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Iowa Judge Overturns Gay Marriage Ban; Embattled Idaho Senator to Announce Future Plans Tomorrow

Aired August 31, 2007 - 18:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. residents along the border with Mexico are skeptical of government promises to secure the border. Some say the illegal cross-border traffic is now worse than they have ever seen.
The White House today taking steps to help some middle-class homeowners caught in the mortgage crunch.

And a county judge throws out Iowa's gay marriage ban. Although his order is on hold, will this give Republicans an issue they can focus on?

All that, all the days news, and much more, straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Friday, August 31.

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

ROMANS: Good evening, everybody.

Senator Larry Craig tonight under increasing pressure to resign his Senate seat. He will make an announcement on his future plans tomorrow. His own party is pushing the Idaho Republican to step down, following disclosure of his arrest and guilty plea in an airport restroom sex sting. And there are some reports that Idaho Governor Butch Otter has already settled on a successor, should Craig steep down.

We begin tonight with Dana Bash in Boise, Idaho -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just minutes ago, Christine, we got the word that we have been really waiting for the latter part of this week, that Senator Larry Craig will, in fact, likely tomorrow morning, announce to the world what his aide says is his future plans.

Now, his Senate office, his spokesman, is being very careful not to say exactly what those plans are. Indications from Republican sources in Washington and here in Idaho are that Senator Craig is likely to resign because they understand that they know that that is, the message that Senator Craig has been getting loud and clear, especially from his colleagues back in Washington.

Bottom line they're making it clear to him that they don't want him to come back in Washington, that essentially he's not welcome back in his own Republican caucus in the Senate.

And let me show you an example of what I'm talking about. Look at this on the screen. "Unforgivable," that's the term that his own Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, used to describe Senator Craig's actions. He said that in his hometown paper this morning.

And this is something that the pressure that Senator Craig has been getting really over the past 48 hours or so from the national Republican Party. I have not talked to anybody in Washington who has not said, look, he's getting the message. He understands. We really want him to go. We don't want him to come back.

However, they also understand, especially after some conversations yesterday with Republicans here in Idaho, that he didn't want to be pushed. He needed a little bit of breathing space, because the bottom line is, Christine, Senator Larry Craig is somebody who has served the state of Idaho for a quarter-century. He's been in public service since he was 28 years old, this is not an easy question for him, no matter how much pressure he is feeling from his colleagues back in Washington.

And I should tell you, in terms of his colleagues here in Idaho, nobody has said he should be resign. They're being very careful not to say that. They're simply sort of sending the message by saying that Senator Craig will do what is best for himself and his family -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Dana Bash in Boise.

Again, we will know tomorrow. The senator himself will declare what his future plans some time tomorrow.

Thanks, Dana.

President Bush today met with the Joints Chiefs about the Iraq war. The top military leaders expressed concern about the strain that lengthy deployments may be creating among U.S. troops.

Suzanne Malveaux is at the White House, and she joins me now -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Bush and Vice President Cheney were at the Pentagon today. They were meeting with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs for about 90 minutes or so in a secure location called the Tank.

Now, these consultations are really all about painting a picture for the president to show that he is listening to his commanders about when and how to possibly bring U.S. troops home. We know that General Petraeus and others on the ground, their job is to stress what they need in terms of getting their combat mission accomplished inside of Iraq.

The Joint Chiefs, however, they are focused on the larger military mission, how to place U.S. troops in various parts of the world and make sure that they're not stretched too thin.

Now, while the White House is being tight-lipped about what they will come forward in the next week or so to Congress that Iraq progress report, you do get a sense of what this president is going to argue for in the weeks to come from a statement that was released right after this meeting.

He said -- and I'm quoting here -- "The status report comes less than three months since our new strategy became fully operational." He goes on to go after his critics, if you will, saying that they are putting basically politics over national security. He went on to say, "The stakes in Iraq are too high and the consequences too grave for our security here at home to allow politics to harm the mission of our men and women in uniform. It is my hope that we can put partisanship and politics behind us."

