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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
President Bush to Urge Dems to Work With Him; Most Voters Say Bush Presidency a Failure; Chaos in Iraq
Aired January 23, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, HOST: Three hours from now the president will deliver his State of the Union Address to the nation, and for the first time in his presidency to a Democratically-controlled Congress. President Bush will struggle tonight to overcome policy failures, both at home and in Iraq, and to assert his relevance and to defy those who believe he is now a lame duck.
We'll have complete coverage for you.
And you'll see how one middle class family has fared over the past year. A family we first introduced to you on this broadcast on the occasion of last year's State of the Union Address.
And a special report tonight on the one area in which this president and this Democratically-controlled Congress appear to agree -- so-called comprehensive immigration reform, a plan to give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.
We'll have that special report, all of the day's news, straight ahead here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, January 23rd.
Live from Washington, D.C., Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
President Bush tonight will deliver his State of the Union Address to a Congress deeply divided over his conduct of the war in Iraq. The president faces one of the toughest challenges of his presidency. His poll numbers are plummeting and his critics are more numerous and stronger than ever.
The critics, Democrat and Republican, blasted the president's Iraq policy in a confirmation hearing for his nominee to be the new commander of troops in Iraq, saying U.S. policy in Iraq is on a course toward failure.
Ed Henry, at the White House tonight, reports on what we will expect from the president's address.
Jamie McIntyre, at the Pentagon, reports over the tough questions over future U.S. policy in Iraq.
And Christine Romans is here with a special report on the war on the middle class and one family's struggle to survive.
We turn first to Ed Henry at the White House -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, tonight the president will take another crack at selling his policy of increasing more U.S. troops to Iraq to a very skeptical Congress, a skeptical American public as well. But he will start the speech by congratulating Democrats on winning control of Congress. An olive branch, if you will, but also bowing to the political reality, the fact that the ground has shifted dramatically under his feet in the last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we make progress on the ground and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels.
HENRY (voice over): Now the president is increasing the number of troops in Iraq and even his former speechwriter notes the audience at this year's State of the Union will be far more hostile.
MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: There is some drama in this moment, the drama of a new Democratic Congress, the drama of a fairly unpopular surge policy that the president has announced.
HENRY: At the same time last year, 41 percent of Americans said the U.S. was winning the war on terror. In the latest CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll, it slipped 13 points, to just 28 percent.
JACK QUINN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Lyndon Johnson, who was in a similar sort of position as this President Bush because of his Vietnam experience, at least had things like civil rights, Medicare, the Great Society programs.
This president has no sense of accomplishment -- has no accomplishment.
HENRY: That may explain why the president will focus on big ideas he hopes to find common ground with Democrats, like 2010 -- a call for cutting gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years, reminiscent of what then President Bill Clinton did, by sometimes cutting legislative deals with the opposition after Republicans won the 1994 election.
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president is relevant here.
HENRY: But reaching out to Democrats on issues like immigration can further complicate the political calculation for Mr. Bush by angering his own base.
GERSON: I think conservatives don't want to feel like he's triangulating off them or playing off them. But I think it is a genuine opportunity. He has a leadership of Congress now that is more favorable to his immigration ideas than the previous one. (END VIDEO TAPE)
HENRY: And CNN has condition firmed that president will try out a new line on immigration tonight, saying Congress must achieve reform "without animosity and without amnesty," but there will be no change in policy.
The president, while trying out a new sound bite, will still renew his call for a guest worker program, saying, "We cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border, and that requires a temporary worker program."
That's obviously a policy that still a lot of Republicans in the president's own party are opposed to. It's going to be a very tough sell -- Lou.
DOBBS: And particularly outside of this city, which regards straight talk and honest concepts to be still superior to the rhetoric that you just quoted.
What is the sense there at the White House among the staff, Ed? What is the staff most anxious about tonight in the president's address?
HENRY: I think they're most anxious still about Iraq, Lou. The president tonight will once again try to resell this policy of increasing U.S. troops to Iraq. He will say that one of the major reasons is that failure is not an option, it would be too catastrophic.
Well, he already tried that out two weeks ago in his speech here from the White House, when he first tried to sell this new policy. You can tell from the public polls, a very skeptical public, a very skeptical Congress.
Not just Democrats. An increasing number of Republicans, respected senators like John Warner, coming out and saying they are not in favor of this policy. That is what they're most anxious about -- Lou.
DOBBS: And it would be particularly difficult to use that language when the president himself has referred to the last year's setbacks as gradual failure in describing his policies and conduct of the war in Iraq.
Ed, thank you very much.
