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Senator Craig Speaks Out on Sex Scandal; Earnings Down For America's Middle Class

Aired August 28, 2007 - 18:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: disturbing news for America's embattled middle class from the U.S. census. The government report reveals people's earnings are down and almost 50 million people in this country are without health insurance.
A Border Patrol official's misstatement leads to a get-tough policy on illegal aliens. But it's up to Congress to allocate funds for the Border Patrol to get the job done.

And an award-winning teacher brings his groundbreaking techniques to the classroom, with astonishing results.

All that, all the day's news, much more, straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Tuesday, August 28.

Live from New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good evening, everybody.

President Bush today again defended the war in Iraq. Speaking before the American Legion, the president said the war is crucial to U.S. security. Withdrawing American forces, he said, would put the region at risk for extremism. That extremist threat, the president said, comes from al Qaeda and Iran.

The president warned Iran from meddling in Iraq. But Iran says U.S. control in Iraq is collapsing and Iran is ready to step in to establish stability.

Elaine Quijano reports from the White House -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Christine, today, President Bush forcefully argued that one way to keep Iran's rising influence in check is to ensure that the United States wins in Iraq.


QUIJANO (voice-over): Even as he urged lawmakers to reserve judgment on Iraq, President Bush sought to paint an encouraging picture of the surge and its effects.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The momentum is now on our side. The surge is seizing the initiative from the enemy and handing it to the Iraqi people.

QUIJANO: Speaking before a friendly audience at the American Legion's annual convention, the president tried to set the stage for his Iraq report to Congress next month, repeating a call for patience. But he included dire warnings about threats from al Qaeda and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

BUSH: Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late.

QUIJANO: Yet for all of the president's saber-rattling, he did not announce a change in policy towards Tehran.

The president did launch a preemptive defense against what's expected to be a major criticism of his strategy, that despite the sacrifices of U.S. troops to provide the Iraqis breathing space, Iraq's leaders in Baghdad have failed to make significant progress on the political front.

BUSH: This argument gets it backwards. Improving security is the precondition for making gains in other areas.


QUIJANO: Now, despite the president's views, a recent national intelligence report found that the level of overall violence in Iraq remains high, that Iraq's sectarian groups remain unreconciled, and that Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Elaine at the White House -- thank you very much, Elaine.

Iran's president warned today that the United States was losing its grip on Iraq. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the U.S. for Iraq's instability and said Iran is ready to move in to stabilize the country.

Aneesh Raman is in Baghdad, and he has our report -- Aneesh.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, good evening.

It was a blunt warning from Iran's president that in large part seemed to be about Iraq's prime minister. It was just a few weeks ago that Nouri al-Maliki made an official visit to Tehran. I was in the Islamic republic at the time. He was greeted very warmly by Iranian officials who told him the United States is the chief cause of instability in Iraq and that U.S. troops need to leave Iraq immediately.

Of course since Maliki has suffered fierce criticism within Iraq. Calls for him to resign have come out of Washington by those who say he's incapable of bringing about the necessarily political endgame. Well, today Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shifted the blame where he often does, back to the United States saying their power in the region will eventually vanish leaving a vacuum that Iran will gladly step into.

Now, of course many on the ground might laugh at this suggestion because many assume Iran is already intimately involved in Iraqi affairs with ties to Shia parties and as the U.S. alleges by arming Shia militias, something Iran denies. And in the end, Christine, it could be the last thing that Nouri al-Maliki needs, an Iraqi prime minister being defended by the Iranian president -- Christine.


ROMANS: Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, thank you.

President Ahmadinejad today criticized France's president over remarks that suggested Iran could be attacked if its nuclear program continued.

France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, said yesterday that if diplomatic efforts weren't successful, the alternatives could be an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran. Sarkozy, elected in May, has struck a far more pro-U.S. tone than predecessor Jacques Chirac, who believed a nuclear Iran was inevitable.

At least 50 people have been killed and almost 250 injured in intense fighting in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala. The fighting between two Shiite militias erupted when the groups arrived for a major religious commemoration. Security forces tried to ban people carrying weapons from entering the city. There was concern about the violence spreading, as offices in Baghdad belonging to the fighting militias were firebombed.

The Pentagon and the Justice Department today are investigating cases of alleged fraud and abuse by defense contractors in Iraq. Billions of dollars in taxpayer money could have been stolen or lost. The investigation covers possible abuses in the delivery of weapons and supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jamie McIntyre has our report.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the U.S. has billions to spend, such as on weapons for Iraq, you can bet there are billions to steal through contract fraud and lax inventory control.

(on camera): When we're really talking about billions of dollars, obviously, there's going to be some amount of criminal activity. Is that to be expected?

TOM SCHATZ, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: When it comes to the Iraqi situation, it's worse than it has been in many other circumstances. MCINTYRE (voice-over): The problem is magnified when U.S. commanders are in a rush to get needed equipment to soldiers on the front lines.

