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Senate Debates Iraq War; Baghdad Crackdown: U.S. 'Signs of Progress'; Bush Pushes Amnesty; Battle Over Gonzales

Aired March 14, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, the mayor of a small town in Pennsylvania that's under siege by the illegal alien lobby and with the help of corporate America sponsors, that mayor today defending, strongly defending his community's efforts to stem the consequences of our illegal immigration crisis in his community.
We'll have a live report for you on that court case from Scranton, Pennsylvania, live tonight.

Also, U.S. attorneys are simply refusing to prosecute many drug smugglers who are being apprehended along our border with Mexico. Those U.S. attorneys, of course, part of the same Justice Department that gave immunity to an illegal alien drug smuggler for his testimony against two Border Patrol agents now in prison.

We'll have that special report.

And one public education system failing an entire generation of students. Is this Bush administration's No Child Left Behind program working, or is it, in fact, holding our students back?

We'll have that story, all of the days news, and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, March 4th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The Senate today began a debate on a Democratic resolution that calls for the withdrawal of all of our combat troops from Iraq within the year. Democrats said President Bush must be held accountable. Republicans saying that the resolution is what they call "a clear statement of retreat."

President Bush today refused to retreat in another political showdown, the showdown over whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should remain in his post. The president says he has confidence in the attorney general. Democrats and at least one Republican now say Gonzales should go.

We'll have that report.

Andrea Koppel reporting on the new Democratic assault on the president's conduct of the war in Iraq.

Juan Carlos Lopez reports on President Bush's strong defense of his so-called comprehensive immigration reform in Mexico today.

Kelli Arena reporting on the political battle over Attorney General Gonzales' fate.

We turn first to Andrea Koppel -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, after weeks of legislative gridlock, the Senate finally cleared a procedural delay. And they moved towards what is going to be a heated debate.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Setting a date certain for withdrawal will send a chill up the spine of every Iraqi who has dared to stand with America.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Our resolution is the best way to stop the Iraqi leaders from continuing to fiddle while Baghdad burns.

KOPPEL (voice-over): The Democrats' resolution calls for a phased redeployment to start four months after it becomes law, with a goal of March 31 next year for all combat troops to leave Iraq. Remaining troops would focus on protecting U.S. and coalition personnel, training Iraqi forces, and on counterterrorism.

Arizona Republican and presidential candidate John McCain spoke out against the Democrats' plan.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Some argue that Iraqis already Iraq is already a catastrophe, and we need to get our soldiers out of the way of its consequences.

To my colleagues who believe this, I say, you have no idea how much worse things could get.

KOPPEL: But Delaware Democrat Joe Biden, who is also running for president, said the U.S. cannot win what's become a civil war.


Mr. President, you're leading us off a cliff. Stop.

KOPPEL: Even before this debate began, the legislation seemed doomed to fail. Moderate Republicans who voted with Democrats last month to oppose the president's troop increase dislike setting a 2008 deadline to leave. And so do some Democrats, like Nebraska's Ben Nelson.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: And I think a lot of folks, including myself, have objected to trying to set an artificial deadline as a date for withdrawal, as opposed to putting conditions for staying.


KOPPEL: Now, as to what's happening next, look for another procedural vote to happen tomorrow with yet another, if that passes, vote then on the resolution. But in both cases, Lou, Democrats say they do not believe they have the 60 votes necessary to pass either the procedural motion or the resolution itself -- Lou.

DOBBS: Rendering the entire process then nothing but process.

KOPPEL: Effectively, yes.

DOBBS: Andrea Koppel from Capitol Hill.

We thank you.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Conway, today warned that it would be very disruptive for our military if there were any sudden change in American strategy in Iraq, such as a quick withdrawal. General Conway said success in Iraq will probably take more time than the American people or Congress is likely to give the military. The general was particularly concerned about Al Anbar Province, where most of our Marines in Iraq are deployed.

The U.S. military today declared that the new security plan in Baghdad is showing positive signs of progress. Major General William Caldwell said the number of murders has declined sharply since the plan was put into effect a month ago, but General Caldwell said it is too early to say whether the plan will be successful.

Jennifer Eccleston has our report from Baghdad -- Jennifer.


JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, an upbeat assessment of the first 30 days of the latest security push in Baghdad, Operation Enforcing Law. Iraqi officials reported today the number of Iraqis killed by violence dropped 80 percent. In addition, the number of car bombs, the preferred weapon of choice of the insurgents, dropped 30 percent. That, according to American officials, is particularly significant.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: The high profile car bombs can be stopped or brought down to a much lower level. We'll just see an incredible difference in the city overall.

