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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Hurricane Dean Targets Central Mexico; President Bush Criticizes Iraqi Prime Minister
Aired August 21, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President Bush strongly criticizes the Iraqi prime minister. A key part of the president's surge strategy appears to be on the brink of failure. We will have a special report.
Also, Hurricane Dean targets central Mexico after slamming into the Yucatan Peninsula. It was one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall. We will have complete coverage.
And a new threat to our pets from dangerous imports from communist China, the threat just the latest in a series of scares about deadly food from China and other products.
All that, all the day's news and much more straight ahead tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Tuesday, August 21.
Live from New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Lisa Sylvester.
SYLVESTER: Good evening, everybody.
We begin tonight with some of President Bush's strongest criticism so far of the Iraqi government. President Bush declared he is frustrated with the performance of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki. Speaking at a North American summit in Canada, the president said the Iraqi government must introduce reforms.
The president's remarks came as more than 160,000 of our troops battled insurgents across Iraq. More of our troops are in Iraq than ever before.
White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reports from Quebec, where Hurricane Dean was also on the agenda -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lisa, the impact of Hurricane Dean could be felt here as far as Canada at the so-called summit of the three amigos. One of those amigos, the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, had to leave early to deal with the hurricane's aftermath.
Now, President Bush offered U.S. assistance but the news that was made today was on Iraq. (voice-over): It was a rare moment of candor. President Bush publicly criticized the Iraqi government for not making the political progress he had hoped as more U.S. troops work to secure the country.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there's a certain level of frustration with the leadership in general and inability to work -- to come together to get, for example, an oil revenue law passed or provincial elections.
MALVEAUX: The president was asked about the state of Iraq at a North American summit with the leaders of neighboring Canada and Mexico.
On a conference call with reporters the day before, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, who had just returned from Iraq, called for its prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to be replaced, saying he is incapable of unifying his country. When asked if he agreed, far from giving his familiar vote of confidence, President Bush suggested regime change would have to come from the Iraqi people.
BUSH: The fundamental question is will the government respond to the demands of the people? And, if the government doesn't demand -- or respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government.
MALVEAUX: Striking here, this is a familiar message the president offer delivers, but to Iraq's neighbor Iran.
BUSH: My message to the Iranian people is, you can do better than this current government.
MALVEAUX (on camera): President Bush is facing increasing pressure to show progress in Iraq. His administration's assessment due to Congress in just a couple of weeks.
Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Gatineau, Canada.
SYLVESTER: The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, is also expressing serious concerns about the absence of political reform in Iraq.
Crocker said the Iraqi's progress towards political reconciliation has been extremely disappointing. Meanwhile, U.S. commanders in Iraq continue to report some military success on the battlefield.
Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sober assessment of U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker is just the latest acknowledgment that, while the additional U.S. troops are making parts of Iraq safer, Iraqi politicians, in particular the government of Nouri al-Maliki, have been unwilling or unable to use the hard-won breathing space to put their differences behind them.
"Progress on national-level issues has been extremely disappointing to all concerned, to us, to Iraqis, and to the Iraqi leadership itself," Ambassador Crocker told reporters in Baghdad.
Fostering political reconciliation is the linchpin of the surge strategy, and two influential senators just back from Iraq, Democrat Carl Levin and Republican John Warner, issued a joint statement, saying they are not optimistic the Iraqi government will make the necessary political compromises. In fact, Levin has given up on Maliki and argues it's time for the U.S. to start pulling out.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The capability that the Iraqi military now has and will have by the end of this year will allow us to begin reducing U.S. forces significantly below our pre-surge level. We should begin that reduction within four months.
MCINTYRE: The withdrawal of U.S. troops could set the stage for a Shia takeover and renewed civil war. But even surge supporters say it may be time to try something different.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: You could imagine a new constitutional structure for Iraq that had, for example, three autonomous regions, the so-called soft partition plan, or you could even imagine in an extreme case, suspending democracy and having a strong man rule for six or eight years, like President Musharraf in Pakistan.
MCINTYRE: Pentagon officials concede the surge can't be sustained beyond April without posing severe hardships on the Army. So, U.S. troop strength will likely return to at least pre-surge levels by the late spring.
MCINTYRE: Pentagon officials say for now the plan is to continue to put pressure on Maliki and other Iraqis to form a unity government while at the same time working on local power-sharing agreements that could spread peace, even if the national government fails -- Lisa.
SYLVESTER: Jamie, there really seems to be this disconnect. Because you have got -- on one hand, you have got al-Maliki, you have got members of Congress who are saying he's got to go. On the other hand, people are saying, well, we should stick with this. We should see how the surge works out. What are your thoughts there?
