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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Brits Pulling Out of Iraq; Top Officials Admit Failures at Walter Reed Medical Center; Skyrocketing Cost of Healthcare

Aired February 21, 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: Tonight, Vice President Dick Cheney says the United States will not retreat from Iraq, but our closest ally, Great Britain, today announced major troop cuts in Iraq.
We'll have complete coverage of that developing story.

Also, the Bush administration aggressively moving ahead to create a North American union without the consent of either Congress or voters.

We'll have that story.

And disturbing evidence tonight of the tremendous dangers of marijuana. Researchers now say marijuana may cause serious long-term brain damage to addicts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You run the risk that the alterations that you produce today will manifest themselves in 10 years or 20 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, February 21st.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The Bush administration tonight is insisting that Britain's decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq does not mean the coalition is broken. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said 1,500 troops will leave Iraq in the coming months. Britain could withdraw the remainder of its 7,000-strong contingent by the end of next year.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared the coalition "remains intact." Vice President Cheney said the United States will complete its mission in Iraq.

Suzanne Malveaux tonight reports from the White House on the Bush administration's evolving reaction to the British withdrawal plan.

Arwa Damon reports from Baghdad on new fears that the British troop cuts could lead to a rise in Iranian-sponsored terrorism in Iraq. And Jamie McIntyre reporting tonight from the Pentagon on the military's struggle to improve conditions for our wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

We turn first to Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, of course some people here see this as the Brits' version of Baker- Hamilton. That's the Iraq Study Group report, the plan that really describes the security situation that allows them to consolidate bases, draws down troops. In other words, a success story.

But, Lou, it's far from certain whether or not the American people are going to see it that way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice over): The coalition of the willing is leaving. Sixteen hundred British troops pulling out of Basra. All 460 Danish soldiers leaving, too. And maybe more than 50 Lithuanians. The numbers are small but the potential impact is big.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's not good news for the American forces there that are going to have to pick up the load, or turn it over to Iraqi forces.

MALVEAUX: On the political side, it's a blow to President Bush, who has repeatedly said setting timetables for withdrawing troops would only embolden the terrorists. While Mr. Bush is trying to convince the American people the war is worth it, the perception is, his closest allies have concluded otherwise.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Britain is starting to go it's own way now and will leave President Bush more isolated. It will increase the pressure on President Bush here on the United States.

MALVEAUX: Top administration officials are trying to soften the political blow by making the case that the security situation in Basra and other parts of southern Iraq has improved so much these coalition forces are no longer needed. But American troops, who make up 90 percent of the multinational force, are still necessary to bring security to the rest of the country.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat.

MALVEAUX: Now the Bush administration is under even more pressure to answer the question: When will our own troops will coming home? It's a question they still can't answer.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The deployment of the American forces is an area in which the circumstances are somewhat different, more complicated.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: And Lou, officials here are very much aware of the political realities British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing. That is, of course, an unpopular war, the fact that the prime minister himself is unpopular. And officials say that these are the kind of judgments that President Bush has already accepted regarding himself -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

The British troops remaining in Iraq will move from a combat role to a support role. An Iraqi army division will now be in charge of security in Basra, but there are new fears that Iran and radical Islamist Shia terror groups could take advantage of the withdrawal of those British troops.

Arwa Damon has the report from Baghdad -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this drawdown of British troops in Iraq will be hailed by many as being a sign of success, that the Iraqi security forces are ready to take responsibility on their own. But the conditions that exist in southern Iraq are dramatically different than those that exist in other parts of the country.

The area is predominantly Shia and not plagued by the sectarian violence and the al Qaeda in Iraq-type dramatic attacks that we see on a near daily basis in the capital, Baghdad. But what does exist in southern Iraq is rival Shia factions battling for power on the streets.

This manifests itself even more extremely when British troops withdraw from an area. Take al-Amara as an example. British forces handed it over to the Iraqis back at the end of August, and within two months, the local Iraqi police, that are heavily infiltrated by one militia, were battling it out with a rival militia on the streets.

Now, Iraqi security forces eventually did restore calm to that area, without asking British troops for help. But this underscores just what a delicate balance exists between militia power and political power.

Another concern is that if you draw down British troops in that area, you are merely opening up another gateway for Iranian influence. Again, the Iraqi security forces down there are heavily infiltrated by militias. And many of those militias are backed by Iran.

If there are less British troops in the area, this creates a vacuum that Iran or Iranian-backed militias could move in and fill. And while this may not mean an increase in violence in southern Iraq, it does create a gateway for movement of fighters and of Iranian weapons to other parts of the country -- Lou.

DOBBS: Arwa Damon reporting from Iraq.

