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Bush Trying to Revive Immigration Bill; 3 Middle East Flashpoints Erupt; Calif. GOP Hires Canadian

Aired June 17, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, President Bush and pro-amnesty senators making a last desperate effort to revive their illegal alien amnesty legislation. We'll have that special report. I'll talk with the leader of La Raza, one of the country's most powerful pro-amnesty groups.
And the principle of separation of church and state, God and politics, is there a dangerous threat from the religious activist groups? Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, joins professor Alan Dershowitz here. Dershowitz, the author of "Blasphemy: How the Religious Right Is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence."

All of that and a great deal more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK. News, debate, and opinion for Saturday, June 16th. Here now, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. President Bush and pro-amnesty senators still determined to ignore the will of the people and ram illegal alien amnesty through the U.S. Senate. President Bush says it's time for Congress to pass what he loves to call so-called comprehensive immigration reform.

Pro-amnesty senators have reached agreement on a plan to reintroduce that legislation in the Senate, however the amnesty legislation faces powerful opposition, particularly from members of the president's own party, and, of course, a little-considered group called the American people. Andrea Koppel reports from Capitol Hill.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, under the agreement reached, each side will get to offer at least 11 amendments for a total of at least 22 amendments. The breakthrough came after much arm-twisting, brinksmanship, and yes, even some cajoling by President Bush himself who made a rare visit to Capitol Hill this week to meet with Senate Republicans.

On Friday, President Bush reiterated why reaching an immigration deal is such a domestic priority.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Each day our nation fails to act, the problem only grows worse. I will continue to work closely with members of both parties to get past our differences and pass a bill I can sign this year. KOPPEL: Now according to one Republican senator and a couple of Democratic aides I spoke with who are intimately involved with these negotiations, they said that President Bush's enouncement late this week that he was prepared to ante up another $4.4 billion to beef up border security as well as workplace enforcement played a key role in brokering a final deal.

Now that said, there was still no agreement on the content of the amendments. And as you well know, Lou, they are still far from certain there will be a final immigration deal -- Lou.


DOBBS: Andrea Koppel reporting. The Bush administration insists the amnesty legislation would stop employers from hiring illegal aliens, but as with many other assertions by this administration about the legislation, the reality is at variance. Critics say the proposed employee verification system is riddled with flaws and will never work.

Lisa Sylvester has our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff received a tutorial on a voluntary pilot program that checks the legal status of workers in the United States. Chertoff says 92 percent of the time, the employee is cleared on the spot.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're creating a possibility for people to come into this country and work, doing it the right way, getting identified and paying their taxes.

SYLVESTER: The pilot program would become mandatory for all employers under the Senate legislation. But the employment verification system has its flaws. A Government Accountability report found that an illegal alien who uses someone else's name and Social Security number would still be granted work authorization.

Critics say to close this loophole and have the program expanded to some 6 million employers will take time.

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: For somebody with a straight face to put into a law that, oh, we'll have all this done in 18 months, don't worry, when we haven't done it in 18 years, and -- I mean, how absolutely stupid do these senators think the American public is?

SYLVESTER: The Senate bill's critics are dismissing other parts of the Senate proposal as unworkable. Among the questions, how to keep track when guest workers come and leave? How effective are the 24-hour background checks for millions of illegal workers? And will the bill actually reduce illegal immigration?

The group NumbersUSA points to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that says the Senate bill won't make much of a dent in the numbers.

ROY BECK, NUMBERSUSA: The grand bargain is, you give amnesty, you reward with permanent residence and permanent jobs to 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens in exchange for not having illegal immigration in the future. This bill, at most, will reduce it perhaps by 20, 25 percent. That's not good enough for a grand bargain.

SYLVESTER (on camera): Bush administration officials are trying to reframe the Senate bill as a national and border security bill. But critics including NumbersUSA say if that's truly the goal, then why not just pass a bill that steps up security without putting illegal aliens on the path to citizenship or implementing a guest worker program? And that will be a central question in next week's debate.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


DOBBS: The White House tonight also trying to save its policy on Iraq. President Bush repeatedly saying that a U.S. report on Iraq due this September would help determine the future of American strategy. But it turns out the White House has a new and somewhat different view.

Ed Henry has our report from the White House.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After weeks of the White House promising a major September progress report on the increase of U.S. troops in Iraq, spokesman Tony Snow is trying to dial that back.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What I would suggest is rather than sort of a pivotal moment, it's the first opportunity to be able to take a look at what happens when you've got it up and running fully for a period of months.

HENRY: The president repeatedly said the opposite last month in a Rose Garden news conference.

BUSH: This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy.

HENRY: Mr. Bush added General David Petraeus' progress report will be so important, insurgents will try to kill as many as possible to influence the debate.

BUSH: And so, yes, it could be a bloody -- it could be a very difficult August.

HENRY: Snow faced a barrage of questions about whether he's pulling back expectations.

QUESTION: Now you're saying it's not a pivotal moment, I mean, you don't seem on the same page with the president on that.