ECCLESTON: Well, the reason for that decline, General Caldwell says it's also about numbers -- increased numbers of boots on the ground, Iraqi and American, increase number of checkpoints. Both elements making it difficult for insurgents to operate freely.

But it's also about a decrease of numbers of militias, like those in Sadr City, the Mehdi army, who have gone underground. Their leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, still believed to be in Iran. Commanders I've spoken to say he and his foot soldiers could still be a problem. Out of sight does not mean out of mind.

And this is one of the reasons why General Caldwell today caged the news with some caution. The early indications are positive, but it is still too early to tell whether it is sustainable -- Lou.


DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Jennifer Eccleston, from Baghdad.

Insurgents in Iraq have killed another four of our troops. A Marine killed in Al Anbar Province, west of Baghdad. Three soldiers killed outside of Baghdad.

Thirty-six of our troops have now been killed in Iraq this month. 3,199 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war. 24,042 of our troops wounded, 10,685 of them seriously.

President Bush today focused on U.S. relations with Mexico. Specifically, his amnesty agenda for illegal aliens in this country.

President Bush said he is optimistic that what he calls immigration reform or migration reform, as he put it in Mexico, will be passed by the Senate. President Bush made those remarks at a news conference with the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon.

Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Espanol reports form the Mexican city of Merida -- Juan.


JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, President Bush's tour of Latin America is over. Five countries in six days, and a recurrent theme, comprehensive immigration reform.

President Bush promised President Felipe Calderon of Mexico that he will do all that he can to push a bill this year, but he says it's very controversial in the U.S., and it's in the hands of Congress, not his.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We spent a lot of time on the important and sensitive issue of migration. I say sensitive because, obviously, this is an issue that people can use to inflame passions. I say important because a good migration law will help both economies and will help the security of both countries.

LOPEZ: President Bush also acknowledged a point made by Calderon before and during the meeting, saying that U.S. consumers are responsible for the drug trade. President Bush says that the U.S. has to do a better job of encouraging people to use less drugs.

Now, President Calderon of Mexico said that his country wants open borders. They want to improve the flow of products and people through those borders, and had said before this press conference that migration can't be regulated by decree.

PRES. FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICO (through translator): Our borders should be a tightening and closing point. The borders should bring us together and not separate us.

For this, we are considering the possibility of establishing new cross points and border bridges that will speed up the transit of goods and people. Both presidents have agreed to coordinate in a better way our actions in order to confront organized crime in both sides of the border.

LOPEZ: President Bush's real challenge comes now when he has to convince Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform and free trade agreements with countries like Colombia, which he just visited. But that's up to Congress, and he knows that he has until August to get this done -- Lou.


DOBBS: Juan Carlos Lopez reporting from Merida, Mexico.

During his news conference, Mexican president Felipe Calderon sidestepped a question about whether or not members of his family are illegal aliens now in the United States. Calderon said, responding to the question, "Yes, I do have family in the United States, and what I can tell you is that these are people who work and respect that country."

President Calderon made no mention at all as to whether or not those relatives are living legally or illegally in the United States.

President Bush today made a point of praising one of the Senate's strongest supporters of illegal alien amnesty, Senator Edward Kennedy. President Bush said Republican lawmakers are working closely with Senator Kennedy on what is called comprehensive immigration reform, or amnesty.

President Bush said Senator Kennedy is "One of the best legislative senators there is. He can get the job done."

President Bush today declared he has confidence in his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, despite mounting Democratic cries for Gonzales' resignation. But President Bush said he has told Gonzales to go to Capitol Hill to explain why the Justice Department abruptly fired eight U.S. attorneys. And leading Republican senator John Sununu tonight broke ranks with the president and his party and joined the Democrats in calling for the attorney general's resignation.

Kelli Arena reports from Washington.


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're going to be looking to see what changes, if any...

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Suddenly, he was everywhere. An attorney general not known for granting many interviews couldn't get enough of them.

GONZALES: But ultimately, I work for the American people, and I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. And he will decide whether or not I continue to serve as the attorney general.

ARENA: Gonzales is an old friend of the president's. Their professional relationship going back nearly 15 years.

From Mexico, the president said he has confidence in his attorney general, but he also said he is not happy with the way the U.S. attorney firings were handled. And he is not alone.

BOB BARR, FMR. GOP CONGRESSMAN: I'm hearing that the Republicans, particularly those from the states affected by the U.S. attorney firings, are very, very hot under the collar about this. Dissatisfaction, deep dissatisfaction and mistrust by leaders in the Senate in your own party.

ARENA: Current and former administration officials say the whole mess has led to serious discussions as to whether Gonzales can be an effective advocate for the president.