So, Christine, very familiar language that we are hearing from the president. We anticipate that that is the kind of language that we're going to hear as well, a president simply asking for more patience from the American people to allow this U.S. troop increase to work -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Suzanne at the White House -- thank you, Suzanne.

The top U.S. general in Iraq says the surge is working. General David Petraeus told an Australian newspaper that the buildup has reduced sectarian killings, lowered al Qaeda's influence and decreased coalition force casualties.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon has our report -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, we looked at that interview that General Petraeus gave to the Australian newspaper for some hints about what he might say when he comes to Washington in about 10 days.

Here's a couple of things that General Petraeus told the newspaper that are markers of success in Iraq: a 75 percent drop in sectarian killings since last year, a doubling since January in the number of weapon stockpiles being seized, and a decline in the number of U.S. troops being killed by roadside bombs.

Very specifically quoting General Petraeus in the newspaper article, he said -- quote -- "We can say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that" -- so, some hints from General Petraeus about the case he will make when he comes to Washington.

But, be that as it may, 79 U.S. troops losing their lives in Iraq in the month of August, that is the same amount of the number of troops that lost their lives the month before, and even General Petraeus in that newspaper interview sounded quite a warning about Iran's growing influence inside Iraq -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- thank you, Barbara.

As Barbara reported, two more of our troops now have been killed by insurgents in Iraq. A Marine was killed in combat in Al Anbar Province. And a soldier was killed in Ramadi; 79 of our troops have been killed so far this month; 3,737 of our troops have been killed since the war began; 27,662 troops have been wounded, 12,429 of them seriously.

Senator John Warner, the senior senator from Virginia and a leading Republican voice, said today he will not seek a sixth term. Warner is seen as a Republican maverick. He's opposed some Bush policies on Iraq and has called for president to start bringing troops home.

Jessica Yellin has our report.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is the image of a dapper senior statesman. He was married to Liz Taylor and dated Barbara Walters. Some Senate aides call him the squire.

A former Marine and head of the Navy, John Warner also has perhaps more than any other senator shaped his party's position on Iraq.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: A failed state in Iraq.

YELLIN: He went from an Iraq war supporter authoring the resolution for use of force to a consistent critic.

WARNER: It seems to me that this situation is simply drifting sidewise.

YELLIN: Those devastating words helped prompt the White House to change its war strategy that became the surge. As public support for the war has plummeted, Republicans have increasingly looked to Warner to guide their policy.

JOHN ULLYOT, FORMER WARNER SPOKESMAN: Senator Warner has the ability to drive other votes because of his stature on issues of national security, and his being known as an honest broker and a consensus builder on many issues, most particularly on defense issues.

YELLIN: He co-authored legislation requiring General Petraeus to report to Congress, then last week called on President Bush to start bringing some troops home.

WARNER: Say, 5,000 could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year.

YELLIN: The World War II vet says he will continue to push for change from his powerful perch.

WARNER: No one can say politics is going to dictate in one way or another how I'm going to decide and speak out in what's in the best interests of this nation, and I'm going to do that.

YELLIN (on camera): With a debate over the Iraq war pending in Congress, the big question is, will Senator Warner's retirement free him up to make the ultimate break, to vote for a drawdown of troops in Iraq?

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Capitol Hill.


ROMANS: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow today said he is leaving his job. Snow will leave his post on September 14. He said cancer was not the reason for his resignation.

Snow has had surgery for colon cancer and was recently undergoing chemotherapy. President Bush accepted his resignation, saying, "I sadly accept his decision."

Bush named Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino to take Snow's place. Perino filled in for Snow during his cancer surgery and recovery.

And another transition for the White House today. It was the last day of work for senior Bush adviser Karl Rove.

Coming up, some support from Washington for homeowners caught in the mortgage crunch. We will have that special report from Bill Tucker -- Bill.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the administration finally admits there's trouble in the housing market that needs the government's attention. We will tell you what they're going to do about it right up next.

ROMANS: We will have more on that story in a moment.

Are illegal aliens keeping U.S. citizens out of Virginia colleges? Some legislators want to be sure that doesn't happen. We will have a report.

