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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Obama Promises Sweeping Ethics Reforms; Panel Discusses Political Issues; Twins Go Into Battle Together

Aired June 22, 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 HOST: Wolf, thank you.
Tonight, rising controversy over the roll of talk radio hosts in our politics and our society. Is talk radio out of control out of control or is talk radio a bastion of free speech? We'll have complete coverage.

Also tonight the Senate next week to decide the future of the so- called grand compromise on amnesty. Fewer than 20 senators could determine the outcome of the political battle. We'll have the report.

And outrage in Congress over efforts by unscrupulous employers to abuse guest worker programs. Some lawmakers' fear is that some businesses, if not most, are help bent on displacing American workers. We'll have the story.

And three other countries best political analysts and strategists join us to assess why approval ratings for the president and the Congress are now at historic lows. All of that, all the day's news and much more straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday, June 22. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. We begin tonight in Iraq where a top U.S. general today accused Iran of stepping up its support of insurgents. Lieutenant General Ray Odierno said Iran is giving insurgents more money, weapons and training since the U.S. urge strategy got underway. The general also gave his assessment of when our troops could begin withdrawal from Iraq. Saying troops could start to leave Iraq early next year. Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.

Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, there was hint but not a promise from this top military commander.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Even as combat operations continue -- once again a top U.S. commander is raising the prospect that some of the 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq could come home.

LT. GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL CORPS: I think if everything goes the way it's going now, there's a potential that by the spring we will be able to reduce forces and Iraqi security forces could take over.

STARR: Bit it's a big if. First Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno says Iraqi troops must handle security in key areas of Baghdad as well as Baqubah and elsewhere in Diyala Province where U.S. troops are battling insurgents and al Qaeda. The upcoming September security assessment may be the first sign of whether a draw down is feasible. And there is more evidence that Iran has increased weapons shipments, training and support for extremist groups in Iraq over the last three months.

ODIERNO: I think maybe Iran decided to surge more money, conduct a bit more training and surge a few more weapons into Iraq.

STARR: The U.S. military expects to unveil new evidence in the days ahead. But Odierno offered some initial details.

ODIERNO: We found a few people that were Shia extremists that were connected to -- had some training in Iran. Those mostly being the mortar and rocket teams inside of Baghdad. Where they were trained in Iran and came in here to conduct attacks against not only coalition and Iraqi security forces but government of Iraq targets inside of the Green Zone.

STARR: U.S. forces attacked a site hiding Iranian rockets that were aimed at the Green Zone. Some of the rockets had already been fired.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (on camera): It's all part of the effort to try to cut off that flow of weapons from Iran. But if it doesn't work, there is no indication when there might be enough security in Iraq for those U.S. troops to start coming home. Lou?

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much. Barbara Starr from the Pentagon. Insurgents in Iraq have killed two more of our troops in Baghdad. Seventy of our troops have been killed so far this month, 3,547 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war, 26,129 troops wounded, 11,742 of them seriously. Four out of every five U.S. combat deaths in Iraq are the result of roadside bomb attacks. Insurgents are also using massive truck bombs to kill our troops and Iraqis. The truck bombs responsible for some of the worst attacks in Iraq, Hugh Riminton with U.S. troops in Mosul in northern Iraq reports now on the search for those insurgent bomb factories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every window in that building up there was broken.

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONENT (voice-over): Nothing could prepare anyone for the power of a ton and a half of explosives on a city street.

(on camera): What's this here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a piece -- that's the Iraqi vehicle that was guarding the gate. That's what is left of it.

RIMINTON (on camera): A couple tons of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It had armor plating on it and everything. When we were here the day it happened, I mean there was just shattered body armor, helmets laying around. You can see, just the leftovers.

RIMINTON (voice-over): Huge vehicle bombs, VBIEDs in military speak are effectively the terrorists' weapons of mass destruction in many parts of Iraq. Bombs of this size have routinely killed or wounded over 100 people at a time. But today, perhaps a break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we got some intel that there is a possible factory where they build VBIEDs, vehicle borne IEDs..

RIMINTON: In the workshops, dogs smell for explosives. But this is the badlands. And the troops themselves are a juicy target.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just heard two shots earlier. I think we're going to get attacked. So we may want to move.

RIMINTON (on camera): Now, they're looking for clues, obviously, anything seems out of the ordinary. And this is what they found. It is supposed to be a fuel tank so everyone says. One slight problem, it has no inlet. It has no outlet valves. It is solid. And that makes them very suspicious.

(voice-over): The task now, to sort out legitimate workers from those in the terrorist's pay. Then the soldiers get a tip-off about another sight nearby. As the troops arrive, they meet incoming fire.

