Return to Transcripts main page
LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Plot to Kill: Terror Target Fort Dix?; New Iraq Plan: Dems' New Strategy; Food Danger
Aired May 8, 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, federal agents say they have smashed a radical Islamist terrorist plot to launch a cold-blooded attack against our troops at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Three of those suspected terrorists in the country illegally.
We'll have complete coverage.
Also tonight, startling new evidence that contaminated food from communist China has entered our food chain in this country. Fish for human consumption contaminated with the same chemical that polluted some of our pet food.
We'll have the report.
And many Catholic leaders are aligned with the illegal alien lobby supporting both amnesty and open borders, and Catholics aren't any happier about that than I am.
We'll have the report.
And among our guests here tonight, a top lawmaker, Congressman Lamar Smith, helping lead the political battle against amnesty.
All of that, all of the day's news, much more, straight ahead here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, May 8th.
Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
Federal agents today said they have broken up a terrorist plot to attack one of this country's largest Army bases. Prosecutors said six foreign-born Muslims, three of them illegal aliens, planned to kill as many soldiers as possible at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Meanwhile, the political showdown in Washington over the war in Iraq is escalating. Democrats today launching a new strategy to restrict funding available to pay for that war.
Kelli Arena tonight reports on what prosecutors are saying about the terrorist plot to massacre our troops in New Jersey.
Dana Bash reports on the Democrats' new plan to challenge the president's conduct of this war.
And Ed Henry reporting tonight on the White House response to the Democrats' new strategy.
We turn first to Kelli Arena in Washington -- Kelli.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, six self-described Islamic extremists are under arrest today. Officials say that they represent one of the most dangerous threats that our country faces, independent cells that can easily fly under the radar.
ARENA (voice over): This was the alleged target, the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey. The plan, to gun down as many soldiers as possible.
JODY WEIS, FBI, PHILADELPHIA: Today we dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets.
ARENA: Five of the men stand accused of surveilling targets, collecting weapons, and training to shoot them. A sixth is charged with helping the group get the weapons.
One defendant is quoted in the criminal complaint as saying, "It doesn't matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested, or get taken away. It doesn't matter. Or I die. It doesn't matter. I'm doing it in the name of Allah."
CHRISTOPHER CHRISTIE, U.S. ATTORNEY: These people were in possession of numerous jihadist videos. They had possession of the video of the last will and testament of two of the 19 hijackers from September 11th.
ARENA: The men are described by authorities as Islamic extremists. Three of them in the United States illegally.
Officials say they acted on their own and have no connection to al Qaeda or any other known terrorist group. Investigators admit the suspects weren't the brightest bulbs. Authorities say they actually brought a video of themselves shooting assault weapons and calling for jihad to a video store to be copied onto a DVD. The store contacted authorities, and an investigation was opened.
WEIS: And that's why we're here today, thanks to the courage and heroism of that individual.
ARENA: The FBI sent in an informant to infiltrate the group, who then recorded his conversations with them, providing prosecutors with a wealth of evidence.
ARENA: Officials insist that Fort Dix was never in imminent danger, and outside experts agree. It's a very tough target to hit. Still, officials say that this group intended to do harm and need to be stopped -- Lou.
DOBBS: Kelli, thank you very much.
Kelli Arena from Washington.
Fort Dix, of course, is one of the largest and most important Army bases in the Northeast. That base a major center for the training and mobilization of troops for the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Fort Dix is used mostly by National Guard and Army Reserve troops located next to McGuire Air Force Base, one of the largest military airlift commands in the country.
Congressional Democrats today unveiled their new plan to challenge the president's conduct of this war. House Democrats want to pay for the war only through July, unless certain conditions in Iraq improve. Their proposal follows the president's veto of the war funding bill that included a deadline for withdrawal.
Dana Bash reports from Capitol Hill.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When the House speaker emerged from the White House less than a week ago, she talked about consensus. Not anymore.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I said we had a responsibility to the American people to try to find our common ground. Where we didn't find our common ground, we would stand our ground.
BASH: Now, instead of negotiating with the White House, House Democrats are rallying around a plan that would withhold more than half of the $100 billion the president wants. Their two-pronged approach, vote this week to approve $43 billion through July. Then vote on the rest of the money only after the president gives Congress a detailed report on Iraq's military and political progress.
REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: The days of having a blank check from Congress are over.
BASH: Democrats hope that reporting requirement is enough to satisfy a left flank furious about funding the war without a plan to bring troops home.
Republican leaders dismiss it as irresponsible.
REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R), FLORIDA: It is unconscionable to think that they want to fund a war 60 days at a time.
BASH: But House Democrats may get support from rank-and-file Republicans who believe that it's past time to pressure the Iraqi government.