And new evidence tonight in the killings of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq. Exclusive video obtained by CNN may undercut initial accounts that U.S. Marines went on a murderous rampage there. We will have that special report.

And two Egyptian students at the University of South Florida indicted for carrying explosives across state lines.

Stay with us.


ROMANS: There could be some relief on the way for millions of homeowners caught in the country's mortgage crunch, President Bush acknowledging that these borrowers hold loans which could potentially bankrupt them. Today, the president outlined a plan to help struggling homeowners.

Bill Tucker has more on the president's proposal.


TUCKER (voice-over): President Bush seemed almost reluctant to acknowledge that the mortgage market needs some government intervention.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is not the government's job to bail out speculators or those who made the decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford. Yet, there are many American homeowners who could get through this difficult time with a little flexibility from their lenders or a little help from their government.

TUCKER: What the president wants to do is this: ease the rules to allow the Federal Housing Administration to aid people in refinancing, rather than losing, their homes, grant tax relief to homeowners where a lender forgives part of their home loan. Currently, the tax code treats that as taxable income. Strengthen lending practices and enforce predatory lending laws.

To do so, the president will need cooperation from the Democratically-controlled Congress. He just might get it.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Just when it looked like millions of homeowners would be left with nothing more than a Hail Mary pass to save their homes, the president has decided to call a few plays from the Democratic playbook.

TUCKER: Subprime mortgages, where a borrower's income and assets don't support the size of their loan, are not the majority of mortgages held in this country, but the potential size of the problem is huge. In Mississippi, 33 percent of current mortgages are subprime, 30 percent in Florida. Other states where subprime mortgages are a quarter of the market or more are Texas, Illinois, Nevada, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Maryland, Arizona, Ohio, Indiana, California, and Utah.

The problem of low-quality home mortgages is pervasive, and it should not come as a surprise.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: We all knew this was going on. Anybody who went to a cocktail party in a big city and talked to a realtor knew that some preposterous mortgage products were out there.

TUCKER: The problem is, hardworking Americans in middle-class America were not attending those cocktail parties. They were being told by mortgage brokers they could afford much more home than their income suggested.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TUCKER: Now, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, today also admitted that the situation is worrisome. He called the housing downturn -- quote -- "sharp," and saying that further declines in homebuilding are likely.

He then helped calm some very jittery investors in the markets by assuring them that the Fed will cut interest rates if it becomes necessary to help ease the credit crunch -- Christine.

ROMANS: Now, Bill, here's the tricky thing. If Washington is going to do something to try to smooth this out for the middle class, they have to be very careful not to reward the players who sparked this whole crisis, the cocktail party crowd, if you will. You don't want to help out those folks. They need to learn a lesson here. But you don't want the damage to filter down and hurt regular homeowners.

TUCKER: It is. It's a very delicate balancing act.

And the president's plan right now, he estimates, will only affect about 80,000 borrowers with the FHA rule changes to help them refinance. But you're right. You don't want to tell the person who went out and bought a $1.5 million home, it's OK. The government is going to come in and rescue you, when those people probably have income to support a $600,000 home. But, you know...

ROMANS: It's a reminder that a home is a home. It's not necessarily a piggyback or an investment.


ROMANS: And people are starting to learn that again.

TUCKER: That's right.

ROMANS: All right. Bill Tucker -- thanks, Bill.

OK, time now for some of your thoughts.

H.L. in Arizona writes in about the decade-old chemical gas found at the United Nations yesterday: "They finally found WMD. Unfortunately, it was in NYC, at the U.N., of all places."

Many of you writing in about the plan to open U.S. highways to Mexican trucks.

Kim in Kansas writes: "So I guess the U.S. is going to inspect the Mexican trucks as well as they inspect our food supply. Gosh, I feel so safe."

Elizabeth in New York: "Trucks from Mexico? What's next? Has the Bush administration lost its mind? Smuggling drugs, human trafficking, national security threats? Now I see that Bush doesn't care about our border security. He can talk all he wants. Actions speak louder than words."