SNOW: No -- I'll let president do the characterizations. I'm just -- I think he's talking about a critical moment, because it allows people again to take a look at what has happened with the security plan.

QUESTION: He has said we'll know whether it's working in September.

SNOW: OK. But what I'm -- OK. No, I think my concern is that the expectations that seems to be raised is that suddenly in September, their may be an expectation the report says, OK, all the problems are solved. No.

HENRY (on camera): The Democratic speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi, jumped on Tony Snow's comments. Given what she believes to be a lack of progress in Iraq, Pelosi said she's not surprised the White House is now trying to push back the date for a report card.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

DOBBS: The latest opinion polls show President Bush is losing support even among Republicans. A new poll of polls shows the president down across the board in average approval rating of 32 percent. The new Democratically-led Congress doing even worse. The poll of polls giving Congress an average job approval rating of only 26 percent.

Still ahead here, Hamas gunmen celebrate their victory in Gaza. Violence is spreading across the Middle East. We'll examine the threat of a regional war.

And President Bush likes to say there are jobs Americans aren't doing. It turns out one of those jobs is none other than top strategist for the Republican Party in California. We'll have the story.

And religious activist groups threatening one of the most fundamental principles of our nation, separation of church and state. Two of the country's leading authorities on God and politics square off here this evening. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The United States struggling to deal with an explosion of violence across the Middle East. Hamas gunmen, supported by Syria and Iran, in control now of Gaza, routing forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In the five days of fighting in Lebanon, officials are blaming Syria for the assassination of an anti-Syrian lawmaker in Beirut. The lawmaker, one of 10 people killed in what was a huge bomb explosion in Beirut.

Insurgents in Iraq launched a new bomb attack against one of the Shia community's holiest shrines. That attack on the same mosque 16 months ago led to a massive increase in sectarian violence across Iraq.


Joining me now are Karl Penhaul, he is with U.S. troops in the Iraqi city of Samarra. Brent Sadler, from the Lebanese capital of Beirut. And Ben Wedeman, from the West Bank city of Nablus.

If I may, Brent, begin with you. The situation in Beirut now.

BRENT SADLER, CNN BERUIT BUREAU CHIEF: A bomb blast claimed the life of another anti-Syrian politician here. There was a massive funeral passing through the tense streets of Beirut for the burial of Walid Eido, an MP from the parliament here who is closely supportive of the policies of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, himself killed in a similar blast some two years ago.

This part of escalating violence throughout Lebanon and escalating threats against security forces as the Western-backed government, embattled on both the political and security front, struggles to survive -- Lou.

DOBBS: And, Ben Wedeman, Gaza in chaos and collapse. Hamas in full throat after Fatah.

BEN WIEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Really there is a dark cloud of uncertainty hovering over not only Gaza, but also the West Bank. This Hamas blitzkrieg, which in a matter of days, saw Fatah in Gaza utterly crushed, utterly humiliated, it has thrown everything into great uncertainty.

Now the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has dissolved the government, dismissed Ismail Haniyeh as the prime minister, he, of course, a Hamas leader, and declared a state of emergency. But many Palestinians say it simply too late, that Hamas has now taken over Gaza, it doesn't really matter what Mahmoud Abbas does.

It looks at this point, Lou, like there are now two Palestinian territories, completely separate from one another. Hamas ruling Gaza, Fatah ruling the West Bank -- Lou.

DOBBS: And, Karl, in Samarra, the destruction -- the second attempt at the destruction of the Shia shrine in the past -- less than a year-and-a-half. You are with the U.S. troops there. What is the situation?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the attempts by al Qaeda insurgents to destroy the holy -- one of the holy Shia shrines here in Samarra, the golden dome, have been pretty successful. They bombed the twin minarets of that shrine. We saw it pretty much reduced to rubble.

Now as some people have predicted, this has sparked a sectarian backlash across Iraq. There is the strength of these militants (ph) operating throughout the country. And we have heard about sectarian clashes between Shia and Sunni gunmen, at least four people killed so far in those clashes and across parts of the country, curfews to try and keep a lid on this religious war that is now breaking out -- Lou.

DOBBS: I'm going to ask each of you, as you have covered the hot spots throughout the regions in your careers and they are now focused on Beirut, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Iraq, of course.

Brent, if I may, a great deal of discussion following the United Nation's report that there is the possibility of an outbreak of a regional war. Give us your thoughts on that to assess, if you will, the larger picture from the vantage point of the hot spot from which you are viewing the Middle East now.

SADLER: Over the past two years, five Lebanese MPs, opponents of Syria, have been assassinated. The Lebanese army is engaged with trying to crush militants who are still holding out in that Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli in the north of Lebanon.

And to give you some scope here, some perspective, Lou, the Lebanese military has for the first time, this day, in more than 20 years, been equipped with air-to-surface missiles with Gazelle helicopters that were recently supplied to the Lebanese military by the United Arab Emirates.