REP. JIM GERLACH (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Do we need to put things out in front of the Iraqi government that makes them realize they have to do certain things to continue the support of the American people? Absolutely.
BASH: Politically vulnerable Republicans like Congressman Jim Gerlach and Senator Susan Collins say September could be a turning point. That's when Iraq commanding general David Petraeus will report on whether the U.S. strategy is working. In fact, Collins tells CNN her support for troops staying in Iraq hinges on that report.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It's evident that the new strategy is not successful and it's not going to succeed, that we do have to change course, and that means looking at all the options, including a plan for withdrawing.
BASH: The immediate challenge still is, of course, how to fund the war. And the plan the House is now pushing through, that short- term funding plan, has never been popular in the Senate, even among Democrats.
Now, Lou, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says he's leaving all options on the table, but he is still negotiating with the White House. In fact, they're going to sit down tomorrow morning -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well, in fact, this opens up not only, of course, and continues the negotiations with the House, but opens up negotiations with the rest of the Democratic Party.
What is the likelihood of success in the House and then the Senate?
BASH: Well, the likelihood of success in the House is kind of an open question. What the House Democrats are hoping is that they can get all their caucus together and maybe pick up some Republicans. But it's not very strong in the Senate at all. Already some Democrats in the Senate say this idea of a short-term plan is not going to be something that they'll support.
So, essentially, what they're going to -- what it looks like they're doing, Lou, is playing good cop-bad cop, the House Democrats and the Senate Democrats, in order to have a better negotiating position with the White House. That's the bottom line.
DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much.
Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.
The White House today blasted that new Democratic strategy as simply bad management. White House spokesman Tony Snow said Congress must give commanders what they need to carry out their mission in Iraq.
Ed Henry has the report from the White House -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. Tony Snow denouncing this as a start-and-stop measure, saying basically it denies General David Petraeus the flexibility, the latitude and predictability he needs on the ground to try and succeed in Iraq.
The White House contending this will hurt troops because the military will not be able to conduct long-range planning if there is a short-term funding plan in place. This could prolong tours of duty. It also could delay purchasing of equipment. But obviously, the fact of the matter is, the president himself has already extended tours of duty to 15 months. The president has also faced heavy criticism for not getting troops the equipment they need.
And as for the White House slamming Democrats about the fact that they're essentially setting up a deadline of September for progress from the Iraqi government, it was pointed out to Tony Snow in the daily briefing today that in fact General Petraeus himself has created September as a deadline, saying that's when he wants to find out whether or not there has been progress from this increase in U.S. troops.
Here's how Tony Snow responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Please avoid the idea that Iraq is like Oz, and one day it's going to be black and white and the next day you're going to wake up and it's color. It's a war. And in a time -- and it is something where progress is something that our people are devoted and dedicated to achieving, but it is not something that appears with a snap of a finger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: So the bottom line is that the White House is clearly under pressure here. The latest CNN poll showing that the public does not back the president in this veto fight.
And also, the president has to deal with the fact that, as Dana reported, more and more moderate Republicans getting antsy on Capitol Hill about progress in Iraq. But what the White House does have going for it politically is the fact that this Democratic plan for short- term funding is so controversial on the Hill, that it's driving moderate Republicans back to the White House, because they don't think it's a good idea to have a short-term funding plan.
So, in the short term, it actually may help the White House a little bit politically -- Lou.
DOBBS: Ed, thank you.
Ed Henry from the White House.
As Ed mentioned, most Americans disapprove of the president's veto of the war funding bill, a bill that included a deadline for withdrawal. A new CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 54 percent of voters did not agree with the president's veto. That poll also shows 57 percent of Americans would favor a bill that sets a timetable for withdrawal. An even larger percentage, 61 percent, would favor a bill that establishes a series of performance benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but does not include a withdrawal deadline.
The benchmarks could include new measures to encourage political reconciliation, a new Iraqi oil-sharing law, and more progress in the development of Iraq's security forces.
In Iraq today, two of our soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb. That attack took place southeast of Baghdad. Twenty-eight of our troops have now been killed in Iraq this month.
3,379 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war. 25,245 of our troops wounded, 11,270 of them seriously.
Insurgents today also killed 16 people in a car bomb attack in the southern Iraqi city of Kufa. The bomb exploded near a restaurant used by Shia pilgrims. At least 70 people were wounded. That attack the latest in a series of bombings that targets Shiites in Iraq.
Still ahead here, many Americans bringing religion into the workplace. Should employers give them special treatment?
We'll have a special report on what the courts are saying.
Also, contaminated Chinese food has now entered our food chain in this country. We'll have that story.
