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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Democrats Fail to Break Republican Resistance to Iraq Timetable; America's Food Safety at Risk?

Aired July 18, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, leading Democrats launching a new attack against our middle class. It's hard to figure those Democrats out, trying to reintroduce failed amnesty legislation in Congress on a piece-by-piece, piecemeal basis. They are hoping no one will notice, but we have. And we will have the report.
Americans worried about the safety of food imports are now demanding country-of-origin labels on their food. But powerful lobbyists in Washington defying the will of people and fighting back, even though country-of-origin labels are in fact required by law.

We will have that story and a great deal more straight ahead. Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Wednesday, July 18.

Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

We begin tonight with the defeat for Senate Democrats on the issue of Iraq. Democrats failed to win enough votes for an amendment calling for the withdrawal of our troops by May of next year. The defeat followed a rare all-night debate in the Senate, congressional Democrats facing rising anger from supporters over their inability to force the president to change course in Iraq.

Andrea Koppel reports now from Capitol Hill -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, that's right.

After failing to break through a mostly united Republican front opposed to forcing President Bush to bring most U.S. combat troops home by next spring, Democrats insisted, they have no regrets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We spent two days showing America that we're not going to back down. We're going to continue to fight.

KOPPEL (voice-over): With roll-away cots and plenty of pizza on hand, some senators made a show of arriving at the Capitol after dark. The rare all-nighter forcing lawmakers used to speaking in prime time to face cameras bleary-eyed in the wee hours of the morning.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As we go from speaker to speaker, as we are at 10 minutes of 3:00 in the morning.

KOPPEL: Some Republicans dressed down for the event, calling it political theater. Others debated Democrats on the merits of their case.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Are we now have to a strategy du jour or a new one every week based on coffee shop talk or some poll that just came in?

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: And there's no virtue in staying the course when the course you're on is dragging you deeper and deeper into a geopolitical disaster.

KOPPEL: Democrats did succeed in winning over four Republicans, Gordon Smith, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins. Collins, who like Smith and Hagel, is up for reelection next year, is the latest Republican to break ranks.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I believe that the way forward must be a bipartisan approach that puts the interests of our country ahead of political gain.

KOPPEL: But Republican John McCain, in an emotional speech, stuck with the president, even though Mr. Bush's policy on Iraq has hurt McCain's own presidential campaign.

MCCAIN: I am unlikely to ever know how history has judged us in this hour. The public's judgment of me, I will know soon enough. I will accept it, as I must. But whether it's favorable or unforgiving, I will stand where I stand and take comfort from my confidence that I took my responsibilities to my country seriously.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOPPEL: Now, after Democrats fails to break the Republican filibuster, as expected, the majority leader, Harry Reid, announced that he was going to pull the defense bill from the floor until Republicans agreed to an up-or-down simple majority vote on that amendment, on the very amendment they were debating all night long, Lou, which means that it is entirely possible that there may not be another vote on Iraq until September, when General Petraeus is supposed to be delivering his report on the status of progress in Iraq -- Lou.

DOBBS: If delayed until September, Andrea, obviously, the administration, Bush administration, will have won on the issue of the deadlines, at least for an evaluation of these benchmarks, would they not?

KOPPEL: Well, they would certainly have gained more time. Whether or not they win, certainly Democrats would say in the long term or the midterm, they still have a very good chance of winning over more Republicans as the progress or lack of progress on Iraq becomes more apparent.

DOBBS: How many of these folks actually slept in those cots, great photo opportunities of senators, going back, what was it, four years ago, when the Republicans pulled much the same thing? How many people actually slept on those -- I just will put it straightforwardly -- those silly little cots?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Democrats claim that there were only four senators who actually slept on the cots, and they say that only two of them will allow their names to be made public. One of them -- both of them actually are freshman senators, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Lou, but that doesn't mean that the others were not getting sleep. There were cots in the leader's offices, in the minority leader's office, and then others had their couches to sleep on as well.

DOBBS: Yes. Honestly, I was not worried about them being sleep- deprived. I was just wondering about how many actually slept, with all the ado surrounding the deployment of the couch -- the cots, if you will.

Well, I think we have to put Senators Casey and McCaskill in sort of the cot Hall of Fame, take , for living up to the billing at least of the leadership.

Thank you very much, Andrea Koppel, from Capitol Hill.

As senators debated the conduct of this war, insurgents killed three more of our troops in Iraq. All three killed by roadside bombs in Iraq; 42 or our troops have been killed so far this month; 3,621 of our troops have been killed since the beginning of the war, 26,806 of our troops wounded, 12,020 of them seriously.

The U.S. military tonight is claiming a significant victory in the battle against al Qaeda in Iraq. Military commanders say troops captured the most senior Iraqi in al Qaeda. He is the latest in a series of top al Qaeda operatives to be captured or killed. But successes so far have done little to end the violence.

Michael Ware has our report from Baghdad -- Michael.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lou, the U.S. military in Baghdad today just revealed that two weeks ago, on July 4, while most Americans were enjoying Independence Day, the military had a rare success here in Iraq against al Qaeda.