Those added ground missiles, used for the first time, a pair of them fired today, to try to knock out snipers who have been delivering deadly blows against the Lebanese army, more than 60 soldiers killed.

DOBBS: And, Ben, from your advantage point, the prospects in your view as you survey the Middle East right now.

WIEDEMAN: Well, really, we have to take each conflict by itself, Lou. But certainly here things haven't really looked this grim in a very long time. It was only a few years ago that we were covering cautious optimism about the possibility of eventually peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Now, we see the Palestinians ripping one another apart. We've seen the Palestinian economy collapse. We see Gaza now in the hands of Hamas. The chances of peace seem about zero at this point.

DOBBS: And, Karl, as you listen to Ben, the expression, through military force, whatever form it may in Iraq, U.S. policy, what is the sense there, is it working? Is it being fully expressed, either militarily, politically, or economically?

PENHAUL: Well, if you remember, just after the invasion and for several months thereafter, people back in the United States and in other parts of the world were talking about the possibility of turning Iraq into this democratic oasis that would set an example to much of the other areas of the Middle East.

That whole project has gone wet (ph). Beyond that, though, Iraq just isn't the war of the insurgency versus the United States. There are wars within wars here. This war is all things to all people. We have the Iranian influence among the Shia population. We have infighting amongst Shia militia factions.

And also, in later weeks as well, we have also seen Sunni on Sunni violence, they have split in insurgent factions -- Lou.

DOBBS: Karl, thank you. Brent Sadler, if I may, I would like to conclude with your thoughts on what you see as the expression of U.S. policy, if at all, in Lebanon. And to what degree you can judge either its presence, its vigor, and its prospect for success, if any?

SADLER: Well, Lebanon was held up by the administration of President George W. Bush as a model of an emerging democracy in the Middle East as part of that new Middle East vision that Karl was talking about there.

That vision is being smashed steadily in Iraq, of course, also in Gaza and the West Bank, and specifically here in Lebanon. Lebanon is split between the anti-Syrian and the pro-Syrian camps. The pro- Syrian camp here supported by Iran and Syria.

The anti-Syrian supported by the United States, which recently sent weapons that have been long-awaited, long-agreed, just recently into Lebanon, along with other Arab states, allies of the United States, to try to suppress that fighting by militants in the north of the country.

Connect the dots, Lou, and the Syrians will tell you, they warned the United States administration that invading Iraq in 2003 was a terrible idea. It would lead to the region being set on fire, and the Syrians say that their position has clearly now been vindicated -- Lou.

DOBBS: Brent, thank you very much. Brent Sadler from Beirut. Ben Wedeman from Nablus, West Bank. And Karl Penhaul from Samarra. Hot spots all, and three of the best reporters in the world covering these critically important stories, as tragic as each of these stories has been.


DOBBS: Up next here, President Bush says America needs temporary foreign workers. The Republican Party in California agrees with the president, reaching outside our borders for a brand new hire. We'll have a special report.

Also we'll hear from one of the architects of the Senate's grand compromise on immigration. Janet Murguia, the president of the National Council of La Raza, helping provide some perspective to our lawmakers. She'll offer that perspective to us here this evening.

And church leaders continue to cross the line between church and state. We'll have a spirited debate on whether that poses a threat to our democracy and whether God belongs in the public square. Stay with us.


DOBBS: President Bush keeps insisting there are jobs Americans won't do, can't do, aren't doing. Well, it seems one of those jobs, running the state chapter of the Republican Party in California. Apparently, no qualified American or Californian could be found for the position of deputy political director for the California Republican Party.

Casey Wian has our story.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are people doing jobs here Americans aren't doing.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of those jobs is going to the director of research and political technology for the California Republican Party. The state GOP has hired Canadian citizen Christopher Matthews on an H-1B visa, a program designed to help companies fill highly skilled jobs where there is a shortage of American workers.

California political sources estimate the job pays about $100,000 a year. A former state Republican official calls the outsourcing a slap in the face to hundreds of qualified Americans.

KAREN HANRETTY, GOP POLITICAL CONSULTANT: It's raising eyebrows. The H-1B visa is one of the most highly prized work visas. There are a limited number. There is about 65,000 a year that are issued to highly skilled workers. These are biotech workers, engineers, they're typically not political hacks.

WIAN: California Republican Chairman Ron Nehring declined to speak with us about the hiring but told The San Francisco Chronicle: "Our job at the California GOP is to build the most effective campaign organization. And the fact that we have two people on staff who want to become Americans is a great story that is at the heart of what the Republican Party is all about."

The second person is Australian citizen Michael Kamburowski, the state GOP's chief operations officer. He sent party leaders this e- mail defending Matthews' hiring and criticizing Karen Hanretty, saying: "If she desires a career in Republican circles in Washington, she may find her career rather short-lived."

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: America gave me opportunities and my immigrant dreams came true.

WIAN: California's best known immigrant politician did not respond to a request for comment on his party's hiring. California Democrats relish the Republican infighting.