And gasoline prices are soaring. Members of Congress promising again to take action. But will those lawmakers really do anything to help our hard-working men and women in this country and their families? We'll find out.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: The Food and Drug Administration with alarming news today. The same toxic chemical from communist China that may have killed thousands of pets in this country has entered our human food chain in this country. The FDA says farmed fish also fed food that contained the deadly chemical melamine.
Kitty Pilgrim has the report.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The FDA on an emergency call today declaring they're in a scramble to find out how many fish were fed the melamine-tainted food.
DR. DAVID ATCHISON, FDA ASST. COMMISSIONER FOR FOOD PROTECTION: The investigation is very active at this point. We know of a number of firms that received this fish meal, and our investigators are as we speak getting out there to those firms to determine just exactly what they are doing with the fish that were fed this fish meal. PILGRIM: That fish meal imported from Canada was made with tainted Chinese wheat flour. In recent days, federal officials have also found contaminated feed had been given to millions of chickens and thousands of pigs in the United States.
Federal health officials, the FDA, USDA, and Customs and Border Protection, are testing large samples of any kind of gluten from China. Chinese exporters purposely contaminated the gluten used for the animal feed with melamine in an attempt to boost its protein content and raise its price.
MICHAEL TAYLOR, RESOURCES FOR THE FUTURE: The news stories coming out of China about practices around melamine certainly are disturbing, but no amount of inspection will make up for bad practices in the exporting countries.
PILGRIM: Communist Chinese officials have been denying the problem for two whole months, and only yesterday admitted the contamination after 100 brands of U.S. pet food tested positive for melamine, and the FDA received thousands of complaints of pets sickened or killed by the tainted food.
PILGRIM: Now, the FDA says it has only managed to test one fish farm so far. The FDA and the USDA said in a joint risk assessment the contamination in swine and poultry was "low risk to humans". And the agencies say they're testing animals further and results are expected later this week.
But the results are expected later this week tells you a lot.
DOBBS: They've tested one.
DOBBS: One facility.
PILGRIM: They do not have their head around the...
DOBBS: And these are the same -- let me use the word -- optimistic idiots, who said that there was no problem with our food chain less than two weeks ago.
PILGRIM: You know, this is a rolling story, and it gets worse and worse.
DOBBS: A rolling story. But the fact is, the leadership of the FDA food inspection, they really need to come to grips with reality, without any help, of course, from the administration, which has cut back the staff of food inspectors in this country.
Keep us posted. Stay on it. Thank you, Kitty.
Well, none of us should be surprised that toxic chemicals have contaminated our food supply. Let's show you why.
Last year, almost nine million foreign food shipments arrived here in the United States. Of those, just over 20,000, just over 20,000 were inspected by the FDA.
Let's see, 8,900,000 shipments, and they managed to inspect 20,000. That means that less than a quarter of one percent of the foreign food brought into this country inspected by the FDA.
Demand for gasoline expected to remain high this summer, despite record high gasoline prices already. And Congress once again promising to protect the American consumer from the rising cost of gasoline.
As Bill Tucker now reports, this Congress says it will do more than just talk about gasoline prices. Want to bet?
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Few things make voters more angry than high gasoline prices. Those high prices and angry voters in turn inspire politicians to remind voters of what they've done.
PELOSI: In the first 100 hours of the new Congress, the House passed legislation to roll back $14 billion in subsidies to big oil.
TUCKER: That bill now languishes in the Senate. That doesn't mean Congress, of course, has stopped trying. Lots of hearings are planned.
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm pleased that we have scheduled seven hearings in the House between now and Memorial Day.
TUCKER: Bills aimed at price gouging by oil companies are popular with lawmakers, along with bills to raise the average miles per gallon for cars.
SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: I hope we can get it done, and I think it will be the first time in a long time that Congress has pushed so hard on such important legislation for energy.
TUCKER: At the state level, where governors and state legislators are closest to the people, there is an urgent sense that something needs to be done now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $4.24 a gallon.
GOV. JODI RELL (R), CONNECTICUT: When you only have so much, and you've got to go to the dry cleaners and you've got to go pick up groceries and you've got this, adding that gas to the tank right now is a very frustrating experience. TUCKER: Governor Rell is calling on the National Governors Association to unite across political lines and demand that Congress take action.
TUCKER: Now, the House Democrats are promising a package of energy independence legislation by July 4th. No doubt that they can put the package together, Lou, but the bigger question, the more important one is, will this be more than just a press conference opportunity?
DOBBS: Well, it is becoming Groundhog Day on this issue, because I think just about everyone who thinks back -- I don't know how many times Senator Charles Schumer has held hearings on price gouging.
DOBBS: I don't know how many of the last 25 years there have been in which we have heard that refineries have to be shut down, anticipated maintenance, unexpected problems with maintenance, or whatever. Seemingly, these coincidences that refining capacity shrinks as demand rises going into the summer months, you wouldn't think it would take seven hearings or very much more than a couple of hours to figure out something's very wrong here.