MCINTYRE: Well, the whole point of the surge is to buy that breathing space for the Iraqi government to get its act together. And what a lot of people are saying is Maliki just can't do it, no matter how much pressure you put on him. But, again, as President Bush said today in Suzanne Malveaux's report, it's going to have to be up to the Iraqi people and that takes it out of the U.S. hands. And it puts the U.S. in a very difficult situation. SYLVESTER: Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon, thank you very much for that report.
The conduct of the war in Iraq remains the top issue in the presidential election campaign. Two leading contenders, Senator Barack Obama and undeclared candidate Fred Thompson, today presented competing assessments of the war. Obama and Thompson just the latest of several candidates to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention.
Bill Schneider reports.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The United States is running out of troops and running out of patience in Iraq. Suppose American troops start coming home next year. That could transform the debate from stay vs. go to how quickly we should go.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to begin moving our troops out and we have to do it carefully and responsibly.
SCHNEIDER: Republican candidates are arguing that a hasty withdrawal from Iraq would endanger the United States.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our defeat in Iraq would be catastrophic, not for Iraq, but for us, and I cannot be complicit in it.
SCHNEIDER: The goal now they say is not to lose because losing would create a bigger terrorist threat to the U.S.
FRED THOMPSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Success won't solve all of our problems, military success. But failure will make our problems much, much greater.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats argue that the longer the U.S. stays in Iraq, the greater the danger to the U.S.
CLINTON: Our occupation will continue to serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists.
SCHNEIDER: Iraq is a diversion from the real threat.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One reason to stop fighting the wrong war is so that we can fight the right war against terrorism and extremism.
SCHNEIDER: Do Americans think the chances of a terrorist attack would be greater if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq as soon as possible or if the U.S. keeps its troops in Iraq? In that debate, Americans are divided. They are not sure. But the party positions are becoming clear. Democrats believe the danger will be greater if the U.S. stays in Iraq. Republicans believe a hasty withdrawal is the greater threat.
SCHNEIDER: This is a new and different debate. It's not primarily about Iraq. It's about us -- Lisa.
SYLVESTER: Bill Schneider reporting from Washington. Thank you for your report.
A new opinion poll says voters' approval rating of the Congress has plummeted to an all-time low. The Gallup poll says only 18 percent, yes, 18 percent, of voters believe Congress is doing a good job. That's a 9 percent decline since last month. Voters from both main parties are unhappy with the Democratic-led Congress. Only 21 percent of Democrats give the Congress a positive approval rating.
Gallup says the main reason for the decline and the approval rating for Congress is increasing dissatisfaction among Democrats and independents. There's also dissatisfaction with the performance of the CIA before 9/11. A newly declassified report says former CIA Director George Tenet did not put his full authority behind efforts to fight al Qaeda before the attacks.
The CIA inspector general report written two years ago says Tenet and other top officials failed to develop a comprehensive strategy to defeat al Qaeda.
Now turning to the deadly flooding in the Midwest and the southern plains, two powerful storm systems are blamed for as many as 20 deaths. The storms have now moved into Ohio, dumping as much as nine inches of rain in 24 hours. Emergency workers, rescue drivers from waterlogged cars, 19 counties in Ohio have been affected by flooding and wind damage.
Hurricane Dean today ravaged the Yucatan Peninsula with winds gusting up to 200 miles per hour and dumping more than a foot of rain. The powerful Category 5 storm spared, just barely, major tourist resorts. But tonight officials still don't know whether isolated rural communities survived Dean's wrath. The hurricane weakened on its path across the Yucatan but right now Dean is picking up strength again, once again moving across open waters towards Veracruz, ready for another onslaught.
And, for a first damage assessment, we are joined now by Harris Whitbeck in Chetumal, where Dean made landfall earlier today -- Harris.
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Lisa.
The first assessment is actually pretty optimistic. The local governor here said that no major damage was reported. There were lots of downed power lines and some downed trees. A few intersections here in the regional capital have a bit of standing water but nothing really major, no major issues.
The governor said that the police are out in force to prevent any acts of looting. He asked supermarket owners to reopen their stores as quickly as possible and he said efforts are also under way to ensure that the road between Chetumal and the northern part of the peninsula, Cancun and that area, is reopened as quickly as possible. Apparently some parts of that road are cut off because of downed trees.
President Felipe Calderone is on his way here now. He was attending a summit meeting in Canada. He cut that meeting short and is flying here now. He expressed concern over some of the Mayan indigenous communities in the Yucatan that live in very, very isolated areas inland. And he said that until a word is had of their condition, that concern will remain valid.
Some of those communities were evacuated two days ago. We heard that about 3,500 Mayan Indians had been taken out of the nature preserve where they have their homes and taken to shelters. But, again, these communities are usually isolated under the best of conditions. So, they just have to be checked out, according to the president. Again, the military is out in force and the general sense at this point is that this could have been a lot worse, though.
SYLVESTER: Harris, just judging by these pictures, it looks like flooding seems to be a real problem there.