FABIAN NUNEZ (D), CALIF. ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: It just makes absolutely no sense on the one hand to be speaking against immigration reform and then to be circumventing the rules in a way that is so twisted to get the kind of Paris Hilton special treatment to their political operative.

WIAN: Critics wonder if political strings were pulled to secure the highly sought-after visa. This year the federal government received double its quota of H-1B requests in less than two days.


WIAN: A California Republican Party spokesman says the party pulled no strings to obtain Mr. Matthews' visa. The spokesman says the hiring is a personnel matter. And he says the California GOP had to hire the best person possible because Republicans have won just two statewide elections since 1998 -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, is there any sense of embarrassment there? What is the reaction?

WIAN: Yes. In fact, Lou, an e-mail sent out by party leaders to the county leaders of the Republican Party stated that they were very comfortable with their hiring of Mr. Matthews -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much. Casey Wian, from Los Angeles.

Well, turning now to an astonishing, disturbing now report, giving failing grades to this nation's public school system. The Education Week study shows more than a million students are failing to graduate. The Detroit school system receives the lowest grade of all. Astonishingly less than one-quarter of the students in Detroit graduating from high school.

It seems impossible in this country that we can see graduation rates this low, but it is happening and it is a national crisis. So next week we'll be reporting on why Detroit and other school systems around the country are doing so poorly and failing their students.

Up next here, one of the leading supporters of the grand compromise on immigration, Janet Murguia, joins me. President and COE of the National Council of La Raza.

And our distinguished panel of political analysts looking at the president's push for amnesty again. Stay with us.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Susan Roesgen, and here is what's happening right now. North Carolina prosecutor Mike Nifong could soon be looking for another job. A disciplinary panel has disbarred him for ethics violations. Nifong was accused of withholding critical information in the Duke lacrosse rape case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The unanimous agreement that there is no discipline short of disbarment that would be appropriate in this case given the magnitude of the offenses that we have found and the affect upon the profession and the public.


ROESGEN: And U.S. troops have found the ID cards of two American soldiers missing in Iraq. Military officials say the ID cards of Special Alex Jimenez and Private Byron Fouty were recovered in a raid on an enemy safehouse near Samarra. But a three-day search yielded no sign of the two soldiers themselves.

I'm Susan Roesgen at CNN. And when news breaks, we'll break in. Now back to LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK.

DOBBS: The pro-illegal alien lobby, just as we suspected, isn't giving up. President Bush, pro-amnesty senators, corporate America, socio-ethnocentric groups all working hard to salvage their amnesty legislation. A prominent -- certainly among those groups is La Raza and its leader, Janet Murguia.


DOBBS: What is clear to me, Janet, is that you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, the president talks about it, Senator Kennedy talks about it, for crying out loud, Senator Kyl is talking about it.

But you know what? They're not talking straight, are they? Because if you're going to have a comprehensive immigration legislation, wouldn't you want to have a comprehensive legislative process? Public forums, public hearings, research and rigorous, rigorous fact finding.

And this government, neither through the Congress, nor the executive branch over two years has had the courage or the intelligence to put forward that kind of effort. And still they're hiding facts, they're hiding truth, and they're hiding behind rhetorical flourishes that are 21 years old.

This nonsense of bringing people out of the shadows is precisely the language of 1986 and the advocates of that amnesty bill that got us into exactly this situation, right?

JANET MURGUIA, PRESIDENT, LA RAZA: Well, Lou, I think you and I disagree in some respect because ...

DOBBS: We always have.

MURGUIA: I want you to understand that, you know, the Senate did bring up a bill last year. This is their second effort.

DOBBS: Right.

MURGUIA: There's been a lot of discussion, a lot of debate. We need to finish the job.

DOBBS: Debate? Debate?


DOBBS: Debate? They rammed that bill through last year with this -- this president and the Republicans and the Democrats and the Republican leadership and the Democrats last year. This year they were told to go stick it effectively. Let me just show you one thing.

MURGUIA: Can I just have a few -- a minute just here.

DOBBS: Sure.

MURGUIA: It's your show, but let me have a minute.

DOBBS: Join us.

MURGUIA: Look. This is a -- this is a bipartisan bill. It's not a perfect bill and it's been a very difficult process. The Senate ...

DOBBS: Difficult?

MURGUIA: ... last year, we're on the track here. We need to get the job done.

DOBBS: Janet, give me a break. Janet, you and I have known each other too long to talk by each other. You said bipartisan.

MURGUIA: That's right.

DOBBS: It's difficult. It's not perfect. My gosh, we know that. What I ask you about is where is the research? Where is the Congressional Budget Office? Where in the world is this administration's commitment to truth and fact-finding on the impact, the fiscal, societal impact of this legislation? You and I both know this administration and this Congress is hiding from the truth. And they don't want the American people involved. There hasn't been a single public hearing on this legislation.

MURGUIA: Well, I think there's been a lot of discussion, a lot of debate ...

DOBBS: Among whom? The secret authors of this legislation?