Tom Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste says when the Pentagon talks about cutting red tape, it should send up a red flag.

(on camera): What kind of grade would you give the government in keeping track of the taxpayers' money?

SCHATZ: In this case, an F. In fact, the Pentagon fails audits, because they are more interested in spending money than keeping track.

MCINTYRE: According to the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, there are 73 investigations now under way. So far 20 people have been charged. The probes involve contracts worth more than $5 billion and allege bribes of more than $15 million.

(voice-over): Some of the problem is outright theft. For example, just last week, the Justice Department charged an Army major serving as a contract officer in Kuwait along with his wife and sister of taking almost $10 million in bribes for allegedly rigging contracts for bottled water.

In January, the Army charged a chief warrant officer in Kuwait with accepting a $50,000 bribe for steering a food service contract to a local Kuwaiti company.

The Pentagon has dispatched its top investigator, DOD Inspector General Claude Kicklighter, to Iraq to review contracting procedures across the board. A Pentagon spokesman says the department will take "necessary measures to sure up shortfalls we find and hold people accountable."


MCINTYRE: No doubt part of the problem is sloppy record-keeping. Earlier this summer, the Government Accountability Office found the U.S. military couldn't account for more than 100,000 AK-47s that were supposedly issued to Iraqi security forces back in 2005 -- Christine.

ROMANS: Incredible.

Jamie McIntyre in Washington -- thank you, Jamie.

There are new American casualties today in the war in Afghanistan. Three American soldiers were killed by a suicide bombing in Eastern Afghanistan; 430 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom since October 2001. And in central Afghanistan today, Afghan and coalition forces killed more than 100 radical Islamic terrorists in an ongoing battle.

Coming up, Senator Craig says he's done nothing wrong and overreacted by pleading guilty. We will have a report.

A new get-tough policy for the Border Patrol. And individual earnings are down, distressing numbers from a new census report for the middle class. We will have that story.

Stay with us.


ROMANS: Stocks plunged amid concerns about a weakening housing market and the ongoing credit and mortgage market crunch. The Dow dropped 280 points. The Nasdaq lost 60.

And alarming new evidence tonight that the middle class is working more and earning less. And there's more disturbing news. For a third straight year, wages dropped for middle-class workers, and millions are without health insurance.


ROMANS (voice-over): In this country last year, one in eight people lived in poverty. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 13 million children lived below the poverty line last year, unchanged from 2005. There was some improvement for the elderly, 9.4 percent in poverty. That's 3.4 million Americans.

The overall poverty rate hasn't improved much since the beginning of this decade, some 36.5 million people last year surviving below the federal poverty threshold, $10,294 for a single person, $20,244 for a family of four.

At the same time, for the middle class, the challenges grow.

DAVID JOHNSON, CENSUS BUREAU: This is the third consecutive year that both men and women have experienced a decrease in their real median earnings.

ROMANS: Women's earnings sank to $32,500. Men still make more, but their earnings also fell. Median household income rose to $48,200 last year, but more people had to be working in each household to achieve that. At the same time, the number of people without health insurance jumped to $47 million.

KARLYN BOWMAN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: About a quarter of Americans say that they or someone in their household has been without health insurance at some point in recent times. So, that's a very big number and one that we have to pay attention to.


ROMANS: According to an analysis by a physicians group, 1.4 million of the newly uninsured are middle-class workers making over $75,000 a year.

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT has learned Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar and Texas Congressman John Culberson have agreed to support a zero- tolerance policy. That means the prosecution of every single illegal alien caught crossing the Southern border. As Casey Wian reports, the agreement stems from an apparent misstatement by a top Border Patrol agent.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two weeks ago, Laredo, Texas, chief Border Patrol Agent Carlos Carrillo told a local town hall meeting -- quote -- "I have said it before, and I will say it again. The Border Patrol's job is not to stop illegal immigrants. The Border Patrol's job is not to stop narcotics. The Border Patrol's mission is not to do any of those things. The Border Patrol's mission is to stop terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering this country."

Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo called for his resignation. Border Patrol agents were outraged.

T.J. BONNER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: I was quite shocked and baffled to see that in print. And I'm sure that he meant something different than that, but it sure didn't come across well to the rank and file.

WIAN: Sector Chief Carrillo says, "It's painfully obvious to me that I could have done a better job of articulating my talking points."

He also wrote a clarification letter to "The Laredo Morning Times," saying that, while stopping terrorism is the Border Patrol's priority, his agents continue their traditional mission, apprehending nearly 52,000 illegal aliens and 62 tons of narcotics this year alone.

Now Texas Congressman John Culberson says Carrillo has agreed to adopt the Operation Streamline zero-tolerance policy already in place in Del Rio, Texas. There, all illegal aliens caught crossing the border face prosecution and six months in jail.