BARR: There is certainly blood in the water. Folks on the Hill can sense it. And they're going to make life even more miserable for the administration than they have thus far.

ARENA: As for Democrats, they've been gunning for Gonzales for years over everything from the administration's policy on torture...

GONZALES: But the president has said we're not going to engage in torture under any circumstances.

ARENA: ... to civil liberties protections.

GONZALES: The electronic surveillance of the enemy during a time of war will continue.


ARENA: Though Gonzales previously described this latest controversy over the U.S. attorneys as an overblown personnel matter, it was a serious miscalculation, Lou. We'll soon know just how serious.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Kelli Arena from Washington.

Coming right up here, more on the Gonzales controversy. Senator John Ensign, Republican, joins us. He is upset with the attorney general as well.

And one of our nuclear attack submarines missing at sea. President Bush, in fact, told that the submarine had been sunk.

We'll tell you what really happened.

And communist China's massive economic power. Some say it's now a rising threat to the American economy and what is left of our middle class.

We'll have that special report. And more about the wonders of free trade, so-called.

And our public education system in this country is failing a generation of Americans. The Bush administration says the No Child Left Behind policy is the solution.

We'll be examining whether that is, in fact, the case.

And a great deal more straight ahead.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: A frightening incident earlier today. The call went out to the Pentagon that a nuclear-powered attack submarine had sunk. Apparently no one knew where that submarine was, even after a frantic search that lasted for hours.

Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre now reports on just what happened.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The USS San Juan is a nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine. Its mission? To run silent, run deep. But that silence became a source of deep concern at the highest levels when a series of events seemed to indicate the submarine was in trouble in seas as deep as a thousand feet just a few hundred miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.

The submarine, along with two others, was part of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise Strike Group which was conducting predeployment exercises. After 7:00 p.m., a surface ship spotted what appeared to be a red submarine distress flare floating in the water. The two other submarines were quickly located, either because they were near the surface or had checked in. But there's no way to contact a submerged submarine, and when after 9:00 the San Juan missed a scheduled check-in, a full-scale search was launched.

By 3:30 in the morning, fearing the worst, a "Sub Sunk" message was sent alerting the Pentagon and the White House a submarine was possibly lost at sea. And the Navy began the process of notifying members of the 110 sailors on board.

But by 5:30 a.m., the San Juan checked in at what it thought was its scheduled check-in time. By then, the Navy had already put out a worldwide alert to call for international rescue teams in case there had been an accident.


MCINTYRE: So, the USS San Juan was never in trouble. It was just out of touch. Now the Navy is investigating to try to figure out why the skipper didn't think he was supposed to check in sooner.

And as for that red distress flare? Well, Navy officials say it might have been one of the yellow flares that is used in practice -- Lou.

DOBBS: I love happy endings, and I know all of us do.

Thank you very much.

Jamie McIntyre, from the Pentagon.

Corporate and government elites in this country have been using communist China to wage war on this country's middle class. That war isn't about to end soon.

Kitty Pilgrim has the story.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): China is on the verge of crushing the U.S. economy. China sells us the cheap goods and lends us the money to buy them. Some say a financial disaster is inevitable.

WILLIAM HAWKINS, US BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL: You cannot sustain these kinds of financial imbalances over time. Something has got to give. It usually means a lot of dislocation, depression, financial losses, collapse of markets, collapse of currency values in the country that's been running the deficit, which is us.

PILGRIM: The U.S. Federal Reserve backs that scenario up. A study in 2000 found when a country imports more than it exports, if its current account deficit hits 5 percent of GDP, income growth will slow, and its currency will drop 10 to 20 percent. Right now the U.S. current account deficit is not 5 percent of GDP. It's 6.5 percent.

The U.S. stock market is suddenly showing signs of being sensitive to China. Last month, when the communist government decided to manipulate their own stock markets, the Shanghai Index fell more than 8 percent, and jilters sent markets around the world sharply lower.

In Washington, senators Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham want to address the China trade gap with a 27.5 percent tariff on Chinese imports.

China objects. This week, the Chinese commerce minister threatened Congress about those tariffs. But something has to be done.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: The Chinese are running such huge trade surpluses with the United States, we are literally mortgaging our children's futures, selling our assets, selling the gold in our children's teeth when they're old to the Chinese to pay for the T-shirts and the TV sets we have today.

PILGRIM: The university of Maryland calculates the Chinese government, with a trillion dollars in reserves, could buy more than 5 percent of all U.S. publicly traded stocks.


PILGRIM: Now, the University of Maryland study says the situation is likely to become worse in the months ahead. The dollar is about 40 percent overvalued against the Chinese currency. And, Lou, despite multiple trips to China by Secretary Paulson, the Chinese just pay lip service to fair trade.