MURGUIA: We've got a consensus on the fact that this needs to be a comprehensive solution.

DOBBS: I'm sorry. Who -- Whoa. Wait. I missed that -- that bulletin. Who agreed to that? What consensus are you talking about?

MURGUIA: Well, when you can bring Senator Kyl and Senator Kennedy together, two people are on the opposite extremes, a Democrat, a Republican, when they can come together and say, look, we need to make sure that there is a comprehensive ...

DOBBS: Well, forgive me. There is another view here, Janet.

MURGUIA: Uh-huh.

DOBBS: I mean, there are 280 middle class Americans in this country, 300 million Americans who are saying what are you talking about? MURGUIA: Well, there support among the American people to get a solution. They want a comprehensive, rational, fair and orderly solution for this. And this bill is our best chance for moving forward and not accepting the status quo. We know that the current system isn't working, Lou. We have got to move forward.

DOBBS: OK. Let me give you an idea of what happens with this not-perfect bill and the debate that you're talking about. Here's what Senator Trent Lott had to see about amendments to the bill. You remember there were killer amendments last week and a real heart-felt bipartisan effort there.

Well, the Mississippi Republican, Senator Trent Lott, Senate whip -- Republican whip said amendments to this bill will simply disappear once that bill goes into conference, quote, "No big deal. You pitch those before you get to the Rotunda."

You want to sit there and tell the American people that this is meaningful debate and this isn't political theater arranged by the elites in both parties and socioethnocentic groups? Come on.

MURGUIA: Lou, we need to let the legislative process move forward and we have to make sure that as it moves forward that we take into account all of these perspectives. Again, the fact ...

DOBBS: How about these perspective of the American people?

MURGUIA: Well, of course.

DOBBS: They're the only people not represented in this. You were there. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was there in those secret meetings as the Senate is authoring this.

MURGUIA: Lou ...

DOBBS: Where in the heck were the American people?

MURGUIA: I don't know what you're talking about in terms of secret meetings. That wasn't anything we were a part of.

DOBBS: You weren't involved in any part of the crafting of this legislation? Your input wasn't ...

MURGUIA: There have been a number of voices that have been ...

DOBBS: I know, but I'm asking about yours, Janet. La Raza's.

MURGUIA: There's a broad coalition that's involved. Bipartisan, representing a lot of different voices and they're all trying to ...

DOBBS: OK. Give me one example of working men and women in this country and their representation and their families. American citizens.

MURGUIA: Well, I -- I happen to represent a number of working families through our organization. The Chamber of Commerce represents business. The Catholic Church ...

DOBBS: Pardon me. I would like to see someone that committed just to those folks and not to, if you will, open boarders and amnesty.

MURGUIA: Well, I don't support open borders and our organization does not support open borders.

DOBBS: Good. So would you accept border security as a condition precedent to any attempt at reforming existing U.S. law?

MURGUIA: Border security must be a part of this solution and it is a part of this equation. In this bill. But it cannot stand alone.

DOBBS: Why? Why?

MURGUIA: We have quintupled our ...

DOBBS: You and I both know that comprehensive is just another way to bury border security and port security.

MURGUIA: No. Lou, border security and -- and enhancements around the border and interior security are all part of this bill that's on the Senate floor. We need to move forward in a balanced way that just has -- that just has border security and enforcement alone. We've quintupled efforts to help in boarder security the last 10 years. That alone won't work. We need to have a comprehensive solution that addresses the current undocumenteds that are here, the future flow of workers and the employer work site enforcement. All that has to be a part of this if it's going to be a workable equation. That's in the Senate bill. It's not perfect, but we need to move that legislation forward.

DOBBS: Janet, you get the last word and I appreciate you being here. Good to talk with you.

MURGUIA: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Janet Murguia. The head of la Raza.


DOBBS: Up next, separation of church and state. Are religious activist groups threatening that divide? Tony Perkins of the Family Research Center, Alan Dershowitz, author of the new book, "Blasphemy," joins us.

President Bush promising more border security in exchange for amnesty. Opponents of amnesty are furious. Three of the nation's best political minds join me to assess what's happening in this nation's capital and what is happening with President Bush.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Separation of church and state. Discussing now the issue of God and politics. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Professor Alan Dershowitz, author of the new book "Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence."

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW: If they try to knock down the wall of separation, the great experiment that Thomas Jefferson and the founders of this country bestowed upon us, not only to protect the rights of citizens but to protect the rights of churches.

Look, we have the largest church attendance in any country in the western world. More people believe in God in America than in any other country and it's largely because we have this high wall of separation that keeps the government out of the church.

DOBBS: You're saying that evangelicals are breaking that wall down?

DERSHOWITZ: They're trying to. In my book, "Blasphemy," I point to case after case.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: ... on top of the wall throwing rocks at us standing on the other side of the wall. Actually, Ala, we would agree.

DOBBS: I love this picture. Behind Tony Perkins is the -- is the book cover. It says "Blasphemy" right behind you.

