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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

White House Rebuffs New GOP Iraq Withdrawal Calls; Army Falls Short of June Recruiting Goals; Chrysler to Sell Chinese-Made Cars

Aired July 9, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, Senator Hillary Clinton facing charges she's selling out our middle class to boost her presidential ambitions. Is the senator putting the interest of India ahead of working Americans?
Also, communist China preparing to launch an all-out assault on our automobile industry. We'll have that story.

And a dangerous heat wave scorching the nation coast to coast. Triple-digit temperatures, a record drought as well leading to some of the biggest wildfires, one in particular, the largest in history in the state of Utah.

All of that, all the day's new. Much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. News, debate, and opinion. For Monday, July 9th. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. The White House today refused to make any concessions whatever to GOP rebels over the issue of the president's conduct of the war in Iraq. The White House declaring that President Bush has no intention of withdrawing our troops now.

At least six Republican senators have broken with the White House over Iraq. Those senators are concerned, they say, about the rising number of our troops being killed in Iraq and the Iraqi government's failure to reform. Suzanne Malveaux has the report now from the White House -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the discussions that are taking place at the White House are really what would be the alternative policy if the present policy does not work in Iraq. We know that secretaries Gates as well as Rice have at least thrown out for the future the possibility of troop redeployment, withdrawing troops. But no specifics on that plan.

Officials say the main concern here, one of them, is the ability to manage the war. The other person, another official saying no one wants to lose control of that to Congress. All of this, as you know, Lou, coming at a time when there is more and more pressure on this president to bring American troops home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): There is robust debate and questions within the Bush administration over what's next in Iraq if come September the so-called U.S. troop surge doesn't bring peace. But aides deny there is debate about whether to start withdrawing U.S. troops.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no intensifying discussion about reducing troops.

MALVEAUX: But President Bush is running out of time to prove his Iraq strategy is working. He has got until week's end to submit a progress report to Congress. And the news looks grim. Even the White House seemed to concede the Iraqi government's report card for meeting its political goals will be disappointing.

SNOW: But I'm not sure everybody is going to get an A on the first report.

MALVEAUX: Lawmakers, including those in the president's own party are running out of patience. A handful of prominent Republicans have recently publicly turned against the president's Iraq strategy. But the White House said the president will not hint of any timetable to withdraw troops.

SNOW: You won't have to, you know, go out and buy new watches this week or set your calendars. There will be no red squares on the calendar at the end of this week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And, Lou, officials say that no one has come up with this alternative policy if the present so-called U.S. troop surge does not work. They say there are no specifics. And the one thing that's complicating the situation for the Bush administration is the president and his staff thought they had until after Congress' August recess. Now they realize that timetable has dramatically accelerated -- Lou.

DOBBS: As they have been trying to push back the metrics for progress in even the September report. What is -- is there any expectation that you've heard from the staff of the White House at to what direction they're going to go?

MALVEAUX: Well, essentially the expectation is that this report that the president is going to put out this week, perhaps within days, is going to be quite mixed. There will be some victories, they say, but there will also be serious short-comings from the Iraqi government. We've heard a lot of discussion about that.

It is really going to be a very difficult situation for the president to make his case that the Iraqi government is moving forward and working well. But at the same time, they say it has only been a couple of months. They're not yet at this time ready to say U.S. troops are going to come home anytime soon -- Lou.

DOBBS: Following the bloodiest and deadliest quarter for American troops since the beginning of this war. Thank you very much, Susan Malveaux from the White House. Senate Democrats today trying to exploit the worsening Republican revolt on Iraq by renewing their demands for a change of White House strategy in Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid and other Democrats said that the question now is whether the president and Senate Republicans can agree to a change of direction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We are willing work with Republicans, but we want there to be change. We do not want this to be a fig leaf. We want it to be real change.

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: We're now in the fifth year of ground combat operations in Iraq. And this deck of cards is coming crashing down. And it's landing heavily on the heads of the soldiers and the Marines who have been deployed again and again while the rest of the country sits back and debates Iraq as an intellectual or emotional exercise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Senator Webb today introduced a proposal that would ensure our troops spend as much time at home as they do on combat deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The military says another 14 of our troops have been killed in Iraq. The soldiers, sailors, and Marines were killed over the past four days. Twenty-nine of our troops have now been killed this month in Iraq, 3,607 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war, 26,558 of our troops wounded, 11,959 of them seriously.

New indications the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have pushed our Army to near the breaking point, the Army failing to meet its recruiting goal in June for a second straight month. The shortfall coming as the Army struggles to raise its strength to fight radical Islamist terrorists and insurgents. Jamie McIntyre has our report from the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, all through last year and this year, the Army proudly was able to say that it was able to meet its active duty recruiting goals, despite the way the war was going in Iraq. But now for the second month, that has not been the case.

