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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

New Evidence Pro-Amnesty Senators Use Underhanded Tactics to Push Immigration Bill Through; North American Union?

Aired June 21, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, new charges that pro-amnesty senators are using underhanded tactics to ram amnesty through the Senate. Opponents of that so-called grand compromise say the illegal alien lobby is trying to stifle democracy. Two lawmakers at the center of the amnesty debate, Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator Bernie Sanders, among our guests here tonight.
Also, troubling new evidence that the Bush administration is hell-bent on creating what amounts to a North American Union, without the consent of voters or Congress. We'll have that special report.

And we continue our coverage of what is nothing less than a national crisis in our public school system. Millions of high school students at risk of dropping out. All of that, all the day's news, and much more, straight ahead here tonight.

Good evening, everybody.

We begin tonight with the rising number of our troops being killed in Iraq. Insurgents killed 12 of our troops over the past 48 hours, nearly all those deaths in Baghdad. The latest casualties coming as our troops continue a major offensive against insurgents in Diyala province, north of Baghdad.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today warned of tough fighting ahead. Barbara Starr has our report from the Pentagon -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, for U.S. troops in Iraq, it has simply been a terrible week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Even as the last several days have been exceptionally deadly for U.S. troops in Iraq, top Pentagon officials told reporters that measuring violence isn't the best way to measure progress. The U.S. is still looking for political reconciliation. In fact, Defense Secretary Robert Gates seemed to indicate the rising U.S. death toll is to be expected.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: They are in the middle of a battle, and we just will have to deal with that.

STARR: Once again, the argument being made the U.S. is taking the fight to the enemy. GATES: Our troops and the Iraqi troops are going into areas where they haven't been for some time. And they anticipated that there would be a high level of combat as they did that.

STARR: But insurgents are not on the run. A series of mortar and rocket attacks slammed into the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: The enemy is a thinking enemy. And he has soldiers at his disposal. And they can decide to surge or not surge like we can surge or not surge.

STARR: Gates also acknowledged the U.S. has now taken the extraordinary step of arming some Sunni insurgents who may have fought against and perhaps killed U.S. troops.

GATES: If we refuse to work with or ally with everybody who's been on the other side of the fence, then the prospects for making any progress in Iraq are pretty slim.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Lou, both Secretary Gates and General Pace tried to change the discussion away from the levels of violence, saying that that's not a good measure of progress. But Secretary Gates also said it would be naive to think that the American people won't be focused on that upcoming September report on what progress there is -- Lou?

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Barbara, Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

Our casualties in Iraq have risen sharply, as more of our troops arrive in Iraq to join the fight against the insurgents. Sixty-eight our troops have now been killed this month; 3,545 of our troops killed since the war began; 26,129 troops wounded, 11,742 of them seriously.

In other violence in Iraq, insurgents killed 16 Iraqis in a suicide bomb attack against a government building near the city of Kirkuk; 75 other Iraqis were wounded.

As the Pentagon defended its strategy in Iraq, a computer hacker penetrated the unclassified e-mail system of the defense secretary's office. Pentagon officials say the breach led to the shutdown of e- mail service to at least a third of the defense secretary's staff. Those officials say military operations were not affected because most military computers use classified servers protected. No word on what the hacker read any of the defense secretary's e-mails.

Vice President Dick Cheney also facing problems over confidential government records. House Oversight Committee Chairman Congressman Henry Waxman says the vice president is trying to exempt his office from rules about protecting government secrets, apparently because the vice president believes his office is not part of the executive branch. Suzanne Malveaux reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vice president's office is keeping a secret. The secret is over how many secrets it keeps. An order by President Bush requires Cheney's office to tell the National Archives how many documents it classifies or declassifies each year. For years, the vice president's office has refused.

Now, an explosive charge: The vice president's solution to the dispute? Abolish the office asking for the records. That's according to Congressman Henry Waxman who heads the congressional committee investigating the matter. He warned Cheney in a letter that his actions could be downright criminal, saying, "I question both the legality and wisdom of your actions."

A Cheney spokeswoman would neither confirm or deny whether they sought to abolish the National Archives office seeking the vice president's records, but she did respond to Waxman's allegation, saying, "We are confident that we are conducting the office properly under the law."