PERKINS: That's kind of like lightning striking when Rudy Giuliani talks about abortion. The issue of the wall of separation of church and state, we believe separation of church and state is good for the church and for the state.


PERKINS: But it's to protect the church from the state. And to say that in -- and this is what I think you imply in the book. Is that somehow people of religious conviction need to check those credentials at the gate in order to go on the other side to participate in government and that's clearly not what the founders intended.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think it is what the founders intended. Thomas Jefferson said that my religion is my business. He wrote a letter to his nephew saying, "Read the Bible critically. If you end up not believing in God, that's fine. But don't bring your faith into politics."

Jefferson refused to even tell his own family members what his beliefs were. Adams was a Unitarian, rejected the divinity of Jesus. Most of the founders were Deists. Yes, God is in the Declaration, but it's the God of nature, not the God of the Bible. Jefferson hated the Ten Commandments. He said they were very un-American because they inflicted the sins of the parents on the children for three to 1,000 generations. He said we came to America to avoid the sins of our parents. And he said the Declaration is a rejection of monkish ignorance and an acceptance of reason. And that's why faith has to be kept separate.

PERKINS: You know the Old Testament. The Old Testament says the sins of the father are not passed on to the sons and that's clear in our justice system.

DERSHOWITZ: Except not in the Ten Commandments. It says the opposite.

PERKINS: And it is our justice system from which we get our principles of government.

DERSHOWITZ: So do you believe that or not?

PERKINS: I don't know where Thomas Jefferson stood. Who can know a man's heart?

DERSHOWITZ: He wrote 1,800 letters.

DOBBS: There was the letter of 1802 (ph). Let's get to the issue here. You have all sorts of -- you have the Catholic Church.


DOBBS: Archbishop Mahony, the U.S. Catholic bishops involved in illegal immigration that's got be hacked off.

DERSHOWITZ: Right, right.

DOBBS: You've got AIPAC, the lobby for Israel.

DERSHOWITZ: Right, right.

DOBBS: The Jewish religion involved in politics up to its ears. Evangelicals pushing all sorts of things. You know, pick the one you want. But they're all involved in politics here.

DERSHOWITZ: That's perfect. Everybody should be involved in politics. But people should not use faith as a criteria for holding office. And people should not in any way suggest that we're a Christian country. Mention Catholics. It's very interesting. The founders were virulently anti-Catholic.

Jefferson ...

DOBBS: You're saying no one should mention we're a Catholic - I mean, a Christian country?

DERSHOWITZ: No. Of course not. We're not. In fact in the first treaty we had with the Barbary pirates, Adams, signed by two thirds of the Senate said, "We are not in any way a Christian nation." I quote that in "Blasphemy." It was a very explicit thing. Our constitution is a godless Constitution. There is no mention. Almost every other constitution in the world mentions God, Jesus, Mohammed, Allah.

PERKINS: In the year of our Lord.

DERSHOWITZ: Of course. Even I write that. I write AD. It's the year of our Lord. That's just a common way.

DOBBS: You're just showing off, Alan. The idea that -- that this is a country -- when you say a Christian nation.


DOBBS: I don't think there's any doubt that we'd say that we are a culture, a Judeo-Christian culture. To say that we're not a Christian nation, I'm not sure if you're implying that ...

DERSHOWITZ: We're a nation of Christians primarily.


DERSHOWITZ: But we're not a Christian nation. And if we are a Christian nation, we're a Protestant nation, not a Catholic nation and that's important to note because our founders were virulently anti- Catholic. Jefferson and Adams wrote to each other ...

DOBBS: Let me ask you this.

DERSHOWITZ: ... if we could only keep the Jesuits out. Bigotry, the worst form of bigotry.

DOBBS: Well, the worst form of bigotry, I always find it's supplanted by another worse form of bigotry.

DERSHOWITZ: Of course you're right.

DOBBS: We'll be back with Alan Dershowitz and Tony Perkins in just one moment. Stay with us.


DOBBS: We're back with Tony Perkins and Alan Dershowitz addressing the issue of God and politics and many religious groups of all denominations believe they're under attack by secularism.

DERSHOWITZ: There is no assault on religion. Religion is the freest that is in any country in the world. People can choose to go to any church, synagogue and mosque. We have complete freedom. More Americans go to church, more Americans believe in God ...

DOBBS: Do you agree with that, Tony?

PERKINS: No, I don't. I agree that you have the right within your church and within your home, but increasingly we're seeing hostility toward religion in the public square. Since ...

DOBBS: By the public square do you mean the governmentally operated public square? PERKINS: We're talking about kids being able to pray over lunch in their schools.

DOBBS: In the public school?

PERKINS: In the public school. Do they have to check their faith at the door, that a child can't even pray over their own lunch.

DOBBS: They can pray themselves. But they can't try to convert -- Well, they should be able to. There's no doubt about that.

PERKINS: But they're not because of those are pushing a radical ...

DOBBS: This is important. You do agree that ...

