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Senate Democrats Lose Showdown over Iraq; Petraeus Needs New Plan for Iraq; Democrats Question Firings of U.S. Attorneys; Bush and Calderon Seek Immigrant Amnesty; Trade Deficit with China

Aired March 18, 2007 - 18:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm Rick Sanchez. Before we go over to Lou Dobbs, let's catch you up on the big story we're following. Frayed nerves at airports all over the country -- thousands of travelers stranded for a second day thanks to a brutal winter storm in the northeast. It's caused delays and cancellations all over the country. We're going to have a lot more on this. In fact, we're going to be taking you to a lot of airports tonight at 10:00. Meantime, here's Lou Dobbs.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President Bush and Mexican President Philippe Calderon want as many as 20 million illegal aliens in this country to have amnesty. We'll examine what this could mean for the United States.

And why in the world are U.S. attorneys failing to prosecute some drug smugglers crossing our southern border? We'll have that special report and much more straight ahead.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK, news, debate, and opinion for Saturday, March 17 -- sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

Good evening, everybody. House Democrats are pushing ahead with a plan to withdraw all our combat troops from Iraq. The House Appropriations Committee has passed an emergency spending bill that sets a withdrawal deadline. However, Democrats in the Senate failed to win enough support for the withdrawal timetable.

Dana Bash reports from Capitol Hill.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the Senate Democratic majority's first real attempt at forcing a change in Iraq policy, a deadline for troop withdrawal by this time next year, and it failed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The yeas are 48, the nays are 50.

BASH: Republicans argued it was irresponsible.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: It is constitutionally dubious, and it would authorize a scattered band of United States senators to literally tie the hands of the commander in chief.

BASH: Democrats called it the only responsible thing to do.

SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: Maybe if they had micromanaged the war, they would have had enough body armor. Maybe if they had micromanaged the system, we wouldn't have the scandal at Walter Reed.

BASH: Democrats in the House had more success. Hours earlier, a key committee passed a bill to bring all U.S. combat troops home by September, 2008.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Let me tell you, you talk to the families. You know how hard this is on the families. You know what a pain they bear, not us, them that they bear, the ones that are killed and out in the field.

BASH: Under the Democrats' plan, troops could begin leaving Iraq as soon as July of this year if President Bush cannot prove Iraqis are meeting political and security-related benchmarks. Republicans slammed Democrats for sending a dangerous signal to the enemy.

REP. BILL YOUNG (R), FLORIDA: We should not set the timetable. We should not determine the troop movement.

BASH: The hard deadline for troops to leave Iraq is part of a $124-billion bill to fund the war. Democrats added $21 billion, mostly as sweeteners to attract votes from a divided caucus, things that have nothing to do with war like $25 million for spinach producers, $5 million for tropical fish breeders, 74 million for peanut storage.

REP. HAL ROGERS (R), KENTUCKY: Welcome Kmart shoppers. This is an effort to buy votes.

BASH (on camera): House Democrats say they'll bring this to the floor for a vote next week. The president has already threatened to veto but it's unlikely even to get that far since Senate Democrats demonstrated that they can't muster a simple majority to force troops to come home from Iraq.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.


PILGRIM: As lawmakers debate the war in Iraq, the Pentagon is sending thousands more of our troops to the battlefield. That is on top of the additional 2,000 troops already on their way. A new aviation brigade of 3,000 troops is being deployed to Iraq.

The brigade will go into Iraq in May, 45 days earlier than planned. The brigade's mission will be to support the 20 brigades of ground troops in Iraq. The extra troops will bring the number of U.S. forces in Iraq to more than 160,000.

The architect of the new battle plan for Iraq is General David Petraeus. He is the newly arrived commander of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Jennifer Eccleston with the U.S. troops in al-Anbar province has this exclusive report.


JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's back, but this time, he's the man in charge, now as the top commander in Iraq. He's revisiting the troops and studying what is an ever- evolving battlefield, General David Petraeus, commander of multinational forces has a daunting task to secure this country...


ECCLESTON: And it all starts here in the restive Anbar province, a major fault line in the fight to secure Iraq, a major front in the fight to secure its capital.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR. MULTINATIONAL FORCES: Anbar province has been a terrorist route from Syria into all the way into Baghdad. In fact it's almost a dagger pointed at Baghdad.

ECCLESTON: A route not only for terrorists but for weapons, too, smuggled across the border ending up in Ramadi, Falluja, and Baghdad.