WHITBECK: Well, initially, it is. But this entire area, the ground on which the peninsula sits is a very porous material. And normally it allows for water, for standing water, to filter rather quickly. So, while there might be initial flooding, that really never was the major concern. The major concern here was that very, very high winds would inflict major damage on infrastructure and such.
But from what we have seen here in Chetumal and from what we have heard from local officials, there really is not that much major damage to report on today.
SYLVESTER: Harris Whitbeck, thank you very much for that report. It sounds like at least for Chetumal that's been good news. Of course, Hurricane Dean is headed over to Veracruz.
And we will have much more on Hurricane Dean later in the broadcast.
Also ahead a new threat from contaminated imports from communist China. Christine Romans has that report now -- Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lisa, fish, toys, toothpaste, tires, pet food, all potentially dangerous imports from China. Now you can add something else to that list -- Lisa.
SYLVESTER: And we will have that story coming up in just a moment.
And the United States may give Mexico even more aid than originally thought to fight drug cartels.
And President Bush apparently tries to blast our very own Lou Dobbs for trying to protect our sovereignty. We will have that story coming up.
SYLVESTER: President Bush today wrapped up the North American summit with Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, and Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper.
The talks, part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership, covered security and trade issues. Critics say these talks are preparations for a North American union which could threaten our sovereignty. President Bush tried to laugh off the critics. And he took an apparent shot at our very own Lou Dobbs and our reporting on the threats the SPP may pose.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I'm amused by the difference between what actually takes place in the meetings and what some were trying to say takes place. It's quite comical, actually, when you realize the difference between reality and what some people are talking on TV about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Well, this administration has been pushing for this SPP. There's been little transparency. Congress has been largely left out of the loop, secretive meetings. The president may find it comical. Others find it very disturbing and outrageous.
Time now for tonight's poll: Do you believe, as President Bush says, the concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership are comical, yes or no? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We will bring you the results later in the broadcast.
At the North American summit meeting, Mexico and the United States worked on details of a plan to fight drug trafficking in Mexico.
As Casey Wian reports, the U.S. may provide up to $1 billion in aid to fight Mexican drug cartels.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. aid package being considered to help Mexico battle its pervasive drug cartels is apparently becoming more expensive. First reported to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa told reporters the U.S. is preparing to offer Mexico between $800 million and $1 billion worth of military equipment and technology.
Presidents Bush and Calderone acknowledged the discussions after their North American summit, but refused to confirm details.
BUSH: There's all kinds of speculation about the size of the package, this, that and the other. All I can tell you is the package, when it's developed, will be robust enough to achieve a common objective, which is less violence on both sides of the border and to deal with narco-trafficking. And we both have responsibilities.
WIAN: Calderone stressed the deal would require the U.S. to do its part to reduce illegal drug consumption and the weapons trafficking that helps arm Mexico's increasingly violent drug cartels.
FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are facing mafias that are working on both sides of the border. That is quite clear to us. And I think that we will not be acting in an efficient way as long as they have a coordinated strategy and we don't. In other words, they coordinate on both sides of the border; we are not.
WIAN: A U.S. troop deployment to Mexico is not part of the negotiations. President Bush pleaded with Congress to support the agreement when it's finalized. However, many lawmakers are skeptical about sending military equipment or money to Mexico, where drug cartel corruption is entrenched among law enforcement and, to a lesser degree, the military.
Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus Chairman Brian Bilbray said in a statement: "What's most important is that the money gets to where it's supposed to go. Otherwise, we're only contributing to the problem, not solving it."
WIAN: President Bush says he would not be considering military aid for Mexico if he was not confident President Calderone is committed to fighting drug cartels. Calderone says his government has put 10,000 drug traffickers in jail so far this year -- Lisa.
SYLVESTER: Well, at the same time that they are cracking down on the drug smugglers, hopefully they will also crack down on the human smugglers and get a handle on our border problems.
Thank you very much, Casey, for that report.
SYLVESTER: Time now for some of your thoughts.
Michael in Pennsylvania: "Millions of dollars to Mexico to fight against drugs? How about putting that money toward securing the border?"
Marilyn in Illinois writes: "The thought of a North American union makes me crazy. Don't we, the citizens, have any voice in this?"
And Judy in California: "I am so uncomfortable with the way the word shared is being used by the heads of the U.S., Mexico and Canada. If they mean shared ideas, I'm all for that. If they mean anything beyond that point, then I know we are in big trouble."
We will have more of your e-mails a little later in this broadcast. And another product to the growing list of dangerous imports from communist China. Wal-Mart now says it has stopped selling two brands of pet treats because they may have caused the death of at least one dog.
Christine Romans reports on the latest product recall.
ROMANS (voice-over): Gone from Wal-Mart's shelves, two more pet products imported from China, Chicken Jerky Strips from Import- Pingyang Pet Product Company and Chicken Jerky from Shanghai Bestro Trading.
