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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Battle for Iraq: Fighting Intensifies; More U.S. Troops in Frontline Roles in Iraq; Showdown Over War Funds

Aired April 10, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, one of the biggest battles in Baghdad in weeks. Sixteen of our troops have been wounded.
We'll have a special report for you tonight on the sharp increase in the number of casualties in Iraq.

Also tonight, President Bush says he will not negotiate with Democrats in the showdown over emergency funding for the war. Democrats say the president must compromise.

We'll have a live report for you and full analysis.

Rutgers women's basketball players today blast Don Imus for what they call his despicable language about their team, but the players have agreed to meet with Imus to hear his point of view.

We'll have complete coverage of that story, all the day's news, and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, April 10th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Our troops today fought a major battle with insurgents in Baghdad, and as that fighting intensifies, American casualties are rising. For the first time since the beginning of this war, at least 80 Americans have been killed in three consecutive months.

Meanwhile, the political showdown over the war between President Bush and congressional Democrats in Washington escalated. Both sides refusing to compromise on emergency funding for this war.

Tonight, Michael Ware reports from Baghdad on the fighting in Iraq.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on the rising number of casualties in this war.

And Ed henry reports from the White House on the political strategy and deadlock in the conduct of this war.

We turn first to Michael Ware in Baghdad -- Michael.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, it's almost trite to say that the war rages on here in Iraq. In an incident in the center of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, today, 16 American soldiers were wounded in this one engagement alone.

According to the U.S. military, it started at about 7:00 a.m. local time this morning during a routine cordon and search, locking down an area, going door to door. While American and Iraqi troops were doing this, the insurgents opened fire. They killed four of the Iraqi soldiers, and only three of the insurgents were killed.

In the meantime, these 16 American soldiers were wounded. Now, we don't know whether any of them were critically wounded or whether they were all minor wounds. Nonetheless, two other Iraqi soldiers were wounded, as was an Iraqi child, according to the U.S. military.

Now, we also see north of the capital, in Diyala Province, al Qaeda hitting back at police recruits, using a female suicide bomber to infiltrate the ranks of these men joining the police service, detonating herself and killing 10 of the recruits around her.

Meanwhile, south of the capital, Baghdad, in the Shia-dominated town of Diwaniya, an ongoing operation now in about its fourth day known as Operation Black Eagle continues, with American and Iraqi security forces targeting the Shia militia of anti-American rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. According to Iraqi government officials, so far 14 people have been killed, 61 wounded. Some of them, or among them, some militia members, say the Iraqi government.

Meanwhile, there's been about 50-odd arrests -- Lou.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Michael Ware reporting from Baghdad.

The military has now reported the deaths of another 11 of our troops in Iraq. Eight of those troops were soldiers, the other three sailors, at a bomb disposal unit.

Forty-three of our troops have been killed in Iraq already this month. 3,292 of our troops have been killed since the beginning of the war. 24,645 of our troops wounded, 11,030 of them seriously.

The number of our troops being killed in this war has risen sharply since U.S. reinforcements began to arrive in Iraq to carry out the surge strategy. Many more of our troops are now serving in frontline positions. Our troops are establishing combat outposts across Baghdad in a new strategy and an effort to defeat the insurgency.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Eight weeks into the Baghdad security plan, one trend is clear. The so-called surge is producing a surge in American casualties, which one U.S. commander tells CNN is the price of success.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: I was just down in Baghdad two days ago walking through the city, and I can tell the difference from two months ago to today in terms of the environment. You can just sense and feel there is a difference.

MCINTYRE: The new U.S.-Iraqi offensive has transformed Baghdad into the frontlines, and, consequently, put more American troops in the crosshairs. Numbers for the first quarter of 2007 show that for the first time since the war began, U.S. military deaths have been 80 or more for three consecutive months, and April is on track to exceed 100.

But the flip side is that Iraqi civilian deaths are declining, down 27 percent last month, according to the U.S. military. Which, after all, is one of the goals of the crackdown.

But the larger goal is to create a period of peace in which the Sunni and Shia can figure out how to stop fighting each other, and that goal remains elusive.

DR. ALI ALLAWI, FMR. IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER: It's helping in the since that it's establishing -- helping the central government to establish security where it matters, in Baghdad, but not where it also matters, which is outside of Baghdad.