Ed Henry from the White House.
President Bush will deliver his speech as polls show his approval rating has slumped to the lowest levels of his presidency. A new CNN- Opinion Research Corporation poll shows only 34 percent of Americans approve of the job the president is doing.
Bill Schneider has our report.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): President Bush will be addressing a skeptical audience, not just the new Democratic Congress, but also the American people. Most Americans now call the Bush presidency a failure. Two-thirds say President Bush has done something to make them angry.
Most likely, that's Iraq.
BUSH: I have committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: More than 60 percent of Americans oppose doing that.
Congress would like to stop the president. Most Democrats...
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: It is time that we accept our obligations and offer meaningful action to stop this proposal.
SCHNEIDER: ... and growing numbers of Republicans.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I will do everything I can to stop the president's policy as he outlined it.
SCHNEIDER: More than 60 percent want Congress to oppose the troop increase.
Anger over Iraq is spilling over to other issues. Only 28 percent believe the United States and its allies are winning the war on terror. The lowest number ever.
George W. Bush was elected because he the image of good character.
BUSH: I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.
SCHNEIDER: How low is President Bush's credibility? Most Americans now say they trust President Bush less than they trusted previous presidents.
Remember the issue that brought down Bush's father? Then it was "the economy, stupid." Not now.
BUSH: Tax cuts have led to a strong and growing economy.
SCHNEIDER: The public agrees. Sixty-three percent say the economy's in good shape. The highest number since before 9/11.
SCHNEIDER: Now, let's take Americans who say the economy is in good shape and who also feel as if -- they're saying the surge in troops, the increase in troop levels is a mistake. They give Bush 83 percent negative rating, which means it's really Iraq. DOBBS: It is without question Iraq. It is -- it is difficult for this president to point, as Jack Quinn (ph) said, to any real accomplishment or achievement, save -- save the tax cuts in the early years of his administration at this point.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. The tax cuts are really his one major achievement, although he might point to his leadership after 9/11, which most Americans remember as the crowning moment of his presidency.
DOBBS: And -- which was approaching six years ago.
DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
The Democrats today tried to win political advantage from the president's weakness in these polls. Democratic senator Jim Webb, who will give the Democratic response to the president tonight, said the president simply does not have a plan for Iraq.
Senator Webb is a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran, and his son serves in Iraq. Senator Webb joins us on this broadcast tomorrow evening. Please be with us for that.
And the general nominated by President Bush to lead our troops in Iraq today presented a grim picture of the progress of this war. General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the way ahead in Iraq will be neither quick nor easy. General Petraeus is regarded as the Army's leading authority on counterinsurgency warfare.
Jamie McIntyre has the report from the Pentagon.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): General David Petraeus, heading back to Iraq for his third tour, this time as the top commander, knows he's walking into a minefield.
LT. GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY: The situation in Iraq is dire. The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard, but hard is not hopeless.
MCINTYRE: Petraeus, widely respected as an incisive military thinker, helped write the military's new manual on counterinsurgency, the chart used against an over-application of outside military force. So skeptical senators questioned if he was compromising his own principles in carrying out President Bush's strategy.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: You wrote the book, General. But the policy is not by the book. And you are being asked to square the circle.
MCINTYRE: Clinton, along with fellow Democrat Carl Levin and Republican John Warner, are among congressional critics supporting various bipartisan resolutions of disapproval for the so-called surge plan.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: The course we've been on is a course towards failure.
MCINTYRE: But other senators, like Independent Joseph Lieberman, argued a formal vote would simply undercut Petraeus while giving hope to the enemy.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: I fear that a resolution of disapproval will send you over there with us saying you're a good and great general, but we don't agree with what you believe we need to do in Iraq.
MCINTYRE: And Petraeus, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the lessons of Vietnam, promised that if he ever believes the Iraq war is lost, he will say so.
MCINTYRE: General Petraeus is expected to sail to a quick and near unanimous approval for his position. But his hearing today still revealed that there were deep divisions in Congress over the strategy that he's been ordered to implement -- Lou.
DOBBS: Jamie, what was the general's response to Senator Clinton talking about squaring the circle between his -- about support for certain policies and counterinsurgency and the policies of the Bush administration?
MCINTYRE: Well, he says if you look at the specifics of the plan, that they do mesh with the tactics that he outlined in that counterinsurgency manual that he helped co-author. For instance, in that doctrine, he talks about how many troops you need, the ratio of troops you need for the general population. He said, for instance, if you count the U.S. troops, the additional troops and the contract security forces, he thinks he's got that ratio that he needs to make a change in Baghdad.