DOBBS: Well, and I think we should be very clear. You know, the (INAUDIBLE) is managed by the Chinese, and where they've set the value is, by many estimates, as much as 40 percent undervalued against the dollar. A distinct advantage.

But the trade policies this country is pursuing -- Henry Paulson and his ilk -- in this case, the Treasury secretary and all the delegation that is have gone to China -- bemoaning the practices of China are just absurd people. It's our policies, our practices that are in question here, and it's certainly the responsibility of this government and this Congress to correct them. Not that of the Chinese.

PILGRIM: Certainly the people we talked to today said that's the case, and we have to take a much tougher line, especially about the currency issue. The people we talked to said that tariffs may be the answer in setting the tone.

DOBBS: Well, one hopes not. The fact of the matter is, it would be nice to see China begin to import some of our manufactured goods and services. Unfortunately, there are so few remaining.

Thank you very much.

Kitty Pilgrim.

Tonight's poll question -- Do you believe there has been a point at any other time in history that the quality and the capacity of those serving in our executive, legislative and judicial branches has ever been lower? Yes or no?

We're just curious.

Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later.

Also, still to come, failing grades for many of our schools. Will renewal of an old law fix a failing educational system? Is public education even important to some of our elites?

And the small-town Pennsylvania mayor who had the guts to do what the federal government just won't do. Well, he is in federal court defending himself, his community, and law.

Drug smugglers avoiding prosecution, no problem. They don't have to worry about going to prison. We've got a Justice Department, so- called.

Our special report tonight -- an exclusive and disturbing report on a Justice Department helping drive rampant drug smuggling and use without consequence in this country.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Congress today began hearings on the future of the No Child Left Behind Act, a program supposed to solve this country's education crisis. And now it's up for renewal. But after five years after it went into effect, that measure is receiving failing grades from politicians and education experts alike.

Lisa Sylvester has more.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Five years into the No Child Left Behind program, U.S. students are still lagging well behind their counterparts in other countries and leaving school unprepared. But Education Secretary Margaret Spellings touted the program saying it's working.

MARGARET SPELLINGS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: My recent department national education report card shows strong gains in the early grades where we focused our efforts. More progress, in fact, with our young readers in the last five years than the previous 28 combined.

SYLVESTER: Under No Child Left Behind, all students in the United States are supposed to be testing at grade level in reading and math by the year 2014. The program is supposed to be the answer to the nation's education problems, but lawmakers say it is not working because of a lack of funding.

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: If we're going to put higher demands on schools, shouldn't we help give them the resources to do the job?

SYLVESTER: Other critics say it's unrealistic to expect that 100 percent of students will be academically proficient by the deadline, but a former education secretary does not believe the targets should be abandoned.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: This is not a country where we say 85 percent of men are created equal, or we say we're only going to leave 15 percent of the children left behind. We set big goals. We hope and try for every child to achieve.

SYLVESTER: As No Child Left Behind comes up for renewal, the political lines are being drawn. Some who say it should be tweaked, others say it should be scrapped. JACK JENNINGS, CENTER ON EDUCATION POLICY: And the president is going to have to deal with the conservatives who want to walk away from federal involvement in education, and the Democrats are going to have to deal with some liberals who don't want accountability in education.

SYLVESTER: Many lawmakers also took issue with some of the funding cuts in the Bush administration's education budget. Forty- four programs are actually losing funding.


SYLVESTER: Studies suggest the nation's students are sliding, not gaining, academically. A new report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that high school seniors in 2005 scored significantly lower in reading than seniors who graduated in 1992 -- Lou.

DOBBS: Public education, the great equalizer in this society of ours. It is simply failing an entire generation of Americans. And we have nothing less than a crisis for this Congress, this president to deal with. Hopefully they will deal with it.

Lisa, thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester reporting from Washington.

The mayor of a small town under siege by the illegal alien lobby takes a stand in the case that's being watched closely all across the country.

We'll have a live report for you.

Also tonight, why in the world won't U.S. attorneys prosecute many drug smugglers crossing our southern border from Mexico? Well, that must have something to do with Bush administration policy.

We'll have that exclusive and disturbing report.

And Senator John Ensign furious with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales over the abrupt dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys. Should Gonzales resign? Senator Ensign joins us here next.

All of that and a great deal more still ahead.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Outrage tonight over federal who are allowing drug smugglers to walk free, after bringing hundreds of pounds of marijuana into this country. As Ed Lavandera now reports from Nogales, Arizona, local authorities are being forced to deal with an emerging crisis that federal prosecutors are refusing to address and in fact are creating.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Border Patrol agents caught this man smuggling 454 pound of marijuana into Arizona. This culprit carried 390 pounds, and this man was snagged with 500 pounds of pot.