Britain and other American allies have about 14,000 troops now in Iraq. One tenth the size of the American contingent. The second non- U.S. force, South Korea, with over 2,000 troops.

Apart from South Korea, other countries with significant contingents still in Iraq include Australia, Poland and Romania. Nearly 20 other countries have already withdrawn from Iraq. Among them, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Spain.

Some so-called allies with large militaries refuse altogether to send any troops to Iraq. Those countries include, of course, France and Germany.

Insurgents in Iraq have shot down another of our helicopters. The Black Hawk helicopter shot down north of Baghdad. All nine people aboard survived.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: We initially reported it as making the hard landing. Indications are now -- again, it's preliminary, but the indications are now that it was brought down by small arms fire and RPGs, rocket-propelled grenades.

It did land safely. All nine occupants were transferred to another helicopter. And the helicopter currently is secured. And they're assessing the damage to that helicopter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: That Black Hawk is the eighth American helicopter to be shot down in Iraq over the past month.

Twenty-eight Americans killed in those crashes.

Insurgents have killed three more of our troops in Iraq -- one in Baghdad, two in Al Anbar Province. Sixty-six of ours troops have now been killed in Iraq this month, 3,148 since the beginning of this war. 23,530 wounded, 10,449 of them so seriously, they could not return to duty within three days.

Top Army officials today accepted full responsibility for the failure of leadership at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. The failure of leadership resulted in appalling living conditions for some of our wounded soldiers and troops, as first reported by "The Washington Post." Military officials tonight are promising quick improvements in the Walter Reed facilities.

Jamie McIntyre has the report from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The two-star general in charge tells CNN, if anyone's looking for someone to blame for the substandard housing at Walter Reed, they can blame him.

MAJ. GEN. GEORGE WEIGHTMAN, COMMANDING GENERAL, WALTER REED: Yes, I accept full responsibility for that, Jamie. And we have -- we are aware of those issues now.

MCINTYRE: Major General George Weightman began his morning with a town hall meeting with staff and parents to explain what is being done to improve out-patient facilities such as the now notorious building 18, which is plagued by mold, mice, leaks, and peeling paint.

The free-flowing forum featured both praise and criticism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would never backstab an installation or facility that has provided such good care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not enough people here to care. There are people here that care. There are just not enough of them.

MCINTYRE: Then the general sat down with CNN.

(on camera): General Cody, the Army secretary, Francis Harvey, said they didn't know about this.

It's right outside the gate. How could that be?

WEIGHTMAN: They did not know about the building or the condition of the building?

MCINTYRE: They didn't know about the condition of the building. And you live right across from that building.

WEIGHTMAN: Right.

MCINTYRE: And you were unaware of it?

WEIGHTMAN: Yes, I was unaware of it because I did not -- I had not seen evidence of that through either surveys that we had made with the chain of command or talking with the soldiers that were there.

MCINTYRE: If Francis Harvey says this is a leadership problem, and you're the top commander here, how much of this responsibility falls on you?

WEIGHTMAN: Jamie, 100 percent of it falls on me. I'm responsible for everything that does happen or does not happen here at Walter Reed. And it was obviously a failure on my part to reach down and touch those soldiers and find out directly from them.

MCINTYRE: Do you understand the outrage that people felt when they began to hear about what was going on in some of these buildings?

WEIGHTMAN: Oh, I absolutely do. And I felt that same outrage, because we take our care for wounded warriors very seriously here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: The Army is putting more senior commanders in charge of some of the buildings and insists it's not a money problem, it's simply a failure of leaders up and down the chain of command to make living conditions for wounded service members the top priority it should be -- Lou.

DOBBS: And in context, with all of this, of course, Jamie, still the reports of inadequate armor for our troops, inadequate equipment. And now this war in Iraq has lasted longer than World War II. And yet, there are still so many failings that go well beyond Walter Reed.

MCINTYRE: Well, Lou, you know, the -- in this case, the Army is saying all the right things. But as my mother used to say when I was a kid, actions speak louder than words. And we're going to have to see if all of these fixes they're talking about really happen in a short time frame.

DOBBS: Right, absolutely. It is nice to see an expression of accountability and responsibility for a failure. That is refreshing, certainly on the part of both a general officer and anyone in the town of Washington, D.C.

Thank you very much, Jamie McIntyre.

Still ahead, a jury begins deliberations in the perjury trial of former White House aide Scooter Libby. Libby facing a prison sentence of 30 years if found guilty. We'll have the latest for you.

Also, top Bush administration officials travelling to Mexico. Why? They're there to push President Bush's agenda for a North America union.

Oh, by the way, you won't get a vote on that, apparently.

We'll have the report.