But they find more evidence of a terrorist assembly line. Here the Iraqi battalion commander shows off false plates and the truck he says would have been fitted with a catastrophic bomb.

This has been a good day. But the enemies of Iraq remain many. The successes, never final. Hugh Riminton, CNN, Mosul, Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: New indications today that Iran continues to defy the rest of the world in continuing to build its nuclear weapons program. An Iranian news agency reporting that Tehran has already stockpiled more than 200 pounds of enriched uranium, a key component of nuclear weapons. Iran later said the report was incorrect. But Tehran is still refusing to suspend its program.

Aneesh Raman reports from Tehran. Aneesh?

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, good evening. Iran late today denied comments that had earlier been attributed to the country's interior minister over its nuclear program. Early Friday a semi state-run news service quoted the interior minister saying Iran has right now in storage just over 200 pounds of enriched uranium.

Now analysts have suggested Iran needs about five times that amount to produce one small nuclear weapon and they've suggested Iran could do that within a year. Now Iran vehemently denies it's pursuing a nuclear weapon, denied the statements that were earlier.

But the reason they cause such a stir is they came a day ahead of important talks between Iran and the E.U. These talks are seen as a last chance to forge some diplomatic breakthrough and prevent a third round of sanctions that now seem looming over Iran's nuclear defiance. But it doesn't seem like anything will come of the talks. Iran is ready for another round of sanctions and his chief nuclear negotiator warned if Iran is sanctioned for a third time, they will simply push ahead and expand its nuclear program. Lou?

DOBBS: Aneesh Raman from Tehran.

The United States is apparently making more progress trying to convince North Korea to suspend its nuclear weapons program. U.S. envoy Christopher Hill today completed two days of talks with North Korean officials. Hill said the talks were, as he put it, "very useful and positive."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR: This is a long process, step-by-step. I mean what was encouraging was the fact that the North Koreans are prepared to move ahead and shut down the reactor. They're also clearly prepared to disable the reactor, break the thing so it can't be brought back on line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: But even if North Korea were to shut down its nuclear reactor, Pyongyang would still have a small stockpile of nuclear weapons. North Korea also has an aggressive program to develop long- range ballistic missiles.

Coming up next here, new questions about the future of Guantanamo Bay's prison for terror suspects. Is the Bush administration about to close that prison? We'll have a live report from the White House and the fate of the Senate's grand compromise on amnesty hangs in the balance. Fewer than 20 senators may determine the outcome. We'll have that story and more straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The political battle over the senate's grand compromise on amnesty is intensifying. Senators will vote next week. Both sides are using every resource they can to gain support. Lisa Sylvester has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm proud to be up here with him. I can't think of a better United States senator than Jeff Sessions.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The two men look like the best of friends, President Bush and Senator Jeff Sessions. The president helped raise a reported $1 million Thursday night for the Alabama senator's re-election bid. Party ties make them pals. But immigration makes them opponents.

BUSH: He's a strong ally on a lot of fronts. We occasionally have our differences.

SYLVESTER: Sessions is one of the leading senators hoping to torpedo the Senate immigration bill. The fight comes down to 19 senators identified by the group Numbers USA and how they will vote next week. A vote for closure keep the legislation alive. A vote against would essentially kill the bill. Three of the senators have already announced this week they intend to vote against reviving the bill. The White House, business and ethnic interests and party leaders are all leaning on the other Republicans to back the legislation.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: We believe that this bill deserves more than 14 percent of the Republican vote. We can't do it all on our own.

SYLVESTER: Staunch opponents are working overtime.

SEN. DAVID VITTER, (R) LA: Many of us are going to use every procedural tool we can to try to stop this bill. And exactly how that will play out, I can't predict. But we're certainly going to use every tool we can.

SYLVESTER: A total of 60 senators have to vote for closure for the bill to proceed. Both sides say the vote will be close.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (on camera): Now of the 19 Republican senators identified as the swing votes, nine of them, Lou, are up for re- election next year. Lou?

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

And a new public opinion poll shows there is absolutely no doubt about how Americans feel about the Senate's grand amnesty plan. A UPI/Zogby poll finds that only 38 percent of Americans think this legislation has some merit. And take a look at the numbers. Only three percent of Americans now have a favorable view of how Congress is tackling the illegal immigration issue. President Bush doesn't fare much better. Only nine percent say the president is handling immigration issues well.

Angry members of Congress tonight want to know why the lead contractor of the so-called virtual border fence and the Department of Homeland Security waited until the day after a congressional hearing to announce that the project had substantial delays.