Now, even though federal border agents made the bust, federal prosecutors did not bring the criminals to court. In fact, they would have walked free had local prosecutors in Tucson not taken over.

BARBARA LAWALL, PIMA COUNTY ATTORNEY: I'm very upset at this. It's not appropriate. It's not right for these cases to be foisted upon the local prosecutor because we aren't getting the tax dollars to pay for it.

LAVANDERA: Two local prosecutors in Arizona say federal attorneys refused to prosecute smugglers moving less than 500 pounds of marijuana. They say it's an unwritten rule.

GEORGE SILVA, ATTORNEY, SANTA CRUZ CO.: The individuals that are caught smuggling are then released by the U.S. Border Patrol.

LAVANDERA: George Silva is the prosecutor in Nogales, Arizona. He says he doesn't have the money to prosecute the criminals ignored by the federal government.

SILVA: It's disgraceful that that happens in this day and age. We have a war on drugs, and we're not really serious about the war on drugs.

LAVANDERA: The U.S. attorney's office refuses to talk publicly about a marijuana threshold, but in e-mails obtained by CNN, officials at the Justice Department say the U.S. attorney in Tucson, who was recently fired by the Bush administration will only prosecute marijuana cases of 500 pounds and above.

And that higher prosecution thresholds are simply going to be a fact of life without more financial resources. The e-mails also say the issue was brought to President Bush's attention.

This is what 500 pounds of marijuana looks like, but drug runners are learning to lighten the load. Just look inside the shed in Nogales, where confiscated drugs are stored.

(On camera): You see the small packages that the marijuana is often brought over in. This could have been brought through a tunnel. More often than not you see this contraption. Basically a burlap sack and straps turned onto it so someone can carry it like a backpack. Now, keep in mind, what prosecutors here are saying is that many of the people bringing over these loads won't even be prosecuted.

How quickly can necessity they be back out on the street?

SILVA: In a matter of hours, in a matter of hours.

LAVANDERA (voice over): Danny Bell runs cattle on his ranch just along the border. He says it's ridiculous that some criminals are able to walk away.

DANNY BELL, NOGALES RANCHER: To me it's kind of an insult for all the people that are out there trying to stop this.

LAVANDERA: In the war on drugs, local prosecutors say smugglers are winning another battle. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Nogales, Arizona.


DOBBS: One problem with the Bush administration Justice Department. That's one of the more outrageous reports we've seen on what is Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, in my opinion, that have absolutely gone mad.

Well, on another issue of illegal immigration, the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, today went before a federal judge to defend his town's crackdown on the devastating effects of illegal immigration.

Hazleton is being sued by the ACLU and half a dozen other illegal alien and open borders groups over a law that makes it a crime to hire or rent to illegal aliens. The ACLU today, in fact, argued it's up to the federal government and not local authorities to enforce immigration laws. As Bill Tucker reports, Mayor Lou Barletta strongly disagrees.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The courtroom was combative. Hazleton's mayor called to testify in his own defense. The plaintiffs calling him as a hostile witness. The city's justification for passing its ordinances against illegal aliens, coming under immediate attack.

The plaintiffs led by the ACLU and open border advocates had one argument. Hazleton didn't study or document the need for its ordinances. Something supporters of the city rejected as unnecessary.

KRIS KOBACH, ATTORNEY FOR HAZLETON, PA.: There is no rule under the Constitution or under federal law that a city council commission an independent scientific study every time they act. The constitutional obligation is simply that cities act reasonably, and that's what precisely what the city has done.

TUCKER: Under tough cross-examination, the Mayor Barletta was forced to admit that he does not know how many illegal aliens are in his community, or the financial impact they're having. But the mayor said plainly that while he doesn't know the answers, neither does anyone else.

The ordinances themselves came under strong questioning in the afternoon with the ACLU focusing on how they would work, questioning the city's ability to administer such laws.

WITOLD WALCZAK, ACLU ATTORNEY: This case is not a referendum on illegal immigration in this country. It's our contention that immigration policy can be, and must be, made by the federal government.

TUCKER: The only issue in this case, he added, is the constitutionality of Hazleton's ordinances.


TUCKER And, Lou, as promised, the North American Free Trade Agreement did become an issue in court today. The attorney from the ACLU asking the mayor if he had consulted with the presidents of Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States to be sure his ordinances didn't interfere with any immigration obligations under our free trade agreements. The mayor laughed in response. He was barely paid enough to govern Hazleton, Lou, much less the rest of the country or the rest of the world -- Lou.