DOBBS: Thank you very much.
Jamie McIntyre, from the Pentagon.
As Congress debates the war, insurgents killed three more of our troops in Iraq.
Fifty-eight of our troops have now been killed in Iraq so far this month. And 3,059 of our troops have been killed since the war began. 22,951 wounded, 10,218 so seriously they could not return to duty in three days.
Meanwhile, five civilians working for a private security contractor were killed today when their helicopter crashed in Baghdad. It is not clear whether the crash was a result of hostile fire. No word yet on the nationalities of those killed.
As Iran steps up its challenge to the United States in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, the United States today warned Tehran not to seek a confrontation with the United States. The number two diplomat at the State Department, Nicholas Burns, said the Middle East will not be dominated by Iran. Burns' remarks came as the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis departed for the Persian Gulf to reinforce U.S. naval forces in the region.
Iranian-backed demonstrators in Lebanon today staged violent protests across the country. At least three people were killed, more than 100 wounded. The demonstrators trying to overthrow Lebanon's pro-Western government, and Lebanon all but paralyzed by these demonstrations and protests.
Communist China today finally confirmed it did carry out an anti- satellite missile last -- earlier this month. Beijing insisted that the test was not directed at any particular country and does not constitute a threat to any country. However, military analysts say the test represents a dangerous new threat to U.S. military superiority in Asia.
Still ahead here, we'll have a complete report on the president's efforts to join forces with the Democratically-controlled Congress to pass so-called comprehensive immigration reform, a plan for amnesty for illegal aliens in this country.
Also, the White House says the president is planning a bold new initiative to end our dependence on foreign oil.
We'll have that story as well.
And the rising cost of health care crippling many middle class families in this country, driving many into bankruptcy.
We'll have a special report on the president's proposals to end our health care nightmare.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Federal immigration officials today announced the arrests of more than 750 criminal illegal aliens. Authorities call it one of the biggest such sweeps ever in this country.
The raid took place over the past week. The raids took place over the past weekend in Los Angeles and region and threatened illegal -- and targeted illegal aliens who were deported once before or ignored their previous deportation orders.
The sweep was part of Operation Return to Sender.
Governor Rick Perry of Texas is sending an additional 600 of his state's National Guard troops to the border. Seventeen hundred Texas National Guard troops are already there supporting the Border Patrol.
And there's new information tonight about those armed men who crossed the border in Arizona, forcing a National Guard unit to retreat. Those armed men, it was originally said, were no closer than 100 yards from the National Guard unit. It turns out those reports were wrong.
The armed men broke into two groups and moved within 33 feet of those National Guardsmen. Much closer than previously report. The guardsman withdrew in accordance with National Guard policy.
Police in the violent border city of Tijuana, Mexico, are patrolling the streets tonight with sling slots. As we reported two weeks ago, Mexican soldiers confiscated the police department's guns amid allegations of collusion with the drug cartels. The Tijuana police are using ball bearings and marbles with their sling shots.
President Bush tonight will introduce new proposals for what the White House calls comprehensive immigration reform. It is one area in which the Republican president and this Democratically-controlled Congress appear to agree -- a plan to give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.
Casey Wian has our report.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He said it once.
BUSH: I propose a new temporary worker program that will match willing foreign workers with willing American employers.
WIAN: He said it again.
BUSH: A temporary worker program will help protect our homeland.
WIAN: And again.
BUSH: We should not be content with laws that punish hard- working people who want only to provide for their families and deny businesses willing workers.
WIAN: And again.
BUSH: We must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally, and reduces smuggling and crime at the border.
WIAN: Over and over, President Bush has touted a guest worker program as the solution to the nation's border security crisis. And for more than three years, the idea has gone nowhere.
A White House memo promises that in this year's State of the Union Address, the president will talk about immigration in a visionary way that should unite both parties. That would be a significant development, because Republicans in Congress blocked the president's guest worker plan. And his own party remains sharply divided over illegal immigration and border security.
REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: This nation protects the borders of other nations -- Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan -- but we don't protect our own border.
WIAN: The president has deployed 6,000 National Guard troops to the southern border. The Border Patrol says that has slightly reduced illegal alien and drug smuggling. And he did sign a bill authorizing 700 miles of border fencing. But with Democrats in control of Congress, there's likely no money to pay for it.
WIAN: In fact, when it comes to illegal immigration, President Bush seems to have more in common with Democrats, who mostly favored guest workers, a path to citizenship, and other forms of amnesty for illegal aliens. So tonight there is likely to be a more receptive audience for the president's so-called comprehensive approach to immigration reform -- Lou.
DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much.
That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight.
Do you believe that President Bush and the congressional Democrats will succeed in passing their so-called comprehensive immigration reform legislation? Yes or no?
Please cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.
The wife of imprisoned Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos will be attending the president's State of the Union Address tonight. Monica Ramos, we are reliably informed, will be the guest of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of California.
Dana Rohrabacher is a leading advocate for agents Ramos and Compean, both men serving now lengthy prison sentences, convicted for shooting and wounding a Mexican drug smuggler, given immunity by the U.S. Justice Department to testify against those agents.
Coming up here next, I'll be joined by Senator Johnny Isakson. He has a new bold plan to deal with both illegal alien immigration and border security crisis. He is our guest.
And President Bush tonight announces new proposals to end our dependence on foreign oil.
We'll have that specially report.
And the war in the middle class, it's escalating. We'll revisit one family to find out how they've struggled over the past year.
And health care costs are soaring. Middle class Americans can barely afford to pay for health care, if at all.
We'll have a special report.
And Congressman Charlie Rangel, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee joins us.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: President Bush tonight will highlight energy security in his address to the nation. Sources say the president will announce bold new proposals to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. But if history is any indication at all, that may be a little more than rhetoric.
Lisa Sylvester has our report.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The United States is dependent on foreign oil. Sixty percent comes from other countries. Up from 53 percent in 2000. The oil-rich countries are in the most volatile regions, the Middle East and Venezuela.
REID DETCHON, ENERGY FUTURE COALITION: As long as we can move goods and products around is with oil, then we're going to be susceptible to all the blackmail of oil producers around the world.
SYLVESTER: In his State of the Union Address, the president will emphasize energy security: reducing gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next 10 years; replacing gasoline with alternative fuel, such as ethanol; higher fuel efficiency for cars; and doubling the U.S. emergency oil reserves. The president in last year's speech said America is addicted to oil, but then he cut $100 million from energy conservation programs in his budget.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: After the president gave the State of the Union Address, what did they do? They passed an energy bill that, instead of doing more for renewable energy and energy efficiency, took more taxpayer dollars and handed them over to the oil and gasoline industry.
SYLVESTER: Three-dollars-a-gallon gasoline last summer and a political turnabout in Congress has put the focus back on renewable energy. Ten major corporations, including BP America and Duke Energy, came out in favor of mandatory caps on emissions this week. That's a marked departure from other industry positions such as the Chamber of Commerce, which opposes government-set targets.
SYLVESTER: And President Bush will talk up the theme of energy independence but he is not expected to call for mandatory caps on carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists believe contribute to global warming. The White House also does not want Congress to make mandatory new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Lisa.
Lisa Sylvester. Time now for some of your thoughts.
Jack in Ohio, "I'm going to pass on hearing the president again. I already know the state of the union. There's not enough troops, not enough illegal aliens, not enough oil, not enough political courage, and not enough leadership."
And John in New York, "Lou the state of the union? Who among us would not sum up the state of our union in just one word -- a mess?"
And Doug in Texas, "Just curious, Lou. How can a president pick and choose what laws he wants to enforce and still stand there and say he is a man that stands on his principles when it comes to Iraq? Didn't he take an oath to protect and enforce all laws, including immigration laws?"
Send us your thoughts to loudobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book "War on the Middle Class."
Up next, one family's story from the front lines of the war on the middle class. They're fighting even harder to stay in the middle class.
And the powerful new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Charlie Rangel, is among our guests.
And Senator Johnny Isakson, he has an immigration reform plan that really is reform. And it has a remarkable requirement. It requires that the borders be secured first. Senator Isakson joins us next.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Last year we introduced you to the Simmons family of Clermont Florida, who graciously opened their home to our cameras for a look at the state of their union and their struggle to stay in the middle class. Since we last brought you their story a year ago at the occasion of the address to the nation on the state of the union, they've added a child to their family and $15,000 of credit card debt.
Christine Romans has their story.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the Simmens family, 2006 saw the birth of a baby boy, and eight-week maternity leave for Stephanie, a job change for Adam, a new addition to the house for Grandpa and Grandma, who live with them, and a pile of bills.
ADAM SIMMENS, MIDDLE CLASS FAMILY: Expenses went up, income went down. Prices of diapers, formula, food, bread, a gallon of milk, everything, everything's gone up. ROMANS: Last year the Simmens told us it was a badge of honor not to tap those credit cards. This year, Stephanie, a third grade teacher, said they had no choice.