The Department of Homeland Security says Boeing which has a $67 million contract to build these high-tech towers didn't inform them of delays until the day after that hearing. The Department of Homeland Security says they passed the information along promptly. Committee Chairman Benny Thompson sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff demanding an explanation. A DHS spokesman said Chertoff will respond to that letter -- soon.

Dozens of illegal aliens were arrested in Orange County, California this week by federal immigration agents in what was a five- day-long operation. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 175 people. Those arrested included more than two dozen illegal aliens with prior criminal records. ICE was assisted in the operation by Orange County Sheriff's Department, other California law enforcement officers and 100 of those 175 criminal illegal aliens had been deported.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Thousands of you e-mailing us to tell us you're switching your political affiliation to independent. Sandra in Detroit said, "Dear Lou. Thank you for sticking to your guns and not backing down on what's right. Too bad I can't say the same for that do nothing Congress as well as George Bush. I no longer pledge my allegiance to the Democrats. I'm an independent."

Welcome aboard.

And Dorothy in Illinois. "Hi, Lou. Thank you for all you do. I was a Democratic, now an independent. I want to say thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He cares about our country. Why can't the rest of the government?"

And Joe in Tennessee. "When an old Reaganite like me finds himself in total agreement with an old socialist like Bernie Sanders and conservatives like Bush and McCain are pushing the same agenda as liberals like Kennedy and the Clintons, it's high time to redraw the lines in American politics."

We'll have more thoughts coming up here later.

Time now for a poll. The question is simply, do you believe Congress should scrap the amnesty legislation and focus instead on securing our borders? Yes or no? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later.

Up next, talk of new regulations putting radio talk show hosts on the offensive. They've had a belly full. We'll have a new report. And new protests over a training video for employers. We'll tell you why American workers should be concerned.

And millions of American workers already know why they should be concerned. We'll have that report. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Some federal lawmakers today outraged at a law firm's video teaching employers how to get around hiring Americans for jobs. Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Lamar Smith sending a letter to the labor secretary. They said that videotape showed disregard for American workers and as a blatant attempt to bring in cheap foreign labor through the H1B visa program. The war on the middle class continues to escalate. Christine Romans reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This law firm posted its May immigration law seminar on line and its frank advice has spread like wildfire. Advice worker advocates say is proof the H1B guest worker program displaces American workers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker.

ROMANS: That is the marketing director of Pittsburgh law firm Cohen and Grigsby telling clients how to advertise for a job while making it look like there are no available qualified U.S. workers. The firm posted the entire seminar online. Then the Programmers Guild, an advocacy group spliced together the most explosive sound bites and posted a five-minute video on YouTube with music and subtitles.

KIM BERRY, PROGRAMMERS GUILD: Finally what is going on behind the curtains is coming out into the public. We have proof now. It's not just allegations. We have proof.

ROMANS: Proof, he says that, companies don't work very hard to hire Americans first. In a statement the law firm says, "We stand behind the substance of our recent immigration law update seminar. We regret the choice of words that was used during a small segment of the seminar."

But the firm says, its advice was, quote, "commandeered and misused." Still, Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Lamar Smith are outraged. They sent a letter to the Labor Department saying the video underscores, quote, "blatant disregard for American workers" and "deliberate attempts to bring in cheaper foreign workers through the H1-B program."

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, (R) IA: If that need can be filled with American workers, American workers should be hired first.

ROMANS: The Department of Labor says it is reviewing the letter from Grassley and Smith. Quote, "We take the integrity of those programs very seriously and we will review the facts to determine if there has been an abuse of the program."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (on camera): The law firm says it was giving advice to its business clients on how to comply with the law when hiring foreign workers. The program is meant, of course, to fill labor shortages with foreign workers only if no Americans are available. Apparently, Lou, there are some perfectly legal ways to get around that.

DOBBS: Yeah this is nothing -- there is nothing here about the spirit of law. There is nothing here about the responsibility of a good corporate citizen. There is nothing here about corporate social responsibility. This is a bunch of cute little lawyers playing little corporate games and screwing the American worker which has become the general practice in this country, unfortunately.

The labor secretary, I'm sure, was outraged and has insisted upon a complete and full investigation here because that Labor Department is so, so concerned about American workers, right?

ROMANS: A spokesman for the Labor Department said they're looking into it. They're going to see if there are any abuse -- they take it very seriously, the integrity of these programs.

DOBBS: I think we can attest to that having looked at the number of abuses in these programs which has not been curtailed over the past five years by this administration. If I may make that observation. Christine, thank you very much. Infuriating report. Infuriating that that kind of thing is going on in this country and has been common practice.