ECCLESTON: In the past, American and Iraqi operations cleared heat in other cities of insurgents, often fighting street by street. When they were secured, coalition forces moved out, and the insurgents moved back in. The local population suffered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The insurgents have killed their sheiks, their sons, their brothers and they've had enough of that.

ECCLESTON: That game of cat and mouse according to American forces has come to an end. Iraqi police and Army, American soldiers and Marines increase their presence on the streets, created firm bases, a permanent presence in and around the city.


ECCLESTON: A signal to residents that they are here for the long run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That it makes all Iraqis feel as if they have a stake in the success of this new Iraq, and that's absolutely vital.

ECCLESTON: A plan so simple that it's now become a model for all of Anbar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you stayed.


ECCLESTON: The same model that General Petraeus now wants to replicate nationwide.

Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraq.


PILGRIM: Democrats also stepping up their political offensive against Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Congressional Democrats want Gonzales to answer questions about his role in the abrupt firing of eight U.S. attorneys. A newly surfaced e-mail has also raised questions about the possible involvement of White House adviser Karl Rove.

Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well hello, Kitty. At the heart of this controversy is credibility. All along the White House has insisted that Harriet Miers, the former counsel to the president, was the one behind this original idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys. That she brought that idea to Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff of the president. He said he did he not think that was a good idea. He dismissed it outright. But now listen to what White House press secretary Tony Snow is saying now.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, what happened was, you know I'll lay that on myself. I was referring earlier, as I said today, to a Kyle Sampson memo that came out that had stated that it was her idea. But at this point, I think I want to try to err on the side of caution by noting that Karl had a recollection that she had mentioned it to him, and that's really as far as we can go with it.


MALVEAUX: Snow says now he doesn't know who was originally behind the idea of these firings. He also says what does it matter? Ultimately it didn't happen. That may be true, but it is exactly this kind of factual fuzziness that is driving Republican lawmakers crazy here. They say it is taking a legitimate process of firing U.S. attorneys and turning it into something that is close to a scandal.

Now Democratic lawmakers say it is exactly this constantly changing explanation from White House officials and Justice Department officials that makes it necessary to bring Karl Rove before them to testify under oath and to explain his side of the story before the public. And that is the debate that is taking place now.

White House attorneys, as well as lawmakers trying to negotiate whether or not White House officials will go before and testify voluntarily, whether or not President Bush will be invoke executive privilege or whether or not those lawmakers will actually subpoena those individuals -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Suzanne Malveaux reporting.

President Bush says he's optimistic that Congress will pass what he now likes to call migration reform. President Bush discussed his amnesty agenda for illegal aliens with President Philippe Calderon of Mexico. Both leaders agree on the need for a so-called guest worker program in the United States. It's a program that would allow millions of illegal aliens to stay in this country -- more on the efforts of government and corporate elites to win amnesty for illegal aliens next.

An army of immigration lawyers went to Capitol Hill to lobby our Congress for illegal alien amnesty. We'll have the story.

Also, a rising number of states are fighting against the Bush administration's plans for what amounts to a North American Union.

And will communist China's aggressive expansion eventually destroy our economy? We'll have a special report.


PILGRIM: An army of attorneys descending on Capitol Hill this week. They were there to pressure lawmakers to pass so-called comprehensive immigration reform or as the president now calls it migration reform. Whatever you call it, this new legislation would mean amnesty for millions of illegal aliens in this country.

As Lisa Sylvester now reports, the attorneys were backed by powerful business groups all there to lobby for their amnesty agenda.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They started at 7:15 in the morning, hundreds of immigration lawyers plotting strategy. They came to Capitol Hill from around the country to lobby for a comprehensive immigration bill, six to seven on a team visiting at least two senators.

SCOTT BORENE, IMMIGRATION LAWYER: The system is broken, as it presently exists. You need to have a comprehensive solution. You can't have enforcement only.

SYLVESTER: The American Immigration Lawyers Association representing 10,000 attorneys spent $130,000 on lobbying last year, but that effort is being bolstered by the even deeper pockets of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which last year spent $72 million on federal lobbying up from $40 million in 2005. And a new group has assembled with the single goal of convincing lawmakers to pass an immigration bill. That group boasts of a $4 million war chest.

CLARISSA MARTINEZ DECASTRO, COALITION FOR COMP. IMMG. REFORM: I think what happened last year helped set the stage for where we are this year.

SYLVESTER: But the votes in Congress may not be there. More than two months into the new term and no legislation has been introduced.