Let's look at the numbers. In June, the military fell short of its recruiting goal by about 1,400 soldiers. In May, the month before, it was a shortfall of about 400 soldiers. Now the Army still says for the year, they are still about 2,000 ahead of their yearly goal of 80,000, so it's still possible that at the end of the year they'll make their goal, but it's getting increasingly more difficult.

The reasons are somewhat obvious. One is that the tours of duty in Iraq are longer and more dangerous, as you've noted. The casualties are rising. But the most important factor, Lou, are the parents. The Army is finding that mothers and fathers are dead set against having their kids join the military and serve in Iraq and they are influencing kids in increasing numbers not to sign up -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, turning to reports emanating from the Iraqi foreign minister that Turkey has put 140,000 troops on the northern border with apparently increased discussion in the Turkish government of missions against Kurdish -- they would describe them as terrorists, what is our Pentagon saying about that?

MCINTYRE: Well, the Pentagon says it cannot confirm that 140,000 figure given out by the Iraqi minister. However, the Pentagon is well aware that Turkey has a real problem with cross-border attacks from Kurdish terrorists and Kurdish terrorists within its own population.

The U.S. is working with Turkey, which is, of course, is NATO ally, to try to make sure that there is no unhelpful incursion of Turkish troops into the northern Iraq, something the U.S. would see as unhelpful. And they're still trying to manage the situation also by trying to convince the Kurds in the north to keep their forces and people under control because obviously that's not something they would want to see either.

The U.S., though, does not -- is not getting any indication that this is a situation that's about to boil over.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Jamie McIntyre, from the Pentagon.

The Department of Homeland Security tonight also struggling to fill jobs. The Homeland Security Department has more than 100 top- level vacancies. Congressional investigators say those vacancies mean there are gaping holes in this nation's ability to deal with a terrorist attack.

Kelli Arena has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You'd think the department responsible for securing out nation's borders, responding to national emergencies, and protecting the country against terrorists would have no problem recruiting top managers. You'd be wrong.

Nearly a quarter of the senior leadership posts at the Department of Homeland Security are vacant. And according to a new congressional report, that makes the country vulnerable.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), CHMN., HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE.: Terrorists are not going to wait until we fill vacancies at the top.

ARENA: Thompson, the Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, says he wants the department fully manned to insure a smooth transition when the Bush administration hands over the reins in 18 months.

Terror groups have attacked in both Madrid and London during a changeover of power or just before on election, and the U.S. is not immune. A DHS spokesman says the department is mindful of that, but calls the report misleading. He says the department is far along in filling those vacant spot.

RUSS KNOCKE, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPT.: About 70 percent are already in the process of being hired. They've been identified, they've been recruited, we've got to go through the vetting process, which often just entails the background check for security clearance.

ARENA: But members of Congress say the staffing problem at DHS is chronic. And one former DHS official says he often had a problem recruiting top candidates.

GEORGE FORESMAN, FMR. HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: Frankly, this country has been in a horse race since 9/11 to raise our level of national preparedness and many of the top talented people who are the ones that we want in these critical positions, simply put, are burned out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: And when those people do suffer from burnout, Lou, they've got someplace else to go. The private sector, where the paychecks are higher and stress levels lower. Back to you.

DOBBS: Thank you, Kelli Arena, from Washington.

Coming up next, a dangerous heat wave scorching much of the nation. Huge wildfires in western states. We'll have the very latest.

One of the country's biggest automobile companies joining forces with communist China. A new threat to middle class working men and women.

And Senator Hillary Clinton facing charges she's putting her presidential ambitions ahead of the interest of working Americans. That special report, a great deal more, coming right up, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton, speaking to the Indian Institute of Technology, repeated her call for an increase in the number of H-1B visas. Senator Clinton backs a plan that would raise the number of H-1 visas to 115,000 from the current level of 65,000.

But in that same speech, the senator also raised the concern that American workers have about losing their jobs to outsourcing. Now, the senator is courting Indian-American voters, and they're exerting an increasing influence in U.S. politics. And they have the very highest average income of any group.

The senator is the co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, by the way. They have a total of 37 senators in that caucus, including 18 Democrats, 19 Republicans. Now, over in the House of Representatives, 176 of our congressmen belong to the India Caucus, 115 Democrats, 61 Republicans. Senator Clinton has been criticized for her ties to India, most notably by Senator Barack Obama's campaign staff. Louise Schiavone now has more on the senator's Indian ties.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton describes herself as having close ties to the Indian people and culture.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is certainly for me a great honor to be the co-chair of the India Caucus in the Senate, and to work with so many of you on matters of mutual interest.

SCHIAVONE: Among the matters of mutual interest, increasing the number of H-1B visas where employers can seek and secure uniquely skilled help from other countries.

CLINTON: We must create more partnerships and relationships. And it begins with deepening the partnership with India.

