell us in the next few weeks?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think first of all, I would tell him to get out of Crawford and get back to Washington, D.C. I think it's very important for the president to look like he's on top of this. And he ought to be in a Pentagon and not in some trailer, which is where he is...

ROMANS: Tornado warning...

ROLLINS: .. tornado warning in Texas.

I don't mean that he shouldn't have a holiday, but it's just this is a very serious time. I think he has to basically take this shot with the additional troops. They're really -- it's the troops that are there being redeployed. I think he's got six months to convince the country and the Democrats that they can make a difference and at least stabilize the Baghdad situation. If he can do that, then I think they'll give him a little bit more time.

ROMANS: He's also got this impending execution of Saddam Hussein here right now. So that's going to would add to the security situation in the near term, I would suspect. How does the Saddam Hussein issue, the execution, the imminent hanging of Saddam Hussein factor into at least the near term for the Iraq strategy, if at all?

GOODWIN: I think certainly it could cause some -- some outburst in Iraq. I think politically for the president, here at home, it's not going to help. It's not going to give everyone a sense that this was a good idea or it's not going to make all the sins of Iraq disappear. I think that the -- it's almost anti-climactic now.

ROMANS: I wonder if it just brings up how we got there, how we got to this point. Does it start the clock again at the beginning of the war and remind us the path that we've gone here?

PEREZ: It brings it back. Of course it brings it back. We go back to the beginning. Why did we go there? We now have a report with former President Bush criticizing the reasons why we went in in the first place. So it all -- it all comes together. Now Iraq and Saddam Hussein and everybody talking about how, you know, he's trying to decide how he gets killed. This is a man who never gave a fair trial to his victims...

ROMANS: Right.

PEREZ: ... never let them choose how they were going to be massacred. So why are we so worried about how this guy lives or how long he lives? It's about time that we just turn the switch.

ROLLINS: The only point that I make is I think -- even the whole execution, which is sort of -- I don't want to say it's bungled, because obviously it hasn't occurred yet. But the trial, the execution, it makes us, once again, look like we're not carrying it out the way we should or executed it the way we should.

This man clearly has committed atrocities. He deserves to be hung, shot, whatever. It should happen. And it should not be -- being dragged out for two or three days with suspense and all the rest of it. It ought to just happen.

ROMANS: The mysteries of the movements and where he is and who'd got him. I thought it was fascinating what Aneesh Raman was reporting that a red card is being prepared for him in the death chamber, essentially, because he would prepare a red card for his victims first.

Imagine the fear. Imagine, you know, getting the red card from Saddam Hussein. And now he's getting one. That, I think, brings back to the fore what it is he's accused is, you know, gassing thousands of Kurds, killing Iraqi civilians.

GOODWIN: Well, and one of the things that you see in Iraq that we don't quite understand in this country is the Shiite and the Sunni battles. And one of the interesting things I heard recently is why so many Sunnis who die are tortured by having their -- holes drilled into their head is because Saddam did that to a leading Shiite cleric. And so this is the revenge of drilling holes in people's heads.

It's a bizarre culture that we've waded into, a bloody, bloody place. And the sooner we can get rid of him, probably it might help in the long run. But I just think in the short term, it doesn't really matter.

ROMANS: I want to bring in something from an editorial in the "Washington Post" that Senator Joe Lieberman published. He criticized those who support a troop roll back.

"Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will, and courage to take the difficult and decisive steps needed for success, and yes, victory in Iraq."

Miguel?

PEREZ: I read Mr. Lieberman's piece. I thought it was very, very good. I wish the president could speak that way, in the way Mr. Lieberman wrote that column. I think I would -- everybody should read and maybe the American people would be convinced to give this another shot, at least one last shot at victory.

GOODWIN: I -- I hope Joe Lieberman is right that -- and I think the problem is that not enough Americans at this point believe in victory, believe that anything we can do will matter. So that's what the president has got to figure out now. If we do X, Y, and Z, if we add more troops, if we do incentives, if we do all kinds of things, will it matter in the end?

If it doesn't, there's no point in doing it.

ROLLINS: I think the critical thing about his voice, which has been a very loud voice in the war from the beginning is that I hope he can bring some other Democrats, even though he's now an independent. I hope this is not just a singular Republican presidential effort, that there is a bipartisan effort. Let's try to get this thing done right in the next six months. It would be the best thing that could happen to the Democrats if it does achieve something.

ROMANS: Let's bring in another voice. John Edwards, throwing his hat into the ring, visiting Iowa as part of a six-state announcement tour. This is what he had to say during a town hall meeting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, (D-NC) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth of the matter is we didn't used to be the country of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. You all know this. We were the light. We were the model for the entire world. We were the place -- everybody wanted to be like us, right?

Well, we need to be in that place again. And for that to happen, we're going to have to meet our responsibilities to the rest of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Have we become, Miguel, the nation of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib? We're no longer the moral light in the world?

PEREZ: I think it's just rhetoric on his part. Mr. Edwards has never impressed me very much with the two Americas and it's all rhetoric on his parts. I love the lady whose house he used to announce in New Orleans and where she came out and said, "You know, I hope he's not just using my house for publicity."

ROLLINS: We're still the country of brave and courageous young people who are there fighting for freedom, and it's not our troops that want to come home. It's -- it's -- it may not be the will of our country, but right now it's our troops and has always been your troops that basically pay the ultimate price.

GOODWIN: I don't think John Edwards has any real answers. I mean, what he said there on the clip is just facts. Yes, we have a lot of problems right now, but I don't think John Edwards has answers.