TUCKER: But they like the show.
DOBBS: Well, they like the show.
TUCKER: They like the show.
DOBBS: But the fact is, over the last 25 years, drivers in this country are driving 40 percent farther, and the commute times have expanded tremendously. So gasoline consumption, at this rate, going over $4 a gallon, which is entirely likely. We're looking at every driver spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 a year. And that's tough on working people in this country.
Of course, Congress understands that. The president understands that. That's why they're working so hard to achieve energy independence.
Bill Tucker, thank you.
Time now for some of your thoughts.
Herb in Texas wrote in to say, "Congress is being awfully quiet about these ridiculous gas prices. The oil and gas industry has given members of Congress millions of dollars in campaign contributions. Think that might have something to do with it?"
No. To suggest corporate America would be influencing both parties? I can't imagine it.
And James in Florida, "Charles Schumer has launched an investigation into gasoline prices. Lou, I lost count, how many times has he investigated gas prices and has accomplished nothing It looks to me like this is all lip action by one of our do-nothing politicians."
"Please, Charles, give us a break. Stop your fake investigations."
And Greg in Indiana, "The Senate blocked any chance of letting the American people buy prescription drugs from across our border."
That happened, by the way, just last night.
"The Congress supposedly represents the interests of the American people, but once again big business wins out. Campaign contributions must be more important than the American people."
Do you suppose?
We'll have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast.
Coming up next, three of the country's top radio talk show hosts will join us. We'll be talking about the outrage over who's been selected to sculpt the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington.
Also, courts deciding whether a person's religious practices should be allowed to interfere with their jobs. We'll tell you how the courts are ruling these days.
And who should be allowed into this country and who should not be? Congress may actually overhaul the immigration system favoring -- oh, you can't mean it -- family? Relatives, chain migration, and not care about skill levels, educational levels, and regional and continental diversity?
No, this is impossible. But we'll have the story nonetheless.
Stay with us. We're coming right back.
DOBBS: Well, more and more Americans are taking their religion to work, but the courts say those employees should receive equal treatment in the workplace, not special treatment. The latest example, a Chicago appellate court ruling against a pharmacist who refused to fill birth control prescriptions. That pharmacist also refused to have contact with customers for fear he would have to talk to someone who might want contraception.
Christine Romans reports now on the legal limits for practicing religion on the job.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This pharmacist will not fill prescriptions for birth control, citing his religious civil rights. NEIL NOESEN, PLAINTIFF: We should not be party to those attacks against human life or human appropriation as Catholic pharmacists.
ROMANS: When he was hired to work in a Wal-Mart pharmacy, his employer complied, but when he refused to wait on or even answer the phone from customers seeking birth control, the court found an undo hardship and more work for his colleagues. This case decided as more Americans bring their religion to work.
STEPHEN CHRISTENSEN, CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY: I think for so long, they sort of segmented or compartmentalized the two, but if you want to have sort of a complete life and find fulfillment, not only in work, but in al of life, people want to merge those two together.
ROMANS: Christensen welcomes religion in the workplace, but does not think employees can refuse to do their job. In fact, most Americans align with one religion or another. Some 56 percent consider themselves Protestant Christians; 23 percent Catholic, two percent Jewish; one percent Mormon; and one percent Muslim.
Employers, especially retailers, have long given their religious employees holidays and Sabbath days off when reasonable. What's new is employees using civil rights code to demand special religious treatment on the job.
Attorney Christopher Harristhal advises companies on how to handle religion at work.
CHRISTOPHER HARRISTHAL, LARKIN HOFFMAN: The employer does not have to accommodate all religious requests. They cannot pull out religion as a trump card in every instance in order to get the kind of accommodation or freedom that they want.
ROMANS: Labor lawyers say equal treatment under the law does not guarantee special treatment.
ROMANS: There is an obligation, of course, to provide a workplace free from hostility for a person's religious beliefs, so long as that freedom of religion does not interfere with other people. A bible at your desk, OK. Asking a colleague to church, maybe. Prosthletizing or saying you won't do something because of your religion, absolutely not.
DOBBS: Well, I'm not sure where that leaves us. It's hard sometimes to differentiate between special treatment and accommodation and common sense in the law. But it sounds like the courts are moving toward more of a common sense, realistic approach.
ROMANS: They are. And some of the legal experts expect to see more cases like this, Lou, as more people see their colleagues bringing their religion to work, and so they decide to as well.
DOBBS: Christine, thanks very much.
This broadcast has been almost all alone in reporting on this nation's horrific dropout rates in our public high schools. Now first lady Laura Bush and the National Governors Association are planning to do something about that, announcing they're acknowledging for the first time that the inaccurate dropout rate statistics have massed the magnitude of this national crisis.