The military has announced that it captured the second most senior member of that organization. His name is given as Khaled al- Mashhadani, and he is said to be the most senior Iraq in what is a foreign-led organization here fighting U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces.

Mashhadani, according to the U.S. military, was a former media chief for the al Qaeda organization and later became a key conduit between the old-school al Qaeda of Osama bin Laden, hiding out in Waziristan on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and its fighters here in Iraq.

However, while the military claim that this was a spectacular catch -- and it certainly is significant -- in the broader course of the war, the question is just what impact this arrest will make. The simple answer is that very little.

Numerous numbers two, threes, fours and fives of the al Qaeda organization have been killed or captured. And in the two weeks since Mashhadani's arrest, al Qaeda attacks have continued unabated -- Lou.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Michael Ware reporting from Baghdad.

The White House today declaring the United States is safer now from terrorist attack than before September 11. But nearly six years after 9/11, our military still has not captured nor killed Osama bin Laden. And our intelligence agencies apparently have no idea where bin Laden is hiding.

Ed Henry as our report from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Four days after 9/11, the president huddled at Camp David with his war cabinet and issued a warning to Osama bin Laden.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will find those who did it. We will smoke them out of their holes.

HENRY: Within a month, the president launched a war with Afghanistan and boasted al Qaeda and the Taliban regime were on the run.

BUSH: We will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans.

HENRY: March 2002, just six months after vowing he would get bin Laden, the president said he wasn't so focused on the terrorist anymore.

BUSH: His network is -- his host government has been destroyed. So I don't know where he is, not -- you know, I just don't spend that much time on him.

HARRIS: Later in 2002, the CIA learned bin Laden was not in contact with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, even though the president was making a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda as he built the case for war.

BUSH: We have learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. HENRY: In early 2003, the CIA warned Mr. Bush an invasion of Iraq could give al Qaeda new opportunities to expand its influence, which has turned out to be true, based on a new national intelligence estimate. The president ignored the CIA's warning, but is now trying to use the threat from Al Qaeda in Iraq, which didn't exist before the war, as a reason to keep U.S. troops there.

BUSH: To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, the fact al Qaeda has reconstituted itself obviously raises questions about whether Mr. Bush took his eyes off the main problem by invading Iraq. That's why many Democrats, some Republicans, on Capitol Hill are now saying that the Bush administration should refocus on Pakistan, other hot spots like Afghanistan. That war now about to go on into its sixth year -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed Henry from the White House, thank you.

HENRY: Thank you.

DOBBS: Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism, has broadcast a videotape of two American hostages apparently confessing to plotting subversion in Iran, those Americans among four U.S. citizens held hostage by Iran. The State Department says the United States is -- quote -- "outraged" at the treatment of the hostages and demanded their immediate release.

Jill Dougherty has our report from Washington -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN INTERNATIONAL U.S. AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, Lou, that video was an hour-long documentary. It was made by Iranian TV.

It showed the person we have been reporting a lot on, Haleh Esfandiari, and another academic Iranian-American. There she is right there. She's a 67-year-old scholar. She's been held since December, actually, arrested May 8.

And this was the first really detailed and long view that we have seen of her since she was put in prison. Her husband said she looked pale, weak, and thin. And intercut with that video of her face, we saw a lot of video of those so-called color revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, especially from Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, Georgia.

And obviously the attempt there to link what Mrs. Esfandiari has been doing with the Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington, D.C., to those revolutions. She and everyone else has denied that she has anything to do with fomenting any type of revolution.

We spoke just a few minutes after that aired with her husband, Shaul Bakhash. He is a professor here in Virginia, in the Washington, D.C. area. Again, he said she looked very bad, but he did not feel that that video would convince anyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAUL BAKHASH, HUSBAND OF HALEH ESFANDIARI: Almost 80 percent of that one-hour program was footage of revolutions in Eastern Europe. And, clearly, they want to draw an absurd link between the kind of activity, organizing conferences and talks that my wife is involved in, and revolutions in Eastern Europe. I don't think it's a link that is going to persuade or fool anyone, either here, abroad, or in Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOUGHERTY: And, in fact, Professor Bakhash did say that, as he watched that video, the phrases she used were almost verbatim, word for word, with the ministry of intelligence from Iran has been saying -- back to you, Lou.

DOBBS: Jill, thank you -- Jill Dougherty from Washington.

Another nation with a nuclear weapons program, North Korea, today offered to shut down its nuclear facilities by the end of this year. A South Korean official said North Korea made the offer during talks with the United States and other countries in Beijing.

North Korea has already shut down one nuclear reactor. But it has not declared its willingness to destroy its nuclear weapons program. It's believed North Korea has manufactured as many as 15 nuclear bombs.

Coming up next here: frustration and anger among Democrats after the Senate's all-night debate on Iraq. Was it about principle or political theater? We will have the live report for you.

Also, the Senate's amnesty legislation is not so dead after all. We will have a special report on cutting the head of the snake -- next in our special report, "War on the Middle Class."

And powerful lobbyists are preventing you from knowing whether your food may contain dangerous ingredients from overseas. We will have the story of powerful lobbyists stopping the enforcement of U.S. law and country-of-origin labels.