And as mayors all over this country -- are finding, it's awfully difficult to manage the affairs of a small community.


DOBBS: Thanks to the ignorance and the negligence and the dereliction of duty on the part of the federal government that begins at the border. Unfortunately, it doesn't end there either. What's the point of consulting -- what was the point of that question?

TUCKER: The point of the question was to bring up in court this doctrine of preemption, which I'm sure Jeffrey can talk at length about. That the federal government takes precedent over the state and local, and he has no business intruding into this area of law.

DOBBS: Well, there are other doctrines at work here, and amongst them, the sovereignty of the nation. We'll get into that with Mr. Mr. Toobin here in just a moment. Bill Tucker, thank you. Keep us up-to-date as the trial continues in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Thank you.

Well, now CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin does join me.

And I -- I have to say if this isn't the silliest bunch of nonsense I have ever seen. Not speaking as a lawyer, that's your job, but this is ignorance at its most rampant best.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGLA ANALYST: Well, there really is a delicious irony at the part -- on the part of the plaintiffs in this case. They're saying that this whole subject, illegal immigration, anything related to migration across borders, is entirely the responsibility of the federal government. But the reason Hazleton passed the law, in the first place, is the view of the majority of the Hazleton city council that the federal government has failed so dramatically to --

DOBBS: This is -- this is why I say it's such ignorance. What I would love to see is the town's attorneys hold up that sound byte from President Felipe Calderon of Mexico saying he wants open borders. He doesn't care what the federal -- U.S. federal law is. He has a sense of entitlement, just as do most of the people who are emigrating into this country illegally. And most of those idiotic organizations, who don't see any point beyond the narrow interests that they're pursuing.

How -- how close is this case, in your judgment?

TOOBIN: You know what, I think -- it may be an idiotic argument, but it may be a winning argument.

DOBBS: That's the nature of law.

TOOBIN: That's right. Federal courts are very reluctant to let localities trample on what they regard as federal sovereignty. Federal judges believe in federal law --

DOBBS: Let's go back here. How close do you think this is? Do you think this judge has enough existing law to make a determination in case law -- to make a determination that yes, a community in this country has a right when the federal government fails to enforce the laws that it's passing to defend itself against detrimental effects of illegal immigration.

TOOBIN: Well, it is true that just because a subject is also dealt with in federal law, it doesn't mean that localities can't deal with it at all. Just to take an easy example, minimum wage. There's a federal minimum wage, but there's nothing stopping states from raising their minimum wages higher.

DOBBS: Right.

TOOBIN: Which is something many states have done. That's essentially the argument here. Is that this argument -- that the Hazleton is simply adding to, not conflicting with, federal law.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And shouldn't that be persuasive at least as a legal argument whether or not this specific case meets the test, whatever those tests are?

TOOBIN: The problem is that immigration is not like -- not like --

DOBBS: It's hard to find an exact analog.

TOOBIN: It's hard to find an exact analog. And I think it's a tough case. A lot will depend on what the judge really thinks is going on here. Whether he thinks this is good faith --


DOBBS: ...for the judge. Can I tell you what's going on here? Corporate America is trying to have its way in court, in our workplaces, in our Congress, and take away every possible right from a middle class that's under assault by every special interest group in this country.

Did you hear me, judge? I don't know if that's intrusive into the process, the legal process, but that's what's going on.

Jeffrey Toobin, we'll be -- will you be with us to guide us through this?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. It's going to be a great case. It already is a great case.

DOBBS: Unbelievable. The shame is that a community has to go through this. A raid against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the ACLU, Pennsylvania ACLU. Big law firms. The Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. It just gets better and better. It must be kind of important.

TOOBIN: And the president of Guatemala was even mentioned in court today.

DOBBS: When you get NAFTA, I mean, my goodness, we wouldn't want to have a community in this country do anything without checking in with Guatemala, Mexico, or maybe Romania, check in with Vladimir Putin.


Oh, gosh. Thank you very much, Jeffrey.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe there's been a point -- I think this question works pretty well following that, Jeffrey. I don't know about you.

Do you think there's been a point at any other time in our history that the quality and capacity of those serving us in the federal executive, legislative, and judicial branches has ever been lower? Yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll have the results in just a few moments.

Up next, Senate Democrats set a date for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Two leading Middle East experts join me with their views on the consequences. Vali Nasr, professor of Mid Eastern and South Asia politics at the Naval Postgraduate School, also author of the book "The Shia Revival." And we'll hear from retired Marine Colonel Thomas Hammes who served in Iraq and helped establish bases for the new Iraqi army. They're coming up.