MCINTYRE: The U.S. military attributes its higher casualties to its more aggressive patrols and to the response by insurgents, who appear to be increasingly targeting Americans in an effort to weaken U.S. resolve.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: One other trend is clear. U.S. commanders want to keep up the pressure and will likely maintain the surge well into next year, and that means it's all but certain that some U.S. troops, as many as 15,000, will see their tours of duty extended by up to four months -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you.

Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

President Bush today accused Democrats of failing to support our troops in Iraq. President Bush invited Democrats to the White House to discuss the spending bill that does not set a withdrawal date. But Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, said the president must change course in Iraq and focus on the war against al Qaeda instead.

Ed Henry reports from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Even as the president suggested he was offering Democrats an olive branch, he blasted away.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are at war. It is irresponsible for the Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds they need to succeed.

HENRY: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid took the unusual step of quoting Pope Benedict XVI to fire back.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Things are not OK in Iraq. As the pope said on Easter Sunday, a slaughter is taking place in Iraq. The pope further said, nothing good is coming from Iraq.

The president must realize that. He has to deal with Congress. We are an independent branch of this government, and by our Constitution, we have equal say that he has.

HENRY: Despite the escalation in the war of words, Mr. Bush suggested to the American Legion he is still hopeful of finding common ground by inviting leaders of both parties over to the White House next week.

BUSH: We can discuss the way forward on a -- on a bill that is a clean bill. A bill that funds our troops without artificial timetables for withdrawal and without handcuffing our generals on the ground.

HENRY: Senator Reid quickly dismissed that as disingenuous.

REID: The president is inviting us down to the White House with preconditions. That's not the way things should operate.

HENRY: Indeed, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino suggested the president has no plans to give in at all.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This is not a meeting in order to compromise. This is a meeting to discuss the way forward because the Democrats have to admit that they don't have the votes to override the president's veto.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, Democrats insist that unlike the president, they're willing to negotiate without preconditions, but, in fact, they're not willing to give in on that key provision of all, which is a date certain for withdrawing U.S. troops. So the fact of the matter is, at this point, neither side wants to budge an inch -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, thank you.

Ed Henry reporting from the White House.

The Bush administration tonight also faces more nuclear defiance from Iran. One day after declaring itself a nuclear nation, Iran today said it plans to install as many as 50,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium. Those centrifuges would sharply accelerate Tehran's ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and some nuclear experts say Iran could have a nuclear bomb in as little as a year.

North Korea already has nuclear weapons, but the Bush administration says Pyongyang will suspend its nuclear program. The State Department today said $25 million of North Korean funds that were frozen in Macau have been unblocked. A dispute over those funds had delayed a six-country agreement for North Korea to begin dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

Coming up here next, explosive testimony in the trial of a Chinese-American accused of passing some of this country's most sensitive military secrets and technology to Beijing.

We'll have that special report.

Also, dangerous imports are flooding into this country from communist China. What is the Bush administration doing about it? Not only not much, but, in fact, cutting back.

We'll have the story.

And Rutgers women's basketball players furious with Don Imus for his offensive remarks about their team, but the players have agreed to meet with Imus. Should they accept his apology?

We'll have complete coverage, a great deal more straight ahead.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: New developments in the congressional investigation into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed documents from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Committee chairman Congressman John Conyers says he has run out of patience with the Justice Department.

After weeks of negotiation, his committee says it still has not received the documents and e-mails requested. The Justice Department doesn't say whether it will comply with that subpoena, but in a statement, the Justice Department did say, "It's unfortunate Congress would choose this option."

In southern California today, the trial of a naturalized American citizen accused of passing sensitive military secrets and technology to communist China continues. A federal investigator today testified that defendant Chi Mak confessed to stealing military secrets and giving them to China. The defense says the confession is what they call suspect.

Casey Wian has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two days after his arrest, former Power Paragon engineer Chi Mak admitted to investigators he passed sensitive military technology to the communist Chinese government beginning in 1983, according to testimony by veteran Navy criminal investigator Gunnar Newquist. Prosecutors played video clips of a nearly five-hour interrogation the day Mak was arrested in October, 2005.

On the tape, the naturalized American citizen claimed he did not purposely pass restricted information about a quiet submarine and warship propulsion system to anyone, but two days later investigators say he admitted passing the military information to China out of loyalty to his native country. Mak's defense team says that alleged admission is suspect because it was not videotaped.