And millions more Americans may soon be unable to afford even basic medical care in this country. We'll have a special report, "War on the Middle Class," on what is nothing less than a national crisis.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A disturbing new government report on the skyrocketing cost of health care for middle class Americans. The report says that in 10 years, one out of every $5 spent in this country will go to healthcare.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Healthcare costs are going to double in the next decade, according to a new government report. $12,782 a year for every man, woman, and child in the country, healthy or not. One-fifth of the country's GDP will go to the healthcare if this keeps up, and the consequences are disastrous.

ROBERT BIXBY, CONCORD COALITION: Healthcare spending in the United States is not sustainable. If healthcare spending just goes on autopilot like this, it will crowed out everything else that the federal government has to do or drive taxes up to very high levels.

PILGRIM: Private coverage by employers is waning. Forty-seven million people in this country are not insured today. That will likely increase as more employers drop coverage and people can't afford to pay for their own coverage.

While Congress has tried to reform health coverage, piecemeal, many say drug price reform is the most urgent. In the government report, prescription drug spending will climb at an average of 8.6 percent a year until 2016. And many see it as the biggest problem with runaway costs.

RON POLLACK, FAMILIES USA: We missed a real opportunity in 2003, when Congress established the Medicare prescription drug program. What should have happened is that Medicare should have been allowed to bargain with the drug companies to get cheaper prices. But because of the political clout of the prescription drug industry, they actually were able to get a prohibition into the law that prevents Medicare from bargaining for cheaper prices.

PILGRIM: But with this kind of crisis building, healthcare will certainly prove to be a major campaign issue going forward.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, even the so-called good news in the report is not very encouraging. Hospital care, doctors' fees, are expected to rise at what is called a relatively modest race of 6 to 7 percent a year. That's still twice the growth rate for the economy -- Lou.

DOBBS: And three times the inflation rate. Thank you very much.

Kitty Pilgrim.

Turning to another healthcare issue, the dramatic increase in sexually transmitted diseases in this country. Some states now want to mandate vaccinations against the human papilloma virus for sixth grade girls. And that is the subject of our poll question tonight.

Do you believe parents should have the right to decide whether their daughter receives the vaccination against the STD human papilloma virus? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results upcoming, and a special report on the growing debate around the HPV vaccinations as well.

New concerns tonight about moves toward what some call a North America union. A number of high-level government meetings are taking place in Mexico to discuss North American integration of Mexico, the United States and Canada. More meetings are scheduled. It is an aggressive agenda proposed at the highest levels of our government and U.S. commerce, without congressional or voter oversight.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A caravan of cars travels along the Arizona desert. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was visiting the U.S.-Mexican border. Last week, he was in Mexico City.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez visited Mexico February 1st. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales January 11th. And President Bush himself will travel there next month.

The high-level meetings are to advance North American integration, also known as the Security Prosperity Partnership.

JIM EDWARDS, NUMBERSUSA: There are several ways it could go. One is modeled after the EU. One is modeled after sort of the -- an economic community. It's beyond the scope of just a trade, free trade zone, which we fairly well have already with those two countries.

SYLVESTER: This partnership is being driven by the U.S. business community, which envisions ships from China docking in Mexico instead of California, Mexican truck drivers transporting cargo on a NAFTA super highway, all the way to Canada. A cornerstone of this model is a guest worker immigration program that relaxes U.S. borders.

Critics say the plan would greatly benefit Mexico but could mean the loss of American jobs and an increase in social costs to U.S. taxpayers.

ROBERT RECTOR, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The reality is that last year they came close to passing a bill which would have allowed close to 100 million immigrants into the country, most them low skilled, over the next 20 years. That will in fact bankrupt the United States.

SYLVESTER: Those concerned with integrating the economies point to the disparities. The U.S. GDP per capita is $43,500. Canada, $35,200. Mexico, only $10,600.

The average adult in the United States has 12 years of education. In Canada, 11.5 years. Mexico, only a little over seven years of schooling.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And this Friday, another round of top-level meetings in Canada. Secretary Michael Chertoff, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez will be meeting with their Canadian and Mexican counterparts.

Now, the press releases say the focus will be on providing for the free flow of trade, helping secure borders, and keeping the U.S. competitive. But Lou, really what they're talking about is this new economic integration -- Lou.

DOBBS: And Congress is sitting basically on its hands, saying nothing, hearing nothing, apparently, as we continue to report on this outright outrageous conduct. SYLVESTER: And it is even possible that Congress may not even have a say. What we are hearing is that the Bush administration is trying to use NAFTA as the justification for doing a lot of this -- Lou.

DOBBS: This is an arrogance and abuse of power that frankly this administration is laying a claim on for the history books to be written for years to come. It's extraordinary.