So is Senator John Ensign who joins me to discuss the controversial firing of the eight federal prosecutors, including one from his home state of Nevada. He has some strong words for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department. We'll have no argument on those two issues. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire, tonight, became the first Republican lawmaker to call for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Another leading Republican, Senator John Ensign, says the Justice Department completely mishandled the dismissal of one of those attorneys, Dan Bogdan (ph). The Nevada senator joining us tonight from Capitol Hill.

Senator Ensign, of course, nominating the U.S. attorney, to that post, from which he was pushed out. Good to have you with us.

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (D-NV): Lou, it's good to be with you.

DOBBS: We just did a report, Ed Lavandera from Tucson, Arizona. This Justice Department, for the life of me -- I know you are upset about the way he treated a man you put -- nominated a post, but this department is out of control. Don't you think?

ENSING: There certainly has been a lot of mistakes that have been made, and, you know, I have been focusing for the last couple of months on the U.S. Attorney's position as a senator from Nevada. The people in Nevada deserve justice. We've had a great prosecutor. According to the FBI, according to local prosecutors, local sheriff's department, everybody in our state thought our U.S. Attorney, Dan Bogdan (ph), was doing a great job.

This attorney general's office let him go. And they never talked him ahead of time. Never told him he wasn't meeting the priorities they expected. His job evaluations were all superb. This was complete mismanagement, lack of oversight. I can't even tell you how angry I am about this.

And true leadership, Lou, is recognize a mistake, admitting it, taking responsibility, and then making up for that mistake, and so far the Justice Department has not done that.

DOBBS: Well, the truth is we all make mistakes.

ENSIGN: That's absolutely right.

DOBBS: One hopes that we correct them as quickly as we recognize them, admit them as quickly as we recognize them. But, Senator Ensign, I have to say, to hear Alberto Gonzales stand up there and say he didn't know what Kyle Sampson, his chief of staff, was doing. When it's very clear from the e-mail traffic that subsequently surfaced that he was doing the bidding of the president. And the attorney general says he doesn't even know what is going on with his chief of staff. I mean, don't you find that -- you say you are furious. I just find it mind-boggling.

ENSIGN: I think it's absolutely outrageous. And I'll give you even something further. If you were going to evaluate, for instance, a U.S. attorney in Nevada, the fact that you don't know that we're the fastest growing state in the country -- and, yet, we have fewer people in the U.S. attorney's office than when Dan Bogdan (ph) took office.

This man was setting priorities because they had been cutting his budget. He was doing the best that he absolutely could. He had put a lot of people in jail. As a matter of fact, real high-profile federal corruption cases, putting both Republicans and Democrats in jail on local corruption charges.

Doing a fabulous job, going against some of the most violent criminals in Nevada. And yet, without even knowing all the facts, they let this good man go. It is completely outrageous what the U.S. attorney general's office has done here.

DOBBS: Senator Ensign, have you had a sufficient belly full to call for the resignation of this attorney general, or for the president to fire him outright?

ENSIGN: Well, Lou, right now, I'm trying to be judicious about this. I have asked for the U.S. attorney general to give more resources to Nevada. He's agreed to do that. I have asked for them to change the way that U.S. attorneys are managed and evaluated in the future. They say that process is underway.

But I have also asked them to restore my U.S. attorney's reputation. To either reinstate him as U.S. attorney, or to at least find him something that he would be satisfied with. And also I want to see how the U.S. attorney general handles this crisis. And we're going to find out whether he is a leader, or whether he should go or not, and I think the jury is still out on that.

DOBBS: Yeah. I guess it depends on who among us is looking that the jury. The facts in this one, if I may say so, Senator, look overwhelming to me. We appreciate you being here, and I understand your judiciousness. Come back soon.

ENSING: Thank you very much, Lou.

DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, "The Situation Room" and Wolf Blitzer.



We're have a lot more on this firestorm that's consuming the attorney general. Has it spread to Karl Rove as well? We're tracing Rove's possible connection to the firing of those federal prosecutors. Will the president's political architect, as he has been called, be slapped with a subpoena?

Plus, God and global warming. A dispute over climate change drives home a divide between Evangelicals and other Christian conservatives.

And what was Senator Hillary Clinton thinking when she refused to blast the nation's top general for calling gay acts immoral? Could it help, or hurt, her chances of becoming president?

All that, Lou, coming up here in "The Situation Room".

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

And two leading Middle East experts join me in just one moment. We'll be discussing the call for a deadline for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Vali Nasr, professor of Middle East and South Asia politics at the Naval Postgraduate School, also adjunct senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations. And I'll talk with a retired Marine Colonel Thomas Hammes, veteran of the Iraq war who helped establish bases for the new Iraqi army.