And overseas criminals are selling U.S. visas, giving foreigners the right to enter this country at will and disappear without a trace.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We have been reporting on this broadcast for years on the need for country-of-origin labels, enacted into law, in fact, more than four years ago, but never enforced.

President Bush today, well, created a government panel, high- level panel, to ensure the safety of food and other products coming into this country, the White House said. The administration denies this plan is aimed primarily at China, despite the recent series of dangerous imports from China.

The creation of this new panel comes as existing federal agencies are fighting cutbacks and doing very little to protect American consumers. The Food and Drug Administration is planning in fact to close seven of its 13 laboratories. You can see why we need a high- level panel to look into all of this.

And the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been without a permanent chairman for about a year. The appointment of this new panel comes at a time when we are all increasingly concerned about the safety of the food we eat and the products we are buying, the imports from all around the world.

A Consumers Union poll fact in fact shows 92 percent of Americans want to know where their food comes from. Now, there's a law on the books that calls for country-of-origin labeling of meats and other foods. But implementation has been delayed because of pressure from special interest groups, food industry lobbyists, and others.

We first reported on this issue almost four years ago.

And, as Kitty Pilgrim now reports, the lobbyists, well, they are still trumping the public interest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Where does this need come from, Mexico, Canada? Or were the cows born and raised in the United States? There's no way to tell.

Country-of-origin labels signed into law in 2002 require country labels on beef, lamb, pork, fruit, and vegetables. Under that law, for meat to receive a "Product of the USA" seal, the animal would have to be born, raised and processed in the United States. But the powerful beef industry has worked to delay country-of-origin rules twice. And those rules are still not in effect.

JAY TRUITT, NATIONAL CATTLEMEN'S BEEF ASSOCIATION: We have asked for delays in this law from the very beginning. And the law that was passed as a part of the 2002 farm bill has some significant flaws with it.

PILGRIM: Now, with the House Agriculture Committee working on a new farm bill, some in the beef industry lobby are trying to change country-of-origin requirements by changing the definition of livestock eligible for a "Made in the USA" label. This would allow an animal born and raised in another country and brought to the United States to be slaughtered to be labelled as a product of the United States.

And the lobbyists are also pushing Congress to rewrite rules for ground beef, which is sometimes mixed with meat from Canada, Mexico, or Australia, with just fat trimmings from U.S. cattle. Then there would no telling if the package contained meat from Mexico or Canada in so-called U.S. beef.

Some are calling attempts to water down country-of-origin regulations an insult to consumers.

PATTY LOVERA, FOOD & WATER WATCH: What we are afraid of is, instead of delaying it, the beef industry will try to weaken it and get themselves off the hook and not be totally covered.

PILGRIM: The beef industry says they are fighting country-of- origin rules because they cost too much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, the House Agriculture Committee is currently working on the new bill. And the worry is, amendments are being proposed that will basically weaken the country-of-origin labeling rules -- Lou.

DOBBS: Will weaken the country-of-origin rules?

PILGRIM: They have been delayed twice, basically through appropriations, and now they think they will be diluted -- they will be put in place, but they won't be effective.

DOBBS: So, once again, Congress is filled with gutless wonders rolling over for lobbyists on K Street, in this case, the beef industry fighting these country-of-origin labels.

Has anybody in this Congress got the guts to enforce this law?

PILGRIM: Well, let me tell you, this is in markup right now in the House, and the consumer groups are watching this like a hawk. When those amendments go in, there is going to be a public outcry...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Well, let's get here tomorrow night, let's get those groups that are watching, Food & Water Watch, for example...

PILGRIM: Right.

DOBBS: ... the Consumers Union, all of them, and give them some credit, and show our audience where they can write, and try to get some -- and the idiot congressmen who would be blocking the enactment of this law.

But let's also get the USDA. And who is the fellow from the Cattlemen's Association?

PILGRIM: Yes, Jay Truitt? He...

DOBBS: Jay Truitt?

PILGRIM: Yes.

DOBBS: Well, Jay Truitt -- Jay Truitt, I want to talk to you, partner. You're all bull and no beef. And we're going to call you on this. And we're going to go through every one of your objections. And if you don't start thinking just a little about the national interests, you are going to hear from us daily, nightly, hourly. I don't care what it takes, because I have had a bellyful of this.

This is outrageous, a gutless administration on this issue, a gutless Congress, and lobbyists rolling over the will of the people.

PILGRIM: The public will is very clear on this. They want country-of-origin labels.

DOBBS: It's a law, for crying out loud. This Congress has not got enough pride to insert and enforce the law? I mean, I am so -- and I know millions of Americans that have just had it with this nonsense. This is no longer funny. And they are putting the public health at risk.

Kitty, thank you very much. I think thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim, appreciate it.

Well, one senator today blasted the Bush administration for not protecting this nation from dangerous food imports from communist China. Senator Sherrod Brown telling the Senate Commerce Committee that the FDA isn't being given the resources it needs to protect us from contaminated and tainted foods.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: More food and more food ingredients to inspect and fewer inspectors to do it, free trade on the cheap, if you will. This administration's imported food safety plan is to roll the dice and take our chances with more free trade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Now, this administration likes to roll the dice on a lot of things to do with the public safety, the common good and the national interests.