We will have more of your e-mail later in the broadcast. Republican lawmakers in Virginia want to prevent illegal aliens from attending state colleges and universities. The GOP leaders say Virginia residents are being denied admission because illegal aliens are taking available slots.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It can be tough getting into a Virginia college. More than one in three students applying to one of the commonwealth's four-year public universities was rejected last year, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

In some cases, it was simply because there wasn't enough room. GOP state leaders say the coveted spots should be reserved for students in the country legally.

WALTER STOSCH (R), VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: And it used to be people would call and ask about the cost of tuition or how they can meet their financial needs. That's still important, but I am now getting an equal number of concerns about access.

SYLVESTER: Some schools, like the University of Virginia, deny enrollment to students who can't prove legal status, while others, like Northern Virginia Community College, accept illegal aliens.

Legislation introduced by Virginia Republicans would put in place a statewide ban.

DAVE ALBO (R), VIRGINIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Virginia will not allow any person who's not legally present in the United States to attend any Virginia public college or university. What we say is, you can go, but you have to get a foreign student visa.

SYLVESTER: To obtain a foreign student visa would require returning to their home country and applying from there. The bill is certain to face opposition from state Democrats, including Governor Tim Kaine.

Immigrant groups are also opposed. Attorney Luis Parada has represented Virginia students whose applications were denied based on legal status.

LUIS PARADA, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: We as a society lose when a student who is academically qualified cannot attend college for artificial reasons that have nothing to do with the student's capacity as a student, his dedication to schoolwork, and his potential as a human being.

SYLVESTER: The U.S. Supreme Court in 1982 ruled that illegal aliens could not be denied an elementary and high school education, but did not say that extended to higher education.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: The Virginia bill, if it became law, could be challenged in court, but a federal judge has already weighed in on the issue. In a 2004 ruling, a judge decided that Virginia colleges and universities could deny admission to illegal aliens as long as they followed guidelines -- Christine.

ROMANS: Lisa, this is in sharp contrast to some states where students, illegal alien students, get scholarships, they are given free tuition, they are welcomed with open arms at universities. This is a lot more restrictive than what's happening in some parts of the country.

SYLVESTER: Indeed, you are correct, Christine.

And there are some 10 states or so, about 10 to 12 states, that have actually granted in-state tuition to illegal aliens. This is moving completely in the opposite direction, where they're saying not only can you not get in-state tuition, but we are not going to allow illegal aliens.

And they have the point, which is that, look, these are taxpayer- funded institutions. Well, why should illegal aliens be taking a slot that a legal resident should be taking?

ROMANS: All right, Lisa Sylvester -- thanks, Lisa.

Still ahead, the federal government is recruiting more agents to secure our border, so why are they now working for other agencies? We will have a special report.

And two college students from Egypt are charged with terrorism for transporting explosives.

And up next, U.S. Marines on trial -- we will have exclusive video of the scene after the killings in Haditha, video that may be used as evidence in the trial of one Marine.


ROMANS: CNN has obtained exclusive aerial video showing the fighting in Haditha, Iraq, on the day two years ago when a unit of U.S. Marines is accused of the unjustified killing of civilians.

While the video does not show the incident, it does show the scene afterwards, and provides dramatic visual evidence of the level of fighting in Haditha. CNN has learned the video will be introduced as evidence by lawyers for Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who is facing 18 murder counts.

CNN senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has our exclusive report.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bombings and strafings seen on this aerial video obtained exclusively by CNN shows Haditha was a hotbed of insurgent activity back on that day, November 19, 2005.

Early in the morning, a U.S. Marine died in an IED attack and shortly afterward 24 Iraqi civilians were killed by Marines hunting the attackers, leading to murder charges a year later.

A small unmanned spy plane called ScanEagle arrived about 30 minutes after the initial attack on the U.S. Marine vehicle, Focusing on a house from which the military suspected insurgents triggered the bomb, and showing the aftermath of the blast here some 1,000 yards away.

Just up the road is a white sedan and the bodies of five Iraqi men who Marines say refused to lie down and were shot while running away. Villagers said the men were students in a taxi, but the Marines say their actions were consistent with insurgents about to detonate a car bomb.

The video will soon be evidence in the case of squad leader, Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, accused of doing some of the shooting.