DERSHOWITZ: They should be able to pray at any time, before an exam you should be able to pray, but you pray silently. As Jesus said, "The hypocrites stand up and pray by the doorway and the really religious people go in the corner and pray by themselves."

That's what you do. You pray by yourself. But don't try to get the government to enforce your prayer, proselytize others in the public school. Do it outside the public school.

PERKINS: That's not happening. I mean -- I was a policy maker. I was elected an office as a religious right person, as you would describe. I authored the legislation in Louisiana that is in force today at allows children to have a moment of silent prayer. That's what we're after. We're not after forcing kids. Conversions by force do not work. I mean, they're trying that in the Middle East. It doesn't work.

DERSHOWITZ: Why do you need a moment of silent prayer organized by the school? Why can't kids just before they start to eat say "baruch atah" if they're Hebrew, "blessed be" if they're Protestant, whatever they want to themselves and then eat? There's no problem with that.

Why do you need the government to set aside a moment for particularized prayer? Because you're going to have some kids who don't want to pray. And the Constitution protects people from religion as well as ...

PERKINS: No, no, no. From the government inducing or establishing a religion. Allowing a moment of silence for kids to pray or not to pray ...

DERSHOWITZ: It's not allowing, it's mandating.

PERKINS: No, no, no.

DERSHOWITZ: This is now a moment and you will either pray ...

PERKINS: You can meditate, you can pray or just stand there silently. DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think we might be able to agree about that if it's limited to that. But in my book, there's instance after instance where they're trying to impose Christian theology in the school itself through what's called the Declaration of Independence curriculum, which is pure proselytization.

If we can agree to keep that out, I'll agree to give you your moment of prayer, silent prayer, meditation, whatever.

PERKINS: I do not think that we should abandon our history as a nation. I would agree with you that we were not founded a Christian nation. As -- in the -- let me define that. We were not founded as, "this is a Christian nation." We were founded upon biblical principles and we are a nation ...

DERSHOWITZ: Not according to Jefferson. He didn't believe in biblical principles. How about Thomas Payne? Is he part of our history? Would you assign the "Age of Reason" to students, a critique of the Bible?

PERKINS: What about "Common Sense" that he wrote, even though he was not a Christian, he knew he was appealing to Christians so that they may move forward.

DERSHOWITZ: I would assign "Common Sense," I would assign the "Age of Reason." And I'll tell you what I'd do. I'd allow to Bible to be assigned if it were assigned along with the "Age of Reason" so students could do what Jefferson said to do.

He wrote to his nephew, he said, "Read the Bible but read it critically." If there seems to be superstition or miracles, don't believe that. In fact, he wrote his own Bible, as you know, cutting out all of the miracles and the Jefferson Bible is now the Bible of the Unitarian Church.

PERKINS: Jefferson as the author of the Declaration said, that "We are endowed by our Creator."

DERSHOWITZ: But the creator was nature's God, the clockwork God, the deist God. He rejected Jehovah. He rejected Jesus as a God.

PERKINS: And when he later said ...

DOBBS: Can I ask this question?


DOBBS: The movements to pull religious references, whether it be the Ten Commandments, whether it be any religious figure, from government buildings, from "In God We Trust" on our currency?

DERSHOWITZ: There's a difference between "In God We Trust" and the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments, "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other God before me.

DOBBS: It's generic because it's been interpreted as that. I understand -- I understand.

DERSHOWITZ: Two mentions of slavery in the Ten Commandments.

DOBBS: I understand. But my point being, Alan, that all of these references that are part of our history, to what degree should be permit a current, if you will, impulses and interpretations of our -- of also our law and our constitution to alter the texture of the very fabric of our culture? Is.

DERSHOWITZ: I have no problem if you teach these things critically and not as religious documents, not in an attempt to proselytize. I study the New Testament, I study the Old Testament. It's an important part of my teaching. I teach a course called "The scriptural sources of justice." But I approach it from a critical point of view, not from an acceptance that it's necessarily all of God's word. I think we ...

DOBBS: You struck me somehow as evangelical.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, we're all evangelical. The question is what we're preaching.

DOBBS: Be careful about that evangelical part.

PERKINS: We'll sign you up.

DOBBS: Tony is ready. We thank you both for being here.

DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Tony.

PERKINS: Thank you.

DOBBS: Coming up next, the president's amnesty legislation, is it revived? Three of the country's best political analysts join us to assess its future.

What will be the cost of the president and likely the Republican and Democratic parties. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Joining me now, Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, Errol Louis, "New York Daily News," Diana West, "Washington Times." Thanks for being here. Diana West, the president's poll ratings are collapsing, but then again, so are those of Congress. What's going on?

DIANA WEST, "WASHINGTON TIMES": Lou, I think we have reached, perhaps, an unprecedented level of breakdown in our government, in our history.

I mean, you have a situation here where concerned citizens are begging elected officials to enforce the laws, protect the borders, and not reward illegal behaviors. I've never seen anything quite like this.