SCHIAVONE: This weekend, in a video-linked speech to the Indian Institute of Technology 2007 Global Alumni Conference, Senator Clinton called for an expansion of the H-1B visa program, currently capped at 65,000. The program has been a boon to the Indian community. The Department of Homeland Security reports for 2005 roughly 48,000 Indians entered the U.S. with those visas.

Critics say it's just another immigration boondoggle.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They don't go home. There are probably 700,000 people in this country today who are still here, over-staying their visa -- their H-1B visa, which is a five-year visa. Nobody knows. We don't check. We have absolutely no way to check.

SCHIAVONE: The question is asked, what high-tech skills and training do Indians possess at this juncture that Americans don't?

STEVE CAMAROTA, CTR. FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: If a job outsources to another country, the Democrats aren't reluctant to say, hey, that's a problem, let's think about that. Do we want to do that? But if the job is lost to a foreigner who comes here, the Democrats are (whistles). They're not interested.

SCHIAVONE: A spokesman for Senator Clinton says the New York Democrat supports the use of H-1B visa fees to train American workers to eventually "cut back on the need for foreign workers."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHIAVONE: Lou, telling your audience what it wants to hear isn't exactly a new political gambit. But it's transparently inconsistent to rail against outsourcing while at the same time telling businessmen with foreign ties that what the country needs is more of them -- Lou.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And we should point out that about seven out of 10 of those visas are going to Indian companies. The largest companies using H-1B visas are Indian companies in this country, outsourcing jobs. And those Indian employees are coming in on average of $12,000 a year less than the prevailing wage for their American counterparts.

You know, it's really quite extraordinary, and not only Senator Hillary Clinton, of course, but the world's -- well, now he's the second richest man in the world, Bill Gates saying, just have unlimited visas. It will all be good. Quite a place that nation's capital, and your city. Louise Schiavone, from Washington, thank you.

Another threat to our middle class workers, communist China may soon be selling cars in the United States. As if the U.S. automobile industry needed more competition. The Chinese car company is Chery. It has entered into a deal with Chrysler. Cars made in China by Chery will be sold in South and Latin America at first under Chrysler names.

But as Bill Tucker now reports, Chery's cars will eventually be on American highways.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the fireworks exploded over the Potomac River celebrating our nation's birthday, the ink was drying on a deal signed by Chrysler and China's largest automaker to begin exporting cars from China.

The Chery will not be made by Chrysler, only marketed and sold under the company's name. South and Central American markets will be first. The United States markets targeted for 2009. Critics of our trade policy are disturbed by the deal as it further shifts the manufacturing base of the economy offshore, but at the same time, they note, it's hard to blame Chrysler for cutting the deal.

PAT MULLOY, ALFRED P. SLOAN FOUNDATION: The Chinese clearly have figured out how to incentivize our corporation to increase their profits by doing what they're doing and helping China build its technology and industrial base. They're smart and we let them do it.

TUCKER: The Chinese enjoy an enormous advantage with their currency under-valued relative to the American dollar by some 40 percent. Combine that price advantage with the Chinese labor advantage, and there is no doubt that Chrysler will be able to stick to its goal of selling the Chery at roughly $10,000.

And that's not accounting for the fact that a U.S. car-maker selling a car in China faces a 25 percent tariff. While a Chinese automaker selling a car here would face a tariff of 2.5 percent.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Within 10 years, China could wipe out the lower end of the U.S. market. We let them in the WTO. We gave them free access to this market. They maintain high tariffs on automobiles there. They require U.S. automakers to make their parts there, to transfer technology, to teach their local companies how to make cars.

TUCKER: There is a certain irony in the timing of the deal. Not only was it done on July 4th. It comes amid increasing concern over products made in China. A concern underlined by this European crash test of a car made by a Chery competitor in China, the Brilliance Auto.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Now, Chrysler says the Chery will meet all safety standards. A spokesman for the company also said the deal does not mean that Chrysler is getting out of the manufacturing business, but they admit this deal does allow them to get into the lower-priced end of the market with far less of an investment than if they built it and then built the factory and operated here in the States -- Lou.

DOBBS: The U.S. trade representative, this Congress, this president, the previous Congress, the previous president, all abject idiots when it comes to protecting the American interest. The idea that they are going to permit this deal to go forward without any kind of requirement for mutuality and balance in the trade relationship with China is amongst the most mindless possibilities and propositions and, apparently, a prospect -- likely prospect, that one could imagine.

TUCKER: And no one I spoke to today, Lou, thinks that there is any chance that this deal will be stalled. They expect is to go through smoothly.

DOBBS: And who runs the company that now owns...

TUCKER: Cerebus? Cerebus Capital Management.

DOBBS: Cerebus, the owner of Chrysler? Who is that fellow?

TUCKER: The chairman of that company is a guy you may have heard of, Lou. What's -- John Snow.

DOBBS: Former treasury secretary for this president. It's amazing how all of this just goes around and around, isn't it?

TUCKER: It is.