Philadelphia station WPVI reported this woman's Chihuahua died after eating a dog treat purchased here.
KATE COLLINS, CONSUMER: She wouldn't eat. She wouldn't eat anything. She wanted to drink water and throw up.
ROMANS: Wal-Mart has been pulling the treats from its shelves and blocked its cash registers from ringing them up. In a statement to CNN, Wal-Mart said: "We will continue to work with the supplier to assure that the highest safety standards are met. More importantly, our thoughts are with anyone whose pet may have become ill after consuming this product."
The news from Wal-Mart comes just as toymaker Mattel faces another lawsuit stemming from its huge recall of Chinese-made toys.
JEFFREY KILLINO, WOLOSHIN & KILLINO: Mattel said that they have this phenomenal quality control system. Well, then how did 20 million recalled toys make it into children's hands? These toys that are on their way to the United States right now for the Christmas season have undergone the very same quality control of those that are recalled.
ROMANS: Killino's firm filed a class-action suit in Los Angeles Superior Court demanding Mattel pay for the lead testing of the millions of children who may have been exposed to toxic paint. Mattel declined to comment to CNN because of its pending litigation.
This weekend, Toys 'R' Us began pulling from its shells all vinyl baby bibs after two from the Chinese company Hamco tested positive for lead.
ROMANS: The Chinese government has consistently said the vast majority of its products are safe. The Toy Industry Association says the toys on store shelves are not dangerous and the recalls show the system to safeguard consumers is working.
SYLVESTER: Who is actually looking out for consumers, though? Because it seems that we get these every so often. If it's not the toys, then it's the food. Then it's something else. Who is looking out for consumers, Christine? ROMANS: Isn't that the big question? There's a lot of concern that the agencies, the government agencies that have been tasked to do that, have been slowly eroded of their power and their authority and their budgets and their manpower. The Consumer Product Safety Commission in particular has almost half the people now as it did in its heyday. So, that is the big question.
And a lot of the consumer advocates say parents and consumers are really kind of on their own here.
SYLVESTER: That is unfortunate, Christine. Thank you very much for that report.
Coming up, Hurricane Dean may have missed Mexico's tourist resorts, but the powerful storm is still a serious threat. We will have a report.
Mitt Romney blasts opponent Rudy Giuliani on sanctuary cities, but Giuliani gets a shot of his own in. We will have that story.
And new details in Newark's schoolyard murders. We will have a report.
Stay with us.
SYLVESTER: New accusations tonight of bureaucratic bungling in the case of an illegal alien accused of three brutal murders in a schoolyard. Officials in the sanctuary city of Newark, New Jersey, say federal agents failed to identify one of the suspects as high risk before the murders. Those officials also say the federal government missed warning signs about another suspect who has a green card.
Deborah Feyerick has our report.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One came from Peru and was in the U.S. illegally. The other, from Nicaragua, had his green card, making his status in the U.S. conditional on good behavior. Before being charged with the execution-style schoolyard slayings of three students, both men had appeared before New Jersey judges on various charges, Rodolfo Godinez for weapons possession, Jose Carranza for sexual assault.
Given their immigration status and criminal charges, why weren't they detained for possible deportation? Because neither had an actual felony conviction.
PAULA DOW, ESSEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Carranza, at this time, has no state convictions. Based on that, I have been advised that ICE will not, on charges alone, pick up an illegal, even if they have that information.
FEYERICK: Officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement told CNN, had Newark officials alerted ICE agents, they would have detained Jose Carranza based on the sexual molestation charges, to which Carranza has pleaded not guilty.
But Newark officials say they were simply following ICE policy as stated in this memo sent to parole and probation officers. In it, authorities are told to contact ICE only after a foreign-born individual is convicted of felony crimes.
DOW: ICE wanted to gather -- hear the information when a conviction was available on the illegal immigrants.
FEYERICK: Immigration officials say the memo applies only to legal, permanent residents. That is immigrants like Godinez, who have a green card, not those like Jose Carranza, with no documents at all.
To fix that, ICE has now placed officers in jails across New Jersey to review cases.
FEYERICK: Now, an ICE officer was assigned to the Essex County jail in March. That's two months before Carranza was jailed for additional sex crimes.
However, a source close to the case say it's unclear whether Carranza's case was reviewed and, if it had been reviewed, whether he would have been flagged for deportation. It is worth noting that New Jersey's attorney general tomorrow will announce guidelines on how state, local and federal authorities can better coordinate in immigration status cases -- Lisa.
SYLVESTER: So, Deborah, you can have an illegal alien charged with a heinous crime, but, if they are just charged with a crime, ICE will, immigration officials will not come to pick up that individual; is that right? I mean...
FEYERICK: That's what Newark authorities were under the impression, because they felt there had to be that conviction. So, that is the assumption they were working under.