STEPHANIE SIMMENS, MIDDLE CLASS FAMILY: Our credit cards became our kind of source of a second income. I went back to work early so that we could start paying off -- paying back some of those credit cards and kind of trying to float back up to the top of the water again.
ROMANS: But Adam switched it a lower paying job in private security, he says, for better health benefits. That brought their income, they say, to just about $41,000, compared with $55,000 the year before. Stephanie's parents babysit, keeping their child care costs down, but high property taxes in Florida keep them out of a bigger house.
S. SIMMENS: It's not just, you know, my family. I think most of the families here that are middle class are struggling. I hear the same stories from teachers at school, going through the same things. And I hear the parents going through the same things when we ask for extra, extra money for projects or extra supplies. But yet we are considered the middle class.
ROMANS: And struggling to stay there.
ROMANS (on camera): The family is hopeful that 2007 will be a better year for them. Adam starts at a new county corrections job this week. If they can put the credit card bills behind them, they can start thinking about the future -- Lou.
DOBBS: Christine, thank you very much.
A remarkable family, and unfortunately that's what so many families in this country are facing right now.
Health care costs are rising twice as fast in this country as our wages. Forty-seven million Americans have no health insurance whatsoever. It is a crisis for our middle class. President Bush will outline a solution in his State of Union speech tonight. And some states are working on plans of their own. Kitty Pilgrim reports.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush says some people are overinsured with gold plated health coverage while others, 47 million, are without any health coverage at all. President Bush wants to balance out the system by taxing generous employer health plans and giving tax breaks to the uninsured.
MIKE LEVITT, HEALTH SECRETARY: This is a good thing because it not only helps people who can't get insurance now to get it, it also will encourage all of us to make good choices that will encourage high-quality and low costs.
PILGRIM: Everyone would get the same tax deduction on health coverage. But if costs more than $7,500 a year for an individual or $15,000 for a family, the person would face higher taxes.
Some in Congress say the plan doesn't make any sense at all. They say tax breaks won't help uninsured people who still have to pay on their own and are in low tax brackets anyway. And they say employers may scale back coverage for up to 175 million Americans.
REP. PETE STARK, (D) CHMN., WAYS & MEANS HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE: It's only going to cover about three million people who are currently uninsured. And it probably will begin to destroy the employer-based health care market. It's a loser any way you look at it.
PILGRIM: Critics also say those who need extensive coverage because of serious medical problems may face higher taxes.
SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) FINANCE SUBCOMMITTEE: As of now, it sure looks like the proposal would cause a hardship for a fair number of hard-working middle class folks.
PILGRIM: Aside from federal proposals, states such as Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont are also creating plans on their own and California is also trying to implement universal health care coverage.
PILGRIM (on camera): The White House says the Bush proposal will lower taxes on about 80 percent of people and raise them for about 20 percent. That's unless they switch to cheaper plans. But insurance premiums, Lou, are still rising and health care costs are expected to climb more than ten percent this year -- Lou.
DOBBS: In keeping with double-digit increases over the past decade.
Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says what he has heard about the president's health care proposals are in his judgment, quote, "dangerous".
Congressman Charlie Rangel joins us here in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Chairman, good to have you with us.
CHARLIE RANGEL, (D) NEW YORK: Good to be back, Lou.
DOBBS: Let me start with health care. You've got a broad outline of what the president wants to do. You say it sounds dangerous. Do you believe that this Congress is going to deal with the issue of health care? Because as we've reported, as you well know, 48 million Americans in this country are without health care. RANGEL: We should. I really think that the president really missed a wonderful opportunity. He's down in the polls as relates to Iraq. He should realize that Democrats took over the House and the Senate. What a wonderful thing it would be that if he it was say that he's already sat down with Democrats and Republicans, got compromises and that we've got to cover the scope. And even if it meant that we had to raise taxes, he would say that these are difficult times, but in the long run, we're saving money because we'll have healthier people and less health costs.
Him coming here, giving us the same thing and making permanent his tax cuts, private accounts for Social Security, and giving us a gimmick which allows people to get away from employer coverage, I think it's wrong and it's dangerous.
DOBBS: As you point out, straightforward does not seem to be the preferred course often for this administration in proposals.
Let me turn to comprehensive immigration reform, so-called. This president is making a straightforward entreaty to the democratically- controlled House and Senate to come along with him, as did the Senate Democrats last year, and pass what is effectively without any quibbling, amnesty, in the addition of a guest worker program when we already have several.