MARILYN BEDNARSKI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There is a huge amount of progress in China economically and commercially, and in trade. I think it's a very narrow-minded point of view to view China as only interested in enhancing its military or defense. Our case is about a very smart engineer who is very interested in his field, who is committed to his field, and to knowledge and to sharing that knowledge.

WIAN: Under cross-examination, NCIS agent Newquist testified the other interrogations included the FBI, which routinely videotapes witness statements, while the NCIS does not. The FBI arrested Mak's brother earlier at Los Angeles International Airport before he boarded his flight. Their wives and a nephew are also charged with exporting sensitive military information to a suspected representative of the People's Liberation Army.

RICHARD FISHER, INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGY CENTER: The Chi Mak case is really illustrative of a very large Chinese espionage threat here in the United States. This espionage threat currently overwhelms American security organizations, counterintelligence organizations, and we really don't know how to contain it.

WIAN: Defense attorneys suggested investigators were determined to pressure Mak to confess because the federal government has lost two high-profile Chinese espionage cases involving nuclear engineer Wen Ho Lee and alleged double agent Katrina Leung.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: But the federal investigator testified that his main motivation was to quickly determine how much damage Chi Mak allegedly did to sensitive U.S. military technology -- Lou.

DOBBS: And that assessment at this point seems to be considerable.

WIAN: That's what prosecutors allege, and some outside military experts allege. Some people say that he has set the United States Navy back years in terms of the advantage they had over China.

There is -- it's going to be difficult to actually determine how much damage he did at this trial, because some of the testimony is going to involve classified information, and that testimony will not be open to the public -- Lou. DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian reporting from Santa Ana, California.

Communist China is at the center of a threat to American consumers tonight as well. So far this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced 99 product recalls, and of those recalls 63 were products made in China and imported here.

As Bill Tucker reports, instead of strengthening the agency that is most responsible for consumer safety in this country, the Bush administration has cut its resources significantly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Consumer safety has been reduced to a war of numbers, and the numbers are not on the consumers' side. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has suffered budget cuts, its staff slashed by almost 50 percent, and the number of products it's responsible for has increased by 50 percent. The lab is old and outdated, and the commission is short one commissioner.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: I think that this is almost a strategy of victory by attrition, that if you can bring the agency down and weaken it and weaken it and weaken it, they just don't have the manpower to do the things they need to do.

TUCKER: Compounding the problem is the staggering increase in imported goods. When the CPSC was created in 1973, we had a trade surplus. Last year our trade deficit in products topped $386 billion.

More and more of what we buy is made in plants outside of the United States, and with the loss of manufacturing has come a loss of control over manufacturing processes. That can and has created some very serious consequences, like lead in products for children.

DAVID MAYS, CONSUMER REPORTS: We've found lead in vinyl lunchboxes. Even on things like highchairs and on baby bibs and other vinyl products that certainly could potentially expose a child to lead.

TUCKER: Earlier this month, two product recalls were items made in China for kids to play with, contaminated with lead. Instead of stepping up vigilance, the president has proposed cutting the agency's budget, and many of the most experienced people at the CSPC have taken early retirement, lured by incentives to further reduce the staff.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: And it appears the president is stacking the commission in favor of industry instead of consumers. The acting head is a former lobbyist and the former head of consumer affairs for the Chamber of Commerce. The man nominated by the president to fill the final commission slot and head the CSPC, Lou, he is the executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

DOBBS: That is simply outrageous. What possible explanation could this administration have for this kind of conduct?

TUCKER: You can't make this stuff up.

DOBBS: At a time when exports to this country are rising, at a time when more products are in the hands of the most vulnerable, our young people, in the case of toys, and all sorts of products, two- thirds of the recalls are from China, this -- this is absolutely insane.

TUCKER: And even more amazing, the head of the Toy Industry Association has stood before hearings at Capitol Hill and said they should increase the budget for the CSPC. Yet, the administration continues to push for cuts.

DOBBS: Where in the world is this Democratic-led Congress that's to provide oversight? Are they taking it up?

TUCKER: Well, this is an issue with Senator Pryor.

DOBBS: Well, good for him.

TUCKER: And he has been holding them to it. He is trying to put money back into it, and he wants to build a new lab for the CSPC. He said it's badly needed at this point.