Tomorrow, at the so-called national summit on America's silent epidemic in Washington, the creation of an online resource on graduation rates will be announced for the entire country. The database will include the graduation rates and dropout rates for every school district in the country.
Coming up next, many Catholic leaders invoke the word of god in their battle for amnesty for illegal aliens. But do Catholic parishioners agree with their leaders' amnesty agenda? No way.
We'll have that report.
Also, new developments tonight in the controversy over the selection of a Chinese artist to build a statue to Martin Luther King in Chinese granite.
We'll have that story.
And massive flooding has devastated parts of Missouri and other Midwestern states. We'll have the very latest for you.
All of that and more coming right up. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Parts of the Midwest tonight recovering from devastating floods, a major storm dumping as much as 8 inches of rain on the region. Those heavy rains sent Missouri River and other waterways over their banks. Nineteen counties in Missouri have been declared local disaster emergency areas. And up to eight inches of rain fell on parts of Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas in just the past 24 hours.
At least one man was killed when his car was swept off a road in Oklahoma.
President Bush tomorrow scheduled to visit tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kansas. The governor of Kansas says she plans to discuss her allegation that National Guard deployments overseas hampered disaster response in her state. Ninety five percent of Greensburg was destroyed by that powerful force-5 twister. Ten people were killed by that tornado.
Firefighters in Florida tonight are battling more than 200 wildfires and brush fires. The biggest, a 16,000-acre fire in Bradford County. Hundreds of homes have now been evacuated. Officials in Florida so far say the 2007 fire season is the worst in at least eight years. No injuries have been reported in those fires. Fire is also burning across 15 acres of brush in Griffith Park. Griffith Park is home to the Los Angeles Zoo and several recreational areas. The Los Angeles Police Department saying they have a possible arson suspect in custody at a local hospital. He is being treated for burns now.
And more than 1,000 firefighters from all over the country are working to contain wildfires in Savannah, Georgia. Those fires have now been burning for the past three weeks.
Congress today trying to determine who should be allowed into the country and who should not be. A majority of immigrants currently granted green cards is related to someone already here. But some in Congress now believe that a skill or merit-based system is a far better way to legally bring people into this country.
And church leaders are ignoring separation of church and state by interfering directly in the political issue of amnesty, but they may not be speaking for most church-goers.
Lisa Sylvester now reports on whether family ties should determine who gains access to a path to citizenship. Casey Wian reports on church leaders who may not be representing the beliefs of many of their own parishioners in the amnesty debate.
We turn first to Lisa Sylvester. Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, lawmakers have been meeting behind closed doors, trying to figure out what to do with the 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens living in the United States. But the debate is not only focusing on whether they should be put on a glide path to citizenship, but also whether that door should be opened to their extended family.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): It's called "chain migration," legal immigrants to the United States who are now citizens are allowed to sponsor extended family to also become citizens. Last year, nearly 250,000 people came to the United States this way. That included over 63,000 adult siblings, 46,000 adult children, and over 122,000 parents.
REP. PHIL GINGREY, (R) GA: It's not just their parents and maybe their spouse's parents, but it includes adult brothers and sisters, siblings, it includes aunts and uncles and cousins.
SYLVESTER: Congressman Phil Gingrey says that based on current legal immigration trends, each citizen could bring in as many as 273 relatives. The issue is a concern as lawmakers debate whether to give citizenship to 12 to 20 million illegal aliens.
The White House has reportedly floated a proposal backed by Republicans that would stop giving citizenship based solely on family ties. Instead, immigration policy would be set based on applicants' skills. REP. STEVE KING, (R) IA: While nuclear families should be united, we need to eliminate other family preference categories and refocus our priorities on those who possess the education and skills we need to be competitive in a global economy.
SYLVESTER: Democrats and other critics are lashing out.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE, (D) TX: I just think that the bush administration proposal certainly undermines family values, and it's harsh.
BILL ONG HING, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS: This is partially a debate over what the nuclear family is, and, you know, I and many other people include it to define people, children that are above the age of 21 and brothers and sisters.
SYLVESTER: Children under the age of 21 and spouses would be allowed in under the proposal, but the chain would end there.
SYLVESTER (on camera): Lawmakers are expected to begin debate on a Senate immigration bill next Monday. Now, many senators were hoping to see the language of that legislation as early as tomorrow. But as of now, there is no consensus. Senate judiciary ranking member Senator Arlen Specter is now pleading with the Democratic leadership to give them more time. Lou?