ROSEMARY JENKS, NUMBERSUSA: The delays tell us that they are having problems getting a coalition of members together. I think the president is having problems getting Republicans, enough Republicans to get anything passed.

SYLVESTER: Those pushing for amnesty have money and lobbying guns on their side but those who support enforcement say they have something else.

JOHN KEELY, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: We know the president wants this legislation. We know the leadership in the House and Senate want it. There's only one constituency that doesn't want this legislation, the American people.

SYLVESTER: So money may talk in Washington, but it's votes that get congressional members reelected.


SYLVESTER: Those supporting an amnesty bill are not just having to convince Republicans, a number of conservative Democrats are opposed to the legislation that would take away jobs from Americans and undermine the rule of law -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester.

State lawmakers this week are asking tough questions about the security and prosperity partnership, what some call the North American Union. Now it's a plan supported by big business and government elites to integrate the economies of the United States, Mexico, and Canada with no congressional or voter approval.

Christine Romans reports now that lawmakers in more than a dozen states are urging the administration to abandon their plan.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crawford, Texas, 2005; Cancun, 2006; Ottawa last month. At the highest levels, the three North American governments are making the security and prosperity partnership a top priority. Canada's foreign minister last month.

PETER MACKAY, CANADIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I think it's fitting that for the first time the three of us would meet under the same roof. It's in the context of the SPP.

ROMANS: They're working with major companies, harmonizing regulations they say and working to move goods and people more safely and quickly across borders. Arizona State Senator Karen Johnson is convinced it's nothing short of a move toward a European style North American Union. She doesn't buy the government position that the SPP is an effort to make all three countries more efficient and safe.

KAREN JOHNSON (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATE: How can you harmonize and merge laws together with a narco state? I mean that is what Mexico is. It's an oligarchy. It has nothing to do with the way we govern and Canada as nice a country as it is, is socialistic. ROMANS: Hers is one of more than a dozen states where lawmakers are considering resolutions opposing the SPP. In the Illinois General Assembly, for example, a House resolution cited the quote "open borders" vision of the SPP and urged the U.S. to withdraw from any further participation in the security and prosperity partnership. The administration denies it's a veil for some sort of North American Union.

THOMAS SHANNON, STATE DEPARTMENT: We think that we have kind of created not only a trail of public events but also a trail of very explicit documents highlighting what it is we're trying to accomplish.

ROMANS: But not everyone supports what they're trying to accomplish.


ROMANS: Conservatives in this country fear an assault on sovereignty and states' rights. In Canada, liberals fear for their generous benefits and their system there. And from the Mexican press at the Ottawa event last month, very pointed questions about why anyone in Mexico should believe the U.S. is looking out for anybody but itself, so Kitty, three very different perspectives but you're starting to see opposition from all three countries.

PILGRIM: Now what do the proponents of this union say about that kind of criticism?

ROMANS: Privately they say this is conspiracy theory. This is not going to be a merger of three countries, just trying to make everything more efficient. But the opponents say, of course, they're worried about too much input from big companies and open borders agenda and they'd like people to be involved in the process, not just officials at the very high ends of these bureaucracies of three countries.

PILGRIM: Well at least all of this is coming to light. Thanks very much, Christine Romans.

Coming up, the U.S. economy under siege -- Communist China's growing economic clout endangering our country. We'll have a report.

Some marijuana smugglers caught in Arizona are walking away from their crimes with no jail time. We'll have the details on that.

And a small Pennsylvania town besieged by an army of well-funded lawyers is in court defending its policies to protect itself from the problems caused by illegal immigration. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: The U.S. continues to borrow billions from China in an effort to finance its marathon spending spree. Our deficit last year soared to $857 billion. And much of that trade gap linked to China. Many are now warning that the influx of cheap products from China produced at substandard wages will ultimately destroy the U.S. economy.


PILGRIM (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, U.S. BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL: You cannot sustain these kinds of financial imbalances over time. Something's got to give. It usually means a lot of the dislocation, depression, financial losses, a 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 jitters 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, UNIV. OF MARYLAND: The Chinese are running such huge trade surpluses with the United States, we are literally mortgaging our children's future, 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: 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 despite multiple trips to China by Treasury Secretary Paulson, China only pays lip service to fair trade.

More evidence today on the failure of the Bush administration's economic and trade policies, policies that are costing American workers their jobs. Overseas investors for the first time earned more on their U.S. investments than Americans earned on investments overseas. Americans earned a record $622 billion on their investments abroad last year, but foreigners took in $629 billion from their investments in the United States.