REP. JOHN CULBERSON (R), TEXAS: I now can report for the first time here on Lou Dobbs' show that I have also secured the same commitment from Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar, has promised me that he is going to work not only to support Chief Carrillo in implementing zero tolerance in Laredo, but Chief Aguilar has now committed that he is going to implement zero tolerance from Brownsville to San Diego.

WIAN: The Border Patrol confirms the agreement, with the caveat that Congress must provide more resources, for example, prosecutors, marshals, and jail staff.


WIAN: That's a big if. But Culberson, who serves on the Appropriations Committees for the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, says he is confident it can be done.

Supporters say Operation Streamline has been a dramatic success in Del Rio, reducing illegal alien apprehensions by 38 percent last year and 52 percent this year -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Casey Wian -- thank you very much, Casey.

So, that brings us to the subject of tonight's poll. Do you believe Congress will actually provide the necessary resources to prosecute and jail every illegal alien caught crossing the border, yes or no? Cast your vote at We will bring you the results later in the broadcast.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Tom in Florida: "I keep hearing our congressional leaders saying the Iraqi government can't get anything done. They need to look in the mirror."

On the vacancies in the Justice Department, Pam in South Carolina says: "Perhaps administration jobs should be left open. The fewer of Bush's cronies in power, the less damage will be done. There's already more trouble than we can handle. Now, if we could just sweep out the Oval Office."

Rick in Nevada: "I believe the Bush administration, by its own actions, has destroyed government's ability to function. All you have to do is look at the results. Talk about rats jumping a sinking ship."

We will have more of your e-mail later in the broadcast.

Still ahead, we will tell you which state is being sued over its attempts to crack down on illegal immigration.

And Idaho Senator Larry Craig speaks out, saying he did nothing wrong. But was his statement enough? We will have a live report.


ROMANS: About 200 illegal aliens are in custody tonight, after a raid at a poultry packaging facility in Southwest Ohio. ICE agents raided the food company in Fairfield earlier today. Immigration officials say the plant has been under investigation for two years for its hiring practices. The company says it has asked for federal assistance to weed out illegal workers, but received little help.

The state of Missouri is taking steps to crack down on criminal illegal aliens. Governor Matt Blunt is calling for local law enforcement to check the immigration status of everyone it arrests. Illegal aliens could be taken to federal detention facilities. Governor Blunt says the state is forced to take action because the federal government has failed to fight illegal immigration.

The state of Oklahoma has passed some of the toughest anti- illegal immigration measures in the country, but the Sooner State could soon become one of the first states to be sued over its laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taking on a town over immigration ordinances is easy. Advocates for illegal aliens have done so successfully many times, in Escondido, California, Pahrump, Nevada, Port Chester, New York, Mamaroneck, New York, and, most recently, Riverside, New Jersey.

Those towns all backed down under the threat of lawsuits, because they don't have the money to pay for defending their ordinances. Taking on a state has been rare, even though Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Oklahoma have passed laws aimed at cracking down on illegal aliens, because a state's legal and financial resources are deeper.

But Oklahoma's law is apparently too tempting. It requires all state and local agencies to verify citizenship status before granting state welfare benefits, requires employers to check for legal work status, and denies state identification to illegal immigrants.

A coalition of Latino clergy and Christian leaders say they will file suit against the law by mid-September.

REV. VICTOR ORTA, NATIONAL COALITION OF LATINO CLERGY: We issue this lawsuit because we know we stand a very good chance. We expect for it to be overturned.

TUCKER: They're seeking a temporary injunction prohibiting the state from enacting the laws on November 1. The group says it's planning a fund-raising drive to pay for the legal bills and wants to enlist a private law firm for pro bono work. The threat has caught the attention of the bill's original sponsor.

RANDY TERRILL (R), OKLAHOMA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I'm convinced that House Bill 1804 is in fact the toughest state-level immigration reform bill around, so it is obviously a huge symbolic target. And if these people can succeed at bringing a successful legal challenge, that would be very important for them, and that's the reason why we must prevail ultimately in this battle.

TUCKER: Because a win in Oklahoma could set off a legal rush resembling the land rush that marked the settling of that state.


TUCKER: Now, for the moment, two very big legal guns remain out of this fight. Lawyers for both the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union say they are reviewing Oklahoma's law, but, Christine, they say that as of yet they haven't decided whether they're going to join in the lawsuit or not.

ROMANS: And the sponsors of this measure, how confident are they that they will really be able to have a crackdown?

TUCKER: Well, they say they're very confident, that what they have done here is, they're not attempting to regulate immigration in any way, shape, ration, or form. They are simply trying to verify a person's immigration status before they give them state welfare benefits.

They can do nothing about federal benefits, and they are not attempting to do that. So, it will be interesting, although one of the law firms involved in this does have connections with the state. So, it could get very interesting in Oklahoma.

ROMANS: OK. Well, we will keep watching it. We know you will.