DOBBS: You know, as long as this has been debated in this country now, over at least, I think one can say with considerable comfort, certainly the past three years, a national dialogue to look at all of the issues that this Congress has refused to acknowledge and critically important issues, whether it be chain immigration, whether it be the skills and the educational levels that this nation seeks in its immigrants, to have this only coming to the forefront now.
And the Congress of the United States, and in the Senate of the United States, there should be considerable embarrassment on their part, and not to even be contemplated by, you know, the great advocate of so-called comprehensive immigration reform, President Bush. I mean, this is breathtakingly short-sighted.
SYLVESTER: There were many members, Senator Jeff Sessions, for instance, who wanted to have this very debate last year, but he was not allowed to have the debate. They did not allow many amendments. So all of these very critical, important issues, even the cost of this immigration proposal, the comprehensive immigration proposal. It has been ignored up to this point.
DOBBS: Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation says point blank that the amnesty legislation contemplated through the Strive Act (ph), or through the so-called Kennedy-McCain legislation that was passed in the senate last year. He's talking about $2 trillion. And this Congress hasn't even begun to look at the fiscal impact of any of this legislation that they're contemplating. And with a week, just about a week away from Senator Reid's deadline of next week to be taking up this issue, there is literally no understanding of what the leadership is trying to create and what the White House is coordinating with that leadership, and the senators at large and Congress at large. It is a mind-bogglingly just ridiculous approach.
SYLVESTER: They have essentially set these artificial deadlines because they are trying to ram this through before the election. Everybody knows it. They're trying to ram this through to get something done before Memorial Day so that they will be able to get something before next year's election, but they're not looking at the facts of the details or the long-term implications on this at all, Lou. You're absolutely right.
DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much. Lisa Sylvester reporting from Washington.
Well, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony continues to disregard separation of church and state. He is heavily lobbying for amnesty for illegal aliens. Cardinal Mahony may also be disregarding the views of many of his parishioners. Casey Wian has our report.
ROGER CARDINAL MAHONY, LOS ANGELES ARCHDIOCESE: We will pray for you and all who are part of our community.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony is an outspoken advocate of amnesty, even marching with illegal aliens and their supporters.
MAHONY: We're here to try to find a just way for them to be recognized as individuals and to give them the opportunity to be out in the open making our country great.
WIAN: But the cardinal's politics have angered some life-long Catholics, including former religion teacher Jerry Mazenko, who has two nuns and two priests in his family. He says Mahoney is ignoring the Catholic catechism, the church's official teachings on matters of faith.
JERRY MAZENKO, LIFELONG CATHOLIC: What the cardinal does not say is that the church actually puts limits on immigration and actually imposes requirements on the immigrants themselves.
WIAN: The catechism approved by the past and present pope states, "Political authorities may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions," and it says, "Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens."
To underscore the divide, seven leading amnesty opponents in Congress spoke out Tuesday, four of them are Roman Catholic. REP, BRIAN BILBRAY, (R) CA: No matter how much you want to candy coat it, amnesty is not only wrong from the common sense point of view, it's immoral.
WIAN: Surveys of practicing Catholics also reveal discord. A recent Pew Research Center poll asked Catholics if they would quote, "support allowing undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for several years to gain legal working status and the possibility of citizenship in the future." Sixty six percent favored the idea, 32 percent were opposed.
WIAN (on camera): But a year ago, the Pew Center asked a different question of non-Hispanic Catholics, using the word "illegal immigrants" instead of "undocumented immigrants." Only about a quarter of the group favored allowing illegal immigrants already in the United States to stay permanently, Lou.
DOBBS: And I believe that same poll and also and certainly the Zogby poll revealed that just about two thirds of all Catholics believed in strict border security and a very tough immigration law that should, should congress actually begin contemplating it.
DOBBS: What is -- how does this Cardinal Mahony, how does he square his view up with Pope Benedict, with the direction of the church and the fact that most of his parishioners view the world quite differently, in point of fact, the opposite that the he does?
WIAN: Well, the cardinal's spokesperson has not returned our phone calls, but leading Catholic figures who we have spoken with say that he is taking the stance that the church has an obligation to protect the poor. He is not advocating law violations, he is advocating the law be changed.
So they say that he is well within the rights of a church leader, Lou.
DOBBS: You know, we had a viewer write in, and I apologize for not knowing the name of the writer. We'll check it out. But made an interesting suggestion. That if the cardinal, the good cardinal believes so strongly, why would he not then bring in illegal aliens who are here into the Catholic educational system, into the Catholic schools, bring them into Catholic hospitals for their care, and relieve that burden on the taxpayer? Interesting idea, don't you think, Casey?
WIAN: I think we all know about the answer to that question, Lou, they have to pay for it.
DOBBS: I believe we do. Thank you very much, Casey Wian from Los Angeles.