And that means a $7 billion loss for the United States to foreign countries, according to the Commerce Department, and that has never happened before. Simply put, this is yet another example of economic decline of this country.

Meanwhile, a liberal political group opposed to President Bush's fast track trade authority is targeting Democratic Senator Max Baucus in a radio spot. Senator Baucus favors renewal of fast track authority with some conditions. Fast track expires at the end of June and the president has asked Congress to renew the authority.

Coming up, why some drug smugglers from Mexico are being given a free pass by federal prosecutors, we'll have a special report.

Then a town under siege, how an army of well-funded advocacy groups are taking on Hazleton, Pennsylvania, we'll have the very latest on Hazleton's fight against illegal immigration.

And President Bush travels south of the border to meet with Mexico's President Philippe Calderon, but is the border irrelevant to these two presidents? We'll hear from George Grayson, a leading authority on Mexico. Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK, news, debate and opinion. Here again Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Outrage this week over federal attorneys 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: Border patrol agents caught this man smuggling 454 pounds 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 busts, 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 them.

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

GEORGE SILVA, SANTA CRUZ COUNTY ATTORNEY: The individuals that are caught smuggling are then released by 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. You know 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. But more often that that you see this contraption, basically a burlap sack and straps turned on to 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 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.


PILGRIM: In response to our question on the issue, a Justice Department spokesman tells us that narcotics prosecutions are made on a case-by-case basis, and that, when the U.S. attorney is unable to prosecute, there are agreements for local prosecutors to handle the cases.

But local prosecutors tell us those agreements aren't working. They don't have the resource to handle the cases, and smugglers often walk free.

A small Pennsylvania town, forced by federal inaction to protect its citizens on its own from the crisis caused by illegal immigration, is now facing a challenge in federal court from a host of well-funded, national illegal alien advocacy organizations and open border groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

Those groups are taking issue with Hazleton's efforts to control the harsh effects of illegal immigration.

Bill Tucker has followed the trial all week in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and has the latest for us - Bill.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, SCRANTON, PENNSYLVANIA: Kitty, it was an historic week in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the City of Hazleton going on trial to defend its ordinances aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, a characterization that the plaintiffs disagree with.

WITOLD WALCZAK, ACLU ATTORNEY: This isn't just a case about people who come here from other countries without documents. This is a case about the rights of businesses, the rights of workers, the rights of landlords.

TUCKER: Under tough cross-examination, the mayor admitted the city had not performed a series of studies and gathered information before it passed its ordinances - something which the mayor said wasn't necessary.

LOU BARLETTA, MAYOR, HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: Cities don't do studies before they pass ordinances. Elected officials are elected to make decisions. And that's what we did in Hazleton.

TUCKER: The trials had a little bit of everything this week. It's the plaintiffs' week. They are the ones in charge of calling the witnesses.

And they are the ones who introduced the presidents of Guatemala and Mexico, plaintiffs' lawyers asking Mayor Barletta if he had checked in with those gentlemen, or with the president of the United States before passing his ordinances, to make sure they don't interfere with immigration obligations under our free trade agreements.

Reporting from Scranton, Pennsylvania, back to you, Kitty.


PILGRIM: Thanks, Bill. Bill Tucker reporting.

Now, we have reported extensively here on the position taken by the ACLU on illegal immigration and its leading role in the lawsuit against Hazleton.

Lou sat down with Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, and asked him what in Hazleton's ordinance does he believe is in contravention of the U.S. Constitution.

(BEGIN VIDEO) ANTHONY ROMERO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: The problem is that the Hazleton ordinance goes much further in dealing with that issue. It's a state and a local ordinance, dealing with a federal issue.

The law itself is written in such a way that it promotes discrimination. It's not so surgical as only to focus on the issue of illegal immigration.

And the concern we have is that it's going to promote racial profiling. It's going to promote discrimination. It's going to turn citizen or resident against resident.


ROMERO: And it's going to have a much broader impact than even the mayor or other individuals who were trying to fix a problem would want to have.

DOBBS: Are you as interested as the community of Hazleton and its residents in stopping the impact, the negative impact, of illegal immigration on communities in this country?

ROMERO: I think that is an important issue that we need our Congress to solve ...

DOBBS: OK. I'm - but I'm asking you ...

ROMERO: ... and we need our government to solve.

DOBBS: ... as the head of the ACLU.

ROMERO: And I ...

DOBBS: I agree with you about Congress. But I'm asking you.