Coming right up, stay with us.


DOBBS: Joining me now, two of the country's leading authorities on the Iraq, the Middle East. Vali Nasr, professor of Middle East and South Asia politics at the Naval Postgraduate School, author of "Shia revival: How conflicts with Islam will shape the future." And retired Marine Colonel Thomas Hammes, served in Iraq. He is author of "The Slaying and the Stone" on war in the 21st century. He also helped establish some of the bases for the new Iraqi army. ] Let me start out with you, professor. What are the consequences if our military withdraws from Iraq, as the Democratic Senate would obviously like to see happen, as well as the Democratic House?

ALI NASR, PROF., NAVAL POST-GRADUATE SCHOOL: Well, it depends on whether we withdraw fully, or withdraw partially. If we withdraw only partially, we'll have forces on the ground to be still in control of the outcome of certain things like --

DOBBS: So, you think it's acceptable?

NASR: Well, it's acceptable --

DOBBS: Militarily?

NASR: Militarily, it's acceptable in the sense that we cannot achieve everything we want in that case, but we can prevent the worst things that we don't want happen to Iraq.

If we withdraw completely, then we won't be able to prevent, say, Al Qaeda moving into Iraq or a civil war breaking out or Iran going into Iraq. We will just have no forces to do that.

DOBBS: Colonel Hammes?

COL. THOMAS HAMMES, U.S. MARINE CORPS. (RET.): I think the movement really strikes at the heart of insurgency. The insurgency is trying to break the will of the American people. Any success we're having, and we seem to be having success now in Baghdad with the new plan, in western Anbar, where the tribes are turning against Al Qaeda, we are finding oil out there. We've got a huge political step forward with the oil law passed.

All of those are positive developments. They all are undercut dramatically if we put a set timeline in law on when we have to leave. The insurgents then know they've lost -- or they've won. The Iraqis have to turn towards civil war or some method to protect themselves. I think it's the wrong bill at the wrong time.

DOBBS: What do you think?

NASR: Well, I think the colonel is correct, but the issue is I think already the players on the ground are counting on the fact that the American people are not supporting this surge, or other surges, indefinitely. That there's only a low run time for Americans to push into Iraq. That's why the Shia militias have withdrawn out of Baghdad waiting to fight another day.

DOBBS: What are the consequences, professor, if the United States -- as the Democrats would have it -- withdraws combat troops from -- as of March 31st, of next year? What are the political -- the military consequences for, first, Iraq and then the region?

NASR: Well, first of all, Iraq right now does not have a political process moving forward. So if we withdraw, there's not going to be a political process coming about just because we withdraw. Rather, I think the competition for who controls Iraq is going to become a civil war. The question is will the civil war finish quickly with a victor, or will the civil war become regional, and it's going to be going on for many years?

DOBBS: Colonel?

HAMMES: I think that's the key point. If the civil war becomes regional, it also threatens the vital interest of the United States, because although we may not like it, the fact is the world's economy runs on oil that comes out of there. We rushed into Iraq based on a bad series of decisions by the Bush administration with no thought of what might happen. This bill to get out, without a careful consideration of the down side is making the same mistake again.

DOBBS: Let me ask you something because in a civil war a foreign power -- in this case we are the foreign power -- typically chooses sides so that there is a determined outcome. In this case the United States is not choosing sides aligning itself with a government that's unproved, and so far so this point has been incompetent. Should the United States be asking itself why it is not capable of choosing sides and making a political decision? Professor?

NASR: Well, the U.S. has chosen sides and then changed sides. We chose initially to go with a majority population, which was the Kurds and Shias, which were represented in the elections in the government. But then we chose that we want to talk to the Sunnis and bring them in. Then we choose that we're going to go fight the Shia militias. Now they've disappeared, we're fighting the insurgents. We're actually continuously shifting in terms what we're doing.

DOBBS: Colonel, you get the last word.

HEMMES: I think it's exactly what the professor said. We haven't got a coherent policy. With under General Petraeus first time we're starting to see one. We have to give it time to work.

DOBBS: Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate it. Colonel Hammes, we thank you very much. Professor Nasr, thank you very much.

NASR: Thank you.

HAMMES: Thank you.

Still ahead, results of our poll. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Results of our poll tonight: 96 percent of you say there has not been a point at any other time in our history that the quality and capacity of those serving in the federal executive, legislative and judicial branches has ever been lower.

Time for one last thought: Lilian (ph) in California said, "If our federal government were serious about keeping drugs away from our kids, they would put the drug smugglers, not the Border Patrol agents."

We thank you for being with us tonight. Please joins us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer.



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