That executive order Mr. Bush signed in 2003 requires all agencies or any other entity within the executive branch to report its record for classifying top-secret documents. But according to Waxman, the vice president's office is now claiming it is not an entity within the executive branch. That's because, as vice president, Cheney also serves as the president of the Senate, which means he's in the unique position of straddling the executive and legislative branches.

STEVEN AFTERGOOD, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: It's transparently silly. If it were true, then we would have to rewrite all of the textbooks that we all grew up with. It's obvious that the vice president's office is part of the executive branch, and to claim otherwise is preposterous.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Lou, what is also interesting here is that the Bush administration numerous times to make the case in keeping information a secret has cited executive privilege, executive power, so it certainly seems very inconsistent that the vice president's office would say he is in a unique position now -- Lou?

DOBBS: Unique, indeed. I assume that, by giving up identification with the executive branch, the vice president then would not claim executive privilege, is that correct?

MALVEAUX: You know, the vice president's office says that he's essentially straddling both of these branches here, which is really not something that we have heard in the past.

DOBBS: Incredible. And incredible story, Suzanne. Thank you very much, Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

The White House tonight facing new pressure from Congress over warrantless wiretaps. The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted to authorize subpoenas to force the Bush administration to release documents about the warrantless wiretap program. The committee chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, said, quote, "The stonewalling is unacceptable and must end."

A new opinion poll confirms what most voters are sick and tired of in the conduct of the president and the Congress. The "Newsweek" poll shows only 26 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling his job. The poll says support for the Democratically-led Congress is even worse, down to 25 percent. Bill Schneider has our story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): If contempt of Congress is a crime, a lot of Americans could find themselves in jail along with Paris Hilton. Six polls came out this month all showing approval of Congress at new lows. If you really want to hear contempt of Congress, just listen to Congress.

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: Let me translate for you what the American people just heard. To quote Charlie Brown, "Wa, wa, wa, wa, wa."

SCHNEIDER: Congress can't seem to end the war in Iraq or do anything about illegal immigration or gas prices or health insurance costs. Democratic leaders blame Republicans.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We have five cloture petitions pending right now in the Senate. Why? Because the Republicans don't want the Democrats to accomplish anything.

SCHNEIDER: But confidence in Congress has also collapsed among Democrats to a level nearly as low as that of Republicans. What voters see is gridlock. The obvious solution: Give the same party control of both Congress and the presidency. Then, they can get something done.

Except that it's been tried, and the voters didn't like it. They rebelled when Democrats controlled everything in 1994 and when Republicans controlled everything in 2006.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Voters see a meltdown in Washington, with President Bush and Congress competing to reach new lows. The meltdown confirms one of the public's most deeply held views: that politics is the enemy of problem-solving -- Lou?

DOBBS: You know, there are a number of interpretations available to us. One of those things -- and you touched upon it -- and that is gridlock. It is convenient, I realize, for many political analysts to say that Americans are tired of a do-nothing Congress. But at the same time, there is some safety in the two-party system, one party holding the legislative and the other the executive, is there not?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, they see the advantage of that. As I pointed out, when one party controlled everything, they weren't particularly happy about that either. They just don't want gridlock. They want cooperation and they want problem-solving. I think they're beginning to realize that the problem isn't partisanship, it's politics, basic politics. When you turn it over to politicians, if that's their primary concern, very little is going to get solved.

DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you very much, reporting from Washington.

Coming up next here, another issue of leadership, our public school system failing an entire generation of our youth. Parents responsible for much of that failure. We'll have that report.

Also, new evidence of the gaping holes in security along our border with Mexico. We'll have exclusive video tonight.

And opponents of illegal alien amnesty say pro-amnesty senators have rigged the Senate debate on the so-called grand compromise. We'll have that report, all the day's news, straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Senate supporters of the grand compromise on immigration today pushing hard to bring that legislation to a vote. As Lisa Sylvester now reports, the architects of the legislation are relying on a little-used political maneuver to limit any debate on amendments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Supporters of the immigration bill don't want to take "no" for an answer. They're determined to push it through Congress.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We're going to do everything we can to try and get this legislation passed and then to strengthen and improve it when it gets to the House of Representatives.