ROMANS: A lot of problem, but still the best game in town. That's how a lot of people like to talk about it.

I want to quickly get to immigration reform for next year, Miguel, and your piece that you wrote. Immigration reform, are we going to see bipartisan immigration reform that is going to have some -- some real answers?

PEREZ: I sure hope so. I think the time has come. I think that the November -- the midterm elections really swung things around. A lot of the Republicans who were anti-immigrant lost...

ROMANS: Immigrant bashers, you called them.

PEREZ: Immigrant bashers, they lost. And some of them lost their powerful positions in Congress. I think now is the time for reconciliation, for a bipartisan bill. And I think the bill that they're working on, the one that eliminates all three tiers...

ROMANS: Right.

PEREZ: ... three categories of illegal immigrants, where -- it was basically going to force all these immigrants to create false documents to prove that they've been longer here than five years.

ROMANS: So, some people would say, "So, you want to prevent document fraud, so let's put everybody on the pathway to citizenship."

That's a little -- I mean, that kind of is indicative of how crazy the whole system is.

PEREZ: But if you don't put them on the path to citizenship, what are you doing? You're leaving a whole segment of population of illegal immigrants in the country. Do you want to get rid of them, deport them all or give them all a legalization plan?

ROMANS: Do we think we can get bipartisan agreement on anything on immigration next year?

GOODWIN: I think there will be some agreement on it. I still believe, personally, that the most important thing is to stop the continuing illegal immigration. Then we can figure out what to do with those who are already here. But until we can stop more people from coming, we are only postponing the problem to another generation, as we did 20 years ago.

ROMANS: Is the public tiring of it, too, I wonder?

ROLLINS: I don't know if the public is tiring of it or not. The public is certainly are not tiring of the whole homeland security part of it.

ROMANS: Of course not.

ROLLINS: And I think the key thing that I think I'm concerned about is just what Michael's point is, I don't think anybody knows what to do with the 11 million who are here. And I think that's the difficulty. But we do need to stop future illegals coming in.

ROMANS: Right.

ROLLINS: And we need to basically make sure that our borders are secure. And I think that's what I'm afraid the bill is not ready to address that.

ROMANS: OK. Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, Miguel Perez, thank you gentlemen for joining. Happy New Year to all of you. Have a good weekend.

A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll, "do you believe local communities should be able to enact their own immigration legislation? Yes or no." Cast your vote at Loudobbs.com. We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.

Up next, our weekly tribute to America's courageous men and women in uniform. Tonight, the story of a hospital corpsman who served in Iraq. He has seen the worst and never hesitated to put his own life on the line. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: And now, "Heroes," our weekly tribute to the men and women in uniform who serve this country. Tonight, we introduce you to Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Reginald Dean. During his 22 years with the Navy, he's risked his own life to care for soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in combat situations. His courageous actions in Northern Iraq in 2005 earned him the Bronze Star. Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tal Afar was one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, until a major U.S. offensive in 2005. It was here that Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Reginald Dean was assigned to care for American and Iraqi soldiers and to train Iraqis to become combat medics.

But soldiers weren't his only patients.

REGINALD DEAN, U.S. NAVY: If they found it was doc was with the group, then they'd come over and ask, doctor, doctor, we need this, or we need this kind of supply or this child is sick, can you take a look at him? And we would render aid.

TUCKER: On April 12, 2005, a suicide bomb exploded at a nearby checkpoint. Hearing that were casualties, Senior Chief Dean risked his own life by racing to the scene in an unarmored Iraqi ambulance.

DEAN: The explosion happened here. And you can see how close the cars were to it as he went past the checkpoint, drove down into this area and exploded the car. Thus, killing people in these cars.

TUCKER: Ten Iraqis were killed. Senior Chief Dean performed triage on the wounded, including a 4-year-old boy with head injuries.

Dean, a father of two sons, stayed with the boy until he was medevaced to safety.

DEAN: And you see their faces and you take care of them and you want to embrace them. I know what hell they are going through.

TUCKER: That bond is even stronger with the men and women in uniform.

DEAN: You would go with them anywhere. And I know that's what our job is, as hospital corpsman is to be there with them, to give them that support. Whether or not it's moral support or putting a bandage on them if they've cut their finger, or taking care of them when they have life threatening injuries.

TUCKER: The Navy credits Senior Chief Dean with saving the lives of nearly 50 soldiers and civilian wounded in six separate roadside bombs. He also provided care for hundreds of Iraqi patients.

Bill Tucker, CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: For their heroism, hospital corpsman are the most decorated enlisted personnel in the U.S. armed forces. Senior Chief Dean has no immediate plans to return to Iraq, but says he would go, if asked.

Still ahead, the results of tonight's poll, and more of your thoughts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: And now the results of tonight's poll. 84 percent of you say local communities should be able to enact their own immigration legislation.

Time now for more of your thoughts.

Clifford in California, "now that we've outsourced the majority of our military interests and determined that it's too expensive to maintain our Naval shipyards, perhaps we can ask China to build our warships along with their own."

Dennis in Pennsylvania, "China doesn't need a bigger army to conquer the United States, thanks to our generous congress, they can now afford to buy us."

Ryan in California, "anonymous lawsuits are allowed? Does that mean I can now anonymously sue the ACLU for assisting illegal aliens? I certainly would feel justified in doing so."

Terry in Illinois, "the largest sponsor of illegal aliens is not the ACLU, corporate America or special interest groups, it's the U.S. government."

Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great weekend and a wonderful new year. For all of us here, good night from New York.

THE SITUATION ROOM starts right now with Ed Henry and Suzanne Malveaux -- Ed, Suzanne.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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