RANGEL: I don't see -- you know all of this business about jobs that no American wants to do. I was telling one of the cabinet officials just a couple of hours ago I was in New York during the summer, saw these sanitation workers with all of this garbage. It was really the type of job I would think no American would want. A sewer pipe broke all over the New York subways and they said it would take a whole day for guys to do what I would think no American would want to do. You pay American workers, give them health care and a pension, believe me, we don't need people coming in to do jobs that Americans will do if the pay was right.
DOBBS: So you're going to resist...
RANGEL: This guest worker program's the closest thing I've ever seen to slavery. I mean, how do you bring people over here and the employer decides how long you're going to stay and God knows what you've got to do if they have a baby. Do we change the Constitution and say that the child's now a citizen? I would hate to believe that this great country of ours in order to free, or rather, to bring cheap labor for entrepreneurs are willing to have a contract with Mexico to do this.
DOBBS: Mr. Chairman, one last question, and that is on 21,500 more troops to be dispatched to Iraq. Will this Democratic Congress and the Democratically-controlled Senate successfully resist that?
RANGEL: Not successfully. It's already done. He's already been funded to do these. And most members of the House and Senate would not want to have anything to infer that they're not going to get protection to the troops. But almost as powerful as the purse strings is oversight. You start bringing in these people, putting them under oath and asking how long this is going to take, why are they there, what is the mission, is it going to be a military victory, I don't know whether the president can go any lower in the polls, but it will happen.
DOBBS: Congressman Charlie Rangel, good to have you here.
RANGEL: Good to be back.
DOBBS: Thank you.
Coming up next, Senator Johnny Isakson has a bold new plan to solve border security and illegal immigration. He will be our guest.
And three of the best political analysts around tell us whether this president can reverse course.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: The White House, says President Bush tonight, will announce what they call visionary proposals to deal with our illegal immigration and border security crises. One leading member of the president's party, Senator Johnny Isakson, has introduced legislation that would in fact require the president to secure our borders first before introducing any so-called guest worker plan.
Senator Isakson joins us here tonight. Good to have you with us, Senator.
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: Thank you, Lou. Good to be here.
DOBBS: Why did you introduce the legislation?
ISAKSON: I ran for the Senate in '03 and '04. Biggest domestic issue in the state of Georgia was illegal immigration. And I committed myself to come here and try to find a meaningful solution.
And I think we have, by simply putting a trigger on any new program and saying, until you have secured the border and certified that it's secure and appropriated the money, no new guest worker program. Otherwise, we'll repeat 1986's era, where Congress gave amnesty and had 20 million come into this country.
DOBBS: Senator, what has been the reaction among your colleagues, both in your party and in the Democratic Party, to your proposal?
ISAKSON: Last year, we got 40 votes on an amendment to the original bill, Kennedy-McCain. Seven Democrats, 33 Republicans. A lot of them went home and then came back and said if I had to do over it again, I would vote for that. I have had constructive conversations with McCain, and Graham, and Kennedy. It's my hope that this year, we can make this the meaningful platform where we finally address this problem in America.
DOBBS: There has been so much game playing in this town on the issue of immigration reform. And I have to ask you, when the president's releasing the excerpts that he did today, says that to take -- in order to take the pressure off the border, we have to have a guest worker program. May I ask it this way, does that make any sense to you whatsoever?
ISAKSON: I have great respect for the president, but it does not make any sense. We made that mistake 21 years ago, and that's why we have the crisis today. As long as it's more attractive to get in this country illegally than it is legally, you're going to continue to have that flow.
DOBBS: And the idea of securing the border, you're talking about adding 14,000 additional.
DOBBS: Border Patrol agents.
ISAKSON: 24/7 eyes in the sky, 20,000 detention beds, 2,500 port of entry people, and a verifiable I.D. to end this forged document industry that's proliferated in the country.
DOBBS: It strikes me as an entirely reasonable approach and an absolutely critically necessary. I have said for some time, you cannot reform immigration law if you can't control immigration.
ISAKSON: And you can't call it comprehensive if you're not securing the border.
DOBBS: Well, anywhere but this town you could.
But let me ask you this, if in point in fact this president continues to insist on these guest worker programs and amnesty, and the rhetoric that attaches, do you think there is any way in the world that it can be stopped with a Democratically-controlled House and Senate?
ISAKSON: It's my hope, because it's the people's issue, and it used to be just border states were affected and certain towns. It's pervasive in the country now. So it's my sincere hope we can, but I hope the White House will have a vision and see what the problem is, and recognize border security has got to be the bridge to immigration reform.
DOBBS: Senator Johnny Isakson, we thank you for being here. Appreciate it.
ISAKSON: Thank you, Lou. Thanks.
DOBBS: Good luck.
ISAKSON: Thank you.