If you want -- we should let our viewers know, Lisa, that if they want to write their congressmen or their senators, they can go to our Web site, loudobbs.com, and there select your congressional district and whoever's representing you and your family, or your senator, or both, and you can send an e-mail there with your thoughts on this.

This is outrageous.

Lisa, thank you very much for keeping us up to date.

Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

Texas school districts are recruiting bilingual teachers from Mexico. More than 700,000 students in the state of Texas have what are call limited English skills. The school systems there say they can't find teachers with the necessary language skills locally to teach bilingually, and at a recent recruiting fare in Monterrey, Mexico, 162 applicants were hired in Mexico by more than 20 Texas school districts.

Up next here, the CIA leak trial goes to the jury. They'll decide whether former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby lied to federal investigators.

We'll have the latest.

And a backlash over plans for mandatory vaccinations of girls against sexually transmitted disease. Some parents don't want the state making that decision. They want the decision.

We'll have a report.

New evidence tonight exposing the dangers of marijuana use. Researchers say it may cause long-term brain damage and cancer.

We'll have a special report on "The War Within."

All of that, a great deal more, upcoming.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A Washington, D.C., federal jury is now deciding the fate of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. And their verdict may very well depend on how the jurors interpret what they heard today in the judge's final instructions. Brian Todd has the report from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Judge Reggie Walton sends 12 citizens off to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives. One instruction stands out: Consider "... your assessment of the memory capacity of the person whose memory is in question."

GUY SINGER, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: In this case it's obviously critical. This is a case where, if the jurors are going to focus on any one instruction, that one goes to the defense's entire argument.

TODD: The argument that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, did not lie to investigators as is charged, but misremembered conversations with reporters about the CIA job of Valerie Plame-Wilson, the wife of an administration critic. Jurors are told, "Don't hold Libby's decision not to testify against him."

The defendant's fate in the hands of an educated panel of two African-American women, six white women, and four white men. They include a museum curator, a Web architect, a government lawyer, and a former "Washington Post" employee who once worked for Bob Woodward, the reporter who testified for the defense.

A studious group that pulled off one of the most bizarre displays ever seen from a jury. Valentine's Day, they return from a break wearing identical red T-shirts with hearts on them. All but one juror.

Another, a retired math teacher, reads a statement thanking the judge and declaring, "While we're united in this, this is where our unity ends." He then says they're committed to looking at the evidence independently. It draws uneasy smiles from the attorneys.

SINGER: You know, both sides are -- the wheels are spinning inside and they're thinking about what this means. And they're smiling along because that's all you can do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now all either side can do is wait. Scooter Libby waits knowing that if this doesn't go in his favor, he could spend up to 30 years in jail -- Lou.

DOBBS: Red T-shirts with white hearts? That is the most -- I can't even imagine what must have been going through the minds of those attorneys, let alone Scooter Libby.

TODD: Well, one of the experts that we spoke to today said he was surprised by that, that he'd never seen anything like that. You know, it's also interesting to weigh, the fact that one juror didn't go along with it. Does that mean that there are going to be some problems in deliberations? But he said there's really no way to predict that at this point. DOBBS: I would suspect not.

Brian, thank you very much.

Brian Todd.

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

Ann in Florida said, "Lou, I am most definitely against legalizing marijuana. I'm a nurse who worked for many years in the substance abuse field. Pot, as a mind-altering drug, has long lasting effects on young people, from lack of interest in school or jobs, to use of harder substances."

Joseph in New York, "Lou, let me get this right. The guidelines for prescription drug disposal require that we not dispose of them down the toilet, but yet we can dispose of them in our bodies?"

And Ruth in Oklahoma, "Lou, on your show I noticed the National Guard troops carrying weapons. Since they're under orders not to fire at any sign of intruders, shouldn't they be carrying welcome mats and fruit baskets? That would be more in keeping with this administration's policy."

And Raymond in Oklahoma, "Lou, how is it that a British troop withdrawal is characterized by this administration as a sign of success, but an American withdrawal of any size is characterized as cutting and running?"

Send us your that you at loudobbs.com. More of your thoughts coming up here later in the broadcast.

Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "War on the Middle Class."

And for more on my thoughts about what is happening with the struggling middle class in this country and the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, you can read my commentary today on cnn.com and loudobbs.com.

Coming up next here, are parental rights in jeopardy? A rising backlash against mandatory STD vaccinations for sixth grade girls.

And our special report, "The War Within," the detrimental effects, the dangerous effects of marijuana. Researchers now say marijuana may cause long-term brain damage and cancer. That special report and an interview upcoming.