ROMERO: Yes. And one of the things I am most concerned about is ensuring the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

DOBBS: All right. We all - look ...


ROMERO: And that's what America is about ...

DOBBS: Partner, you're never going to have an argument with me about the Constitution ...

ROMERO: I know ...

DOBBS: ... or individual rights.

ROMERO: That's why I'm here again.

DOBBS: But I want to understand. Do you personally, as the head of the ACLU, take as great an interest in the concern for the community of Hazleton and communities just like it all over the country?

ROMERO: Sure, sure.

DOBBS: That being the case ...

ROMERO: That's why we ...

DOBBS: ... what could the ACLU do in combination, not with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is supporting you, not in combination with other corporate interests - which is sort of interesting for me for the ACLU to be bound up there.

But what could you and Mayor Lou Barletta do, if you sat down outside that courtroom, maybe drift over to his office or a coffee shop and you say, you know, mayor, I'm just as concerned as you are. Here's how we rewrite the ordinance.

What would you say?

ROMERO: But Mayor Barletta has not been interested in such a dialogue.

DOBBS: But I'm - you know what?

ROMERO: They've changed the law four or five times.

DOBBS: You've got a big organization, he's got a small community. You've got more resources. Let's you and I, let's elevate it. Tell Lou Barletta what can he do with this ordinance to make it compatible with all our interests.

ROMERO: What's also clear is that the mayor has been using this as a platform for a much broader debate.

DOBBS: He's an elected official. He's entitled to political impulses.

ROMERO: But he's made ...

DOBBS: You and I aren't.

ROMERO: I agree. And that's why we're here to defend the rights of all people.

DOBBS: OK, good.

ROMERO: And the concern that we have is that the law is not surgically focused on the issue that he says he's addressing. It's not focused on violent crime ...

DOBBS: But you're personalizing the issue rather than dealing with what I asked.

ROMERO: But, no ...

DOBBS: And what I ask, Anthony, is what could you and Lou Barletta work out on that ordinance to deal with what you say is a shared interest?

ROMERO: I think one thing ...

DOBBS: Moving away the impact, the negative impacts of illegal immigration ...

ROMERO: I think the ordinance has to be struck down, because it promotes discrimination.

DOBBS: OK. I understand that. You said that.

ROMERO: I don't think that the way he's framed it, and the arguments he's using - you are someone who is concerned about empirical data. Scrub those numbers.

DOBBS: Right, right ...

ROMERO: You had the mayor in court today who couldn't talk about the impact on violent crime - 228 violent crimes since 2001. Only two or three that the mayor can point to, since 2001 to 2006, that were committed by illegal immigrants.

DOBBS: How many - and in how many cases did they have accurate data on how many people were actually illegal aliens?

ROMERO: Well, he wasn't able to answer those questions either.

DOBBS: Nobody in this country is, because ...

ROMERO: But, sir ...

DOBBS: ... you know what? At the federal, state ...

ROMERO: ... if the mayor is trying to ...

DOBBS: ... and local level people are not being permitted to even ask the question ...


ROMERO: ... together a solution to this issue.

DOBBS: Right.

ROMERO: We have to scrub the data. And the solution is not a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one ...

DOBBS: I'm an empiricist, just like you.

ROMERO: I know.

DOBBS: But I'm also a funny fellow. When I ask a question ...

ROMERO: The Bill of Rights, the Constitution ...

DOBBS: When I ask a question ... (CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: How can you and Lou Barletta sit down ...

ROMERO: After we win this lawsuit, we'll sit down. Now we're in court.

DOBBS: You promise?

ROMERO: Now we're in court.

DOBBS: You promise?

ROMERO: Now we've got to win. We didn't pick this ...

DOBBS: Well, what if you lose?

ROMERO: We'll appeal it. There's no way we can loose. The Bills of Rights is completely on our side.

DOBBS: OK. Now, but you will sit down and - you commit - sit down with the city and work it out.

ROMERO: After we win. After we win. We start ...

DOBBS: I don't care how ...


ROMERO: ... constitutional ...

DOBBS: At the end of the trial ...

ROMERO: I'm more than delighted to sit down with the mayor and figure out ...

DOBBS: You're a good man, Anthony Romero.

ROMERO: I'm glad to be here.

DOBBS: Head of the ACLU. Come back soon.

ROMERO: Thank you. I will, sir.


PILGRIM: Coming up, President Bush and the Mexican president agree on an amnesty agenda for illegal aliens in this country.

Mexico expert George Grayson will give us his reaction.