DOBBS: Coming up next, startling accusations from the Scooter Libby trial. Was Libby made a scapegoat by the White House?
And three of our political analysts on what the president can realistically accomplish in his State of the Union address tonight. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn. We're both getting ready for new excerpts of the president's State of the Union address. Tonight, we're going to be bringing you all the details as we get them from the best political team on television. We'll also get reaction from military families, speaking with our chief national correspondent John King. We'll also get reaction from Baghdad. CNN's Arwa Damon, Paula, is standing by live for that.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And then we're going to have a reality check on the last State of the Union. What president promoted, what he promised and what he really managed to achieve, plus...
BLITZER: We're also going to get some things you might not know about the freshman senator who's giving the Democratic response tonight. Why did the party pick James Webb?
ZAHN: At a briefing earlier today with him, he seems very excited about what he hopes to be...
BLITZER: He should be.
ZAHN: ... an eight-minute speech that he'll be delivering a little bit later on after the president's speech tonight.
That and more coming up as I join Wolf in a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much.
A bombshell today at the beginning of the perjury trial of former White House aide Scooter Libby. Defense attorneys claim Libby was set up as a scapegoat by the Bush White House. The case against Libby revolves around the leak of a CIA agent's identity back in 2003. Attorneys for Libby say he was made the fall guy to protect Karl Rove. Rove, of course, the president's top political strategist.
Joining me now here in Washington, former White House political director, Ed Rollins. Democratic strategist, Democratic National Committee member, Robert Zimmerman. Washington bureau chief for "The New York Daily News," Tom DeFrank. Good to you have all here.
Tom, what can this president say tonight that will warm the hearts of Americans and calm their nerves a bit?
THOMAS DEFRANK, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Not very much, Lou. The problem the president confronts is he's at the low ebb of his presidency. He really is in a situation where two-thirds of the American people don't like his policies. His job approval numbers are terrible. The right track/wrong track numbers are terrible for the country. He's been dealt a very bad hand. It's been downhill since Katrina and since the election. And it's going to be a very difficult time for him tonight.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, while certainly the State of the Union is in a very troubled times and our role in the world is certainly in a very difficult time, what I think can give Americans some hope is in fact watching the emergence of the legislative branch now emerge as an equal partner in government. It's not just because of the Democratic Congress. Because if you look at all the major initiatives that were adopted in the first 100 hours, almost 61 -- an average of 61 Republicans voted with Democrats. And you look at the Senate now working bipartisanly in Iraq, you're seeing the emergence of a bipartisan Congress and that's healthy.
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The state of the union, relative to the economy things, is pretty good. The problem is the state of the presidency and the state of the war is not good and that's what this president is being measured on. And I agree with Tom. He is done as far as being an effective leader unless he goes to a veto-type strategy.
He's not going to get anything. There's no bipartisanship. I totally disagree with my colleague here. They may be able to do it on some things like ethics reforms or what have you, but big major issues he's talking about health care, what have you, these are Democrat proposals and he's going to lose his own political base if he's not careful.
DOBBS: The reforms that he's going to talk about, tax incentives on health care, to deal with what is a crisis in this country. Double-digit increases in health care costs, 48 million Americans without health care costs.
How in the world, how's it going to play here?
DEFRANK: I don't think it's going to play well. Even Republicans on Capitol Hill are saying that proposal is dead on arrival, Lou. I mean it is innovative but...
DOBBS: ... So how, what is going to in this White House? Whether its Iraq, whether it is the minimum wage, whether it's immigration reform, whether it is border security, why is this president seemingly running up against the will of the people, the political realities and what seems to be policy adventures that are not really embedded in either likely success or sometimes just outright good sense?
DEFRANK: President Bush is a very stubborn principled guy and when he was riding high, we all would have said the guy has the courage of his convictions. When he's not riding so high, we all say, or two-third of the American people seem to say, this is not working and he's stubborn and he doesn't understand reality me. ZIMMERMAN: It's not about riding high, it's about the fact his policies have failed. That's why I think you see this consensus building in the Congress and I'm not going to give up on that point, Ed. I think you do see Republicans hearing the voice of the electorate.
DOBBS: Will you give this up? It's a little early yet to declare...
ZIMMERMAN: ... I'm not declaring victory by a long shot. But I'm saying there is promise and there is progress we're seeing amongst Republicans and Democrats in the Congress. That doesn't mean this presidency has any confidence or any record of success. But it means you at least have Congress now fulfilling its constitutional duty of oversight and accountability.