And America's fixation with celebrities who spiral out of control. What is the fascination? And why is the media exploiting celebrities abusing substance and alcohol without comment?

Stay with us. We'll have comment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in this country. But in ten states it's legal for medical purposes and another ten may soon follow suit. Political maneuvering has intensified the debate over medical marijuana and the growing evidence about its detrimental and dangerous effects.

Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forty percent of Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. One-third of all 10th graders say they have tried marijuana at least once. And it's becoming an increasingly familiar ballot initiative. Minnesota, New Mexico, Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Connecticut are all considering some form of legislation to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. It is a drive that opponents say has no merit.

STEVEN STEINER, AMERICANS FOR DRUG FREE YOUTH: You've got to remember something. This whole legalization movement isn't just about marijuana. These people want to legalize heroin, meth, cocaine for recreational use. Make no mistake about it.

TUCKER: Proponents of medical marijuana point to its pain- relieving qualities. And a recently-published study conducted with HIV patients at the University of California San Francisco found benefits.

But researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory have been conducting research on a different topic: the impact of long-term marijuana use and dependency on the brain.

STEPHEN DEWEY, BROOKHAVEN NAT'L. LABORATORY: Not only does it alter the structure, the brain's chemistry, but you run the risk that the alterations that you produce today will manifest themselves in ten years or 20 years.

TUCKER: Impaired memory and feelings of anxiety are more than just jokes. They are reality. So, too, are frequent respiratory infections and there is concern that the cancer risk of marijuana users is higher, which is why the American Cancer Society does not endorse, smoke marijuana, nor its legalization.

(on camera): But the American Cancer Society has awarded a grant to work on a patch by use by chemotherapy patients to help combat their nausea and restore their appetite -- Lou.

DOBBS: Bill, thank you very much.

Bill Tucker.

Well, marijuana, thought to be harmless by many, particularly baby boomers, who have been associated with drug for decades. It's now known to be a dangerously addictive drug and it's long-term effects are still being studied.

Joining me now is Dr. Stephen Dewey. He's senior scientist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and has done some interesting research on this very subject.

Good to have you with us.

DEWEY: Thank you.

DOBBS: Let's talk about, first, the issue, and that is the evidence that this is a mind-altering drug that does carry with it long-term effects.

DEWEY: Absolutely. There's some very compelling issues -- very compelling data using some of the state of the art imaging techniques called positron emission tomography (ph) or functional magnetic resonance imaging. These are new imaging techniques that actually let us look inside the brain in a human abuser.

And we see marked changes in the way the brain produces or uses glucose or the way the brain functions in response to different challenges.

DOBBS: In terms of addictiveness, a great debate surrounds that.

DEWEY: Right.

DOBBS: The idea that it is not addictive. I've -- the debate can be framed a lot of ways. But are there those who are actually calling for its legalization, saying it's not addictive and it's absolutely harmless. How do you respond to that?

DEWEY: You know, I think you have a broad spectrum. You have individuals who just, as you have in smokers, chippers, people who can smoke a hundred cigarettes a year. You have people who can smoke a joint every now and then. And you have people who are absolutely dependent on it. So you have the full range. You have people who actually meet DSM-4 criteria for dependence on marijuana. So there really is a range.

DOBBS: The idea that this could cause cancer, is that a result of the qualities of marijuana, or of the inhalation of the smoke? Or can you tell?

DEWEY: You know, that's a good question. I believe it's more related to the inhalation of what's in the marijuana itself, as opposed to the THC, the psychoactive component.

DOBBS: Let's look at something here. Marijuana, as we've reported, is the most common illicit drug in use in this country. More than 40 percent of Americans over the age of 12 have reported trying the drug at least once in their lives.

Let's put that up.

The extent of marijuana use in Americans over 12: 40.1 percent have used marijuana at least once. 10.4 percent have used marijuana in the last year. What is the significance of such prevalent use?

DEWEY: I think one of the biggest concerns is that there's very strong evidence that adolescent use, or use of marijuana early on, predisposes people three or five times higher likelihood of using harder drugs, if you will.

So, I think that we really need to be aware that we don't fully understand the biochemistry that's involved. We don't fully understand the potential ramifications of using the drug today and what it can do 20 years down the road.

But I think the data is quite compelling that people who use marijuana, or a majority of people who use marijuana early on are likely to use the more illicit drugs, if you will, later on.

DOBBS: Marijuana use if students -- and this is from 2005 -- who used it over the past year. And these numbers to me are remarkable. In the eighth grade, almost 12 percent. In the 10th grade, over 25 percent. By their senior year, more than 31 percent of students using marijuana. If this is not a reason for concern among educators, public health officials and all of us, I don't know what would be required.