Well next, presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama promises bold action to end the corruption of culture in Washington. But is the senator facing a few questions about his own ethics? We'll have that report.

And talk radio under fire like never before. Democrats, even some Republicans blasting influential talk radio show hosts. Are they the problem or are they the solution? We'll have the story.

And the future of Guantanamo Bay for suspected terrorists uncertain tonight. We'll have a live report from the White House and a lot more. Straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, opposition to talk radio generating a backlash from a few little darlings that are discomforted by free speech. Republicans and Democrats alike discussing whether Congress should have to put up with that kind of nonsense. Kenny Pilgrim reports now on talk show radio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Legislative restrictions on talk radio? Threats from both sides of the aisle. The airwaves today were on fire.

SEAN HANNITY, ABC RADIO AND FOX NEWS HOST: Literally, we're now battling for the right for freedom of speech in this country. I never thought we would get to this point. But we're here.

PILGRIM: Republican Senator James Inhofe charged he overheard Democratic senators Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer bitterly complaining about talk radio, conspiring to legislate it. Senator Boxer's office responded, "Senator Inhofe needs new glasses or he needs to have his hearing checked. Because that conversation never happened." Senator Clinton's office, "This supposed conversation never happened. Not in his presence or anywhere else."

Talk radio programming is largely conservative. The liberal think tanks Center for American Progress analyzed the composition of radio programming and found of the 257 news talk stations, 91 percent of total weekday programming is conservative. And nine percent liberal. Radio shows today decried the study calling the organization run by ex-Clintonites, Hillary's think-tank.

Btu complaints are coming from both sides of the aisle. Republican Senator Trent Lott fired the opening salvo saying, "Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem."

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh fumed, quote, "We're being blamed for you being informed and that should tell you something."

BOB LICHTER, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Freedom from regulation isn't for the media. It's for the public. It's supposed to help truth emerge from a lot of different ideas.

PILGRIM: And with radio, Internet and tradition alameda, there are now more voices being heard in this country than any other time in history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM (on camera): Well, it turns out this controversy must have been brewing for a long time. Late today Senator Inhofe changed his story about hearing Clinton and Boxer in the elevator. And now he claims that conversation that he heard was three years ago. And that's not how he told it first time, Lou?

DOBBS: Well, it's amazing. It keeps coming back to -- I mean who do you trust? And I got to tell you, I'm going to go with just about anybody but an elected official in this day and age. You know, all of this -- Trent Lott talking about talk radio. It's just ridiculous to hear him say that.

PILGRIM: It seems silly when there are so many outlets and so many availabilities for people to speak.

DOBBS: And I love the fact that the statistic is showing 91 percent of talk radio is conservative. And I'm sure that's pretty close to the truth. But I'd like -- why don't we have a percentage for the mainstream media and what per cent of mainstream media, electronic and print is politically correct, liberal, and part of the orthodoxy, you know, come on. This is ridiculous.

I think it can be fairly and reasonably argued that without talk radio, a host of issues would never, ever have been addressed by mainstream media and they made. Whether you like talk show hosts or not, they have performed a very important function here.

PILGRIM: It certainly does broaden the topic and that's a very valid point. DOBBS: It, by God, supports free speech in this country. And that's worth everything. Kitty, thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.

Millions of Americans are fed up with corruption in government. Let's make that hundreds of millions of Americans are fed up with corruption in our government. No wonder our presidential candidates are talking about ethics reform.

As Bill Schneider now reports, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama took specific aim at corporate and special interests.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congress has been debating ethics reform. But now Senator Barack Obama has gone one step further.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On the very first day that I sit in the Oval Office as president, I will launch the most sweeping ethics reform in history to make the White House the people's house and send the Washington lobbyists back to K Street.

SCHNEIDER: What's new here?

CRAIG HOLMAN, PUBLIC CITIZEN: It's the first time that we actually have a presidential candidate who's taking that entire package and offering it as part of his platform to run for president.

SCHNEIDER: Obama is making bold proposals.

OBAMA: When you walk into my administration, you will not be able to work on regulations or contracts directly related to your former employer for two years. When you leave, you will not be able to lobby the administration throughout the remainder of my term in office.

SCHNEIDER: Obama argues that ethics is not just an issue of personal corruption; it's also about the corruption of policy.

OBAMA: What's most outrageous is not the morally offensive conduct on behalf of these lobbyists and legislators, but the morally offensive laws and decisions that get made as a result.

SCHNEIDER: Obama argues that special influence blocks progress on health care reform and energy independence and drug costs. Polls show a meltdown of public confidence in both the president and Congress. The anti-Washington issue could be powerful this year, as it has been in previous campaigns.