GARY SOLIS, FORMER MILITARY JUDGE AND PROSECUTOR: Well, if I'm a juror, I'm not going to be impressed.

MCINTYRE: Retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Gary Solis, a former prosecutor and military judge who teaches law at Georgetown and West Point, analyzed the video for CNN.

(on camera): You have seen the tape. How significant do you think it is as a piece of evidence?

SOLIS: It tends to prove that this was a violent place, where you had enemy fighters, where it was necessary to bring in air support.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Throughout that day, Marines engaged in fierce firefights and called in airstrikes to level entire buildings, often with no definitive of idea of who was inside. That could buttress defense arguments that the Marines clearing buildings on the grounds with guns and grenades were just following the rules of engagement.

SOLIS: The defense can say, hey, look, you had to do this later in the day. What is the difference between what happened later in the day and what our guys did earlier in the day?

MCINTYRE: And that might help explain why so far prosecutors have had trouble making murder charges stick. Charges have been dropped against two Marines. Another is awaiting a decision.

(on camera): Is there a tendency to give Marine soldiers in combat the benefit of doubt when it comes to these kind of split- second decisions?

SOLIS: You have a military jury, probably most of whom, if not all of whom, will have been in Iraq. MCINTYRE (voice-over): The video shows how the military suspects anyone on the move during combat as being a potential enemy, such as this motorcyclist who appears to be an insurgent messenger.

But while prosecutors may be having a hard time winning convictions, Gary Solis believes someone should be accountable for the 24 civilian deaths in Haditha.

SOLIS: It would be difficult to say that justice has been served if no one is convicted for Haditha.


MCINTYRE: Now, we asked military prosecutors for a comment in this case. And, through a spokesman, we were told they are prohibited from speaking about evidence in the trial. The Pentagon simply declined comment -- Christine.

ROMANS: So, does it look as though the case against these Marines is weakening, from what we have seen so far, charges dropped, now this new tape? Or is it just simply too soon to tell; we have to watch this play out?


MCINTYRE: The case of Frank Wuterich will really tell the tale on that.

The other four Marines who were charged, one was granted immunity to testify against Sergeant Wuterich. The other one was -- had the charges dropped, found to be unfounded. And a third Marine is waiting to hear if he will get the same decision after a recommendation to have the charges dropped.

So, it's entirely possible that no one will be convicted of any wrongdoing regarding Haditha.

ROMANS: A horrible day in Haditha.

Jamie McIntyre -- thank you so much, Jamie.

Coming up: U.S. ranchers along the U.S.-Mexican border say that border is far from secure. They're seeing more illegal crossings than they ever have. We will have a special report.

Two Egyptian students at the University of South Florida charged with carrying explosives across state lines. We will have the latest.

And a county judge throws out Iowa's gay marriage ban. Will this give Republicans an issue they can focus on? We will discuss that with our distinguished panel of political analysts.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROMANS: Late developments tonight in the Senator Larry Craig sex scandal. The Associated Press is reporting that Craig has decided to resign and will announce it Saturday morning. We're going to continue to follow this story. We're going to have a lot more of this with our political analysts later on in our panel. So don't go away.

Two University of South Florida students now face terrorism charges for transporting explosive materials across state lines. The students, both from Egypt, were arrested earlier this month in South Carolina. Susan Candiotti is in Miami with more -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Those students, both studying engineering, have insisted from the start that these were just homemade fireworks. But today a federal grand jury in Tampa returned a two-count indictment.

One of the two young men is charged with distributing information about building -- how-to-use an explosive device and teaching how to use a destructive device. And both men are charged with carrying these explosives across state lines.

Both were picked up back on August the 4th in Goose Creek, South Carolina, stopped for speeding by the sheriff's office there. They were held on state charges until this federal indictment today.

Here's how the sheriff reacted.


SHERIFF WAYNE DEWITT, BERKELEY COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: As an end result, here we have two that have been federally indicted, and I think under substantial charges. The only information I can probably reveal further would be that we feel like the charges and what the Federal Bureau of Investigation has is quite substantial to affect those charges and keep them in force.