DOBBS: Tragic, but interesting. Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts now. Tom in South Dakota: "Lou, after the amnesty defeat, I need to ask, where is the border fence? I guess the Bush administration will be working closely with the Chamber of Commerce to get that started immediately?" Don't hold your breath.

And Chris in Indiana: "I live central Indiana. I'm a hard- working painting contractor. The price of everything is going up fast. And the money we make is going down or elsewhere. I feel like I work harder now just to get by. I'm one of millions of broken people who have lost faith in the way this country is being run. You're the only voice I hear in the national media that tells it like it should be. Thanks, Lou." Well, you're not broken and this country may be, but the fact is we can fix it. And we have to begin soon.

Bob in Illinois: "Mr. Dobbs, sending our Border Patrol to Iraq is insane while our borders are unsecured, it's delusional and dysfunctional. Is there anyone in this administration smarter than a fifth grader?" I would suggest to you that you not insult our fifth graders.

We'll have more of your thoughts here later. Now tonight's poll question, should the United States begin withdrawing our troops from Iraq, yes or no? We'd love to hear from you. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. The results coming up here later in the broadcast.

Up next, communist China, once again, not living up to its part of a brilliantly conceived U.S. military exchange program. Is this one-sided deal, imagine that, with communist China, putting the nation's security at risk? And who cares besides this broadcast and you? We'll have that report.

Scorching heat throughout most of the western states. We'll tell you if any relief is in sight and what is becoming a national heat wave. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: New charges tonight that communist China is trying to hide its aggressive military build-up from the rest of the world. Beijing is deliberately and routinely lying about its military budgets and its weapons systems. But this is the part you're really going to like. Our Pentagon still is giving China frequent information about U.S. military capabilities.

Kitty Pilgrim has the story.

((BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dozens of military to military exchanges are planned for Chinese and U.S. military officials over the next year starting in September. It's a record high.

DAVID SHAMBAUGH, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: This calendar year, there will be no fewer than 68 delegations exchanged both ways, between the U.S. and the Chinese military. And they routinely visit the National Defense University in Washington.

PILGRIM: But some are saying the Chinese are not showing U.S. officials as much as they are learning. Senior Pentagon official for Asia, Richard Lawless, recently admitted the Pentagon was disappointed with China's participation in military exchanges.

MICHAEL GREEN, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INTL. STUDIES: The Chinese don't want to show us what they're doing because a lot of it is aimed at us. And therefore, you know, they are going to be reluctant. But we ought to keep forging ahead, in my view, and keeping the pressure on them.

PILGRIM: Last year, the navies of the United States and China conducted joint military exercises. Chinese officials visited a U.S. Naval base in San Diego. In April, the top Chinese admiral visited Norfolk where the U.S. Navy's largest concentration of forces is based. The visit was supposed to be reciprocal with the U.S. chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Mullen, going to Beijing.

PETER BROOKES, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The Chinese were not able to come up with reciprocal visits. And so instead of going and having a -- you know, a lot of tea over idle chattel and not visiting real Chinese military, or naval facilities in this case, the chief of naval operations said, it's not worth my time and I'm not going to go and I'm going to cancel my visit.

PILGRIM: China claims their defense budget is projected to grow at 18 percent this year to $40 billion. But the U.S. estimates that the Chinese military budget is closer to $80 billion to $100 billion a year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now the Chinese pretend to publish military data, but it can be meaningless. Many China-watchers say the Chinese government white papers on defense and national security strategy provide only superficial details and contain few accurate assessments on military spending and strategy -- Lou.

DOBBS: This administration, this government, is completely -- it is absolutely -- it's pervasive. The idiocy, the mindlessness. Are they in any way concerned about the U.S. national security and American national interests?

PILGRIM: Well, you can look at Pentagon reports that definitely raise that question. That the transparency of the Chinese military is a big problem.

DOBBS: Indeed, it is. Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

Coming up here next, the political battle over the war in Iraq is escalating. Presidential candidates intensifying their arguments about the conduct of this war. We'll have that special report. I'll be joined by three of the country's top political analysts and strategists.

Also, a new confrontation between the White House and Congress over executive privilege. A constitutional showdown possibly in the making. I'll be joined by our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

And triple-digit temperatures roasting much of the country. Hundreds of wildfires burning in the West, many of them out of control. We'll have the latest video. We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Weather forecasters tonight say there is little relief in sight from the dangerous heat wave roasting much of the country. Many states today recording triple-digit temperatures. The hot, dry weather is feeding more than 1,500 wildfires nationwide. Those fires blamed now for at least six deaths.

Hundreds of homes have been evacuated and stretches of interstate closed in Utah. Massive fires have shut down railroad tracks and delayed trains in Nevada. The biggest fire is in central Utah. That fire has burned more than 440 square miles. It is the biggest fire in Utah's history. Firefighters fear that huge fire will grow even larger.