And the Senate intensifies its investigation into Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Was Karl Rove involved in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys?

Three of the nation's brightest political minds join us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: President Bush this week wrapped up his week-long trip to Latin America. The trip included a meeting with the newly elected president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon.

During that meeting, Calderon made a remarkable comment about the U.S.-Mexican border.

Calderon said, "Our borders should bring us together, 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."

Lou spoke with George Grayson, a leading authority on U.S.- Mexican relations about Calderon's comments and what it could possibly mean.


GEORGE GRAYSON, COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY: He wants to export as many people as possible to the United States and also send as many trucks full of Mexican goods into our country.

DOBBS: The idea that this president and President Calderon have come to some sort of agreement on the fact that a border is irrelevant to their visions of the future for Mexico and the United States, that has to be alarming to everyone who is concerned about the sovereignty of this country and its security.

GRAYSON: Yes, absolutely. I think, being able to control who comes into your country is the fundamental element of sovereignty.

And certainly, the Mexicans are concerned about who enters their border from Guatemala and Belize, and other countries. And we should have the same concern about who comes into the United States.

DOBBS: And to hear President Bush talking about regionalizing solutions to problems, rather than dealing with his responsibility as president of the United States, to defend the Constitution and this nation - I mean, that is chilling.

And yet, we are not hearing many people react to that at all.

GRAYSON: Lou, big business wants the chief labor, the political parties - especially the Democrats - want more people voting for them. And, therefore, the silence is deafening.

DOBBS: Is Calderon, like Fox, committed to using the United States as a social safety valve for a failed and corrupt government in perpetuity in Mexico?

GRAYSON: I think most Mexican politicians want to use the border as a safety valve for people for whom they can't find jobs.

Calderon is committed to the war against drugs. The problem is, that's like trying to sweep back the sea with a broom.

DOBBS: And how so?

GRAYSON: In that there is so much money, tens of billions of dollars to be made through the drug trade, that until we find, in the United States, a way to sharply reduce our demand, the flow of drugs is going to continue.

DOBBS: All right, continue.

But if we were to secure that border - I know that that is a far reach, given the thinking on the part of the Democratic leadership in Congress and this president - but if we were to actually secure our borders and our ports, that would go a long way to at least dealing with the issue of a potential terrorist threat, with the entry into this country of billions of dollars in meth amphetamines, heroine, cocaine and marijuana, which mostly originate in Mexico, wouldn't it?

GRAYSON: I think you can do a great deal to staunch the flow of people across the border.

In terms of the drugs, when there are just tens of thousands of dollars to be made by delivering small amounts of narcotics to this country, I think that flow is going to continue until the United States gets serious about our side of the war on drugs.

DOBBS: Give us your judgment as to the so-called comprehensive immigration reform bill, and where we are headed.

GRAYSON: Well, if there were a comprehensive bill, it should have four elements.

First, we should continue to build barriers at the border. And secondly, we should crack down hard on employers who hire illegal immigrants. And third, we should have a national identify card.

And fourth, we should track very carefully those people who enter the United States legally, but then overstay their visas and melt into the population.

DOBBS: There is a sense, an obvious, apparent, insistent view on the part of the Mexican government and its officials that there is some entitlement to cross that border at will.

How in the world can that be altered?

GRAYSON: I'm not sure that we can do anything about that point of view, as long as the United States follows such a permissive policy, which means that our bi-national border is like a sieve that's been blasted by a shotgun.

DOBBS: Professor George Grayson, as always, good to have you with us.

GRAYSON: Thank you very much.


PILGRIM: During his trip to Mexico, President Bush said he was optimistic that Congress would approve his so-called comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Coming up, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales under fire over the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys. Will Gonzales keep his job?

Three of the nation's best political minds will join us.


PILGRIM: Joining me now, three of the country's top political analysts: Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf; columnist Errol Louis of the "New York Daily News."

And from Washington, D.C., we're joined by syndicated columnist and political analyst, Mona Charen.

And thanks for being with us.

Let's start with Iraq, because that seems to be the big focus of the American people, even if it isn't the focus of everyone in government. And lately we have seen more of a push to get troops to Iraq.

Now, the Pentagon announced 2,600 more troops going to Iraq ahead of schedule. That puts about 30,000 troops in to do support of the troops that are already there. General David Petraeus asked for support of the troops already there.

Hank, what's your reaction to these kinds of numbers?


Look, there have been a lot of people who done double tours, triple tours, who haven't come home. They need some relief.