SYLVESTER: Senator Ted Kennedy and his allies dug deep to find a rare procedural device. It's called a clay pigeon, a tactic in which selected amendments are lumped together as one, but then debated separately. The net effect is to give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid control of the floor and limit the possibility of a filibuster. Republican opponents ripped the political maneuver.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's damaging to what we consider the institution of the Senate and fair and open debate. The process has been rigged from the beginning, which we think gives us justification to use every measure possible to slow this thing down and stop it.

SYLVESTER: The bill could return to the floor as early as Monday. Senate leaders would then almost immediately file for cloture, to limit the discussion to only 30 more hours. That could set up another cloture showdown, a repeat from earlier this month when the bill was defeated. The bill's critics are hoping to bring it down again.

ROSEMARY JENKS, NUMBERSUSA: A vote for cloture is a vote for amnesty. It is a vote for the bill. So if they get that message from their constituents, which they are, I think we'll have the numbers. I mean, we're counting the votes, and it's very close.

SYLVESTER: The clay pigeon tactic may speed up the debate, but it also risks alienating more senators.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Some senators on the Hill, including Senator John Cornyn, are not pleased with the process at all. Senator Cornyn has five amendments that he introduced. None of the five were included in the list of 22 hand-selected by the bill's sponsors -- Lou?

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester, from Washington.

The Bush administration claims its trying to improve security along the border with Mexico, but there is new evidence tonight of gaping holes that remain in our border security and rising concern about corruption among U.S. Border Patrol agents. Casey Wian has our report.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last July, we showed you this video of illegal aliens crossing the U.S.-Mexico border through a gap in the fence. Here's the same location east of San Diego nearly a year later, a larger group crossing seemingly at will.

U.S. Evolutions, a private border surveillance group, shot this footage Saturday during a Border Patrol shift change. Lookouts on the Mexican side, as this photograph shows, watch and wait for the Border Patrol to leave. It's a common tactic. However, there are newer, potentially deadly threats, like fire.

RUSS BABIAK, ARIZONA FISH AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT: We believe it was started by some kind of illegal immigrant activity, either warning fires or some kind of signal fire or even a diversionary fire.

WIAN: Illegal aliens are now setting fires to distract the Border Patrol. Others use fire to attack agents.

RICHARD DEWITT, U.S. BORDER PATROL: Fire bombs, Molotov cocktails, amongst other things, these types of tactics endanger the public.

WIAN: Tactics the Department of Homeland Security says are the result of improved border security because of the deployment of the National Guard and more Border Patrol manpower. The Border Patrol is hiring 6,000 new agents, raising concerns about the quality of the new force.

Former agent Michael Gonzalez this week was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison. He was caught on camera stealing a bundle of marijuana from a suspect's pickup and stashing it in his Border Patrol vehicle. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, any time an agent crosses over, it reflects negatively upon all of us.

WIAN: Last week, Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General found 282 Customs and Border Protection employees on the Southwest border have been investigated for corruption since 2004.

As for these illegal aliens crossing through that gap in the fence, most were caught by the Border Patrol after a two-hour helicopter search. U.S. Evolutions says similar crossings occur regularly, and no one is caught, such as this group entering at 5:00 a.m.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: The Border Patrol would not comment on why that fence gap remains, but rocky terrain appears to be the main factor -- Lou?

DOBBS: Rocky terrain, that's an interesting explanation on the part of the Border Patrol. Casey, thank you very much, Casey Wian from Los Angeles.

The subject of our poll tonight: Are you surprised that members of Congress and the president of this country still refuse to do anything to improve our border security while illegal aliens cross our southern border each and every day? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

An illegal alien from Mexico was probably very happy to see Border Patrol agents yesterday. Those agents found the unidentified woman trapped in a well near Cowlick, Arizona, about 15 miles north of the Mexican border. A Border Patrol rescue team freed her. The woman declined medical attention. A Border Patrol official tells us she was sent back to Mexico today.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts.

Jim in Oregon said, "I switched from Democrat to independent, as the Democrats are the same as the Republicans. We need to get back to the basics and become Americans again."

Al in Michigan: "Lou, what is so hard for the knotheads in Washington to understand? The majority of American citizens have told them point-blank: Secure our borders and ports first. I am now officials an independent because I'm thoroughly fed up with members of both major parties."

More of your thoughts coming up here later.

A group of poultry plant workers in Greenville, South Carolina, have tested positive for tuberculosis. State health officials tested 286 employees after a case of tuberculosis was reported at that plant; 131 employees tested positive, meaning they've been exposed to tuberculosis, not that they have the active disease. But further testing revealed two of the employees possibly do have active cases, and they're undergoing treatment. State health officials say there's no danger of spreading the disease through the chickens.