Senator Brown, along with Senator Dick Durbin, have introduced the Imported Food Safety Act, which would strengthen the FDA's ability to control food imports.

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

Ben in Texas wrote in to say: "Lou, since we can't get food producers to identify country of origin, why not have all U.S. producers list 'Grown in the USA'? It would work for me," and I suspect for a lot of other people.

But let's -- first, let's see if we can get the existing law enforced and roll back the influence of lobbyists in Washington.

Hiram in Georgia said: "Lou, until the president secures our borders, I won't listen to the rhetoric about how the war in Iraq is making us more secure, because it makes little sense." And Paul in California: "Lou, keep up the good work regarding Ramos and Compean. As a former Border Patrolman, I have been there. Sutton" -- referring to U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who prosecuted the two Border Patrol agents -- "Sutton should spend a week with the Border Patrol."

We will have more of your thoughts later here in the broadcast.

And be sure to read my column up today, "Time to Free Ramos and Compean." You can go to LouDobbs.com or CNN.com.

Up next here: Democrats accused of political theater with last night's all-night debate on the Iraq war. Were all those cots that were rolled out just for show? We will have a live report for you from Washington.

Later, deadly violence gripping Mexico, as drug cartels compete for the lucrative drug trade in this country.

We will have that special report and a great deal more coming right up.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: There's more evidence tonight the American people are increasingly frustrated with both Congress and this president. According to a new Reuters/Zogby poll, 83 percent say Congress is doing only a fair or poor job; 14 percent approve of Congress' performance.

Now, these are the worst approval ratings for Congress since Zogby began tracking Congress' performance two years ago. They match up with a "USA Today"/Gallup poll which revealed 14 percent approval for Congress. And they have been doing that poll for 35 years.

Two-thirds, by the way, in the Zogby poll represent President Bush's -- rate his performance as fair or poor, a third saying his performance is actually excellent or good.

The dismal approval numbers for Congress could be forcing Democrats now to step back and take some time to think and, also, apparently, decide on desperate measures to regain voter confidence, such as last night's all-night debate on Iraq.

Bill Schneider joins me now with more, our senior political analyst.

Bill, what in the world are these Democrats thinking?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They are thinking that they look at those approval numbers, and they say, wait a minute. We are the incumbents now. We control Congress. And we are in danger. We are in big trouble here. We have got to face the voters next year. President Bush does not. So, what they were trying to do is make the point that we, the Democrats, they are saying, are trying to get passed a bill that would set a timetable for withdrawal of the United States from Iraq, because that's what they know the voters elected them to do.

And they haven't been able to do that. And they are trying to expose the Republicans as the obstructionists who are blocking that from happening.

DOBBS: Well, Bill, let me ask you this. Does the Democratic leadership -- I mean, we -- the 109th Congress was called the do- nothing Congress. It was a tragic, pathetic joke.

And this one is only -- this 110th Congress, Democratically-led, looks like -- it looks like it not only wants to match that Congress, but to outdo it. I mean, do they -- does the Democratic leadership think that the American people are so stupid as to fall for that idiotic cot routine and the partisan babble that went on in the wee hours of the morning? Tell me no.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: Well, their view was, they took a big risk here. And the risk was exactly what you just described, that people would laugh at them. They would say, what kind of stunt is this?

It didn't make any difference. It didn't get anything passed. The one thing it did, of course, was get Republicans on record voting against the timetable for withdrawal. And a lot of Democrats think they can use that.

DOBBS: Well, for crying out loud, Bill, the Republicans have already done that.

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

DOBBS: It's very clear where they stand. It's clear where the administration stands. It's clear where the Democrats stand.

What is the point of these theatrics?

SCHNEIDER: The point of these theatrics is to dramatize it, so that people will understand it.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: We have got people dying in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. Yes.

DOBBS: We have people dying every -- almost every day.

SCHNEIDER: And...

(CROSSTALK) DOBBS: How many more dramatic does it have to get for both the Democrats and the Republicans to understand that this nation deserves a debate on the policy choices available to us...

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

DOBBS: ... from withdrawal to further engagement, and a real examination, an honest examination? Why isn't that happening instead of idiots trotting out cots?

I don't mean idiots trotting out cots -- people trotting out cots for idiots who ordered them.

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

Well, there's no question the American people want a timetable. Look, 63 percent said so. It's almost 2-1 in a recent CBS News poll. They want the timetable.

The Democrats' point simply is this -- we don't have enough votes. We know what you want. We're trying to do it. We don't have enough votes to do it. And they --

DOBBS: And meanwhile, we've got -- we've got them trying to slip in after the defeat of the amnesty legislation -- now they're trying to slip in The DREAM Act. They're trying to do all of this other nonsense.

This leadership now, Bill Schneider, mark my words, has the potential to go down as an even worse and incompetent Congressional leadership than the -- than the fools who ran the previous Congress.