DOBBS: Badly needed. The number of inspectors needed -- and as you reported, our food imports into this country are now 20 percent at a time when FDA is only inspecting one percent of the products.

This administration has a great deal to answer for, and hopefully we'll get those answers.

Bill Tucker, thank you very much.

Coming up next, a college education, a public university education in this country, is rapidly slipping from the grasp of many middle class Americans. We'll have a special report on this alarming development.

And the Rutgers women's basketball team goes public and responds to the offensive remarks of radio talk show host Don Imus. We'll hear what they had to say. We'll discuss the controversy. And you will meet some rather remarkable young ladies.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: New evidence tonight of the war on the middle class. Students entering four-year public universities are far richer today than at any other time in the past 35 years.

And as Christine Romans now reports, UCLA examined 40 years of data and found that rising fees and tuition in America's public universities are driving many middle class and lower-income students away from higher education. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Incoming college freshmen today come from families earning 60 percent more than the national average. UCLA researchers find "... not only do college students come from more economically advantaged homes than their predecessors, but the gap is widening." Evidence that tuition increases make college unattainable for millions.

Tuition has soared 35 percent over five years. Two-thirds of students are now saddled with student debt. Almost $135 billion in student aid granted last year.

ROBERT SHIREMAN, PROJECT ON STUDENT DEBT: Whenever you have that much money sloshing around in the system, there are going to be industries and individuals who are looking to see if they can get a piece of it.

ROMANS: Getting a piece of it perhaps at students' expense. The New York attorney general says he is investigating hundreds of schools for possible kickbacks to financial aid advisers for pushing students to use "preferred lenders".

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: There should be no financial incentives to a financial aid officer, no gifts, no perks. Make the decisions based on what's in the best interest of the student.

ROMANS: Some of our nation's most well-known universities are under investigation for the ties between the financial aid office and the for-profit companies selling student loans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: The private loan arrangements that Cuomo is investigating are more important than ever. Government financial aid has not kept up with tuition increases. Pell Grant recipients are receiving about $120 less per needy student today than they were just a couple of years ago -- Lou.

DOBBS: And Congress cutting back over $12 billion in financial aid for college students who desperately need that money.

We're going in the wrong direction in so many areas in this country, but in terms of education, where is the outcry from business? Where is the leadership from public universities and from Congress? And how about from the president?

ROMANS: The idea is -- that's right. Well, the idea that the financial aid office is somehow all tied up with these private companies that are lending to students, I mean, it just -- it just really goes against what higher education is all about. It's not about...

DOBBS: And the purpose of those school loans. ROMANS: Precisely. And Andrew Cuomo said that he thinks this industry that has sort of evolved this way. That this is just like any other business, a very big valuable business. And so obviously, people on both sides trying to enrich themselves, but what about the student?

I mean, they're saddled with a debt that's 20 years long. A trillion dollars now is the student loan debt in this country.

DOBBS: Unbelievable.

Well, good for the attorney general, Andrew Comoro. Every attorney general in the country needs to start looking at this.

Thank you.

Christine Romans.

As we reported here earlier, President Bush and the Democratic leadership are now locked in a battle over setting a deadline for troop withdrawal from Iraq. That's the subject of our poll tonight.

And the question is: Do you believe the United States should begin a meaningful troop withdrawal from Iraq as early as this summer? Yes or no?

We would love to hear from you on this. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. The results will be coming up here later in the broadcast.

Up next, a massive drug bust at sea. We'll have that report.

Also, an overwhelming number of Americans say federal, state and local government should enforce U.S. immigration laws. How about that?

And how about your government, your Congress, your president? They don't read the same polls.

We'll have a special report.

And Rutgers women's basketball players blast Don Imus for his offensive comments about their team. We'll tell you what the players are saying.

And "Chicago Tribune" columnist Clarence Page, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, Bryan Monroe, and Vanderbilt University law professor Carol Swain join me to discuss this controversy and what should its outcome be.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The Rutgers women's basketball team today responded to the racially offensive comments of radio talk show host Don Imus. The team's coach, Vivian Stringer, addressed the qualities of the young women who make up her team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIVIAN STRINGER, COACH, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY WOMEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM: These young ladies that you have seated before you, before you are valedictorians of their class, future doctors, musical prodigies, and, yes, even Girl Scouts. These young ladies are the best this nation has to offer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: And, by the way, Coach Stringer -- and I don't think many of us knew much about the character of the personality of her team. But one of the great things to come out of this -- one of the few great things, in point of fact, is to be introduced to some remarkable, remarkable young ladies.