Coming up next, the Bush administration and corporate elites making deals that threaten our nation's sovereignty and security. We'll have a report on what some are calling a North American Union.

And it's not just the system that is failing this generation of public school students; their parents are failing them, as well. That report and a great deal more, still ahead. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: More evidence tonight of our national crisis in public education. More than a million students will not graduate high school this year because they dropped out, but failing public schools aren't the only cause of this national tragedy. As Christine Romans reports, parents carry much of the blame for the failure of their children to finish school.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Millions of American high school students at risk of dropping out, an estimated 7,000 students each day, an academic failure both devastating and costly, with plenty of warning signs.

STEVEN SHELDON, SCHOOL, FAMILY AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP: People who've dropped out in high school, as early as elementary school, fifth grade, third grade, tend to have more attendance problems, they tend to be absent more often.

ROMANS: Each dropout is a tragedy years in the making. So where are the parents?

JAMES COMER, YALE CHILD STUDY CENTER: If a school is trying to educate children all by themselves, then they will have difficulty, because you can't just pour information into the heads of children. The parents have to read to them, talk to them, explore ideas with them, call their attention to things.

ROMANS: Sounds simple, but for too many families, for too many reasons, it's not happening. Researchers say parents and schools must work together for the success of the child.

Until then, the resulting costs are staggering for the child and society. Over a lifetime, a dropout earns about $260,000 less than a high school graduate. Increasing the male graduation rate just 5 percent would add $2.8 billion in earnings to the economy. And Justice Department data show high school dropouts make up 75 percent of America's state prison inmates, almost 59 percent of federal inmates, and 69 percent of those in jail.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Some 30 years of research shows the most effective way to get students to succeed is parental involvement. In fact, a 2002 National Education Service study found that, when parents are involved, students achieve, regardless of income, race, culture or education level -- Lou?

DOBBS: Christine, thank you very much, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Up next here, the Senate battle over amnesty entering a decisive phase. Two senators at the center of the debate, Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator Bernie Sanders join me.

Also, the war in Iraq is escalating. Twelve more of our troops killed in the past 48 hours. General David Grange joins us.

And new evidence the Bush White House is determined to create a North American Union. We'll have that story and a great deal more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Representatives of the United States, Canada and Mexico are preparing for a summer meeting to further the goals of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. The SPP, which many consider to be simply a blueprint for the North American Union, would weaken U.S. laws and regulations and diminish American sovereignty. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, and former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin conceived the Security and Prosperity Partnership between the three countries in 2005. A summit is scheduled in Canada later this summer to flesh out more details, but current information on any agreements is scarce.

JOHN URQUHART, COUNCIL OF CANADIANS: The Security and Prosperity Partnership will deliver neither security nor prosperity for a simple reason that it's not, so far, been democratic. Most of the discussions have been taking place behind closed doors.

PILGRIM: Now, new documents have come to light about how U.S. taxpayers may end up footing the bill. Watchdog group Judicial Watch dug up documents through the Freedom of Information Act. It's a financial work plan that describes how U.S. taxpayers would fund grants to Mexico. The work plan states, "The establishment of a grant fund for development with U.S. and Canadian resources to finance the development of physical infrastructure in Mexico."

TOM FITTON, JUDICIAL WATCH: I don't like the idea of taxpayer money being spent on dubious government enterprises. And I certainly don't like the idea of taxpayer money being spent to build up Mexico's physical infrastructure. Mexico have plenty of inherent wealth as a result of its oil and as a result of the $20 billion or so a year that Mexican illegals here send through to Mexico.

PILGRIM: The group says the 10-page work plan for financial services was filed somewhat incongruously among Health and Human Service records. U.S. taxpayers would not be alone; Canadian funds would also be committed to the project. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Judicial Watch is calling for complete transparency and disclosure on this. They say the public and legislative oversight of the details of the SPP is cursory, and Judicial Watch is questioning how taxpayer money can be so lightly promised to other countries -- Lou?