SCHNEIDER: That's exactly what they're worrying about. And I think there is a bottom line rule here. Congress is much better at stopping things from happening -- like immigration reform -- than they are in making things happen. That's always been the case and that's why Americans have for years, for decades, expressed contempt for Congress.

DOBBS: Well, it's a -- it's well-placed sentiment, it seems to me.

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

SCHNEIDER: OK.

DOBBS: That brings us to the subject of the our poll tonight.

Do you believe a sleep-deprived Senate will boost Congress' approval ratings?

Yes or no?

Cast your vote at loudobbs.com.

Bill Schneider, you get to vote, too. We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Up next, investigators trying to find out why an aircraft carrying nearly 200 people crashed in Sao Paulo, Brazil, killing everyone aboard. We'll have that report and disturbing new evidence tonight of our government's failure to secure our borders and to track foreigners with stolen visas.

And you may believe the Senate's amnesty legislation is dead. And the truth is some of those Democrats just can't -- can't stand themselves. They're trying to sneak legislation through. Guess who's watching?

Guess who is paying attention?

We'll get you, Congress.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, investigators are still trying to find out why a passenger plane crashed into a building just beyond Brazil's busiest airport runway. Nearly 200 people died in that crash yesterday when the TAM Airlines aircraft overshot the runway. The plane trying to land in heavy rainfall at Sao Paulo's downtown airport. The jetliner, in apparently trying to take off again, aborting the landing. The jetliner hit a gas station and a building. The aircraft exploded.

Meanwhile in Colombia, an Aerorepublica aircraft carrying 59 people landed at Bogota Airport and skidded off their runway. It skidded off into the sea. Seven people were injured in the crash. Aerorepublica is a subsidiary of Copa, Panama's national airline, which, by the way, is 51 percent owned by Continental Airlines. But, no -- we are pleased to report -- no serious injuries in that accident.

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday heard testimony on the prosecution of former Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. The two senators who led that hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator John Cornyn, were angered by what they saw as prosecutorial abuse and harsh sentences given to those former agents. They told me last night that they would push President Bush to act on this case and to provide commutation of those sentences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Senator Cornyn and I have talked and we have decided that we will write a letter to the president and we will urge commutation of the sentence both of Border Patrol Agent Ramos and Border Patrol Agent Compean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: White House Press Spokesman Tony Snow today said he is sure the president would read their letter, but he would not go into any details of that case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We simply do not talk about applications or petitions or requests for pardon or commutation. That is something that is done on a confidential basis and people will look at it. I will not confirm that -- confirm or deny that anything has -- has been done, including whether there have been any applications by the parties involved. So it's just inappropriate to get into that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Senator Cornyn today told us the drug smuggler who should be in prison was given all the breaks and the Border Patrol agents received none of the breaks. This case, he said, cries out for a commutation that is fair and just.

New evidence tonight of massive fraud involving the sale of American visas. And it presents a critical threat to our national security. Once people use those visas, of course, to enter this country, our government has no way tracking them or knowing whether they will, in fact, leave or when they leave.

Bill Tucker has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Authorities in India break up an undercover ring selling American H1B and student visas. We didn't learn about the bust from the State Department in the United States, which administers the visas --

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I have to admit, I'll look into that for you.

QUESTION: OK.

MCCORMACK: I don't have the details here.

TUCKER: We learned about it from the American consulate in Mumbai, India.

GLEN KEISER, U.S. CONSULATE, MUMBAI, INDIA: The school in the United States is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security. It's in danger of losing its rights to accept foreign students.

TUCKER: The State Department won't say which school, only that other schools are is the also under active investigation -- schools which they say accept "significant numbers of foreign students."

The arrest the latest example of our failure of oversight of our visa programs -- 5.8 million people on 70 different visa programs were given access to the United States last year. Once they arrived, we have no idea where they went. We don't know who or how many have remained after their visas expired. That same lack of oversight has led to Indian companies being the biggest users and abusers of visa programs like the H1Bs.

Visa and security experts say that while improvements have been made since 9/11, more improvements are needed in how we police them.

JACK RILEY, RAND CORPORATION: If there were ways of incentivizing state and local law enforcement agencies to participate in immigration enforcement, the process of overstaying a visa might have a little more bite behind it.

TUCKER: Enforcement is important. The 19 9/11 hijackers entered the country legally. They stayed illegally.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TUCKER: And yet here we are, six years later, talking about the same problem. The student visa program is unlimited, by the way, with the visas issued year around, which represents an especially pro-found problem.

And, Lou, religious visas appear to be the ones most vulnerable to fraud. Fully one third of the people applying for visa applications for religious reasons were found to be applying on a fraudulent basis.

(LAUGHTER).

DOBBS: You know, we're laughing about it. I mean, those religious folks ought to get religion, I suppose.

But this country ought to be getting religion. This administration ought to be getting religion. And this is -- it is incomprehensible that this administration has not learned apparently anything from the tragic events of September 11th.

TUCKER: Right.

DOBBS: seventy visa programs, incapable of following these. We know that visas are stolen, that they are being created fraudulently. And they're doing absolutely nothing but some -- a little at the margin, I think we have to say, but almost nothing, in six years, to take control of who's entering this country and finding out where they are and when they're leaving.