FRED WERTHEIMER, PRESIDENT, DEMOCRACY 21: These kinds of issues tend to be underestimated in Washington. But they have had real clout in presidential campaigns before, the Ross Perot campaign of 1992, the McCain campaign of 2000.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: Senator Obama's relationship with an indicted real estate developer has recently come under increased press scrutiny, although Obama has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He may have gotten caught up in the fund-raising system, just as another reformer, Senator John McCain once did.

Now the sources I interviewed said the Illinois senator has real credibility in the reform community. And in his speech, Obama called reform, quote, "the cause of my career" -- Lou.

DOBBS: What is the reform community, if I may ask?

SCHNEIDER: It's all these organizations like Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen, people who spend their lives involved in the issue of ethics reform. They are mostly nonpartisan groups, and they crusaded for ethics reform for years, combating official Washington on that.

DOBBS: Yes, they do more than crusade. They actually perform real functions that permits greater transparency and awareness.

The reason I ask you that is this Congress was elected last year to do that, ethics reform, pushing back lobbyists. Senator Obama says pushing them back from the White House to K Street. I'd like to see them pushed, frankly, all the way the hell out of town.

SCHNEIDER: K Street is only two blocks from the White House.

DOBBS: Exactly. I mean, that's not quite far enough to suit me and I'm sure a lot of other folks.

But I think you've got to give Senator Obama great credit here for taking on the issue. Now we'll be able to follow the fund-raising and the corporate donations and the special interest groups. But, yes, he has a real opportunity here to set a standard. And I applaud him for doing so.

SCHNEIDER: And much of what he said he wanted to do, he can do by executive order. He does not need to have legislation passed.

DOBBS: You know, the only question we've got, and it's one of the reasons that Congress has a historically low approval rating, the president his lowest approval rating ever, is we've heard a lot of people say what they're going to do. But the actions seem not to follow the words. Let's hope that there is a distinct difference in 2008.

Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

One of the closest aides to presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a leave of absence today following reports that Massachusetts state police are investigating that aide for allegedly impersonating a state trooper on the telephone. Jay Garrity, who is Romney's director of operations, was already cited three years ago for having flashing lights and other police equipment in his car without proper permits. In Massachusetts, the misdemeanor charge of impersonating an officer comes with a fine of up to $400 or up to a year in prison, which is a pretty serious misdemeanor in Massachusetts.

Coming up next, three of the country's best political analysts join me. We'll have more on the president's abrasive push on amnesty. We'll have more on the really disgusting poll numbers, which show the majority of us don't approve of either the Congress or the president. We'll be right back with that and more. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: President Bush, determined to push ahead with his amnesty program while ignoring the will of the American people. More than ignoring them, sort of saluting it in a less than respectful way.

Joining me now with their views on that subject and many more, James Taranto, editor, OpinionJournal.com; Michael Goodwin, "New York Daily News" columnist; Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman.

Good to have you all with us. Let's take a look at what in the world is going on. Mitt Romney has a -- an aide who is in trouble with the Massachusetts State Police. One -- one of the South Carolina operatives for Giuliani accused of distributing cocaine. The list is going on and on. What's happening?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATGEGIST: Well, this is how you find out who's ready for prime time and who's not. And what you're seeing is not -- you're seeing what is called a campaign shakedown in many respects.

DOBBS: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: Ultimately, these kinds of amateurish maneuvers, these kinds of criminal conduct ultimately separates the legitimate candidates and their teams from the amateurs.

DOBBS: Is it also -- is it also good news, Michael, that it's happening early so that it will all basically be forgotten by the time they get into the middle innings?

MICHAEL GOODWIN, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I think it will be forgotten unless it's the candidates themselves who are arrested for selling cocaine or speeding and impersonating a cop. I think as long as it's his low-level aide, the campaigns with can effectively kind of wash their hands, push them overboard and say, "Let's move on."

DOBBS: And part of the politics, going after John McCain because one of his county chairmen in South Carolina disagreed with his view on illegal immigration or supporting the amnesty legislation. My gosh, the press made a huge deal out of that, I am sure fed by his opponents. I disagreed vehemently with Senator McCain on immigration. But that's getting a little silly by any standard, isn't it?

JAMES TARANTO, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Yes. And the Giuliani fellow is actually the elected state treasurer of South Carolina. He's not -- he's Giuliani's campaign chairman there, but he's not an integral part of the campaign.

GOODWIN: I think you made an interesting point, too. That there is a kind of underground of where the arrival campaigns like to feed this information to the press.

Obama got caught it with the Hillary Clinton issue last week with the "Punjab". But he -- but he put out -- he put out a letter just to the press, but he didn't want anyone to say that it came from him.