Thanks, Bill -- Bill Tucker.

Coming up, Senator Larry Craig goes on the record. He says he's not gay and was wrong to plead guilty. But did he make the situation worse today? We're live in Boise.

President Bush calls for patience on Iraq. We will discuss that and more with three of the nation's leading radio talk show hosts.

And an award-winning teacher brings his unique approach to the classroom, with, frankly, amazing success. He will join me later in the broadcast.

Stay with us.


ROMANS: Fires and floods battered the American West and Midwest. Flames have burned 54 square miles and forced the evacuation of 1,000 homes in Idaho and closed schools around the resort town of Ketchum. They are even turning on to snow machines now, turning them on to fight wildfires near the Sun Valley Ski Resort.

In Nevada, thunderstorms hit Las Vegas with flash floods. Whole neighborhoods were flooded. And, in Ohio, flood victims can begin applying for federal flood disaster relief today. President Bush declared the region a major disaster area as Ohio cleans up after record floods.

In Greece, the president has called the plague of forest fires a national catastrophe and a national tragedy. The devastating blazes have killed at least 64 people in the last five days.

Senator Larry Craig faced the public today. The Republican conservative from Idaho spoke for the first time after revelations that he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from complaints of lewd behavior in an airport men's room. He insisted he was innocent and vowed he was not gay.

The Republican leadership has asked for a review of the case by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Dana Bash has the latest live now from Boise, Idaho -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, what Senator Craig tried to do in the hot Boise sun here this afternoon was to tamp down the political pressure on him because of really the confusing statement that he's made that really contradicts what he admitted to in a court of law.

And he did not seem to necessarily do what he intended to do here, which is to convince people here in Idaho, Republicans back in Washington, that he is actually telling the truth.

Now, the bottom line here is that Senator Craig back on June 11 in the Minneapolis airport was involved in an incident that he had pleaded guilty to, essentially disorderly conduct. A police officer on the scene, a plainclothes officer, said that he was engaged in lewd conduct.

And that's generally what Senator Craig admitted to in his guilty plea, but today he said the only thing that he really did wrong was trying to make this go away, like perhaps many politician would want to do. And he said he didn't even tell his wife or anybody in his family. He said that was his biggest mistake.

Take a listen.


SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport. I did nothing wrong, and I regret the decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought on my wife, my family, friends, staff and fellow Idahoans. And, for that, I apologize.

While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge, in hopes of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family. That was a mistake.


BASH: Now, Senator Craig said that part of the reason why he decided to do that is because he has been plagued -- in his words, he's been hounded by the hometown paper here, "The Idaho Statesman."

They have been conducting a six-month investigation, which they actually printed today, looking into longtime rumors, allegations that Senator Craig is gay and perhaps has been involved in inappropriate sexual conduct even in public situations.

Now, Senator Craig said today that that is the reason why he decided to take -- make an error in judgment, as he put it today, and plead guilty to something he insists he didn't do.

Now, as you can imagine, Christine, the reaction here, it's essentially not going over very well. I talked to a leading conservative voice here who was there at the event, immediately said that he thinks that Senator Craig should resign.

Regardless of whether or not he is gay or in the gay, as he said today, it is the question of judgment, and a U.S. senator making a statement, perhaps, that he says now is false. Forget about the legal questions there, whether or not he committed perjury in saying that he did something that he now says he didn't do, but the political implications for Senator Craig are pretty big here.

I talked to another Republican here, Christine, an influential one, who said I think Senator Craig's political career is over -- Christine.

ROMANS: Dana, it's an unusual situation in politics. At the very least here, his political future, I guess, is still up in the air.

Thanks so much.

Dana Bash.

That political future now on the line. But the fallout is also hitting the Republican Party.

Just before he spoke in public today, Senate Republican leaders called for an Ethics Committee investigation. It's the kind of exposure the Republican Party doesn't need.

Jessica Yellin reports.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Larry Craig is one of Washington's singing Senators.


YELLIN: But these days, he might not be crooning with as broad a smile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Visionary, steadfast and a great American leader. We're honored to have him with us today, Senator Larry Craig from Idaho.

YELLIN: Craig is a staunch conservative. He's been in Congress for more than 25 years and has consistently opposed extensions of gay rights, several times voting against gay marriage and against employment protections for gays and lesbians.

This is not the first time this type of controversy has surrounded Craig. In 1982 he denied rumors that he was being investigated for improper relationships with the Congressional pages, as seen on NBC News.


CRAIG: And when I have people telling me that a whole series of false accusations are made against my character, frankly, it makes me mad as hell.


YELLIN: He was never implicated in the investigation. Now, Craig is up for re-election. He has just over half a million dollars in campaign cash. Dogged by publicity from these new revelations and with the call for an Ethics Committee investigation hanging over his head, Craig must decide whether he'll seek re- election next year.

Some political watchers say it might be easier for Republicans if Craig retires.