TUCKER: No. And we know their visas expire. This is not a secret. We just don't know whether they leave.

DOBBS: Yes.

This is --

TUCKER: (INAUDIBLE) they do.

DOBBS: This is incompetence. The Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. State Department -- you know, the leaders of those departments should be brought up on charges for sheer negligence, sheer dereliction of duty.

It is incomprehensible, as I said.

TUCKER: It is.

DOBBS: Bill Tucker, thank you very much.

We'll continue to follow this story, I'm sure.

Thank you very much, Bill.

Well, coming up here next, the Senate's amnesty legislation died an ugly death. But millions of illegal aliens may still be granted permanent legal status. We'll have that report for you. We'll explain what's going on behind your back. They're trying to avoid our cameras, our microphones and our prying eyes. You won't believe your lying eyes. Stay with us for that.

And later, Oprah Winfrey -- by golly, she's a celebrity and she's endorsing a presidential candidate. It doesn't get better than that.

Stay with us.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We've been covering illegal immigration, our border security crisis for more than four years on this broadcast. We reported to you on the 28th of June, when the Senate killed the president's so-called comprehensive immigration reform legislation, the so-called grand bargain, when it officially died. But guess what?

Amnesty still lives in the hearts of the some of the Democratic senators who want to champion it. They're -- these grand bargainers, in fact, think that perhaps they can sneak it through.

It's being reintroduced, in fact, as part of other bills neatly crafted outside the view of the news media and certainly the will and the interests of the American people.

Lisa Sylvester has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is not agreed to.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): The Senate's grand compromise on immigration became a grand flop in Congress. Now backers of that plan that gives amnesty to millions of illegal aliens are trying that a new tactic. They're splitting the hundreds of pages of provisions in the failed master plan and attaching them to other pieces of legislation.

MARK KRIKORIAN, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: It's cooked up behind closed doors. It's buried within hundreds of pages of legislation. And it's based on the hope no one is paying attention.

SYLVESTER: Senator Dick Durbin intends to introduce The DREAM Act to must pass legislation, like the Defense Authorization Bill. The DREAM Act would give amnesty to illegal aliens if they came to the United States under the age of 16 and graduated from high school here. If they enroll in college or the military, they could eventually become U.S. citizens.

BRENT WILKES, LEAGUE OF LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS: Yes, their parents brought them in undocumented and so they shouldn't have done that. But the guilt should not transfer from the parents to the -- to the children. The children should be given an opportunity to set their status correct.

SYLVESTER: Opponents dismiss The DREAM Act as of another form of amnesty that's open to rampant fraud. Illegal aliens could easily claim they were in the United States before the age of 16. The DREAM Act also has been criticized because it lifts a ban on granting in- state tuition rates to illegal aliens, a privilege denied to out-of- state U.S. citizens.

KRIS KOBACH, LAW PROFESSOR: At a time when college tuition rates are going through the roof, when the majority of students graduate with a very significant amount of debt, we have to realize that we're in a world of limited resources. So it seems wrong-headed to give those resources to people illegally in our country when U.S. citizens should be the first in line to receive subsidized tuition.

SYLVESTER: Pushing The DREAM Act through Congress is an uphill climb, especially with an election year around the corner.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SYLVESTER: Senator Dick Durbin intended to attach this legislation to the Defense Authorization Bill. That would have set up a possible vote for later this week, but the bill failed to get enough cloture votes and was pulled from the floor late this afternoon -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, we can say thank goodness one more time.

But the very idea that these -- it's -- it's -- it's like watching snakes -- the more you cut their heads off -- these people are beyond contempt in what they're trying to do here, trying to avoid the public scrutiny, the transparency of our democratic system and trying to pull this nonsense is disgusting. The American people -- I just -- I mean I just can't believe they would do to their constituents and to their oaths of office.

SYLVESTER: We can expect more of these provisions to pop up -- the ag jobs, the H1B visas. And, of course, as you mentioned, they will be essentially cloaked and attached to other bills -- Lou.

DOBBS: By the way, I do want to say one thing. The DREAM Act is an idiotic piece of legislation. But I do agree with one thing. Those young people who are in this country and who want to serve in the United States military and therefore earn their citizenship, then god bless them. And I think that is an absolutely appropriate response and responsibility.

But the idea of equating college to military service -- service to this nation as a basis for citizenship is just mindlessness that only could be conceived of in the fair town that you are reporting from.

Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much.

Up next, we'll have our radio roundtable. I'll be talking with some of my very favorite radio talk show hosts around the country. You know, they've even got some views on Oprah Winfrey and her role in 2008. Stay with us.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now are three of the country's best and three of my favorite radio talk show hosts.

From Los Angeles, joining us tonight, Doug McIntyre, KABC Radio.

Joining me here in New York, Laura Flanders, Air America.

Roland Martin, WVON, CNN contributor.

Good to have you all here.

ROLAND MARTIN, WVON IN CHICAGO: Glad to be here.

LAURA FLANDERS, AIR AMERICA: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, let me start with Oprah Winfrey supporting -- who did she decided she wanted, Laura?