DEWEY: I agree with you. In fact, I spend a lot of time going to school districts and talking to kids about this. And I am struck, I'm absolutely struck by how common it is. In fact, it's almost -- it almost comes off as a badge of honor. They're very open to talk to you about how they use pot, how they smoke pot. You talk about the other drugs, they're much more reticent to discuss that.

But it's absolutely boggles my mind when I go to school districts, even elementary schools, where you see marijuana use.

DOBBS: Last week the White House reported marijuana use among teens has declined. Are you heartened by that fact?

DEWEY: I am heartened by that fact. I think that it's -- a lot of it is related to education. I think a lot of it is related to our better understanding of the potential consequences. And we're really getting a much better handle on the biochemical changes in the brain that occur.

DOBBS: The research on marijuana for 30 years has been -- I think the research has been -- I think the best way to say it is mixed. Why is there such an ambiguity? And I'm not talking about in terms of weight, but an ambiguity among all the research conclusions on marijuana in the country over the last 30 years?

DEWEY: I think one of the biggest...

DOBBS: I mean, what do have -- my God, this is a substance that's been in broad use now for 30 or 40 years in this country. We should know what we're talking about.

DEWEY: I think there are actually two things here that speak directly to your question. One is it's very difficult to find people who just use marijuana. You know, you have to tease apart marijuana use with alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD. You have situations where it's not straight forward looking at just a marijuana user because they're poly-drug-abusers.

The second -- the second this we've made huge advances in technology. We now can use imaging techniques that allow us to really look at brain chemistry, to look the at direct effects of drugs like marijuana on the brain.

DOBBS: Which clearly demonstrate...

DEWEY: Which clearly demonstrate that there are profound changes in the way the brain uses sugar for energy or brain glucose metabolism, cognitive abilities, changes in blood flow. And these are long lasting and persistent.

DOBBS: Dr. Stephen Dewey, good to you have here. Thank you.

DEWEY: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: Still ahead, I'll be talking with three of the country's best political analysts and strategists. And who decides? The growing debate over a vaccine to prevent the human papilloma virus. Should it be mandatory for sixth-grade girls? Should parents have a role in deciding for their children? We'll have that special report. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A growing backlash towards mandatory vaccinations against a sexually transmitted virus that could cause cervical cancer. Concerns that a push to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of sixth-grade girls was moving too quickly because of drug company lobbying and efforts. Christine Romans has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Texas Governor Rick Perry has no regrets about making the HPV vaccine mandatory for sixth-grade girls.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: For the life of me, when the CDC and when the other experts come forward and say this is safe, it's been tested, and it's available, why in the world we would not make it available to our daughters?

ROMANS: Making it available is not the issue. Making it mandatory is, especially in light of the intensive state house lobbying by the vaccine's maker, Merck. Barely six months after the FDA approved the vaccine, Gardasil, 22 states are considering making it mandatory for 11- or 12-year-old girls.

DENNIS BONNEN, (R), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: I think they made a clear choice to do a national marketing program and trying to get state legislatures across the country to mandate their new drug. ROMANS: At $120 a dose for a series of three shots over six months, Merck's vaccine could be a blockbuster, scoring $235 million in sales last year, and that's just getting started. Merck admits its lobbying became a, quote, "distraction."

DR. RICHARD HAUPT, MERCK: We've decided to not lobby for school laws for HPV vaccine at this time.

ROMANS: This after complains the process was moving too quickly. Stepping on parental rights and stirring up cultural conservatives, who worried vaccinating children against a sexually transmitted disease might promote unsafe sex, something public health officials dismiss.

DEBBIE SASLOW, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: Cancer's not about sex. Cancer's about public health. Vaccines are about public health. And this vaccine can save lives.

ROMANS: By the age of 50, 80 percent of women have been exposed to this virus, 10,000 a year develop cervical cancer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: The FDA says this vaccine is safe. The CDC recommends all girls be vaccinated. But public health officials do admit that it may be too soon to make something like this mandatory, Lou.

But in Texas, the governor there is going ahead with this. He's undaunted by the criticism. He says it is something that girls there should have. Parents can opt out, but he still wants to keep it mandatory.

DOBBS: Christine, thank you very much. Christine Romans.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe parents should have the right to decide whether their daughter receives the vaccination against the STD human papilloma virus? Yes or no? We would like to hear from you on this. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here in just a few minutes.