AMY WALTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: And this is a party that really wants to be looking forward to 2008, not to continue talking about scandals like they had to in the 2006 and 2007.


YELLIN: And Republican Senate leaders held a conference call this afternoon. We understand that afterwards, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell personally placed a phone call to Senator Larry Craig to let him know that his colleagues were going to ask the Ethics Committee to investigate this incident -- Christine.

ROMANS: Jessica, so asking questions at this point.

But, I mean, what are rank and file Republicans saying about this scandal?

YELLIN: Well, right now they're in sort of a wait and see mode, to see what Senator Craig decides about his future. Certainly this isn't good for the party. They'd rather we weren't talking about another Republican sex scandal.

But Idaho is a very Republican state. President Bush won there in 2004 by 38 points. So political watchers are confident that the Republican Party would be able to hold that seat if Larry Craig chooses to retire -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jessica Yellin in Washington.

Thank you, Jessica.

Coming up, more on the repercussions for a senator caught in an airport bathroom bust.

We'll discuss that and more with three of the country's top radio talk show hosts.

And the book that is on every teacher's desk -- "Tech Like Your Hair Is On Fire."

All that and more, when we come back.


ROMANS: This country's school systems are often accused of failing to properly educate our children. But there are educators around the country trying innovative new ways to teach students. One of those educators is Rafe Esquith of Los Angeles. The award winning teacher is also the best-selling author of a very important book, "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire."

Rafe Esquith joins me now from Seattle.

Thank you for joining us.

So, "Tech Like Your Hair Is On Fire," what does that mean?

RAFE ESQUITH, "TEACH LIKE YOUR HAIR'S ON FIRE": Well, Christine, thanks for having me on.

One time many years ago I actually set my hair on fire in a science experiment and was so busy teaching I didn't even know it. But I thought that was probably a good moment for me because it became a metaphor for ignoring all the craziness teachers have to face and just stay with your students and teach them to the best of your ability.

ROMANS: You teach in Los Angeles. You teach in Room 56. We talk about all of the things that are going wrong -- with graduation rates, with teacher pay, with the education system.

What's going right in your classroom?

ESQUITH: Well, basically I've ignored a lot of the bureaucracy of the Los Angeles Unified School District. I mean, as an example, Christine, right now, my class, which does an unabridged production of Shakespeare every year -- and they're fifth graders who don't speak English. And yet I, as their teacher, am being forced to take four classes to show that I can properly teach English.

So this is what disheartens teachers, that kind of bureaucracy.

What goes right in my classroom is we've removed fear from the classroom and high stakes testing. Even though I test my students, my students know that I'm preparing them for real life, not just the test at the end of the year. And that's why teachers love this book, because it's making teaching relevant again.

ROMANS: How do you handle those challenges, though?

I mean you have folks who talk about what's happening in our high poverty schools, our inner city schools, people who talk about the ramifications of unfettered illegal immigration and the children that that puts into our schools, straining already strained resources.

ESQUITH: That's a great question.

ROMANS: I mean these are really big socioeconomic problems, yet you have to face it on a 30 by -- or 50 person at a time.

How do you do it?

ESQUITH: Well, here's the key. The key is that many of our children -- we have a vision for what we want them to be, but they don't have that vision. They're growing up in a horrible neighborhood in a culture which is not conducive to education.

My former students, who are all graduates at the top universities in the country, are in my classroom all the time, mentoring my younger students. So my younger students have a vision of what their life could be one day.

It's all about exposure and making sure they understand why they're doing the work.

It can't simply be to please the teacher or because it's a rule or because there's a test at the end of the week. These kids are working for their life and they know it. And that's why my students work so incredibly hard and have so much fun doing it.

ROMANS: And the bottom line, everyone knows if you're going to make the country better, I mean is -- education is the great equalizer. Education is what we can give all students in this country to, you know, to make the country stronger and greater.

But my question is, with so many teachers leaving -- baby boomer teachers who are retiring, young teachers who are saying you know what?

Forget it. This is -- this is too tough for me. I'm going to go into another field. Low pay.

How do you motivate teachers and how do you keep good teachers?

ESQUITH: Well, that's a great point. The average teacher in my school now is lasting only two or three years. And nobody is a great teacher in two or three years.

I try to motivate teachers by explaining to them, number one, I'm a very ordinary person. Even though presidents honor me and the Queen of England has honored me, I'm nothing special. But because I've tried to learn from my mistakes, the beauty of teaching is that you can get better at it.

And the motivation is teachers have to understand the only reward you're going to get is to create opportunities to help your children have better lives. It's not like "It's A Wonderful Life" when Uncle Billy comes to the door at the end with a basket full of money or society is going to give you a pat on the back.

ROMANS: Right.

ESQUITH: So I've understood from a very early time in my teaching career, the reward has to be within your own head and your own heart, and not wait for society to pat you on the back.