FLANDERS: Oh, I think it's Barack Obama all the way.

DOBBS: All right. Now, that's exciting.

Who cares?

FLANDERS: Well, it's fascinating stuff. I was interviewing somebody yesterday who lives in Barack Obama's -- not only his hometown of Chicago, but in Hyde Park, where he's from.

DOBBS: Yes?

FLANDERS: His mother -- her mother is 100 percent for Hillary.

I am finding person after person, African-American women, AFSCME employees -- I went to that presidential forum. They like Barack, but he's kind of become the female on this race. It's very interesting. He's seen as the weaker --

DOBBS: Whoa, gender bender.

FLANDERS: -- cute, attractive. And Hillary is the one with the balls.

DOBBS: Roland --

(LAUGHTER)

FLANDERS: That's what people claim.

DOBBS: Well, Laura, my goodness --

FLANDERS: And so I'm fascinated that Oprah is really pushing it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes --

FLANDERS: But I think he's made for Oprah.

DOBBS: Well, you're going to have to -- Roland, I'm turning to you, from Chicago --

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: -- to -- to work out the physiological symbolic gender bending sort of analysis that Laura has put on the table.

MARTIN: First, keep in mind, she's been on the national stage 15 years. He's really been on the national stage just one year. Secondly, she has no choice but to appear to be stronger because that was a perceived weakness being a woman running for president.

DOBBS: Yes.

MARTIN: He also has to play a big favor, being an African- American running, not having a long amount of experience. And so he has to --

DOBBS: He's got to be --

MARTIN: He has to tread --

DOBBS: (INAUDIBLE).

MARTIN: -- some water here.

DOBBS: He's got (INAUDIBLE) --

MARTIN: Because --

DOBBS: He can't make waves.

MARTIN: Well, no -- he can't make waves because, again, he's a new -- he's a new guy on the block and he has a very difficult task of, well, do I -- the whole question is he black enough?

Is he too black, you know?

What's his stances?

And so --

DOBBS: Well, now he's got a --

MARTIN: He's --

DOBBS: Now Laura has introduced the idea --

FLANDERS: I think he's (INAUDIBLE).

DOBBS: -- that he's too female and Hillary's too male.

MARTIN: Well, I think what she's saying is that --

FLANDERS: He's female enough for Oprah and she's male enough for a lot of voters out there. It's fascinating. I mean I think this is going to be an amazing election.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Doug McIntyre is sitting there in Los Angeles. He is --

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: He is trying to -- OK.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: -- hold forth over it (INAUDIBLE) --

DOUG MCINTYRE, KABC IN LOS ANGELES: (INAUDIBLE) all the sexual identity issues.

(LAUGHTER)

MCINTYRE: I can't diagram the sentence anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Forget it.

FLANDERS: Don't diagram any of it.

DOBBS: It's broadcast, so you're not supposed to diagram these sentences.

MARTIN: But you know what, Lou?

I think one of the things that was interesting is, granted, she's held a fundraiser. She can't give more than $2,300, $4,600 for the total. I think it would be more interesting if Oprah created her own 527. That way she could take $5 million, create her own ads and sort of drive his campaign. DOBBS: Good grief.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTYRE: I would say that --

DOBBS: -- financial advice to --

MARTIN: No. (INAUDIBLE) anybody.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: She's a very --

DOBBS: She's got more -- she's got more money than almost anybody --

MARTIN: But she can only give $2,300 in the primary.

FLANDERS: She should just run and she should run on ending the war and she should run on putting our economy back on track.

MARTIN: As a -- as a patriot (ph).

FLANDERS: She should just run.

DOBBS: Doug McIntyre, you're not going to sit there in Los Angeles just looking superior. You've got to say something here to folks.

MCINTYRE: No, no. I actually think, you know, normally, look, at this point, Oprah is not the normal celebrity endorsement because I think that she has a tremendous -- a tremendous loyal following in America across the political spectrum and across racial lines. So I think it's actually a pretty important endorsement for him. She could get money attracted to his candidacy. It's not -- it's -- I'm more -- I'm more curious about people who vote for candidates because other politicians endorse them or because --

DOBBS: You mean like Jane Harman coming out for Hillary Clinton today?

MCINTYRE: Yes. I mean just like why does anybody care that another politician of the same party endorses their party's candidate or a newspaper editorial endorses a candidate?

MARTIN: It's credibility.

MCINTYRE: I think Oprah actually gives --

DOBBS: Well, here's --

MCINTYRE: -- you know, heart to the candidacy.

DOBBS: And, by the way, out there in California, I don't know what we can do with you on politics, Doug. I don't know how -- (LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: You've got the two mayors of your two largest cities that are having all sorts of troubles, you know --

MCINTYRE: It's --

DOBBS: -- it's almost --

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTYRE: And how about the --

DOBBS: -- enough to make you forget Senator David Vitter.

MCINTYRE: How about Cardinal Don "Corleone" Mahony?

(LAUGHTER)

MCINTYRE: And, by the way, Lou, speaking of Senator Vitter, that's why they brought all those beds into the Senate, is just to accommodate him.