We want to turn now to our panel tonight to discuss these issues surrounding Don Imus, his remarks, and racism and sexism in this country.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the "Chicago Tribune", Clarence Page.

Clarence, good to have you with us.

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Bryan Monroe, he is the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, who took the lead in absolutely demanding accountability in this offense.

And Carol Swain, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University.

Carol, good to have you with us.

CAROL SWAIN, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND LAW, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Thank you.

DOBBS: Let me turn to you, first, Clarence. I have to -- you have had some experience with Don Imus. I've been on his show. You've been on his show. But you have before encountered the issue of remarks that were racially offensive by Don Imus.

PAGE: Right. A similar controversy erupted back in 2001. An article on TomPaine.com listed a bunch of offenses, on-air offenses, if you will. And the headline was something like "why do Washington pundits appear on racist Don Imus's radio show" or something to that effect.

And I was asked about it, and I hadn't seen the comments before, but once I saw them, I said, well, it troubles me. I'd be uncomfortable being on the show again until I have talked to Don about it, and he agreed to talk about it on the air. So I urged him to pledge on the air to avoid racial -- racially inflammatory humor, and, obviously, he's fallen off the wagon now.

DOBBS: And which, by the way, he did pledge to you at that time.

Bryan, your thoughts about how quickly your organization did move. The comments were made on a Wednesday. You brought out your statements on a Friday. Other organizations, I think it's fair to say, followed. Some of them were slow, in the judgment of many, to follow through.

Are you in any way mollified or at least hopeful that the comments by Don Imus and the process that is underway in this country and the discussion -- has that in any way made you more hopeful of a reasonable and positive outcome?

BRYAN MONROE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACK JOURNALISTS: Well, you know, this whole saga has been both disappointing and, as you said earlier, looking at the young students today and Coach Stringer, overwhelming. I was so impressed and so proud to watch those students stand up like they did.

DOBBS: Weren't they amazing?

MONROE: They were just phenomenal. Phenomenal.

DOBBS: I mean, Coach Stringer is not exaggerating when she talks about future doctors, valedictorians. To a person on that team, those young ladies -- and I have to tell you, I didn't know much about them.

But you hear everyone talk about scholar athletes in this country. These young ladies are absolutely not only the Cinderella team of the NCAA, but they are just truly remarkable young Americans.

MONROE: And they were fantastic. You know, I'd be a little worried if any of them are journalism graduates, because you and I would have trouble holding onto our jobs.

DOBBS: They're too smart for that. Come on. They've got higher ambitions.

MONROE: Good, good. No, it's really been interesting to watch how America handles this. I was at a gas station this morning pumping gas, and had this on the radio, and they had just replayed the comments. And there was a young white woman at the pump next to me, and she overheard it and turned to me and said, "Oh, my God, what was he thinking?"

And, you know, this is not just a black issue. This is not just an issue that has affected some women, but this affects all of America.

DOBBS: Carol, your thoughts?

SWAIN: I mean, there's no way that his remarks were not inappropriate and offensive. I would prefer -- I'm a strong proponent of free speech, and I would prefer to know who I'm dealing with. And I think that one of the values of allowing people to express themselves is that you get to know the person that you're dealing with.

And I believe that it also points to the impact that the black rappers and comedians have had on American society. So much so that this white entertainer feels comfortable addressing black women as hos, and that's a language that they routinely use.

DOBBS: Well, you're not suggesting you'd be any more comfortable with a black entertainer referring to a woman as a ho?

SWAIN: No, it's totally inappropriate, and it's degrading to black women. But at the same time I believe that it should be left up to his sponsors and his audience to decide his fate. So I would not call for his resignation, but I would call for the -- his audience and, again, the sponsors to hold him accountable.

DOBBS: Bryan, your reaction to that?

MONROE: Well, you know, I would agree that the marketplace ultimately should decide. We're the National Association of Black Journalists. We believe in the First Amendment. We believe in free speech.

But we also know that with free speech comes responsibility. And in cases like this when the impact has been so strong, there have to be consequence conventions.