That -- a lot of that goes on. There's a lot of whispering among the campaigns. People doing the dirty deeds but trying to keep their fingerprints off.

TARANTO: And there's a whole web site now called Hillarys44.com (ph). It's not clear who runs it, but it's all about attacks on Obama and, to a lesser extent, Edwards.

GOODWIN: But these cheap shots are part of the presidential process. Hopefully, the media will focus on the more substantive issues, and the country really has an appetite to focus on the more substantive issues.

DOBBS: Like what?

GOODWIN: Like immigration reform. Let's get right down to business.

DOBBS: There you go.

ZIMMERMAN: Like, for example, the war in Iraq and whether we're going to change our mission, remove our soldiers from the civil war. And for that matter, whether the Democrats in Congress are going to find their voice again and stop trying to engage in a compromise with this administration that only hurts the credibility.

DOBBS: There's another school of thought that we don't want to hear Senator Harry Reid find a voice, because frankly, he is...

ZIMMERMAN: That's not what I said.

DOBBS: Well, you were suggesting that they will find a voice. I'm suggesting I'm not sure we want to hear his.

ZIMMERMAN: I will -- but I don't want to hear...

DOBBS: If you will follow along with me.

ZIMMERMAN: What I don't want to hear are Democratic leadership in the Senate engaging in the secretive manipulative process engaged in the immigration compromise.

DOBBS: You mean the way they created this?

ZIMMERMAN: Exactly right. I think it's hurt the Democratic standing in Congress. And it's taken us off, really, our mission.

DOBBS: Well, that's -- that's a remarkable admission from a Democratic National Committee person.

ZIMMERMAN: I've -- thanks to you, helped me overcome my shyness.

DOBBS: And it also reveals your true character, which is estimable, if I may say.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you.

GOODWIN: I think Harry Reid would love to have some Republican cover to do almost anything he does. And particularly on immigration. We heard him earlier talking about we need more than 17 votes or whatever. I mean just mathematically, he can't get -- he can't get the issue closed without Republican help. But it gives him political cover, as well.

TARANTO: I really thought that was an astonishing comment, though. Because he's basically saying we're not going to do this unless we have cover. I mean, that's...

GOODWIN: They can't.

ZIMMERMAN: The question you have to ask is why would the political leadership bring this to the floor of the Senate when the votes didn't exist? And it's because both parties are playing a very dangerous game: pandering to the Hispanic community, or what they think the Hispanic community wants. And I find it offensive.

DOBBS: I think we have to be careful when we talk about the Hispanic community. Because I take your point. I'm just trying to reinforce it.

And that is -- and it infuriates many, many Hispanic-Americans to hear LULAC and La Raza and other activist groups, you know, with -- to presume to speak for Hispanic-American citizens and draw that direct equation with illegal immigration.

These activist groups may. But they don't represent even a tenth of the Hispanic-Americans in this country who are citizens just as, are you know, each and every person in this country.

GOODWIN: Well, I think legal immigrants across the -- across the line, I mean all across the country do not want illegal immigration. They feel tarred. They feel cheapened by it. And it does, more than anyone else, it hurts their economic life, because it drags down wages for them.

DOBBS: Yet, "The Wall Street Journal" op-ed page continues to push the -- for amnesty. The National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business interests.

You know, one gets the feeling, James, that corporate America is looking for its own amnesty rather than that of the labor they've exploited for 20 years. Could I be farther from the truth?

TARANTO: Well, we do live in a country in which there are many different interests, and corporations are going to stand up for their interests.

DOBBS: And, by God, "The Wall Street Journal" op-ed page will stand up for those corporate interests.

TARANTO: Well, I think we're not standing up for it just because they're corporate interests. There is a demand for labor. Consumers do benefit from -- when companies are...

ZIMMERMAN: They're exploiting labor, and that's what this -- that's what this is really all about. And that's what's so troublesome.

But if I may, Lou, it raises a much greater issue in some respects, and that's why the Democratic standing, I think, is so low in the polls. The Democratic Congress is so low in the polls because there is this interest in -- there's this belief they can compromise with the administration that doesn't even respect the laws that are passed by both houses of -- by both houses of Congress.

DOBBS: And I suppose the cynics among us might say this -- the leadership of this Senate and the leadership of this House are uniquely qualified to negotiate and work with the leadership of this White House. Because they seem to be at about the same level.

ZIMMERMAN: My point is the reality is this White House, not only ignores the laws that both -- both houses of Congress passed through signing statements and through executive order...

DOBBS: So what you're really saying is...

ZIMMERMAN: And Dick Cheney's declared his own branch of government.