DOBBS: Oh.

FLANDERS: Ah!

MARTIN: That was low.

DOBBS: Oh.

FLANDERS: Ouch.

MARTIN: That was low. That was low.

FLANDERS: Ouch.

MCINTYRE: All right --

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: OK.

You've heard --

FLANDERS: It's --

DOBBS: You've heard --

(LAUGHTER)

FLANDERS: What a scoop on news -- on news reporting, though.

DOBBS: Reverend Flanders and Reverend Mark (ph) want to --

FLANDERS: What a scoop on news reporting, though. You get to report on the affair that you are having. I mean what were the media credentials for the woman who declared that to be able to go --

(CROSSTALK)

FLANDERS: -- marriage has broken up because of an affair and then you find out, what, it was her?

(LAUGHTER).

FLANDERS: I mean how to get a story.

DOBBS: Well, it just gives new -- it gives, really, new weight and meaning to the expression reporter involvement, don't you think?

MARTIN: I think it does.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Well, let's go to this --

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTYRE: She not only went --

DOBBS: Let's talk about --

MCINTYRE: She not only went --

DOBBS: -- something hopeful.

MCINTYRE: All right.

DOBBS: Something that's got me excited.

MARTIN: And that is?

DOBBS: That is the rising registration of Independents in this country. And we're watching those Republican and Democratic registrations recede. Glory be, America could be saved.

MARTIN: It's not a surprise.

FLANDERS: Well --

MCINTYRE: Well, Lou, it's almost like the --

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTYRE: -- the parties are acting as -- the two parties are acting as recruiters for a decline-to-state and independent voters. In fact, there's a great book called "Independent Nation" by John Avlon, a "New York Observer" writer. And you'd think that -- the demographers say that by 2025, I think, half the voters are supposed to be Independent voters.

FLANDERS: I mean, except that, you know, I mean you look at Nevada, which is going to be an important state in this election, an early caucus state. That has had the fastest rising rate of Independent voters for years of all of the states. And it doesn't actually affect the general election when it comes to it.

If you have, in this case, Independent candidates running -- a Bloomberg candidacy, for example, or even a Gore -- it could make a difference.

But a (INAUDIBLE) --

DOBBS: Gore as an Independent?

FLANDERS: Well, why not?

I don't think he'll run against Hillary as a Democrat. But he might do something else.

MARTIN: Lou, it's not a surprise because when you look at the issues that people are dealing with -- so, immigration is -- I mean, you have Republicans who are absolutely against it. You have Democrats who are for it. They're all confused.

And so voters are saying wait a minute, I refuse to identify with any party.

DOBBS: (INAUDIBLE) Democratic and Republican politicians.

MARTIN: Right.

DOBBS: But Democratic voters --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: But that -- (CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: that's precisely the point. The point is voters are saying I am not going to identify with the parties of the past. I'm choosing issues and individuals, and not political parties. That's the difference.

FLANDERS: That's going to be true in South Dakota. It's going to be true in Ohio. It's a fascinating phenomenon. And you're absolutely right, it's because most people in this country do not feel that any leadership is speaking to them. And that's because the leadership, at this point, is entirely uncreative, unimaginative and not listening to where the listeners are on the important issues (INAUDIBLE).

MCINTYRE: There's also a serious -- especially --

DOBBS: You get the last word, Doug. MCINTYRE: -- especially in California, there's a serious problem within the gerrymandered districts in primary voting.

DOBBS: Right.

MCINTYRE: Because the real lock on these elections is at the primary level, where the machine decides who definitely the candidates are. And that's where there's no democracy left, certainly, in California.

DOBBS: Well, and, unfortunately, around the country. What we're watching is a national super-imposed partisan apparatus, both Democrat and Republican. They're really branding organizations and -- maybe that will all change in 2008.

We're going to -- I'm going to cross my fingers. And I see lots of reasons for hope.

(LAUGHTER).

DOBBS: So we're going to leave it there.

Roland Martin, Laura Flanders, Doug McIntyre, sitting out there so superior in the state of California.

(LAUGHTER).

DOBBS: As well you should.

Thank you all for being here.

MARTIN: Glad to be here.

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thanks very much, Lou.

We're following this transformer explosion in midtown Manhattan. We're going to have the latest on what has occurred.

Also, President Bush now promising new pressure on Pakistan to help find Osama bin Laden.

Is this White House changing gears when it comes to hunting the world's most wanted terrorist?

Also, there are new developments in that he deadly Brazil plane crash. The problem with the runway there also plaguing some U.S. airports. We're going to show you what's being done here.

And details of what some say is a secret deal to send a former dictator to France after he gets out of a U.S. prison.

Also, training for disaster at sea on dry land. We'll take you on board the Navy's high tech simulator.

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

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Wolf.

Coming up here next, the results of our poll. Could it be overwhelming?

We'll find out. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Our poll results on those cots in the Senate -- 92 percent of you say you don't believe a sleep-deprived Senate will boost approval ratings for Congress.

Thanks for being with us tonight.

"THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Wolf Blitzer.

Good night from New York.

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