ROMANS: Your methods are untraditional.

In the book, you write: "To help young people become remarkable, we have to challenge them with lessons they will use for the rest of their lives." And then I've done all this reporting about graduation rates in some of these, you know, some of these cities -- it's just remarkable when you have so few of these kids who are able to move on in their lives.

I mean how do we fix it?

I know it's not easy.

How do we fix it?

Do we fix it one teacher and one classroom at a time?

ESQUITH: Well, I hope not. I think what we have to do is use my classroom as an example of what's possible. But one thing we have to do is we have to break the bureaucracies, which believe that one size fits all.

Teachers have taken any creative control they have out of their classrooms by huge testing services and publishing companies, which believe that all children should reading at the same pace at the same time in the same book.

That's absurd. And all the teachers on the front lines know it. I think the reason teachers listen to me is many teacher books are written by people that used to be teachers. I'm still classroom teacher, Christine. That's what I'm very proud of. And I'm in the classroom every day.

ROMANS: All right.

Rafe Esquith.

The book is "Tech Like Your Hair's On Fire."

Thank you so much for joining us.

Really insightful, as we head back to school.

Thank you so much, sir.

ESQUITH: Thank you so much, Christine.

Have fun.

ROMANS: A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll -- do you believe Congress will actually provide the necessary resources to prosecute and jail every illegal alien crossing the border, yes or no?

Cast your vote at

We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.

Coming up, three of the top radio talk show hosts in this country.

What are their listeners saying about Larry Craig's public bathroom bust and the latest departure from the Bush administration?


ROMANS: Joining me now, three of the country's best radio talk show hosts.

In Phoenix, Charles Goyette of KFNX Radio.

In Washington, Wilmer Leon of X.M. Radio.


ROMANS: And here in New York, Mark Simone of WABC Radio.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining me.

I want to start with the Idaho Senator, Larry Craig, and his -- I mean I'm going to just be frank here. It's a very unusual political development in his very long career.

Mark, you know, what happens next here for the senator?

MARK SIMONE, WABC IN NEW YORK: Well, now it depends.

I don't know, is it a Democrat or a Republican governor of that state, Idaho?

If it's a Democrat, that means that he'll appoint a Democrat. The Republicans will lose the seat, which means the Republicans will do everything to keep this guy there from leaving.

I think most people are going to assume he's guilty.

First of all, if he's not guilty, didn't he enter false plea?

Isn't that then perjury?

ROMANS: That's why it's so unusual. It is such a, you know, Charles, let me ask -- I mean he said he was guilty and he said when he pleaded guilty that he wouldn't say he wasn't guilty. And now he says he wasn't guilty.

GOYETTE: Yes, this is Larry "Wide Stance" Craig of Idaho.


GOYETTE: So who knows what -- what -- worthwhile what he says is what he actually means?

But I -- I've got two things that I'd like to comment on about it, Christine.

Let me say this. First of all, I have a real problem with the police going undercover in public restrooms trying to entrap people. Now, I have no brief or apology for Larry Craig. I'd like to see him gone from the Senate for a number of reasons. But the idea that they should be involved in activities trying to entrap people -- look, there's plenty of stuff going on in the country for which people should be busted. And the idea that they have to go and trap people in public restrooms is probably a little beyond the pale, in my view.

But the other issue about Senator Craig is they sentenced him -- unbelievably -- to unsupervised probation.

Christine, this is a member of Congress. You can't let these guys go unsupervised.

What were they thinking?


ROMANS: Well, here's my question. What I can't believe, Wilmer, is that this is something that happened, allegedly -- or I guess it wasn't alleged if he pleaded guilty to it -- on June 11 and then August 8 was when he pleaded guilty. And then now it's coming out, thanks to "Roll Call".

You know, in this electronic, you know, 24-hour media society, I'm actually a little surprised that it took so long.

WILMER LEON, X.M. RADIO: Well, there are a lot of things in this that don't make sense. And I read what I believe to be -- to have been the police report. And when the officer that was in the bathroom stall is saying that Larry -- that the senator was looking through the crack in the door and he could see the blue of his eyes, I mean this is -- this is just utterly ridiculous.

What I also find really interesting here is he's going to plead guilty to think he's going to make it go away. This isn't drunk driving. This isn't reckless driving. This isn't public drunkenness. This is lewd behavior in a restroom, where the police were there because they had received numerous complaints that this particular space was a gathering place for gay men to engage in sexual activity. This is really off the chart.

SIMONE: Yes, and if you're the local police department, you want to clean up this situation.

Why do you plea bargain this stuff down to disorderly conduct?

Arrest one of these guys and parade him around on television...


SIMONE: ...then you clean up the problem.

But getting back to this pleading guilty, I've heard of people who are guilty pleading guilty just to get a lower charge and make it go away.

I've never heard of a guy who is not guilty and is wrongly accused not getting a lawyer. That's the part that doesn't make sense here.