Coming up next, politics, Hollywood-style. Movie mogul David Geffen. Also, music publisher and lots of other things, lashes out at the Clintons. Raises more than a million bucks for Barack, and the fallout quick and furious. We'll be taking it up with Mr. Ed Rollins, Mr. Robert Zimmerman, Reverend Jesse Jackson. Stay with us. We'll find out who they're supporting, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now, our distinguished political panel. Ed Rollins, former White House political director, Republican strategist. Robert Zimmerman, Democratic National Committee member, Democratic strategist. From Los Angeles tonight, Reverend Jesse Jackson, president, founder Rainbow/PUSH coalition. Good to have you all with us. Jesse, let me start with you. Senator Obama, Senator Clinton seem to not be getting along well. They're not playing nicely. What does it mean?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Maybe it is inevitable, because they're both fighting for the same vote. There was a competition over a consultant in South Carolina. And in that instance, Hillary outbid Obama, but both of them bid for the same guy. They're fighting for same vote. And perhaps that's the same thing happening here in Los Angeles.

I hope, really, that these attacks and counterattacks will not take attention from what really matters in the war in Iraq and in poverty at home, and in trade policy that makes sense for the American middle class.

DOBBS: Robert Zimmerman?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I don't agree with the premise that Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton are fighting with each other.

DOBBS: You don't?

ZIMMERMAN: I don't. I think there is a different issue here at stake...

DOBBS: I love your 36,000-foot view here.

ZIMMERMAN: OK. But I think there is a different issue here at stake, and that is the fact that obviously, we've all been through national campaigns. And many times, supporters get carried away. And in this case, comments made by David Geffen were obnoxious and vulgar and thoroughly inappropriate. And I think Senator Barack Obama should...

DOBBS: Bad David Geffen, bad!

ZIMMERMAN: There's more at stake here that that the conduct of the supporters. I think Senator Obama shouldn't beat Senator Clinton's standard and simply ask -- and certainly repudiate -- certainly repudiate the comments David Geffen made. They were inappropriate, and they distract from the real issues.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: My good friend Mr. Zimmerman is off the Hollywood, the A-list now. He certainly won't be invited to any of Mr. Geffen's...

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: I am glad it's always a Democrat problem.

I think the critical thing here is anytime a supporter, whether it's a fund-raiser or consultant or anything else, distracts on the message of the candidate, it's a great disservice to the candidate. And I think the uniqueness that the Democrats have this time is they do have two very powerful candidates. A new candidate, someone who's very exciting, and someone who's obviously -- picks up the old Clinton message and constituency. And I think to a certain extent, as Reverend Jackson said, you know, they're going after the same votes. But there's a lot of votes out there. And I think to a certain extent getting distracted the by these little minutia is -- is...

DOBBS: You know what? Let me turn, if I may, to Iraq and the fact that the British have decided to withdraw. As one of our viewers wrote in tonight, and I thought rather -- with great perception, pointed out when the British leave the Bush administration think it's a sign of success. If the American troops were to leave, it's cut and run. What's your reaction? What does it mean?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, ultimately what we're seeing now is a repudiation of the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq. It's not just the British leaving, it's the Italians who have left, the Slavs are planning to leave -- the Slavic coalition is planning to leave. Certainly, the Italian -- we're also seeing the South Koreans and the Japanese moving out now. The bottom line is this strategy the Bush administration's pursuing is hurting us on the war on terrorism.

ROLLINS: We have to be grateful for the support that the Brits have given us. I mean, they truly are our ally and they have always been there and they've got their own politics. The reality is they're taking out their 7,000 or however many is not going to make a bit of difference.

What's going to make a difference is how we basically strategize the next six, eight months, which is about all of the time we have left, I think, before I think the country and the Congress cuts off the aid.

DOBBS: Jesse?

JACKSON: Lou, what is big here is the Brits were in part our cover for going there in the first place. So it seems that the Brits are leaving. And the Iraq Commission said, "Leave". The Congress says, "Leaves". The only one in the world left saying, "Go with more" is President Bush going it alone.

And so now we're there naked, by ourselves, paying the big price in money, materiel and lives. It suggests Mr. Bush to wake up and smell the coffee that the whole world is brewing.

DOBBS: Well, and do you think there should be some wake-up as well on Capitol Hill? The Democrats with an opportunity, the Democratic leadership with an opportunity, an obligation the Republican leadership did not meet, Jesse. But Democratic leadership had an opportunity for a debate on the issue, the consequences of the choices for a policy direction in Iraq. And we retreated to basically three days of nastiness and cross-aisle slurs and a vote, two votes, one in the Senate, one in the House on a nonbinding resolution.

JACKSON: At least the House vote sent -- and the nonbinding resolution send a message with some sensitivity to the soldiers who are there. In the Senate there were seven Republican votes, but not enough to make it...

DOBBS: No, no. My point is there wasn't a discussion. There was not a free discussion, an animated, vigorous discussion about public policy consequences of choices in Iraq. That's what I'm talking about.