DOBBS: Well, there are a lot of questions. And the fact is, Judicial Watch is to be congratulated for its diligence in digging these new documents up. I really want to hear from the snarky little left-wing who deny that there's such a thing at the SPP and the plans on part of this administration, on that of the Mexican government and the Canadian government to go ahead with the North American Union, because I think the snarky little darlings are about to awaken to the error of their ways.

PILGRIM: There's documentation.

DOBBS: It's unbelievable -- it's primarily left wing activists who are denying what is happening with the elites of corporate America, academia, and of course our political elites as well. All indifferent to the needs and desires of the America people. Keep up the good work, Kitty. Thank you. Kitty Pilgrim.

The Bush administration also struggling to deal with North Korea's aggressive nuclear weapons program. The United States today dispatching a top diplomat to North Korea for the first time in nearly five years. The envoy, Christopher Hill, will discuss the next steps in a nuclear disarmament program agreed to with Pyongyang earlier in the year. Critics, however, say North Korea has no intention whatsoever of in anyway giving up its nuclear weapons.

The U.S. military is developing new weapons to shoot down ballistic missiles that might be launched from North Korea and other rogue nations. Among those weapons is an airborne laser carried on a Boeing 747. But Congress apparently is not impressed and may, in fact, cut the program's funding. Jamie McIntyre, one of the first reporters to be shown the airborne laser, has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before it ever fires a single beam of light, the Pentagon will have poured $5 billion into the airborne laser project, producing one very sophisticated and expensive prototype. If you believe the contractor's animation, the modified 747 will, a few years from now, be the first best defense against ICBMs fired by potential foes like North Korea or Iran.

The idea is for it to fly offshore and when a missile is first launched, when it's laden with fuel and easy to spot, to hit it with a laser hot enough to make it explode.

(on camera): This is what they call the business end of the airborne laser. That turret has a lens on it about five feet in diameter and it puts out a laser beam about this big, about the size of a basketball. It's a megawatt class chemical laser meaning millions of watts. How many millions? That's classified.

COL. JOHN DANIELS, USAF: Very simply, it's like a giant flashlight.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Colonel John Daniels, project manager for the airborne laser, showed me around the plane.

DANIELS: Think of the turret as the lens and the bulb in a flashlight. We direct that very, very powerful flashlight at a boosting missile and we shoot it down.

MCINTYRE: Not everyone is buying that.

JOHN ISAACS, COUNCIL FOR THE LIVABLE WORLD: If the laser has to go through many miles of sky to hit the missile, burn a hole through it and destroy it, that's the theory, that's the animation but that's not the reality. Because again, there's no evidence it's going to work.

MCINTYRE: For now, supporters are trying to get Congress to restore $200 million so the prototype can be tested as planned two years from now. If it works, eventually the Air Force would have a fleet of seven planes at a cost of well over $16 billion.

(on camera): Are the taxpayers getting mare money's worth?

DANIELS: I believe they are. Think about the concept of engaging something at 186,000 miles per second. That is a whole new way for the nation to fight wars and engage targets.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Now, Lou, Congress took the money out of the program because it said other technologies were more advanced and this one wasn't showing as much promise. The Air Force says if they don't get the money, it will be two more years beyond what they originally planned before they can show whether the concept really works. And if it works, it would be a way that the U.S. could quickly respond to a threat anywhere in the world, Lou?

DOBBS: It certainly excites the imagination, Jamie, as you report. Let's talk about the other side of the equation. What are Russia, for example, and China doing? Do they have comparable development programs for such weaponry?

MCINTYRE: Nobody has anything like this. In fact, that's part of the skepticism. Nobody thought something like that could actually work but when you talk to the engineers who are working on it, they say the science of this laser, which was really 1970s technology, it's just mounting it on a plane, that they really believe it could work and provide a real flexible alternative to U.S. commanders. But it is expensive. And operating a fleet of seven planes would also be very expensive and all of these missile defense systems are competing for dollars.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much. Fascinating report. Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today said he expects tough fighting ahead in Iraq. Twelve more of our troops have been killed in Iraq, as we've reported, over the past 48 hours in Iraq. General David Grange, one of the country's most decorated former military leaders joins us now.

David, there was almost a sense that there's an equation between the number of casualties that we must sustain in progress in Iraq today, as General Pace and Secretary Gates briefed at the Pentagon. That's a very sad equation and not the kind of equation that I think most Americans want to hear.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No, I don't like that as well. Comparing casualties to progress, there's going to be casualties, no doubt about it. We know that. The key thing here is that we have to sustain this effort and see it through, unless we just want to check the block that we tried something different. And it has to be given the time and the effort. I think there's some slow progress being made. We have got to continue with that.