DOBBS: That's fascinating. We will get to that in a second. But so what we're basically saying is the executive branch is ignoring the law. And the Democratically-led Congress is ignoring the will of the people. So is that pretty much where we find ourselves?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, not on issues like stem-cell research or changing the mission in Iraq or minimum wage.

DOBBS: Have we changed the mission in Iraq? Have we...

ZIMMERMAN: They have been fighting hard to do so. And ultimately that fight's going to be -- that fight's going to be led on the street.

GOODWIN: I think -- I think one thing that is happening to the Democratic Congress, Lou, is that it's sort of getting hoisted on its own petard. I think it didn't -- the candidates in Congress for the Democratic Party did not run for anything. They ran against George Bush. So they didn't really have a platform.

DOBBS: Which is a pretty effective strategy.

GOODWIN: It was infective to get elected. But then you get in office, what's your mandate for?

DOBBS: Right.

GOODWIN: And they don't have a mandate for anything specifically. And now they're finding that. But they really -- and so they lost their sea legs. They don't have any direction.

TARANTO: And running against George Bush is not going to be so effective in 2008 when he's not going to be on the ballot.

ZIMMERMAN: It will be absolutely the issue in 2008 whenever a Republican candidate stands with him, as they're doing now.

But in 2006 there was a mandate to implement the 9/11 Commission reforms, for minimum wage, for getting our soldiers out of the civil war in Iraq. And I think, in fact, we are not going to achieve it through compromise with this administration, because this administration doesn't have the integrity to compromise.

GOODWIN: No, Iraq is a very good example where there is no mandate. To say that the war is not going well. But when you ask the American public, do you want to pull out now, which is what the Democratic Party wants, most of the public says no.

ZIMMERMAN: The Democratic position is very clear. It's for a phased redeployment, for saying the Iraqi government has got to step up and be held accountable.

DOBBS: The sad part of all of this, James, is that, even though we've gone through now three votes, we have gone through posturing from both this White House and, of course this Congress.

We still have not had a national debate. Not just between Democrats and Republicans, but from the various leadership -- responsible leaders in the Congress, on the direction of U.S. policy. The cost of the war that we're pursuing in human lives and in treasury.

The -- a discussion of what is the proper role for the United States in the Middle East? What is the role of energy dependence? What is our long-term vision for U.S. foreign policy? And by long- term vision, I'm talking about more than a General Petraeus review in September of a surge strategy, so-called.

We're not having that. We're not having it either in the op-ed pages of this country. We're not having it in the mainstream media. Some columnists are, to their credit, trying to deal wit. But we're not seeing a serious national dialogue on this issue, as we have -- so many of our young people wounded and dead after this long war, which we are now told reliably will be even longer.

TARANTO: Well, and I think the political class is so polarized about George Bush. I think we're going to have to wait until he passes from the scene or is about to pass from the scene. I hope we get this debate...

DOBBS: How about we just ignore the man, then? Why don't we get on with truth telling? Why don't we get on with a real discussion here about U.S. interests, not corporate interests, not partisan interests. But the well-being of the nation?

TARANTO: Well, I'm for that.

DOBBS: Why can't we do that? Why can't we reach to that level? Either in mainstream media or in partisan politics?

GOODWIN: Lou, I'm not sure you're fair to paint with such a broad brush. I mean, I think that there are a lot of efforts, a lot of people, and the presidential candidates are doing that. They're trying in their own way.

I thought Wolf Blitzer, for example, in the debates asked some very good questions on some of the very -- these issues. So I think that it's popping up here and there. But I think it's a very...

DOBBS: Which question and which answers? Absolutely energized you?

GOODWIN: Well, I wouldn't go that far. But questions about Iraq. Questions about would you use a tactical nuclear weapon on Iran?

DOBBS: For God's sake, I want to take the level a little higher than that. And I want to take it a little beyond "do you believe in evolution," for God's sake, when we're talking about a public education system that is collapsing around us.

ZIMMERMAN: And you know it's interesting, too. Because if you look at these kinds of issues, the level of public anger over them has been never higher, whether it's education, whether it's health care, whether it's immigration, whether it's the war in Iraq.

And I believe -- and because, ultimately, I'm an optimist. I have to believe that they're going to demand the system be held accountable. It began in 2006...

DOBBS: Is this president capable of accountability? Because corporate America's domination of the electoral and legislative process is absolutely awesome and all but total.

GOODWIN: I think it is. I think it is capable. I think it always has been. And I think the two-party system, despite its flaws, despite how slow we were to come to terms with a lot of important issues in our history, fundamentally, we do get it right ultimately.