But ICE told us that they have got all these tools in place that local authorities can use to contact the agency and have them picked up. But, because it's not a law, because it's not mandated, there's this whole gray area. So, local authorities operate under one assumption, feds under another.
Thank you very much, Deborah, for that report.
The Newark murders have brought the issue of sanctuary cities to the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney today released a new radio ad blasting sanctuary policies in cities, including New York, where rival candidate Rudy Giuliani was once mayor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AD) NARRATOR: Immigration laws don't work if they're ignored. That's the problem with cities like Newark, San Francisco, and New York City, that adopt sanctuary policies. Sanctuary cities become magnets that encourage illegal immigration and undermine secure borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: The Giuliani campaign has pointed out that during Romney's time as government of Massachusetts, that state had three cities with sanctuary policies.
Coming up, the very latest on Hurricane Dean, where it's headed and the trail of devastation it left behind.
Also, the rising threat from Mexican drug cartels to this country -- the United States considers a massive aid package for Mexico.
And the wife of Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, apparently blasts Senator Hillary Clinton. We'll have the details next.
SYLVESTER: Hurricane Dean targeted Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula for a direct hit today, with top sustained winds of 165 miles per hour and up to 20 inches of rain in some places. The powerful storm bypassed major tourist resorts, but tonight officials are afraid that Dean inflicted catastrophic damage on isolated, rural communities in its direct path.
Right now the storm is gathering strength once again.
And Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center with the very latest about the hurricane -- Bring us up to date, Chad.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Lisa, it is now back over very warm water, in the Bay of Campeche. Now, this bay here, the water, 87 -- 86 miles -- or degrees -- it's going to make this storm a bunch stronger before it makes a run south of Tampico, probably Tucson, probably Posa Rica, just to the north of Veracruz here. This is the storm's path now.
We've had one landfall, obviously, in the Yucatan. And now we're expecting another one. And it is going to gain strength before that happens, maybe a category two, possibly even a category three hurricane.
And then it moves into the Sierra Madres Orientals. And this it's going to be a big problem -- 9,000 feet mountains there. And this rain is going to fall on these mountains and then we are going to see more flooding and landslides.
There we go. Dean. There's the first landfall right there. There's Chetumal, just to the south. There's Campeche. Now we're back into the water. While this was a very flat area, the Yucatan not over about 900 feet tall, any spot there. Most of it very flat.
This second landfall not going to be so lucky, just to the north of Mexico City, right here. That's about -- that's about Posa Rica.
And then here, look at the mountains in the background. This rain is going to go up the mountains. The rain will come back down the mountains and then we will have significant flooding.
Look at the valleys here between the Orientals and the Occidentals. This is where the flooding is going to be. A lot of people live here, not that far north of Mexico City. And this is where the damage is going to go.
It isn't going to be windstorm damage. This is going to be a freshwater flood problem from north of Mexico City to Tampico to Posa Rica to Tuspan. All of those areas -- they're small resort areas there just south of Tampico. We'll keep watching it for you. People right now are evacuating from that area in Mexico -- Lisa.
SYLVESTER: Thank you very much, Chad, for that report.
And as Chad just reported, Hurricane Dean is over open water tonight. And Dean is likely to make landfall, again, just north of Veracruz.
Karl Penhaul is there and he joins us now.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The winds where we are have really been picking up noticeably over the last hour or so. And the swell, you can probably make that out on the ocean behind us. That's the Gulf of Mexico. And now it's full of whitecaps. The surf is building up. But the storm still estimated to be some 12 to 18 hours away.
Now, what the Mexican authorities are doing now -- we just saw them here, members of civil protection teams. They're going beach by beach, bay by bay. These are relatively sparsely populated areas, but they are popular, not with mass tourism, but with small groups of tourism. And those civil protection people have been coming along clearing people from the beaches, telling surfers to go home.
What they've also putting in place is an evacuation plan. A lot of the villages here are very close to the ocean, a very low lying area, and they say that six hours before the storm strikes, they'll begin to evacuate the local population.
Why only six hours?
Because it's a whole series of fallback positions. They'll fall back from one church to another, moving further inland and further up higher into the hills. And so, in the worst case scenario, villagers could get as high as 3,000 feet in the space of about five or six miles. So that should be pretty easy for them to do a short amount of time -- Lisa. SYLVESTER: Karl, just try to say safe there. We know the hurricane is headed your way.
Now, Hurricane Dean has been downgraded to a category one storm. But it was once a powerful category five hurricane.
In fact, Dean is the first category five hurricane to make landfall in North America in more than 10 years. The last category five storm to hit North America was Hurricane Andrew. That storm devastated Florida in 1992. Dean is now the ninth most powerful hurricane to hit North America. So far, seven deaths are blamed on the storm.
As Hurricane Dean continues to weaken, oil prices continue to drop. U.S. crude dropped almost $2, to $69.38 a barrel. Oil prices began dropping Monday when forecasters said Dean would not hit U.S. oil production and refining facilities in the Gulf region.