LEON: If I get...

GOYETTE: Christine, I...

LEON: If I get called by the...

GOYETTE: I really...

LEON: If I get...

GOYETTE: ...I want to pick up on your point, Christine, though, about the delay between the incident, the arrest and our public knowledge about it.

You know, the first thing he did when they hauled him in is he slapped a business card down on the desk and said United States Senator.

And he said, "What do you think about that?"

Now, these kinds of allegations have been swirling around about Larry Craig for 25 years or so. You have to wonder how many times something like this has gone on in which somebody has tried to arrest him...

ROMANS: Or the other side of that...

GOYETTE: ...or accuse him of deviant behavior has been intimidated by a U.S. senator.

ROMANS: Or the other side of that is he's showing the business card saying, listen, I'm not just randomly cruising some bathroom. I mean, I'm a United States senator. I'm trying to -- you know, I'm traveling across the country. That might have just been saying who, you know, who he was.

SIMONE: Or he's saying call me some time.

GOYETTE: Or I'm conducting some independent polling. I'm conducting my own private polling here in the restroom.

LEON: But now...


LEON: And now we're trying to -- he was polling, all right.


LEON: Now we're trying -- we're trying to put rational reasoning behind irrational behavior. And, I mean, again, when you read the police report -- if that was, in fact, the police report -- it is incredibly detailed. And the officer, you know, talks about how many other people came in and out of the restroom and -- you know, what's interesting here, too, is how quickly the Republicans have moved to call for an ethics investigation. Because had this been under a Tom DeLay regime, that never would have happened.

ROMANS: I want to move on from this quickly.

But I want to ask all of you, what do you think this means in the big scheme of things for the Republicans right now?


SIMONE: It should mean absolutely nothing. I made a list today and I checked all of the senators and Congressman caught in these scandals. You see plenty of Rs and plenty of Ds after those names. It's pretty evenly divided.

GOYETTE: Well, this is...

LEON: In the current wave, though...

GOYETTE: This is part...

LEON: Go ahead.

I'm sorry.

GOYETTE: Go ahead.

I'm sorry.

ROMANS: Charles, jump in there.

GOYETTE: Well, this is part of -- you know, this is part of the ongoing indoor Olympics of the Republicans. If you look at the presidential candidates, I don't know if we have time enough on this program for me to detail all of the people involved in Rudy Giuliani's campaign that have been busted for something -- cocaine allegations.

You've got John McCain's senatorial campaign. You've got some guy in a public restroom, an incident down there.

It is -- it is Republicans who have been running on Republican family values. I don't want their values that close to my family.

SIMONE: Yes, but I could give you a list of a lot of Democrats who have been caught and convicted of income tax evasion and they're all running opposing taxes left and right.

LEON: Yes, but...

SIMONE: So you'll find hypocrisy everywhere.

LEON: But that's a whole -- that's a real big jump from family values, particularly when you have -- I think his name is Bob Allen down in Florida that was caught propositioning a policeman in a restroom. And not only then was that a -- was that a gay issue, also, he then tried to blame it on the fact that the officer was black and he was scared for his life.

ROMANS: Gentlemen, I think we could have a whole show about the accusations and the dirty laundry of our wonderful elected officials.

Gentlemen, but we'll leave it there.

We're going to have more with our panel on some other issues in a moment.

But coming up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER" -- Wolf.


We're going to have more on this story. Senator Larry Craig going before the national media to explain his arrest in a Minnesota airport bathroom. We're going to be playing for our viewers the entire defiant statement he made earlier. You're going to be able to watch and decide for yourself.

Plus, new video coming in right now from Iraq. U.S. troops raiding the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad. Their catch -- several Iranians. We're going to have details of this developing story. That's happening in Baghdad.

And he hasn't been seen for months, but the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, now casting his vote for who he thinks should be on the '08 ticket for the White House. You're going to want to hear whom he's supporting.

All of that, guys, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right.

Thank you, Wolf.

Can't wait.

We'll watch.

Still ahead, we'll have more with our panel, coming up.


ROMANS: We're back with our stellar panel of radio talk show hosts.

President Bush today saying the surge is working in Iraq, but it needs more time.

Here's some of what the president said about that.


GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want our fellow citizens to consider what would happen if these forces of radicalism and extremism are allowed to drive us out of the Middle East.

The region would be dramatically transformed in way that could imperil the civilized world.


ROMANS: Charles, your reaction to his speech -- "imperiling the civilized world" if we withdraw?

GOYETTE: Yes. Yes. We need more time -- we need more time in Iraq. I think the president learned that when he served honorably in Vietnam, when General Westmoreland said, well, we just need some more time. Great body counts, more time, more time.

Now we're waiting for the new Westmoreland account. It's the Petraeus report -- more time, more time, more time. We've been hearing more time out of this president since the day that he went in, in 2003. It's time for Americans to march out.