We want to know what you think. In tonight's poll, we're asking, Should churches and religious institutions that engage in political activity have their federal tax exemption revoked? Yes, no. This is an ecumenical question because nearly every church in some way in this country is now getting involved.
Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later.
Coming up next, outrage over who will be sculpting the Martin Luther King Memorial. We'll be discussing that and a great deal more with three of the country's top radio talk show hosts, and House Republican leaders say any immigration bill that includes amnesty is dead. I'll be talking with a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee here next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Well, Republican leaders in the House today reinforced their opposition to amnesty for illegal aliens and any immigration legislation. Joining me now, one of those leaders, Congressman Lamar Smith, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. Good to have you with us, congressman.
You also authored the open letter to the U.S. Senate along with some of your colleagues, saying that -- let's just show our viewers what you did say in that letter. "Amnesty rewards law-breakers with the objective of their crime and it grants them the benefits with withhold from those who have played by the rules and are waiting their turn."
What do you think? Is the Senate going to be persuaded or a sufficient number of its members?
REP. LAMAR SMITH, (R) TX: Well, Lou, we thought it would be helpful to the process if we really drew a line in the sand and said we're not going to support amnesty, and what you're doing is amnesty. Now, we all know we need border security. We need to enforce current laws. Maybe we need to pass more laws for better border security, but we don't need amnesty to secure the borders, and we wanted to make that point clear to the Democratic leadership, since it seems like the bill they're considering would quite frankly give amnesty to, we don't know how many people in the country, 12 million, 20 million, but it would give amnesty to most of the people who are in the country illegally.
DOBBS: What is the reason for the complete, it seems, breakdown in the congressional process, both the House and the Senate, for that matter, in that there is no discussion of the fiscal impact or the broad scope of what amnesty would mean or the direction of U.S. immigration policy?
I mean, on the one hand, we're talking about skill levels and a merit system, and then chain migration where as many as 273 family members can be brought into the country under this silly idea.
SMITH: That is true. Very few countries have the rules that we do, the chain migration. Very few countries don't have preferences. We have no preferences at all. Most every other industrialized country has preferences they give for individuals like education and skills, and those are the individuals that will contribute to the economy and be able to take care of their families.
But what amnesty does is it really puts law-breakers ahead of those who are law abiding. It puts foreign workers ahead of American workers. And of course, it's going to encourage even more illegal immigration, because other people will think they're going to get amnesty in the future.
DOBBS: Bottom line, what will happen in the House and the Senate this year?
SMITH: Good guess. I think in the Senate it's 50-50, and I think most senators are saying that. And even if the Senate passes something, I think it's only 50-50 that the house will get to it, as well. There is a real concern, I think, on the folks, both Republicans and Democrats. This is bipartisan concern about amnesty. But just because someone is in the country illegally doesn't mean we should put them on the path to citizenship.
And some people really want to, basically, sell the greatest honor our country can bestow, citizenship, just for the price of a fine. And I think most people in the House do not favor that.
DOBBS: Congressman Lamar Smith, we thank you for being here.
SMITH: Good to be with you.
DOBBS: A reminder to vote in our poll. The question is, should churches and religious institutions that engage in political activity have their federal tax exemption revoked, yes or no? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here in just a minute.
And next, rising controversy, outrage over a monument to Martin Luther King to be built by a Chinese artist with Chinese granite. That's just one of the topics I'll be taking up with three of my favorite radio talk show hosts. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: I'm joined now by three of the country's top radio talk show hosts. From Los Angeles, Doug McIntyre, KABC, from Washington, DC, Joe Madison, WOL. And here with me in New York, Laura Flanders, Air America and author of "Blue Grit," and there it is. Good to have you here.
Let's start, if I may, Doug McIntyre, because two top officers of the LAPD fired out there for what is considered by Chief Bratton, Bill Bratton as unreasonable use of force at the end of that illegal alien demonstration. What's going on out there?
DOUG MCINTYRE, KABC IN LOS ANGELES: Well, Lou, this is really May 1st was really a catastrophe, because the reality is is that the May 1st rallies this year were very much a disappointment for the organizers. They were unfocused with a small turnout. And now the issue isn't about the sanctuary of city policies of Los Angeles and other cities. It becomes a police abuse scandal.
And frankly, as pro police I am, it's very hard to justify the actions of the LAPD on this instance, especially baton swinging right through the Channel 52 News tent, going right through the set, hitting reporters. It seemed to be a completely disproportionate response to a small handful of persistent trouble-makers who wear bandanas over their faces and show up routinely at rallies and there are 50 to 100 people. And nobody was arrested.
DOBBS: And it's correct, the reports that these were anarchist agitators that had nothing to do with this demonstration, correct?