Casey Wian reports now on the heat wave, the effect it's having on states already suffering the worst drought in 500 years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Less than three weeks into the summer, a two-headed monster in the form of twin droughts is devastating the West and Southeast.

DOUG LECONTE, DROUGHT EXPERT, NOAA: The map illustrates here the main two drought areas that we're looking at for the U.S. With the worst of the drought centered over Alabama.

WIAN: Crops are dying in Alabama. Bark beetles are killing Georgia pine trees, and throughout the Southeast, under-fed cattle are going to market early. Ranchers are asking permission to graze on county right of ways because hay is so scare.

Florida's Lake Okeechobee is now the depth of a backyard swimming pool, an historic low of less than nine feet. The western drought stretches from the northern tip of Idaho to the Mexican border. It's most visible by the walls of flames from dozens of wildfires raging throughout the region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're witnessing here are just extreme fire conditions.

WIAN: More than 440 square miles are ablaze in Utah, the largest wildfire in state history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have seen fires, but it has not gotten this close to home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty well doing what it wants to do.

WIAN: Another fire in Washington forced the evacuation of 270 homes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Within seconds, it was traveling up the mountainside behind us. Flames were shooting just horribly in the air.

WIAN: From South Dakota to California, the National Interagency Fire Center says 42 large wildfires covering more than 800,000 acres are now active.

LECONTE: Drought is a normal part of nature, but we're seeing some extremes that are -- that are very important and significant this year that really are unusual.

WIAN: The Southeast has received some recent relief from modest rainfall, but in the west, temperatures are expected to remain high throughout the summer. Meaning no end to the drought in sight. And even places not affected by drought, such as New York and Washington, DC., are in the clutches of a stifling heat wave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN (on camera): NOAA's drought expert says there is no way to link this or any other specific heat wave to climate change. But he says it is a fact that temperatures have risen a couple of degrees in the West and that global warming may be contributing to the frequency and severity of heat waves and droughts. Lou?

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much, Casey Wian.

The head of the National Hurricane Center pushed out of his job today. Just four days after almost half of his staff called for his removal. Those staffers say that Bill Proenza undermined the Hurricane Center's credibility. The said Proenza exaggerated the forecasting problems that they'd have if an aging satellite failed. The staffers said Proenza was difficult to work with and he was verbally abusive. Proenza apparently didn't have the support of senior management at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, DC either. He was in the job for only six months.

Another showdown tonight, this one between the White House and Congress over the firing of U.S. attorneys. The White House counsel today rejected congressional demands for documents on the firings and barred testimony by former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former deputy to Karl Rove, Sarah Taylor. One White House official said it's clear the Democrats are looking for a confrontation. Joining me now our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, how are you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hi, Lou.

DOBBS: This makes -- this is shaping up as a major constitutional confrontation. Should it?

TOOBIN: It shouldn't, Lou. This is such a classic demonstration of dysfunctional government. This is a legitimate inquiry by Congress. The president has legitimate interest in protecting truly presidential functions. There's a perfect compromise here. But both sides, it seems, would rather posture than actually get to a solution that they can both live with.

DOBBS: Is that because the politics suit them? That is, Congress looks aggressive going after the Republican White House, The Republican White House looks adamant and strong to its base at least in resisting those awful Democrats and the House leadership?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. I think that's what's going on here. And the difference between the two sides is not that great. What the White House has said is we'll allow testimony from Harriet Miers and Sarah Taylor, the former aide to Karl rove, but that testimony has to be in private and there can't be a transcript. The Congress says, no, it has to be in public.

Well, the White house is being ridiculous in saying there can't be a transcript. Why can't there be a transcript? If you're going to tell the truth, what difference does it make if there's an accurate rendition? Congress is being ridiculous by saying it has to be in public. If you hold it in private with a transcript, both sides' interests are protected, but that doesn't seem to be likely to be achieved anytime soon.

DOBBS: And meanwhile we're being treated to the spectacle of a possible confrontation that as you suggest and I concur, by the way, Jeffrey, this is much about very little when there are some critically important issues facing this nation and this president and this Congress.

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you as always.

Coming up next here, the political battle over the war in Iraq moves back to center stage in Washington. That means center stage for presidential candidates, of course. We'll have that report. We'll have that discussion with three of the very best political analysts and strategists in the nation.

What in the world is going on in the nation's capital? And what are those presidential candidates in both parties thinking about? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The Bush administration today said it has no plans to withdraw our troops from Iraq now. Debate on the conduct of the war is back in Congress where the Senate is now taking up the issue and as Bill Schneider reports, the debate will provide a forum for the presidential candidates as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): With the Iraq War as the big issue in the presidential campaign, the Senate looks like the place to be, especially for Democrats.

PAUL KANE, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: They get to stand on the United States Senate floor, actually propose real legislative maneuvers that, if enacted into law, could bring this war to a close.