DOBBS: That progress today suggesting that it is not suitable on the part of the Pentagon's leadership to judge progress or lack of it in Iraq by the number of casualties that have been sustained. The other benchmarks, however, are hard to focus upon because they're not well-articulated.

This looks like we're headed toward a very serious confrontation between this White House, the civilian leadership of the war in Iraq and this Congress. Is it, in point of fact, time for such a serious confrontation over strategy and direction?

GRANGE: Well, I think that the confrontation and debate on the strategy is needed, for sure. And that's the type of debate that a free democratic societies ought to pursue. But to fight -- the benchmarks are tough. And the only way I feel relief and having some positive feelings about Iraq is by reports of junior commanders on the ground in the locale where they operate. I mean, those are the guys that need to be interviewed if you want to know about progress.

DOBBS: And the fact of the matter is that those are also -- they're also those commanding the units that are most actively engaged in what now is described as particularly heavy combat, large-scale offensives. It is almost too often, I think, at least in my opinion, overlooked that we are a nation, the world's only superpower. A nation of 300 million people, the wealthiest nation on earth, in a combat against an insurgency in a nation of 25 million people.

The degree of the challenge and the setbacks and the frustration that we have had whether talking about the Army, the Marine Corps or whichever branch in Iraq, does not auger well if this military had to be committed to other challenges and confrontations around the world. Are you concerned about the quality of -- let's leave the civilian leadership aside for a moment -- but the quality of military leadership, our general staff? GRANGE: I feel confident, as you know, Lou, with the majority of our general staff. I've served with many of these people. They're great citizens and they're tough soldiers. And they're the ones that feel the pain of those dying only behind American families that provide those sons and daughters.

But we could destroy a country. We could knock out any army anywhere if we so decided. But we fight the war with I think the moral high ground of doing it to try to reduce casualties in the civilian population, collateral damage, a lot of restrictions on our people and still try to do this. The concern is what you just said. What happens to our capabilities elsewhere in the world as this fight continues to go on. That's really the big issue.

DOBBS: General David Grange, thanks for being with us.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

DOBBS: Coming up next, why one Latino group wants to drag California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before an international human rights commission.

And the only independent U.S. senator fighting that part of the Senate grand amnesty compromise that forces our middle class into further economic distress. Senator Bernie Sanders joins us here shortly. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The future of the so-called grand amnesty compromise is highly uncertain tonight. Many senators opposing that legislation. The only independent senator in the Senate is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. And he joins me now. Senator, good to have you with us.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VT: Good to be with you, Lou.

DOBBS: Senator, this is a tortured process that Senator Harry Reid is directing, aided and abetted by the so-called grand bargainers. Do you expect this thing to survive cloture?

SANDERS: It's hard to say at this point. It really is. I hope very much that in its present form it does not survive. I think it needs a lot more work on it, especially looking at the economic implications of these guest worker programs.

DOBBS: You know, as we look at these numbers, they're absolutely startling. President Bush, you've looked at these numbers just as I have. The president is doing horribly. Only Nixon on the verge of impeachment had a lower approval rating than George W. Bush who has now the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. But Congress, 14 percent approval in the Gallup poll, the lowest in just about 35 years.

Is there any sense amongst your colleagues in the Senate, there in Washington, that it is time for people to begin to represent their constituents rather than these special interests, corporate interests ...

SANDERS: You've got it. And that's exactly the situation and of course there is concern on at least some of our parts. The reality is that I think a growing number of Americans understand that what happens in Congress is to a very significant degree dictated by big money interests.

And these guys are basing their - their whole ideology is based on greed. They're selling out American workers and in fact they're selling out our entire country and that is a major struggle that we have got to engage in to take back our country from these very powerful and wealthy special interests.

DOBBS: These special interests, and you and I have talked about this. It is now so blatant, so overt, that only those who would refuse to see could deny that both the Democratic and Republican parties are owned lock, stock and barrel by corporate America and special interests including in the amnesty legislation, socioethnic- centric interest groups who really have very little regard for the traditions of this country, the values of this country or the constituents.