NASA shortened the Space Shuttle Endeavour's trip by one day over fears that Hurricane Dean could affect operations at mission control in Houston.
Just a few hours ago, the space shuttle landed smoothly at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, putting to rest concerns about its safety. NASA engineers feared a gouge in the shuttle's protective tiles could have possibly caused hot gases to enter the shuttle during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Thankfully, Endeavour and its crew of seven landed safely.
In Utah, a panel of experts says a collapsed mine is so unstable that it would be unacceptable to continue digging for six miners who have been missing for two weeks. The opinion comes as the tiny mining community of Huntington, Utah today held a memorial service for one of three miners who were killed last week trying to reach the missing men.
And President Bush is in Minneapolis tonight being briefed on the August 1st collapse of an interstate bridge during rush hour. Search teams have just recovered the thirteenth body from the Mississippi River. Officials believe they have found all of the victims of the bridge collapse.
Coming up next, increasing violence along our border with Mexico. We'll talk to author George Grayson about that violence and what Mexico's government should do about it.
And later, is Senator Barack Obama's wife taking a swipe at Senator Hillary Clinton?
We'll have the latest on this new war of words.
SYLVESTER: The meeting between President Bush, Mexico's president and Canada's prime minister focused attention on the Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America. While President Bush deflected criticism of the SPP with humor, there are serious concerns the plan could pose a threat to our sovereignty.
George Grayson, author of the new book "The Mexican Messiah," and professor at the College of William and Mary, joins me now as my guest.
George, let me just start off, what did you think of the comments that President Bush made -- the apparent swipe at Lou Dobbs and this program?
GEORGE GRAYSON, MEXICO EXPERT: Lisa, I think if you had a poll and you put Lou Dobbs up against President Bush that Dobbs would win two or three to one. And perhaps you can have your technical staff consider that for a later program.
SYLVESTER: That might be a future poll question coming up, George.
We appreciate that.
Now, President Bush, on the agenda at the SPP summit, was a lot of talk about drugs and how do you fight the war on drugs and the drug cartels.
We have some sound from President Bush that we want to listen to in just a moment. He was essentially saying that this is a joint issue that both countries must deal with.
Let's listen to that sound now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The package, when it's developed, will be robust enough to achieve a common objective, which is less violence on both sides of the border, and to deal with narcotrafficking. And we both have responsibilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: What are your thoughts here?
Joint issues -- something that the United States and Mexico must deal headfirst with?
GRAYSON: Well, there has to be a cooperative effort. But the problem is the narcotraffickers can easily get weapons from the United States. There are 1,200 gun shops within a stone's throw of the border where you can purchase anything from small arms to hand grenades. And so with the demand so sharp in this country for cocaine and marijuana and heroin, it seems to me that it is an uphill battle, even if there's cooperation in good faith on both sides of the border.
SYLVESTER: You know, we've been hearing about the war on drugs for so long. It is an old problem.
How will money essentially solve this?
I mean it sounds like we need some real new solutions here.
GRAYSON: Yes, money will, perhaps, mitigate the problem. For example, the pay in the Mexican Army is quite low. And as a result, the drug cartels have been able to hire deserters and veterans at twice their salaries and use them as paramilitary forces against rival cartels. So money is a factor.
Intelligence is important. Mexico needs to have full coverage of its territory by radar. And, in addition, it needs to have a greater capability with regard to wiretapping and eavesdropping.
SYLVESTER: We have just a few minutes left here, but I just want to ask you, your thoughts on the SPP, the summit that went forward.
What were the results of it?
Do you think this will essentially be dead before President Bush leaves office?
Or do you think that the administration will still try to push this through and be President Bush's final legacy, perhaps?
GRAYSON: It was a needless meeting. It was like three ships passing in the night. The Canadians are concerned about the U.S. passport regulations at the border and they also want to reinsert the sovereignty of the Northwest Passage.
The Mexicans are concerned about immigration and the easy access of the cartels to firearms.
And President Bush was concentrating on drugs and thugs. And so it was a dialogue of the minutes.
SYLVESTER: A dialogue of the mutes.
And we will leave it there.
George Grayson, thank you very much for your time.
Always a pleasure.
GRAYSON: Thank you, Lisa.
SYLVESTER: A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll.
Do you believe, as President Bush says, the concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership are comical, yes or no?
Cast your vote at loudobbs.com.
We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.
Still to come, family values on the presidential campaign trail -- is the wife of one Democratic contender taking a swipe at the frontrunner?
Some of the best radio talk show hosts will talk all about that.
And the surge in Iraq -- a few lawmakers say it's a partial success. We'll find out.
SYLVESTER: Did Michelle Obama take a swipe at her husband's primary competition for the Democratic presidential nomination, former first lady, Senator Hillary Clinton?