SCHNEIDER: Two maneuvers to end the war already have been tried. Both failed. One was to impose benchmarks to force the Iraqi government to accept a political settlement. The White House accepted the idea, but the Iraqi government is not likely to meet the benchmarks. A second move was to cut funding for the war.

Senators Clinton, Dodd and Obama voted to do that but the funding bill passed without them. The Senate now begins debate on three more options. One measure to withdraw troops by the end of March is favored by the Democrats' anti-war base.

KANE: That's a very definitive piece of legislation that says when the troops must come home.

SCHNEIDER: Most '08 Democrats are likely to support it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But we can still get our combat troops out by next year.

SCHNEIDER: Senators Clinton and Byrd are co-sponsoring a measure that would revoke the authority Congress gave President Bush to wage war in October 2002.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's why I believe it is essential that we change course in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: It's important for her because she voted to authorize the use of force.

KANE: It essentially gives a do-over vote to the October 2002 vote.

SCHNEIDER: Option three, a measure to implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group is the least popular among the Democratic Party's base.

KANE: Without that language, without a definitive timeline for withdrawal, the Democratic base is not happy with any piece of legislation.

SCHNEIDER: But it stands the best chance of passing because it can get more Republican support.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: John McCain, who just got back from Iraq, also has a role in this debate. McCain is playing to a Republican audience. But, you know, Republicans are also unhappy about the war. They believe the U.S. ought to be winning. And we may hear from McCain how he thinks the United States can do that. Lou?

DOBBS: Do you believe as many people are awaiting Senator McCain's comments today as, say, two months ago?

SCHNEIDER: No, no.

DOBBS: Bill Tucker - I mean, Bill Schneider, thank you very much. Appreciate it. I'm joined by now three of the country's best political analysts. Ed Rollins, Republican, former White House political director, Republican strategist; Errol Louis, columnist "New York Daily News"; Robert Zimmerman, Democratic strategist, Democratic National Committee man.

Good to have you all here. What in the world are we going to see here? Let's -- let's begin with a comment by Senator Harry Reid today, talking about, this matter cannot, that is the conduct of the war in Iraq, wait until September to take action. These are his words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) NV: I've stated publicly that I understand the feelings of the American people, that we haven't done enough because we haven't done enough. But as you know, for those of you that can count, and all of you can, in this debate, Democrats start 49-50 and we're the 49, not the 50.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Democrat Robert Zimmerman, what in the world is the Senate majority leader talking about?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He's basically acknowledging that the Democrats have got to be much more proactive, not just for the Democratic base, but for the national electorate where you've got two thirds of the American people who want the soldiers out of a civil war. You know, Lou, there's nothing happening today that wasn't predicted a year ago. We had a surge last in 2006 that didn't work. The Joint Chiefs told President Bush in December of 2006 not to proceed with the surge. There were no surprises here. All we have to do is face up to reality and take the aggressive steps that need to be taken.

DOBBS: Do you agree, Errol Louis?

ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": An extraordinarily bloody weekend just transpired over in Iraq. And I think what you see is the democrats kind of ratcheting up the pressure. It's a bit of bad faith in a way. Everybody knew that September 15th was going to be the next benchmark. There are required reports that Congress itself is supposed to get on the conduct of what is going on there. We didn't even wait for those to come in. So they're kind of jumping the gun a little bit. I don't think that their conclusion was ever in doubt. They want to end the war.

DOBBS: Republican Ed Rollins.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think Harry Reid just got his tail kicked on the immigration bill and I think he went home for a week and got yelled and screamed at by his Democratic constituents. But the reality is, we're there and we're going be there for a period of time. And you have to let the troops fight. As bloody a battle as it is, you have to let the troops fight for the foreseeable future.

The Congress may slow it down, but they're not going to slow it down for months and months yet. And I think for all this rhetoric to begin again is reminding the troops that at least the Congress, at least the Democrats in Congress are not supporting them.

ZIMMERMAN: Quite the contrary. I think by the Democrats recognizing the Pentagon report issued last month which said the violence has not abated in Iraq despite the surge.

ROLLINS: If you were sitting there today in 140-degree heat, we talk about heat in Las Vegas and every place else. And you have a hundred pound backpack on you and the Senate once again after just two months ago has a debate about cutting off your aid and cutting off your weapons and cutting off your resources, I mean, I think -- I think it's a very bad ...

ZIMMERMAN: But Ed, that's not the debate. The debate is about taking our soldiers out of a civil war, taking them out of a situation where they're not giving the proper military protection to fight this war and focusing them on redeploying their efforts against terrorism.

ROLLINS: It's the same rhetoric.

ZIMMERMAN: It's not rhetoric.

ROLLINS: When you get your 60 votes, then you can basically cut off the aid, as you will do by the end. But it's going to take Republicans and the Republicans in the Senate are not there yet.

ZIMMERMAN: That's the problem.