But what you're seeing right now is that marketplace in action. Lou, your show, other shows, the comments that have been made on the Internet and in many newspapers over these last few days, this is exactly what is happening. The marketplace is starting to speak.

DOBBS: And, Clarence, the marketplace is, to me at least, first, a marketplace of ideas, and part of our job, it seems to me, as journalists -- I'm an advocacy journalist. You're a columnist.

Bryan, you -- you're leading an important journalistic organization. Carol, a law professor and political scientist.

You know, it seems to me just a tremendously disappointing point in our history when in 2007 we are a nation that can't come together on basic standards of public decency and conduct.

And I'm no prig or prude, and I'm certainly more enthusiastic, probably, than most on what the First Amendment provides us. But there is such a pollution in our air from the language that denigrates, that offends women, African-Americans.

PAGE: It's a turning point.

DOBBS: I'm sorry?

PAGE: Maybe this is a turning point. I don't want to sound too optimistic, but I, too, am surprised by the reaction, and I say pleasantly surprised that there has been such a big eruption of outrage over this -- over the weekend. You know, Friday Don appeared to think he could get past this with a simple apology at the beginning of this program. That was Friday. By the time Monday came around, he was apologizing all day long and every hour on his program. Went on Al Sharpton's program like a national confessional and was berated by Sharpton for an hour or more. And I think, you know, that he's on his damage control tour now.

SWAIN: If he wants to...

PAGE: That's part of it.

SWAIN: If he wants to apologize to blacks, he should go to black churches and black colleges and black forums.

PAGE: Right.

SWAIN: Al Sharpton and these so-called anointed black leaders, they don't speak for black America. So if he wants to apologize, he needs to go to the people.

DOBBS: Do you agree with that, Bryan?

MONROE: Well, the fact that -- I think, in fact, that it's important for him, first, to -- if they will have him, to sit down with the students at Rutgers.

DOBBS: Right. I hear you.

MONROE: And look them in the eye and tell them to their faces what he was thinking. And, you know, whether or not to accept an apology, that's between them and Mr. Imus.

But we know from a national standpoint, these are our public airways. You own them. I own them. America owns them. They're designed to operate in the public good, in the public interest.

And at some point we have to say enough is enough. Otherwise, you know, we become numb to all this, and, you know, I've had people say, you know, what's the big deal here? We have to say this is a big deal.

SWAIN: And we have to say it to blacks as well as whites and everyone else. We just shouldn't tolerate that type of language.

MONROE: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, Carol, you were in our magazine in "Ebony" magazine...

SWAIN: Yes.

MONROE: ... a few months ago when we talked about why it's wrong for blacks and whites to use the "N" word, and we have to keep that up.

SWAIN: Yes. DOBBS: Among the words that pollute our culture, our society, it is also -- I have a strong sense that we're going to see the passion and the appropriate passion of the calls here and the criticism of Imus who, by the way, in my opinion, in his life -- and I think his life should be the broader context, as well, for whatever punishment. It must be profound, as I've said. It must be proportionate.

But he has been a man exemplary in media. I know of no one in media who donates more money to more causes, who leads more important public service causes, humanitarian causes.

But we -- you know, to put this on one man, I think it's also interesting. I'd love to get your thoughts on it. It's about time people said I've had a belly full of this sort of multicultural standard that shifts, if it's a matter of race or whether, you know, one can be hateful to members of his or her own race, but it's not appropriate to be hateful and utterly offensive and ignorant to members of another race.

PAGE: I think Sharpton made one interesting point, you know, about how the country shouldn't get outraged over just Janet Jackson's bare breast incident at the Super Bowl and then not get outraged over some of the shock jock material that goes out.

DOBBS: Sure.

PAGE: Maybe people are just making themselves heard more now.

DOBBS: Your thoughts about the outcome? Let me start with you, Clarence. Should Don Imus -- do you think it's likely he will be fired, or do you think there will be a proportionate punishment? Where do we go from here?

PAGE: Well, the very fact that CBS and NBC has suspended him for two weeks. That's more punishment than he's had in the past. It may be a slap on the wrist in one sense, but it does put some teeth into their expressed outrage.

If we go overboard, I fear he becomes a martyr then and you get a backlash the other way. So at least I think this -- I know he's been put on notice now, and so have others.