But the American public won't understand that necessarily. What they'll see is more troops going to a place for a war that they'd like to see ended. And they'd like to see Congress be much more strong about it.


MONA CHAREN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think what you are witnessing is the Congress seemingly determined that we should lose this war, while General Petraeus is attempting to win it.

It's an extraordinary spectacle to watch the Democrats in Congress - who have clearly already decided that all is lost - vote after vote, saying that we ought to withdraw, that we ought to draw down, and so on and so forth.

Actually, there has been progress. In the last several weeks you have seen the violence in Baghdad begin to subside.

I was laughing yesterday when I saw that this was on page A-15 of the "Washington Post." Frankly, if the violence had been scooting up, it would have been on A-1, without any doubt.

PILGRIM: You know, that's a great point.

And Petraeus is just there. He needs, basically, some time to set a strategy.

What do you think, Errol? Are we giving him enough room?

ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I think there is a distressing tendency - and it comes straight from the White House - to turn over so much of the operation of this conflict to the generals in the field.

We have civilian leadership in this country. You know, the generals will do whatever cue they think they're getting from the civilian leadership, which in this case is to do as much as you can, as much as you think you can get away with.

I think it is absolutely wrong to imagine that resistance to this is somehow the province of just the Democrats. I mean, a majority of the American public wants the troops home. There's just no question about that.

Anyone who wants to argue in the other direction, I think should maybe put a bigger number on the table. Maybe it's not an extra 3,000 or 9,000. Maybe it's another 20,000 or 30,000 or 40,000 troops that would be needed.

But clearly, the effort that's going on now is one of slow, gradual failure.

CHAREN: No, it isn't. In point of fact, the greatest risk of failure is if Congress keeps undermining the effort on the ground in Iraq. That's the greatest risk. And it's a serious one, because a disunited country sends that message to our enemies, who then, of course, simply have to wait us out.

LOUIS: Well, you can't - the thing is, you can't make - you can't make unity out of a divided public opinion. I mean, a majority of the public - any way you poll them, any time you poll them, across party lines - says it's time to bring the troops home.

CHAREN: Well, the ...

PILGRIM: The Senate ...


PILGRIM: Let me just butt in here for a second.

CHAREN: Sure. PILGRIM: I mean, talking about what's going on on Capitol Hill, the Senate rejected the resolution to withdraw most of the combat - it goes to the House.

What are the chances of any of this getting through? Is this an exercise in debate only?

SHEINKOPF: Some of it's an exercise in debate. Others of it is simply a way for Democrats in the Congress to voice their opinions, which are consistent with American public opinion.

And in a democracy, the government should follow the public opinion of the people it serves. That's why the Republicans were turned out in the fall. That's one of the reasons.

CHAREN: Well, that's an interpretation. It's not necessarily so clear.

The public has said a lot of different things in polling. And many times what they have said is that they would want to succeed and not have any precipitous withdrawal.

So, I think that's a little bit of an overstatement of what those polls can tell us.

But even, still, it is also the job of our elected officials to govern, to make choices, to lead. They are not simply there to slavishly obey each new sway and movement of ...

SHEINKOPF: We are now on the fourth anniversary of this commitment, and that is a reasonable time for average people to determine whether their tax dollars are being well spent or not.

CHAREN: Well, and in point of fact, there has been progress. And I think it's a mistake to overlook that.

And I certainly think it was despicable for Congress, before it had even begun, to pass a nonbinding resolution saying they were against it.

PILGRIM: Let's move on to some other political wrangles that are going on this week.

We could stay on Iraq forever, but I'd like to get on to Gonzales. And Republican Senator John Sununu this week urged President Bush to fire him.

President Bush expressed confidence in Gonzales. Let's listen to what the president had to say, and then discuss.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We talked about his need to go up to Capitol Hill and make it very clear to members in both political parties why the Justice Department made the decisions it made, make it very clear about the facts. And he's right. Mistakes were made.


PILGRIM: Now, this is still a developing story, but any initial responses to what's going on, Hank?

SHEINKOPF: The attorney general of the United States needs to be beyond reproach and beyond suspicion, beyond interfering in the matters of local U.S. attorneys. There can be no appearance of political interference.

We've seen what's happened in the past during the Watergate problem, and other issues. It's not good.

It undermines public confidence in the system, and it's time for him to go.


LOUIS: There is going to be, I think, a large and growing number of voices that are going to call for his resignation. The latest revelations - I mean, he says mistakes were made. He said that a few days ago, and it was in this kind of passive tone.