DOBBS: Those Republicans are getting there. I mean, we've seen Lamar Alexander, George Voinovich, discussions of John Warner even joining Richard Lugar and Pete Domenici. Errol, this looks like what the White House denied that it is, that is a real rebellion.

LOUIS: All of the states you just mentioned are basically purple states. When you look at how they turned out, both in the congressional races and in the presidential election last time. Ohio, Virginia, New Mexico. These are states that are closely contested.

DOBBS: Virginia.

LOUIS: These states are closely contested. They've seen switches back and forth. You've got I think a number of Republican senators looking ahead and saying we're not going to take serious loss next year on a -- for this president.

ZIMMERMAN: That's the tragedy that's happening because right now, the debate is about politicians trying to cover themselves rather than protect our troops. And obviously what we're facing as we approach right now is not what's happening militarily in Iraq or the war on terror. It's about the politics of 2008.

ROLLINS: Explain to me one more time how you protect troops by cutting off their aid and basically give them the retreat mentality.

ZIMMERMAN: Ed - I'd be glad to, Ed.

DOBBS: If I may be honest with you, if I may ask you all to have that discussion a little later. We're going to have to take a quick break here. We're going to come back to a couple of other issues on what's going on in the Republican White House, Ed. and what in the world are the Democrats thinking about? Hillary Clinton supporting Indian workers in favor of what? We'll be back with that.

First, a reminder to vote on our poll tonight. The question is, should the United States begin withdrawing our troops from Iraq? Yes or no. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here in just a few moments. We'll be back with more of our panel in one moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, Senator Hillary Clinton supporting and reassuring India, co-chairman of the Senate India Caucus, Mr. Zimmerman. Your candidate is being charged by a number of people with supporting India in the use of H1B visas, wanting to raise those visas. At the expense of American workers. What in the world is she thinking about?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, you know, Lou, even though I'm ...

DOBBS: This is going to be good.

ZIMMERMAN: Even though I'm supporting her, I still can be objective and agree with you. Objectively speaking, what she's proposing ...

DOBBS: Did you just say objective and agree with her?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely. Not inconsistent. Got to be clear. She's voted against CAFTA, she's opposed the Korean Trade Agreement.

DOBBS: Right.

ZIMMERMAN: What she's proposing is raising the price of these visas because there is a short term need and she's also proposing more funding for education and job training.

DOBBS: For who?

ZIMMERMAN: For American students and American job training so that the jobs can be filled. There is a shortage. This is legal immigration. And H1B ...

DOBBS: It's legal only because it exists. What is unlawful is what American business -- well, actually it's Indian business is doing in the United States with it. Seven out of 10 of the visas are going to Indian companies. They're hiring people in which there is no shortage. Talking about high technology jobs, four out of five of these jobs under H1B visas are category one, low-skill work. It is an absolute shame what the -- what the immigration department is doing, what the Department of Homeland Security is doing. And for Senator Hillary Clinton to add her imprimatur to this issue has to be heart-breaking for a lot of working Americans.

ZIMMERMAN: If I just may respond to that, briefly.

DOBBS: Please.

ZIMMERMAN: Very simply put, no one has been a stronger advocate of growing the economy and the manufacturing industry in America than she and some of her other colleagues in both parties, and I gave them credit for it. This is about filling a short-term need. It's not about in any way undermining the American worker.

What she's proposing along with bipartisanly growing the economy and growing funding for education, I think is really critical.

DOBBS: Errol Louis, what do you think? Did that sound like ...

ZIMMERMAN: I didn't persuade him at all, did I?

LOUIS: It sounded like an explanation. What we need is not an explanation, but I think we need independent studies. We need congressional hearings. We need to air this issue out. Not announce that, you know, well, this is going to be the way we do it or else they're going to all go to Vancouver.

You know, what we need to ask is if they go to Vancouver, so what? Where will the jobs come from? Who's going to be harmed by them? You know, is there, in fact, going to be ...

DOBBS: So in other words, you're an empiricist, Errol, you actually want to understand the facts. You want to know the truth and the reality of what is now America for American working people and our middle class, just not these out of touch, absurd, ambitious elite.

LOUIS: The way I'd put it is I've covered politics enough to know that in the heat of a campaign, every statement has to be scrutinized very closely.

DOBBS: You know something, I have to admire the rhetoric here. You were talking about explanations. That was absolutely a piece of art.

ROLLINS: I'll give you straight rhetoric. Straight rhetoric has to do with Indian fundraising. Mrs. Clinton is not president yet so she can't sell pardons, but she can certainly sell visas. And I think that's what this is about. If you track the various fundraising activities going on in Indian community for Mrs. Clinton, it's in direct correlation with this.

DOBBS: In all fairness, what in the world is George Bush selling? He is wanting ...

ROLLINS: He doesn't have to sell anymore. He's got 18 months to tread water and get out of there.