It is seemingly impossible to awaken our elected officials in Washington to their moral responsibility. There are wonderful people -- including yourself -- I don't mean to suggest that everyone is in this situation, only the majority, unfortunately in the Senate and the House. Is there any hope that we can change that?

SANDERS: Of course there is hope that we can change that. And I think there are a growing number of Americans who understand that there's something wrong when the middle class in this country continues to shrink despite a huge increase in worker productivity, poverty continues to increase. Since Bush has been president, 5 million more Americans have slipped into poverty. Six million Americans more have lost their health insurance and the gap between the rich and everybody else is growing wider.

So when President Bush tells you how great the economy is doing, what he is really saying is that the CEOs of large multinationals are doing very, very well. He's kind of ignoring the economic reality of everybody else and that gets us to the immigration issue.

If poverty is increasing and if wages are going down, I don't know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down even lower than they are now.

DOBBS: And as we know, the principal industries which hire the bulk of illegal aliens, that is construction, landscaping ...

SANDERS: Lou, I just heard something.

DOBBS: Those are all industries in which wages are declining. I don't hear that discussed on the Senate floor by the proponents of this amnesty legislation. SANDERS: That's right. They have no good response. I read something today that a lot of people coming into this country are coming in as lifeguards. I guess we can't find - that's right. We can't American workers to work as lifeguards. And the H1B program has teachers, elementary school teachers. Well, you know.

DOBBS: And that H1B program, we got to watch Senator Ted Kennedy watch there with the sole witness being one Bill Gates, the world's richest man, telling him he wanted unlimited H1B visas, obviously uninformed to the fact that seven out of 10 visas under the H1B program goes to Indian corporations that are outsourcing those positions to American corporations in this country and that four out of five of those jobs that are supposed to be high-skilled jobs are actually category one jobs which is low skill.

SANDERS: Well, you raise a good point, in that this whole immigration guest worker program is the other side of the trade issue. On one hand you have large multinationals trying to shut down plants in the America, move to China and on the other hand you have the service industry bringing in low wage workers from abroad. The result is the same -- middle class gets shrunken and wages go down.

DOBBS: Senator Bernie Sanders, we thank you for being with us, as always.

SANDERS: My pleasure.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in our poll, if you will. The question is, are you surprised that members of Congress and this president still refuse to do anything to improve our border security while illegal aliens cross our southern border almost at will each and every day?

Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll be back with the results here and Senator Ted Kennedy says the Senate's grand amnesty compromise will bring millions of illegal aliens out of the shadows. The senator in Massachusetts need not worry. Finding illegal aliens is as easy as picking up the telephone, apparently.

Just ask opinion poll workers and researchers. Turns out they called 1,600 illegal aliens on their home phones for the specific purpose of finding out what they think about the immigration legislation. Are you ready? Here's what they found.

Eighty-three percent of the illegal aliens polled said they would comply with the provision of the grand amnesty compromise guaranteeing them legal status provided they pay fine and fees, undergo background checks and pass English exams. The proposed legislation also requires illegal aliens to go back to their home country to pick up that new visa. Eighty-five percent said they would do that if their return back to the United States was guaranteed, with no guarantees, however, only 35 percent said they would accept such a condition. Amazing.

Tonight, one of the country's largest Latino organizations is threatening to drag Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The League of United Latin American Citizens wants the California governor to take back comments he made just a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: We've got to turn off the Spanish television set. It's that simple. You've got to learn English. You've got to listen -- I know this sounds odd and this is politically not the correct thing to say. I'm getting myself into trouble.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Well, trouble, LULAC were to have its way, the group saying Schwarzenegger's remarks violate international treaties that guarantee free cultural development to all people. Governor Schwarzenegger, for his part, is standing by his comments. And along with other Latino organizations, LULAC today used strong language to attack the Senate's grand amnesty compromise, calling it "immigrant apartheid."

The groups add there is nothing grand oppose this proposal, calling instead for a number of smaller immigration bills.