ROMANS: Wilmer, what do you think?

LEON: Well, what actually imperiled the civilized world was the president's illegal invasion of the country. We've run out of patience about 3,700 U.S. soldier bodies ago. And when he talks about the progress that's being made in Anbar Province, a lot of that has to do with what's called the insurgent tax and the fact that insurgents are now being paid by Iraqi contractors to allow convoys to go through.

So this whole thing is a fiasco and the patience -- the time has run out. And, yes, we need to withdraw.

SIMONE: Well, the surge is definitely working. A surge will always work, but it doesn't solve the problem, because what happens when you remove the troops?

The idea is to get peace and calm without all those troops there.

Now, the Simone Plan is the best one -- we withdraw...

ROMANS: I haven't heard of that one. There's going to be a big press conference on that, right?

SIMONE: Yes. There will be when you hear this.

We withdraw our troops from the Iraqi government buildings, from their parliament building, their government headquarters. And it will be up to them to handle their own security on those buildings. Then we'll see how fast they can train up some troops.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, we've got Ahmadinejad next door saying that the U.S. is losing its grip and that he's ready to step in to offer stability.

I mean all of this starts to get pretty sticky doesn't it, Charles?

GOYETTE: It does get very sticky. And I'll tell you, this is the value of forethought and foresight because all of these things were foreseeable before the president went in there in his elective war in 2003. I mean we talked about it on my show. From time to time, people that brought up questions about are you going to empower a Shia power bloc with Iran in the Middle East were accused of being anti-American or terrorist lovers.

And now we have the harvest, the fruits of the Bush policy. And these same guys that initiated it are scratching their heads, trying to figure out what to do now. And the only solution they have is to invade yet another country.

We've got to wait these guys out of office.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, the president's inner circle is shrinking. We know there was that memo that said listen, if you're going to stay with us until the end of this presidency, you know, you've got to make that decision by Labor Day.

Rove is out. Snow is out. Gonzales is out. And that has some of the real -- Democrats out there just thrilled at that. People have been very upset about the U.S. attorney -- the way the U.S. attorney firings went.

What do we think about that, Wilmer?

Did he leave because of pressure or did he leave because he followed the memo and he's leaving with everybody else?

LEON: Well, he left because of pressure. They -- the Republicans do not want the Democrats coming back from recess and having Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales still available in person for them to shoot at.

There are a couple positives -- one positive thing for Alberto Gonzales was the fact, being a Hispanic-American, to take the position that he took as attorney general was an incredible positive. And based on his relationship with the president, he was able to acquire that position.

But it was the same position with the president that turned out to be his true undoing. Because of his allegiance to the president, he forsaked the American people and his obligation to the constitution, lied to Congress, fired U.S. attorneys. And that's just unacceptable.


SIMONE: Well, you know, a president...

GOYETTE: Christine, he said -- he told the president, Christine, that he was leaving because he wanted to spend more time spying on his family.


GOYETTE: Which is what it actually was.

ROMANS: That's very funny, Charles.

That's very funny, Charles. But, you know I...

SIMONE: But...

ROMANS: Go ahead, Mark.

SIMONE: Well, unfortunately, we have a long history of hiring very under qualified attorney generals. Somebody was either the president's lawyer at some point or a loyalist. And Gonzales did nothing wrong firing the U.S. attorneys. He can fire all the U.S. attorneys he wants.

ROMANS: I thought that was sort of what you got to do when you got the job.

SIMONE: Exactly. And there were all these false theories that it was to stop the Duke Cunningham investigation, even though the next U.S. attorney came in, continued it and he was convicted. So he wasn't wrong there.

But what frightened Americans was to see the attorney general of the United States mumble and fumble and not being able to put together sentences when he testified. That was what frightened everybody.

ROMANS: Does it stop the...

LEON: But the real...

ROMANS: Go ahead.

LEON: The real problem here, though, with Gonzales is not Gonzales. It's what did the president know and when did the president know it?

Because Pete Domenici has said that he even called the president and was screaming about the fact that a U.S. attorney, Iglesias, would not bring unfounded charges against some Democratic operatives.

And so the question is did the president call and put pressure on Gonzales to fire those attorneys?

ROMANS: All right, gentlemen, we have to wrap it up here.

You know, I'm wondering if it's going to end the -- sort of the partisanship in Washington with his departure. But we'll have to wait and see and talk about it another time.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.

Mark Simone, WABC Radio.

SIMONE: Thanks.

ROMANS: Charles Goyette, KFNX in Phoenix.

GOYETTE: My pleasure. ROMANS: And Wilmer Leon, radio talk show host at X.M. Radio.

LEON: Thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, gentlemen.

GOYETTE: Thanks.

ROMANS: Now, the results of tonight's poll -- 98 percent of you do not believe Congress will actually provide the necessary resources to prosecute and jail every illegal alien caught crossing the border.

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 with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.