DOBBS: Well, he has no political capital with which to buy anything. That's fairly clear, Errol.

LOUIS: Again, what we just saw with the collapse of the immigration debate, any last pieces of it -- and I guess this last little H1B visa flap is just the last dying gasp of the failed immigration debate. It just shows that we're going to have to sort of tear up the script and start all over again.

DOBBS: Hallelujah. Hallelujah! What I love are these idiots in mainstream media, some of the elite Eastern establishment print publications in particular, and I'm thinking of two newspapers which come readily to mind, the "Washington Post" and the "New York Times" crying their little hearts out that Congress did not pass that dad gum piece of ignorant legislation. It is unbelievable that they still refuse to examine the empirical reality in this country. Don't you find as a newsman it's absolutely breath-taking?

LOUIS: Well, you know, it happens at every level of government, whether you're looking at ...

DOBBS: But I'm talking about the Fourth Estate here, partner -- we're the folks that are supposed to be representing the people. Their interests and providing some independent oversight of what this government does to people.

LOUIS: Yeah. I think the public -- or the assumption is that the public is impatient with these questions of process. Were there enough hearings, were there enough studies? Have we really aired it out? People just want to know what is going to happen.

ROLLINS: There were no hearings.

DOBBS: It's a simple count. Zero, none, nada. Forgive the expression.

ZIMMERMAN: The peoples' voices were heard and the Congress did respond. The system in this case did work. And I think that was most important.

DOBBS: You mean the American peoples' voices?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: The citizens of the United States. You don't mean, for example, the H1B visa holders that corporate America, Bill Gates and Senator Hillary Clinton would like to raise the ante on.

ZIMMERMAN: I thought the immigration bill was a bad bill and I spoke against it on this program.

ROLLINS: You can't get on his good side.

DOBBS: Not tonight. You're not doing too good either, Ed Rollins. ROLLINS: Let me just say this. The State Department and Homeland Security can't even get Americans' passports ...

DOBBS: It's absurd.

ROLLINS: So the mere idea that they can step forward and promise all of these things they're going to do is absurd and I think the American public has a right to demand how any of these bills are going to work. And how much is it going to cost? And they haven't done that.

ZIMMERMAN: You see the level of accountability in the Congress that really is for the first time long overdue. I look in particular to the hearings that are going to be held regarding the Department of Justice and the political firing of the U.S. attorneys.

ROLLINS: Which doesn't matter. We've gone over and over that.

DOBBS: Let's not get into this tonight. These two are not going ...

ROLLINS: On any given day the 90 U.S. attorneys can be fired at will by the ...

DOBBS: Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, says this is a ridiculous issue for confrontation.

LOUIS: He's absolutely right. He's absolutely right. I mean, 20 years ago, Congress gave immunity to Oliver North and asked him to talk about what he knew putting aside those questions in what they felt would be a compromise and he got up and rubbed their faces in it.

ZIMMERMAN: This runs to the core of democracy. Whether in fact we're going to have a Department of Justice that's going to be a political operation or whether it's going to be on objective law enforcement division.

DOBBS: Robert Zimmerman, Errol Louis, Ed Rollins, thank you for shedding light as well as heat this evening. Appreciate it.

Coming up at the top of the hour, THE SITUATION ROOM and Wolf Blitzer. And Wolf, are you going to have our friend, your buddy, your pal, that sweet-talking, smooth-talking Michael Moore on?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We certainly are. Part one of the interview coming up in a few moments. Part two tomorrow night.

Michael Moore, as you know, Lou, he's outraged. He's trashing critics of his new film "Sicko" and he's even going after me, demanding that I apologize. You'll hear his red-hot responses to some questions. He's got very choice words, by the way, for people that don't believe his film.

Also, nearly 20 years in custody, but soon to be free. Could Manuel Noriega get out of prison only to go back? And a woman considered one of the friendliest on television. Did she angrily slap around a staffer? Our Jeanne Moos takes a "Moost Unusual" look at Katie Couric. All of that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Lou?

DOBBS: Wolf, looking forward to it and as I said, I think that Michael Moore is almost as big a left-wing self-promoter as Hugo Chavez. It will be an interesting contest.

Still ahead, the results of our poll, more of your thoughts. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight, 89 percent of you responding that the United States should begin withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

Let's take a look at some more of your thoughts. Martha in New York said, "The most excessive sentence yet, eight years of Dubya as president."

Pat in California. "Lou, I want to thank you for your program that continues to engage and inform me on so many issues. I just wish our Congress and president cared as much about issues s you do."

Sol in Florida. "Dear Lou, I am free at last. I ditched my lifelong association with the Democratic Party. Any independent candidate has my vote."

We love hearing from you. We want you to send your thoughts to us at loudobbs.com. We thank as always for being with us tonight. And we ask you to be here tomorrow. We'll make it worth your while.

For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM begins now with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?

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