DOBBS: The country, I think, as well. All of us on notice as we -- you know, it seems crazy to even think there should have to be a notice. Bryan, your thought?

MONROE: Well, you know, I think that the two-week suspension is a good start, but it's not enough. He needs to really understand what he did.

And, also, that the airways -- you know, we're meeting with CBS tomorrow in New York. And we want to hear what they have to say, but also let them know that this was a good first start. But he has to be held accountable in a significant way, and the only way we understand is for him to be let go.

DOBBS: And, Carol, your thoughts?

SWAIN: I think that his apology has been offered. It should be accepted, and that this should be the beginning of a constructive dialogue about speech and about all those issues that we are afraid to talk about publicly.

Again, I think it's much more dangerous for people to hold such views privately and we not know who we're dealing with. And he may genuinely be sorry. I think we need to focus on the language more broadly.

DOBBS: Right. You know, for me I agree, in point of fact, Carol, with you, and with Clarence on this.

And Bryan, I think it is really important for all of us in this industry -- you know, I've heard so many people say, you know, we have to be careful when it comes to a discussion of race. We've sure got to get beyond careful and get to the honest, the true thoughts and the hearts of all of us in this country.

And I think this -- I'm very hopeful that it's a beginning of that process. And I want to thank you all for being here. I hope you'll come back soon.

SWAIN: Thank you.

MONROE: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: We'll be addressing this issue, and I think all of us have a responsibility to do so in the months and years ahead. Make it a better country. What do you think?

SWAIN: Yes.

MONROE: Thank you, Lou. You're right on.

DOBBS: Coming up next, we'll have more on the Imus controversy. Three of the country's top radio talk show hosts will join us to give us their perspective on all of this. We hope you'll stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, joining me now, three of the country's best talk radio show hosts. Charles Goyette joins us tonight from KFNX in Phoenix.

Charles, good to have you here.

CHARLES GOYETTE, TALK RADIO SHOW HOST: Hi, Lou.

DOBBS: And in Washington, Joe Madison from WOL.

Joe, good to have you here.

JOE MADISON, TALK RADIO SHOW HOST: Thank you. DOBBS: And here in New York from Air America radio, Laura Flanders. The author also of "Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians".

Good to have you here.

Let's start -- my guess is we all watched the Rutgers -- and I hate to sound like an idiot; trying to avoid that as much as possible. I did not know anything about these women on the Rutgers basketball team. I didn't know what to expect in this.

And I have to tell you, I was so impressed by those young ladies. I mean, I am literally impressed out of my mind. Vivian Stringer, their coach. I mean, they really are outstanding folks.

LAURA FLANDERS, TALK RADIO SHOW HOST: Wouldn't it be great if we had a media that brought us those voices and those stories on a regular basis? Not only when they're having to sort of assert that they're not nappy-headed hos?

I mean, I loved it, too. We should all be celebrating those stories. But the fact that they would -- the only time we were meeting them, many of us, was in this context, I just found very sad.

DOBBS: Joe Madison, what do you think? Where does Imus go here? Where do we go? Where do talk -- where does talk radio go from here?

MADISON: I must admit, I actually sat here on the set and started -- tears started to flow when I saw those young ladies.

DOBBS: You bet you.

MADISON: I mean -- and I mean, literally tears. Because I saw my daughters. I saw all three of my daughters.

And when you start talking about them being valedictorians -- you see, as a black man, I see that every day. I see this every single day. What is happening in talk radio and in media in general is that money and ratings trump basic decency.

Look what Ann Coulter said. I have an article here that she wrote where she said -- she talks about the people in Sudan haven't even wrapped up the genocide. It's right here.

I've got an article here from "The Toronto Star" where a furniture making company has -- is making leather furniture. And guess what they're calling the color of it? Nigger-brown.

DOBBS: You've got to be kidding.

MADISON: It's right here.

DOBBS: It's just -- that's insane.

MADISON: It's -- it's right here. And so at some point I think the suits in our business have got to decide how low this bar is going to keep going, and it keeps getting lower and lower and lower.

DOBBS: Well, we're going to come back to that issue, I guarantee you.

Charles Goyette, weigh in here. Then we're going to have to take a break and come right back.

GOYETTE: You know, Joe -- yes, Joe is absolutely right. The suits in the business own a lot of responsibility for this thing. You know they cultivated him. They rewarded him. They encouraged him in this kind of behavior for a long career.