Mrs. Obama in Iowa last week said she wanted to travel with her husband to model what it means to have family values.
And she added...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA: Our view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Joining me now for more on this and the rest of the current political landscape are three of the country's best radio talk show hosts.
In Washington, Joe Madison of WOL and X.M. Radio.
JOE MADISON, WOL IN WASHINGTON: Hello.
SYLVESTER: In Denver, Peter Boyles of KHOW.
And here in New York, Laura Flanders of Air America.
Laura, let me first start with you.
What do you make of those comments that Michelle Obama made?
Do you think that that was a swipe at Hillary Clinton?
LAURA FLANDERS, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Yes, I think it was. I mean I think we know that from the deadly silence that surrounded the comment from most of the pundits the last couple of days.
Don't you wish we had Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama running for president?
Wouldn't that be a great day?
I mean these are women with some actual gumption. I'm fine with the swiping, really. People want to talk about houses in order, the only house we need to keep in order is this country's house. And, you know, we don't want to go back to that kind of swiping, as it were, about the personal whatever in the Clinton family.
But the feistiness on the campaign trail, I'm for it. SYLVESTER: You know, one of the things is both of these -- Obama and Clinton -- they are both senators. And, you know, it comes at a time -- they're both seeking the Democratic nomination at a time when Congress' rating, quite frankly, is in the toilet.
And, Joe, I want you to comment on this. We're going to put up a graphic here to show you the Gallup Poll, the latest numbers of Congress, their approval rating -- 18 percent. Look at those numbers -- 18 percent. Only 18 percent approve of the job -- of the way Congress is handling; 76 percent disapprove; 6 percent no opinion.
Joe, your thoughts on this.
How did we get to this point?
MADISON: Oh, we got here right after the November election. And I think what that reflects -- and if I go by simply my callers and listeners and e-mails, they are very disappointed.
Lisa, there was a mandate. There was a mandate in November -- clean up this situation with the war, turn Washington around. Congress promised to do it. The Democrats promised to do it and they haven't delivered.
They simply don't appear to have the guts to do what the mandate gave them to do. I think it's just that simple.
And what you're seeing is a poll that shows how disappointed voters are in the Democratic-led Congress.
SYLVESTER: Peter, I want you to weigh in, because if you look behind these numbers, one of the reasons for the decline is because Democrats have essentially said they don't like how this Democratic- controlled Congress has been operating.
PETER BOYLES, KHOW IN DENVER: Yes, a couple of things quick.
Back to the Obamas and Clintons. I disagree. They'll find a way to become friends and they'll put that ticket together. Remember, George 41 said Ronald Reagan had voodoo economics. Lyndon Johnson was not a big fan of Jack Kennedy's. They managed to put that together. That is what that is. You'll see that ticket, I believe, Hillary and Obama.
On to the next thing. In November, when the Democrats take the House and take the Senate, really, it was an anti-George Bush vote in this country. At the time, if you go back and track that poll, the House -- the Congress had a 26 percent approval rating when the Dems come in.
It's an anti-George Bush movement.
Now, the Dems have done nothing. I totally agree. The Republicans have done less. George Bush looks like a fool anyhow.
So what do you expect? I don't look for anything out of either one of those polls.
FLANDERS: Well, I mean, I think there's a little more to it. I mean there's no question voters wanted Democrats to end the war. In fact, it's escalating. The Democrats approved more money for the war. They wanted to reign in the warrantless wiretaps. The Democrats actually went ahead and approved more of it.
FLANDERS: But you know what?
On a lot of issues, the House -- from stem cell research to the minimum wage to college loans -- the House, where the Democrats really have a majority -- has made progress and most of the deadlock has been in that very narrowly divided Senate.
MADISON: It's an eight...
FLANDERS: So I think it's Congress...
FLANDERS: ...but this focus on the Democratic control Congress is a little unfair.
Are voters furious at Democrats?
Absolutely, as well they should be.
But I think it's the whole (INAUDIBLE).
MADISON: I'm not suggesting that the Democrats haven't done anything. But what I am suggesting is that they really are playing softball. It's politics as usual with them. People...
FLANDERS: Oh, yes.
MADISON: People want to see subpoenas. People want George -- I mean want Gonzales held accountable.
MADISON: People want to see these individuals who are violating this constitution called before Congress, the way that Republicans called Democrats before Congress...
BOYLES: You can -- look...
MADISON: ...and they're not getting it.
SYLVESTER: All right, let's give Peter a chance to respond here.
BOYLES: OK. As long as -- what I was going to say, look, an eight point swing, that's really what it is, in less than a year. Don't put a lot of stock into it. The American people see both of these groups now -- Republicans, Democrats -- much the same.
In terms of the -- of watching subpoenas come, as long as the man that George Bush calls Fredo is on the job, he's the firewall.