It's more dicey now, because we feel as though we're running out of time with -- in a nuclear age. But I think the system is capable. And I think the right people will emerge to lead us. Right now, we don't have them.

TARANTO: You know, we could have been having this conversation in the late 1970s, you know, in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam and the Carter administration. But we did get Reagan, and he turned the country around.

ZIMMERMAN: But getting by is not what it's all about. 2008 is about standing up and showing leadership. That's the test of these candidates running for president. And that's really the mission of the American people to demand that test be met.

TARANTO: I agree with that.

DOBBS: All right. James, thank you very much.

Michael, thank you.

Robert, thank you. Great weekend. Coming up, the top of the hour, my colleague Wolf Blitzer and "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

Spies and skeletons in the closet. After three decades, files about the doings of the old CIA are now being declassified for all of us to see. And some of these things are pretty dirty.

Also, rockets in the schoolyard. We have some exclusive new video of rockets aimed at Baghdad's Green Zone. What's especially unsettling is where these rockets are coming from.

And Cuba, still off limits after more than 40 years. Is it time to lift the trade embargo? There are some in Congress who say absolutely. And that includes Democrats and Republicans.

All that, Lou, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you.

Coming up next here, "Heroes", our weekly salute to our men and women serving the nation in uniform. Tonight, the story two of brothers, twins, who went into battle together. That story is next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: And now "Heroes", our tribute to the men and women who serve this nation around the world. Tonight the story of twin brothers. They went to Iraq together and, incredibly, each survived an attack.

Philippa Holland has their story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing could have prepared us for what we experienced out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up over the top of that missile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy cow! Everybody OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You good? You good? You good?

LANCE CPL. ALEX FERRER, U.S. MARINE CORPS: We encountered IEDs. We encountered fire fights on a daily basis. And I would go out on eight patrols almost every day for 7 1/2 months.

PHILIPPA HOLLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christopher and Alex Ferrer, identical twins, shared lives: high school, enlisting in the Marines and then a deployment to Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My twin brother would go out when I was coming in. So we'd never go out at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having a brother out there is tough and also, you know, it was awesome, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day we would see each other at least, you know, an hour at a time or two hours at a time. And we got to talk to each other and get stuff off our minds. So basically, we kind of decompressed ourselves while we were over in Iraq.

HOLLAND: During their deployment, they each survived separate insurgent attacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I took a shot -- bullet to the inside of my right thigh.

HOLLAND: Christopher heard the news from a fellow Marine.

LANCE CPL. CHRISTOPHER FERRER, U.S. MARINE CORPS: One guy's like, "Hey, your brother, did you hear?" I'm like God, what? He said he got shot. You know, so there comes the tear and the heart throbbing. I'm like, my God, where was he shot? How bad it is?

HOLLAND: Fortunately, it was not serious, and Alex was back on patrol within days. Months later, Christopher's Humvee was attacked by a suicide bomber.

C. FERRER: I connected eyes with this guy, and you know, right then and there I knew what it was -- you know, what it was going to be. It was one of my biggest fears out there was being hit by a bomb.

HOLLAND: The Ferrer luck would again prevail. Christopher escaped with just a concussion.

For these brothers in arms, the title hero does not sit comfortably. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not what I'm searching for. I like the whole paramilitary structured disciplined lifestyle. You know, helping people out is very gratifying to both of us.

HOLLAND: Both brothers look to receiving their Purple Hearts for their service.

Philippa Holland, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: And tonight the space shuttle Atlantis and crew safely back on earth. The shuttle sat down at 3:49 p.m. Eastern Time at Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert. Bad weather preventing the scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Atlantis completing a two-week mission to the International Space Station. NASA had hoped for a Florida landing to avoid the time and expense of piggybacking the shuttle for its return to the home base on top of a modified Boeing 747. Heavy rains, of course, frustrating NASA's hope of doing so.

Coming up next, more of your thoughts. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Time now for some of your thoughts.

Knox in Georgia saying, "As a teacher who has just finished his fifth" -- let's try that all over again. "A teacher who has just finished his 30th year in the classroom. Thank you for your report on parents being responsible for academic failure, chronic absenteeism and drop outs."

And Marie in Indiana: "You are the only reporter I've heard mention the North American Union and the NAFTA Highway. Why are the other reporters not talking about it?"

An excellent question.

And in response to our poll question last night, where we asked if you were surprised that members of Congress and the president still refuse to do anything to improve border security, the -- the response was this. Larry in Indiana saying, "Lou, nothing surprises me about what the president and Congress do. Neither one of them is for the middle class. You have a great show."

We thank you.

And we thank you for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer. Good night from New York -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

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