But shortly after he made those statements, more e-mails came to light. And that wasn't passive stuff. That was, you know, names, the counselor to the president, Karl Rove.

It was very specific, very political. You know, when they're screening and talking about U.S. attorneys, dedicated justice professionals, as whether or not - they're being screened for whether or not they're "loyal Bushies" was the phrase in one of the e-mails, that's the end of any even appearance of objective, neutral administration of law.

PILGRIM: Mona, we have to be quick about this, because we need to go to break for a second.

CHAREN: OK. Well, look. It may not have been the best public relations handling by the White House, but that much having been said, the U.S. attorneys are political appointees. They do serve at the pleasure of the president.

There is less here than meets the eye. It seems to me that the big problem was that there was a failure to explain themselves very clearly on the part of this administration, on the part of Gonzales.

But it strikes - it's not a firing offense.

SHEINKOPF: Oh, please.

CHAREN: These people do serve at the pleasure of the president.


CHAREN: And U.S. attorneys are expected to carry out the policies of the Justice Department.

SHEINKOPF: Which is equal justice under law without political interference, the last time I looked.

CHAREN: Well, Bill Clinton fired all 92 U.S. attorneys when he came into office.

SHEINKOPF: What does that have to do with ...

CHAREN: Well, it was his right.

SHEINKOPF: What does that have to do with a public - with an official - the political official of the White House getting on and telling people what to do about justice-related matters?

PILGRIM: We will have opportunity to debate this probably next week also.

CHAREN: There are just - there are policy-related matters that are being decided in the Justice Department. It isn't all politics.

PILGRIM: All right.

We will take a quick break and get back to it. More with our panel right after this. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: I'm back with three of the country's top political analysts. Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf here in New York, as is columnist Errol Louis in the "New York Daily News."

From Washington, D.C., syndicated columnist and political analyst, Mona Charen.

And let's go to the Valerie Plame hearings that we heard this week - absolutely riveting stuff, I think.

Let's turn quickly to something that she mentioned.


VALERIE PLAME WILSON: My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department.

All of them understood that I worked for the CIA. And having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer.


PILGRIM: Valerie Plame gets her say.

What do you think of the fact that all this is being brought out, Hank? SHEINKOPF: Fairly riveting testimony. Either we're going to protect the people that put their lives on the line for this nation or we're not, and we have to do it across the board.

Major changes are required, and the law needs to be strengthened, frankly.

LOUIS: Every day on drive-time radio I listen to ads urging young people, in particular, to join the clandestine service of the Central Intelligence Agency.

They've got a slogan. They've got this really interesting kind of patter. You can see the world. There's great government benefits, and so forth.

The damage that something like this does for that important recruitment effort, I think we'll see years down the road. But the damage here is not just to this one operative, this one agent, this one family.

This is going to be something that the country's going to have to deal with for a long, long time.

CHAREN: If she were that concerned about her covert status - which, by the way, has not yet been established. I wonder if anyone asked her, were you actually covert. But we'll find out about that tomorrow, I suppose.

But in the meantime, if she was that concerned about security, why did she have her husband publish an op-ed in the "New York Times" about sensitive matters that were supposedly intra-governmental?

It seems to me that she didn't fulfill her end of the bargain.

PILGRIM: All right. It's an interesting question.

Go ahead, Hank, you wanted to say something.

SHEINKOPF: The last I looked, she wasn't her husband, number one. Number two, that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Do you protect, under law, and with stricter law, the identity of covert operatives ...

CHAREN: Of course you do. But

SHEINKOPF: ... of the United States of America? And if you put them at risk, are you not engaging in treasonous behavior?

PILGRIM: Yes. Hang on.

CHAREN: Nobody leaked her name from the White House.

I mean, this is the whole, you know - this is the whole fantasy that, unfortunately, has taken hold of the city and the country, and, of course, took hold of Prosecutor Fitzgerald. But in point of fact, there was never evidence of that, and that's why he prosecuted Libby - not for leaking her name, but for perjury.


LOUIS: Well, I mean, clearly, the man is going to go to prison, most likely, for having lied about whether or not he said anything about it.

And that, I think most reasonable people would agree means that he was attempting to sort of squelch the real source of the leak.


PILGRIM: Busy week in Washington. We can't sort it all out here, but thank you for trying anyway.

Errol Louis, Hank Sheinkopf, Mona Charen, thank you very much.

And thank you for joining us. Please join us tomorrow.

For all us here, thanks for watching. Enjoy your weekend.

Good night from New York.


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