DOBBS: So you see this as tied directly to the Senate ...

WEST: Sure.

DOBBS: ... comprehensive immigration initiative?

WEST: I see it tied to that. I also see it tied to a world that's falling apart before our eyes as well. But I think certainly it does reflect this sense of what is our nation all about if our elected officials can't take care of it?

DOBBS: Errol?

ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well, there are many failures. There is this un-rebuilt New Orleans, a major American city, gone. Doesn't even get talked about anymore. We've got this war going on in Iraq that's been falling apart around our ears. I think government has not delivered the goods. And whether you're talking about something as basic as immigration, something as adventurous as a war overseas or something as really basic as rebuilding a city that was destroyed by natural disaster, not delivering the goods.

DOBBS: Hank Sheinkopf.

SHEINKOPF: Americans are very frustrated. They voted for a new Congress last fall and they got more of the same. They don't like the Congress. They don't like the president. They want to see something happen. They're seeing nothing happen. And in the heartland of this country, they're worried about the economy looks like. You put that together, you a true bankruptcy of both parties and that's what people are starting to feel.

DOBBS: The idea that this Congress' ratings are falling faster than at the same time for the 109th Congress, it's -- it's mind- boggling because of -- as you said, most people embracing -- thinking they were embracing change with that vote. Let's turn to -- to that immigration legislation, Diana West.

You think that's just part of the reason for these poll results. At the same time, this president is -- he is without question adamant, stubborn, whatever you want to call him, pushing this thing ahead despite poll after poll that shows the American people detest this legislation.

WEST: I think that this shows where his emotional center lies. I think that in a sense, his life has been fairly narrow. He's had almost a provincial kind of upbringing, very high-crust and all of that, but his big formative experience, I think, has been Texas, has been his experiences with his own Mexican-born nannies, workers on his ranch. I think he has kind of a mindset that he is almost ...

DOBBS: Errol, you're nodding your head here.

LOUIS: She's -- you know, Diana has put her finger on something that's right. He's acting like a Texas politician. You know, his -- his former Cabinet member, Mel Martinez, is always talking about how we have to get more Hispanics into the Republican Party. We've got to reach out to them. They seen this bill do all of that.

WEST: But they're wrong about it.

LOUIS: Being absolutely idiotic ...

SHEINKOPF: It is the - away from this, away from the bill for a second, it is the absolute tone-deafness that inspires him to behave in the way that he behaves about the war, about immigration, about relations with the Congress, about the scandal in the Justice Department. On and on and on. The world says one thing, he sees something else. That is either a profile in courage or an act of political stupidity.

LOUIS: He was rewarded for it in 2004. Remember, he was the guy that doesn't flip-flop that and stands tall and he was returned to the White House.

SHEINKOPF: Absolutely.

LOUIS: If it works for you once, try it again.

DOBBS: Well, trying again is precisely is what's happening in the Middle East. And now with Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Iraq, what in the world is this administration doing? Every policy they seem to have initiated in the Middle East is unraveled.

SHEINKOPF: This kind of failure to be strong or to take a particular position, whether one would agree with it or not, enables our enemies and makes our friends feel a tremendous sense of weakness on their part and creates more chaos. It's just that simple. Bad strategy.

LOUIS: The secretary of state has said repeatedly and repeated it before our editorial board just recently that she doesn't know of another way to bring democracy to the Middle East than to bring it.

WEST: Well, she brought it.

LOUIS: And if a horrible regime is voted in, if an unstable regime is voted in, there's still no alternative then to try it, to trust it, and to work with the consequences.

DOBBS: That's the kind of tautology that scares the dickens out of me coming from a government official.

WEST: It should. It should. It shows an utter bankruptcy in terms of the secretary of state and the president's understanding of what democracy can foster.

It is a process. If you do not have the find of culture and the kind of values and beliefs that actually are going to foster good government, clean government, et cetera, fraternity among men, you are not going to have anything but the kind of mob rule we're seeing breaking out in the Middle East and worse in Gaza and this, I think, goes back to our fundamental misunderstandings of the Arab World and its Islamic context.

These are very big differences between ...

LOUIS: We brought democracy in places like West Germany that had absolute totalitarian rule. There is some experience out there. It needs to be brought to bear. That's the problem.

DOBBS: Is there any hope at all to salvage whatever one would like to call the Bush administration's strategy in the Middle East, whatever you want to call it?

SHEINKOPF: The only hope is that the parties will keep trying to kill each other for the next couple of years until there's some sanity brought to bear.

But if you look at the history of the Middle East, this is something the Baker commission really didn't understand. There are very few periods of sanity and it is a place where outsiders get caught and get to stay a long period of time in awful condition.

DOBBS: And with Hank Sheinkopf's final thoughts we're going to end it there. Hank, thank you very much. Errol Louis, thank you and Diana West, thank you.

Please enjoy your weekend. Join us here tomorrow. Thanks for watching. Good night from New York. THIS WEEK AT WAR begins now with Jamie McIntyre.


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