Karl Rove can go. They can all bail. But as long as Alberto Gonzales stays there, you guys, you're not going to see the subpoenas that you want.
This is politics as its either best or worst.
MADISON: You know, you're right about that. And one thing I will disagree, to go back. You will not see a Hillary Clinton/Obama ticket.
BOYLES: Well, you (INAUDIBLE).
MADISON: I guarantee you. I don't know where you are, but let's bet dinner or something. But it's not going to happen.
FLANDERS: I'll take you on on that, too.
BOYLES: As long as you buy.
SYLVESTER: You know, we're all going to hold you to that, Joe.
FLANDERS: You bet, Joe.
SYLVESTER: You're going to have to buy dinner for all of us.
MADISON: I know he will. I know he will.
SYLVESTER: All right, speaking of the -- as we know, Senator Leahy is threatening to hold members of the Bush administration in contempt for defying subpoenas.
Do you think this was just a bunch of grandstanding, this is essentially Democrats trying to say, hey, look, we're doing something on this?
Laura, why don't you respond?
FLANDERS: Well, it's Democrats saying the constitution actually matters. It's Democrats saying, you know, if Nixon could be impeached, in part, for failing to respond to Congressional subpoenas, so should this administration be. And that "I word" still needs to be articulated by some of the Democratic leadership.
This is an -- you cannot have an executive branch -- I don't care which party it's in the control of -- that is simply ignoring the will of Congress. You can't have it.
MADISON: They're not going to... FLANDERS: So whether he gets up there, just as people did, calling for the end of slavery, you know, you can get up there every week and call for it and it go nowhere. But calling for it, in and of itself, is important.
MADISON: Two words -- Dick Cheney. You're not going to impeach George Bush.
BOYLES: Well, the other thing is quit threatening and do it.
SYLVESTER: What about Dick Cheney?
MADISON: I will say, quit threatening and do it.
MADISON: I think Randi Rhodes, on her show, had a great idea, what they call inherent -- I forgot the terminology.
Forgive me, Randi.
But I would love to see marshals go over there to the White House, bring Harriet Miers, bring Gonzales over.
BOYLES: It's not going to happen.
MADISON: I know it's not going to happen. That's because they don't have the will to do it.
BOYLES: That (INAUDIBLE)...
MADISON: So I would say to the senator...
FLANDERS: It happening isn't as important...
MADISON: ...quit the...
FLANDERS: ...as him, as the standing up and calling for it, because that shows that at least some people in this government care about the constitution, they care about the popular will and they care about an executive branch out of control, which matters now. It'll matter four years from now.
FLANDERS: ...just the same way it mattered years ago.
SYLVESTER: OK, we're going to give Pete...
MADISON: But it's all talk.
SYLVESTER: ...we're going to give Peter the last word here.
MADISON: Yes. Look...
SYLVESTER: Peter, we want you to weigh in on this.
BOYLES: Thank you.
The country is in disarray. It doesn't know which way to turn. And I do think you'll see a peace made between Mrs. Clinton and the Obama campaign. It has to be. They've got to show unity. And believe me, that ticket is a winner right now. And I think you guys will see it.
MADISON: Well, I'm looking forward to dinner wherever you live.
BOYLES: Well, as long as you buy, I'll be there.
SYLVESTER: We know where to find you, Joe.
MADISON: That's right.
SYLVESTER: Thank you, everybody.
MADISON: Good night.
SYLVESTER: We're going to have end here.
MADISON: Thanks, you guys.
SYLVESTER: Laura Flanders, Joe Madison, Peter Boyles, thank you very much for joining us.
MADISON: Thank you.
SYLVESTER: We appreciate it.
Coming up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER" -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thanks, Lisa.
Democratic candidate Barack Obama stirring the pot on foreign policy and opening himself up to some more criticism. The issue this time -- Cuba. We're going to tell you what he and his rivals are saying.
Also, the families of those six missing miners in Utah say they haven't given up hope. A spokesman for those families will join us and explain why they believe the miners are still alive.
Also, Wal-Mart is testing dog treats that owners say made their pets sick. You guessed it -- the treats come from China. We have some new details.
And we'll get a firsthand account of that terrifying jetliner explosion in Japan from someone who was actually on the plane -- a United States Marine.
All that, guys, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Lisa.
SYLVESTER: Thanks, Wolf.
Still ahead, more of your thoughts and results of tonight's poll.
SYLVESTER: Now the results of tonight's poll -- 95 percent of you do not believe, as President Bush says, the concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership are comical.
Time now for one last e-mail.
James in Montana: "Another meeting of the North American big three? What will Bush give away this time. Oh, I forgot -- nothing. There's nothing left to give away."
Each of you whose e-mail is read here will receive a copy of Joseph Califano's book, "High Society."
Thanks for being with us tonight.
Please join us tomorrow.
For all of us here, thanks for watching.
Good night from New York.
"THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now.
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