ROLLINS: We're in our third week of the Congress and there's a long ways to go. For the first time in my lifetime, I have seen the public turn to the Congress to think that the leadership needs to be provided by the Congress. I find that frightening in the sense of Nancy Pelosi and others who are leading the Congress. But needless to say, that's the reality of life.
DOBBS: I love it when the bipartisanship spirit overwhelms us here on this broadcast.
ROLLINS: But I think the danger for this president is he's still in the mindset that the election didn't take place and he's still on a mindset that he can get accomplished what he wants to get accomplished and the reality is he has to sit down with his own Republicans and decide what is it that they're going to stand and fight with him on, because Democrats are going to basically push forward their agenda, not his agenda.
DOBBS: When he come back with these three gentlemen, we're going to examine the so-called Bush legacy. Whether this president is a lame duck, and whether there is true relevance in the White House for the next almost two years. Stay with us.
DOBBS: I want to go to something that "Time" magazine reported this week. Frank Lutz's, Republican pollster, giving us words that, if you want to speak like a real Republican, these are the words he suggested that candidates stay away from. Here they are. Avoid the words: amnesty, globalization, tort reform, eavesdropping and listening.
What do you make of that?
DEFRANK: Well, words count, Lou. And the fact of the matter is, those are gobbley-gook kind of words. They don't stir. They don't inspire and they don't get you anything. You have to come up with better words.
DOBBS: What do you think, Robert? I think amnesty might stir just a little bit -- globalization?
ZIMMERMAN: I think also if you want to speak like a Republican, you avoid words like global warming, balanced budgets, issues such as that, health care for all Americans.
DOBBS: OK, it's Ed's turn now.
ROLLINS: First of all, it's not about words, it's about policy and if you want talk about words that are going to matter to Republicans in the base, it is border security. It is tax cuts. It is fighting the Democrats. It is this president developing a veto strategy that I think would make him far more effective than what they're doing today.
DOBBS: How effective has this -- well, you had a wonderful story about the importance of words.
DEFRANK: Very quickly, yes. In 1973, the Pentagon put together a big operation's plans for the return of John McCain and hundred of other American prisoners of war from Vietnam. They called it Operation Egress Recap, one of the dumber names I've ever heard. And I wrote a little something about it in "Newsweek" magazine. The Pentagon was embarrassed and within a week, they changed it to Operation Homecoming, which is how we know it today.
DOBBS: A little more refreshing and definitive. Thank you for sharing that.
Let's talk about this president's legacy, his choices here. Is he relevant? Does -- is he a lame duck? What are his opportunities here in your opinion, Tom?
DEFRANK: Well, he is relevant, but he's probably a lame duck, also. I mean he's fighting the calendar, the gravity of the calendar every day. And he has diminished political authority and he knows it, I think, his staff can't admit it. But they know it too. But he's got his back up.
He really believes in what he's doing. And he believes in his policies. And he believes in 50 years, history's going it prove him right. So if he has that certitude, he's not going to worry about what people say about him today.
ZIMMERMAN: He's becoming irrelevant not because of the calendar, but because of his failed leadership. You know, Bill Clinton made some of his best successes after the Congress went Republican in '94. Likewise, after Reagan lost the Senate in '86. He had some great achievements in the final two years of his presidency. This president has lost the confidence of the country and of both parties in the Congress.
ROLLINS: He won't be able to get his numbers back up again, I don't think. But what he can do is he cannot not lose what he accomplished in the first couple of years of his presidency. And I think what he ought to do is instead of reading Harry Truman, he ought to be reading what Gerry Ford did in a two-year period, and that is a veto strategy. That is basically he is the commander in chief. He's the one that's going to find us an exit strategy out of this war sooner or later and I think that's the critical -- that could be his legacy.
ZIMMERMAN: He'd be better off reading Harry Truman because right now he's not looking for an exit strategy, he's looking for passing the buck. Whether it's on environment, whether it's on health care, whether it's on Iraq, that's his legacy.
DOBBS: Tom DeFrank, you get the last word.
DEFRANK: Too early to know what his legacy is, but I think the next 22 months are going to be very painful for this president.
DOBBS: And perhaps for quite a few folks as well. Let's hope for the best. All right, Tom DeFrank, Robert Zimmerman, Ed Rollins. Gentlemen, thank you very much.
Now the results of our poll tonight. Less than a quarter of you say that President Bush and the congressional Democrats will actually succeed in passing their so-called comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tonight when among our guests will be Senator Jim Webb, the Democratic response will be his to deliver after the president's speech tonight. For all of us here, we thank you for watching. Good night from Washington. CNN's special coverage of the State of the Union address continues now with Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, Paula?
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