ROLLINS: The rules of the Senate are arcane and they're arcane whether the Democrats control it or the Republicans. I don't...

DOBBS: Are you sure it's not the Republicans and the Democrats that are arcane?

ROLLINS: They are arcane. And I think the reality is when you've got very narrow margins, as you do in the Senate -- and the Republicans are going to be supportive of the president, no matter how many defected at a given moment.

And I think to a certain extent to have this dialogue, I think something substantive has to be put on the table. And the substantive thing that will come on the table -- it will be eight or nine months from now when we're discussing the appropriations to continue.

ZIMMERMAN: But I think you are seeing, though, emerging in this Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, whether it's Senator Chuck Hagel, whether it's Senator Olympia Snowe, whether it's Joe Biden or Chris Dodd, all putting proposals and ideas on the table to begin to end this crisis in Iraq and begin to refocus our efforts on the war on terrorism. So I think while it's obviously frustrating watching this process unfold, at least we're beginning now to see the Congress show leadership to hold this White House accountable.

JACKSON: One thing...

DOBBS: Frustration -- go ahead.

JACKSON: Lou, one thing, fighting the war in Iraq and fighting terrorism is not one and the same. And second, that more money does not mean more support for more troops. So i think while it was a little comity in making a nonbinding resolution, it was a message that should not be lost on this White House.

DOBBS: The -- there's another message that won't be lost. Former Democratic leader Tom -- Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle today, Jesse, came out and -- in support Senator Obama. What's your reaction?

JACKSON: Well, you know, he got the support of the governor of Virginia, as well. Those are rather high-profile endorsements. Here...

DOBBS: Are you supporting the senator?

JACKSON: He has my vote, but I'm really open to relating to all of the candidates because I'm concerned that the agenda of the war and trade policy, health care cannot get lost in our cherry-picking.

ROLLINS: There's going to be lots of endorsements. I don't think Daschle's endorsement means a whole lot at this point in time.

ZIMMERMAN: We have -- quite frankly, I think we have an extraordinary field of candidates emerging. I think the debate is critical for both Democratic Party and the country. And we've got to keep it focused on the issues and away from the kind of vituperative attacks we've seen.

DOBBS: And what candidate are you...

ZIMMERMAN: Proudly, Hillary Clinton, as you know.

DOBBS: Ed, you've got...

ROLLINS: I've got the Republican.

DOBBS: I'm sorry?

ROLLINS: I'm for the Republican.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm still working on him, Lou.

DOBBS: OK. Got it.

Gentlemen, thanks for being here. Our fates are being cast...

ROLLINS: We don't have to worry about Hollywood, though. Hollywood's not going to pick our candidates.

DOBBS: We've always got to worry about Hollywood because it is Hollywood.

Jesse, thank you very much.

Ed, thank you.

Robert.

JACKSON: Holly-weird. Holly-weird.

DOBBS: You couldn't be more right. Thank you.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the "SITUATION ROOM", Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you know, Lou, the Hollywood mogul David Geffen (ph) sparking a war of words between the Clinton and Obama campaigns and attacks our own political contributor James Carville. Your viewers are going to want to see how James Carville responds tonight. That's coming up in the next hour. He minces no words.

Also, an exclusive interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Is she reaching out to Iran right now? She's on the record in a candid conversation with our own Zain Verjee.

Plus, Charles Barkley. He's endorsing a White House hopeful and speaking out about his own political ambitions. My interview with the NBA legend is coming up.

And should non-citizens get the right to vote? There are there some in New York who say the answer is yes. We're going to bring you that debate.

All that, Lou, coming up right here in the "SITUATION ROOM".

DOBBS: Heck, Wolf, in New York, you could get a yes for a lot of crazy ideas.

Still ahead here, the results of our poll, more of your thoughts.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight: 83 percent of you say parents should have the right to decide whether their daughter receives the vaccination against the STD Human Papillomavirus.

Time now for some more of your thoughts.

Charlotte in Pennsylvania said, "Conditions endured by our wounded heroes at Building 18, Walter Reed are shocking and sad but no surprise. After all, isn't this the administration that sent these same troops to Iraq without the proper armor or equipment?"

Susan in Florida: "The two Border Patrol Agents should not have a new trial. They should be set free immediately with an apology and compensation. The U.S. attorney should be disciplined and fired. And why the Democratic Party is not involved in this is beyond my comprehension. It makes me ashamed to be a member."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts to loudobbs.com.

And we thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow, when among our guests will be the President of Third Way, who says this country's middle class is shrinking, but not because the bottom is dropping out, but because more people are better off. We'll have something of a debate. You can count on that.

For all of us here, thanks for watching.

Good night from New York.

The "SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

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