So what are they going to do? They're going to fire him? Do you think they're going to fire themselves? Of course not. There's something a little bit unfair about the idea of firing them when this is -- he gave them exactly what they have wanted.

DOBBS: And -- and all the rest of us who listened to his broadcast -- and I want to come back and put some perspective on that, as well. And we're going to have much more with our outstanding panel here in just a moment. But, first, at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, what have you got?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, thank you.

We're not going to leave this story either. The Rutgers University women's basketball team speaking today publicly for the first time about Don Imus's racially-charged insults. The controversy opening up a national debate on racism and sexism here in America.

We'll talk about it with the team's head coach. She'll be joining us in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

Also, the increase of U.S. troops in Iraq leading to an increase of American casualties. Is this the price of success?

Plus, the vice president, Dick Cheney's, old company, Halliburton, doing business in Iran, still. How did it manage to skirt U.S. laws against that?

Those stories, a lot more, Lou, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf. Looking forward to it.

More with our panel in just one moment. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, we're back with our panel now, and I want to turn to Charles Goyette.

Charles, we've got just a little time left. What do you think the appropriate response is? I will tell you, I've said it's up to the women's basketball team, who -- who was so mortally offended by Imus's remarks. What are your thoughts?

GOYETTE: Well, I'll tell you, I believed him to be very contrite in his appearance on Al Sharpton's show the other day.

DOBBS: Yes.

GOYETTE: It seemed very sincere to me, but this talk radio is the canary in the coal mine that shows that this culture is rapidly becoming deprived of the oxygen of decency that you talked about. It's a coarsening of the society.

You know, Lou, we didn't even used to use the word "whore" on the radio, and now "ho" has slipped into common culture, and people call one another terms like that as though it means nothing.

DOBBS: Joe.

MADISON: Well, I think -- I'm glad there's a Lou Dobbs show. I mean, one of the reasons I do this show is because there is a level of decency, Lou. And I don't say that to stroke you. I say that as a friend, and I appreciate it.

DOBBS: Thank you.

MADISON: I also think that this is a global issue. That furniture I was talking about was made in China.

DOBBS: Yes.

MADISON: And we've got to understand that this issue is global. And it's been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it's about time to stop.

I think the suits need to sit down with the leadership and decide not only what to do with Imus, but how you're going to prevent this from happening in the future.

DOBBS: How much of it can we prevent? We and our audiences, they want to see that partisan clash. They want to see some of the insults.

FLANDERS: Well, I think what's interesting about what's happened this week -- I mean, my book, "Blue Grit" is about progressive victories in these times. And we saw one. It wasn't the men in the suits that responded to what Imus was saying. It was people in the streets. It was people taking action. That's the only reason we're having this conversation. Let's hope it goes further, and we need to have a conversation about standards.

MADISON: Our audience hit this on Thursday morning, on my XM show and WOL. They called, and that's why you got the response. That -- those phones are ringing off the hook.

DOBBS: Well, there's somebody else we've got to give some credit to here. One, first and foremost, the Black Journalists Association.

MADISON: Yes.

DOBBS: They took it up. And as Roland Martin pointed out to me, if they hadn't, you know, this thing may not have become a point of national examination of a society, of a craft, our profession, and, of course, Don Imus.

FLANDERS: The trick is for the conversation not to end two weeks from now when he comes back on the air.

DOBBS: I think I know all of you well enough. I know a lot of other folks in this craft. This conversation has only begun. I think we can count on all of you, and I know a lot of other folks. And I think also on Don Imus, to be honest with you.

Thank you very much.

GOYETTE: Thank you.

MADISON: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Joe Madison, Charles Goyette, Laura Flanders, thank you. You're terrific to be here. Thank you.

DOBBS: Coming up next, the results of our poll. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Now the results of our poll tonight. Eighty-seven percent of you responding that you believe the United States should begin a meaningful troop withdrawal from Iraq as early as the summer.

Time now for one quick e-mail. Dave in Colorado wrote in to say, "I'm all for putting Imus into a two-week 'time out' for his objectionable behavior, right along with the list of rappers who regularly use the 'N' word. Please let's have one standard."

I couldn't agree with you more. Let's make that standard for the nation decency.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.

"THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

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