Coming up next, a vocal opponent on the grand compromise on immigration, Senator Claire McCaskill joins me. She's just returned from Iraq performing her responsibilities and that of the Senate in oversight over the conduct of the war in Iraq. We'll tell you what she's thinking and we'll find out what she learned while in Iraq. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Senator Claire McCaskill has just returned from Iraq and joins us now from Washington, DC and of course, she's playing a prominent role in the debate over immigration grand compromise. I want to turn to that in a moment. But first, senator, welcome back. And most importantly, what did you learn while in Iraq?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MO: Well, the focus of my trip, Lou, was oversight on the contracting. I don't know if most Americans are aware, but we have over 160,000 troops in Iraq but over 120,000 contractors. We have privatized this effort like never before in our history. And unfortunately we have wasted billions of dollars in the process. I'm a former auditor, so I went over to say, we've got to tighten this up, we've got to oversee these contracts and we've got to take the incentives out of these contracts that are allowing these contractors to bilk the American taxpayer.

DOBBS: These contracts in many instances, if not most, correct me if I'm wrong, are, in fact, no-bid contract, are they not?

MCCASKILL: Many of them were non-competitive and in some ways even worse they were what's called cost-plus contracts which means the contractor is rewarded if they spend more money. The more they spend, the more they make, instead of a competitive fixed price. We are beginning to transition the contracts to fixed price and it's going to take some folks in Congress continuing to pay attention to this because this is not what the Department of Defense does well. DOBBS: Senator, if I may, let's -- are there going to be hearings on the way in which this has been handled and to lay down a foundation for a more efficient future?

MCCASKILL: Absolutely. And I am hoping to add some amendments to the defense authorization bill when it hits the floor in a few weeks to actually do some things in the law to provide some accountability on this privatization issue.

DOBBS: Senator, if I may, I'd like to turn to the grand compromise, that cloture vote, to the procedural foundation for moving the so-called grand compromise ahead. Are you, at this point, going to support cloture or vote against it?

MCCASKILL: I'll vote against it. I think that we are being premature with this legislation in many ways. As you know, my position on this has been, we've got to shut down the magnet, which are the jobs that these people are coming across the border for. And until we get serious about that in this country, it's not going to make any difference what laws we pass.

DOBBS: And has Senator Reid been receptive at all to your thinking on that? Because I think your four-square with reality on that.

MCCASKILL: I think what you've got is you've got Senator Reid trying to get things across the goal line in terms of accomplishing things. I think he feels some urgency about that. And I think he's trying to please a lot of folks with this bill.

DOBBS: So it's really -- it's almost - it's hard for many of us to think there's any genuine aspect to the leadership on this issue because these people really believe, whether it's Senator Reid, Senator Kennedy, Senator Kyl, Senator McCain, that a bad bill is better than no bill. That idea is permeating that group of people, is it not?

MCCASKILL: Well, and I think for some of that coalition, there is a great deal of business pressure here. As I said, as a former prosecutor and a former auditor, it's pretty simple. You enforce the law and you follow the money. And if you follow the money on this deal, it's very clear that there are a lot of business interests in this country that want to pad profits by driving down labor costs, which of course illegal immigration is a big, huge help on.

DOBBS: Senator Claire McCaskill, we thank you for being with us.

MCCASKILL: Thank you for having me.

DOBBS: Appreciate it.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, what have you got?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much, Lou. Some say Ralph Nader spoiled Al Gore's presidential bid back in 2000. So why is Nader now thinking of running for president again? I'll ask him right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, the flight of the bin Laden family from the United States right after 9/11. Who helped them leave? We're looking at some new FBI documents.

And this, the few, the proud, the bikini clad. These former Israeli soldiers are doing their bit for morale and military P.R. All that taking place in Israel. We'll update our viewers on what's going on. Lou, back to you.

DOBBS: OK, Wolf, thank you very much. Up next here, the results of our poll, more of your thoughts. We don't have any pictures for you but it will be fun anyway. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight, 84 percent of you are not surprised members of Congress and this president still refuse to do anything to secure our borders. Sixteen percent, it's nice to meet that many optimists. That's sort of reassuring in a way.

Time now for some more of your thoughts. Lois in California is saying, "Lou, I wish President Bush would demonstrate as much concern for working Americans as he does for illegal alien workers."

Norman in New York. "Lou, thank you for the great job you're doing. I've never seen this country in such a mess as now. Illegal immigration, depressed wages, jobs going overseas, the war in Iraq, school dropout rates. What's wrong with your president and our Congress?"

Very, very good question.

And John in Michigan. "Dear Lou, anyone who doesn't see that both illegal immigration and bad trade policies are having grave consequences on our economy must be living life with blinders on. Fight the good fight, Lou." You too.

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

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