MCINTYRE: Well, I wouldn't say that they had nothing to do with the demonstration, because they haven't identified the actual perpetrators, but it's consistent with the people that have been showing up at pro America rallies and close the border rallies over the last 15 years, going back to July 4th, 1996.
DOBBS: And we should point out, I mean, these rallies, whatever you think of the agenda being supported here, these rallies, last May 1st and this year across the country, they have been absolutely non- violent, they have been absolutely carried off with decorum.
Can I -- Joe Madison, let's turn to an issue that you brought to my attention. You not only brought it to my attention, you took me to school on it, the Martin Luther King memorial. Joe Madison is the man who told me about what was happening with that monument.
This, I have to tell you, as we've been reporting on it, the more we've dug into this, this is more incredible every time we report on it.
JOE MADISON, WOL IN WASHINGTON: Well, don't -- you're a good student, Lou, and don't stop, because you revealed far more than I knew about it. I wasn't even aware that a granite supplier had actually offered the committee granite at cost ....
MADISON: And here in the United States.
MADISON: And the call was never returned. This is an absolute insult. As a matter of fact, I made the point today that if a memorial or a monument was done to, let's say to Ronald Reagan, the late President Reagan, and he certainly had an international impact impact. I guarantee you, a Chinese sculptor would not do it for the national, for the National Mall. This excludes just hundreds of talented artists. I'm thinking of an artist now by the name of Ed Dwight (ph).
MADISON: Who is one of the most masterful sculptors, and I tell you, we're going to find out, I think follow the money on this one. I think the other thing that we're going to find out is that there was really no competition per se when it came to selecting this sculptor.
And if King had lived in China, he would have probably been arrested and not heard of. It's an insult. It's an absolute insult to African Americans. It's an insult to this nation, and it's an insult to the civil rights movement. And most people didn't know about it until we talked about it.
DOBBS: Well, I appreciate it. Thank you, Joe. Laura Flanders, let's talk about Mitt Romney at ...
LAURA FLANDERS, AIR AMERICA: I wanted to come back for a minute to the L.A. story, the last two stories. I think if Dr. King were alive today, he would be talking about what happened on L.A. on May 1st. When you talk about abuse, 240 rounds of rubber bullets and tear gas.
We've gone from legal punishment of illegal aliens to physical punishment, and it's not helped by language like yours, Lou, talking about these monsters as being illegal aliens...
DOBBS: Laura, Laura, Laura, that's ridiculous.
FLANDERS: They're not aliens, they're people. And the vast majority of people at these marches are utterly legal. They're not aliens, Lou. They're people, and you're dehumanizing them with that language.
DOBBS: And you're absurd to suggest such a thing.
FLANDERS: I don't think so.
DOBBS: You're being absolutely absurd.
FLANDERS: Let's talk about people. You said they're families ...
DOBBS: You talk about people.
FLANDERS: ... they're peaceful families, so why not introduce them that way.
DOBBS: You want to talk about 250 million Americans in this country and their families, people who actually support laws in this country and you're telling me illegal immigration should be condoned ...
FLANDERS: No. I'm saying when you use language like illegal aliens as opposed to families, many of them legal ...
DOBBS: What do you want to call them? Undocumented workers.
FLANDERS: You're dehumanizing people which is making it easier to fire batons at them ...
DOBBS: Laura ...
FLANDERS: Lou, I like you ...
DOBBS: You may like me, but you're being extraordinarily short- sighted and obfuscatory.
FLANDERS: Dr. King would be saying let's not call people aliens.
DOBBS: Dr. King, if you presume to speak for Dr. King, you are of greater intellect and spirit than me and I certainly would never presume to do so and I will leave that as your final comment because we have used up our time. Laura Flanders, thanks for being here ...
MCINTYRE: I'd like to speak for Gandhi, Lou.
DOBBS: Joe Madison, Doug McIntyre, thank you. Thank you very much, Laura, for being here. Doug, Joe.
MADISON: Thank you.
DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Thanks, Lou. A growing threat to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dangerous and sometimes deadly infections. Are attackers packing explosives with toxic chemicals or worse?
Plus, the former President Bill Clinton on his new mission. It's an exclusive interview you're going to want to see here.
And the political humorist Bill Maher takes on Hillary Clinton's accent, President Bush's dancing and John McCain's willingness to enter the quote "gates of hell." All of that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Lou?
DOBBS: Thank you very much.
Still ahead, the results of our poll. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: Now the results of our poll. Ninety-four percent of you say churches and religious institutions that engage in political activity should have their federal tax exemptions revoked.
And that is our broadcast for tonight. We thank you for being with us. Please join us here tomorrow when among our guests will be Reverend Derek Harkins (ph), one of the Christian leaders calling for amnesty for millions of illegal aliens in this country.
For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.
THE SITUATION ROOM begins now with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com