CANDIOTTI: Now, law enforcement sources tell CNN that the two suspects planned to use these explosive materials and load them onto miniature cars, model cars, maybe the size of a breadbox.

And they also, according to sources, had components that could be used to build unspecified explosive devices. The same sources tell us, however, that they have not made any allegations of any specific plot to blow up anything either here in the U.S. or overseas -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Susan Candiotti. Thank you very much, Susan.

Farmers along the Rio Grande in Texas are fed up with the federal government's promises to secure the southern border. While most of them concede there have been some improvements in border security, they remain furious that the White House and Congress allow dangerous illegal alien criminals to destroy their property, their crops, and endanger their lives.

Casey Wian reports from Tornillo, Texas.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Lovelady's family has been growing cotton near the Rio Grande since 1917. Early last year, he says illegal alien traffic across his property was the worst it has ever been.

BILL LOVELADY, COTTON FARMER: Sometimes I'd have 25 people walk through my yard.

WIAN: Forty miles east of El Paso, farmers say the addition of Border Patrol agents and the National Guard has improved border security.

LOVELADY: Right here in this particular strip right here it has slowed dramatically. But because there are Border Patrol and National Guard just right there.

WIAN: But not nearly enough for Lovelady.

LOVELADY: Just because they've not caught anybody coming across this southern border that is a terrorist or somebody wishes ill will to the United States doesn't mean that there is not ample opportunity.

WIAN: We agreed not to identify the names or location of another group of Texas farmers we met during a border tour with Texas Congressman Ted Poe and local sheriffs. These farmers could barely contain their anger at the federal government's border security plans, saying "a virtual fence is like almost being safe."

Others say they feel abandoned because border security resources are more visible near El Paso.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as we get out of the city limits into the county, there's no fence.

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: There's no fence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you don't see very many Border Patrol agents.

WIAN: Many farmers are heavily armed because they say their land is a thoroughfare for drug smugglers and gang members. One describing "multiple felons coming to my front yard weekly."

They offered solutions, some sounding extreme. To deal with think vegetation through the Rio Grande that provides good cover for drug and alien smugglers, one suggested to "Napalm the river." Another one proposed "land mines at the border."

Finally one farmer told Congressman Poe, I don't care how you shut it down, you have got to shut it down. Poe agreed. POE: It's a vast border, and you plug up one area. They'll just go around. They'll find another place, and that's the key, is trying to secure the whole border, not just portions of it.

WIAN: The Border Patrol says it tries to manage its resources in a way that's most effective but concedes it needs more manpower and technology. Some here remain skeptical the border will ever be secure.

LOVELADY: I would like for the federal government to convince me that it is the policy of the United States government to do something about illegal immigration. The Border Patrol, they have their hands tied. They do a good job. There are a lot of them here. But I'm not convinced that it's not the policy -- the de facto policy, to allow this immigration to go on.

WIAN: Casey Wian, CNN, Tornillo, Texas.


ROMANS: And that brings us to the subject of tonight's poll: Are you outraged that six years after September 11th our borders and our ports are not secure? Yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results later in the broadcast.

President Bush ordered the U.S. Border Patrol in May last year to better secure America's border by hiring 6,000 new agents by the end of 2008. The Border Patrol has been racing to do that.

But as Jeanne Meserve now reports, its taxpayer-financed recruiting is being undercut by another part of the federal government.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Border Patrol is putting the pedal to the metal, racing to recruit 6,000 new agents. Since spending almost a million tax dollars to sponsor a NASCAR racecar, applications have risen 33 percent.

TODD BRYANT, U.S. BORDER PATROL: These are dollars well-spent. I don't think we can find this many applicants doing it any other way.

MESERVE: But at the same time taxpayer money is being spent to recruit Border Patrol agents, more of your taxpayer money is being spent to hire them away. The State Department has a $24 million contract with a private company called DynCorp to find and train people to advise Iraqi border police.

Where is DynCorp finding them? The U.S. Border Patrol.

REP. CHRISTOPHER CARNEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: You really are robbing Peter to pay Paul here. And it's costing the taxpayers more money, frankly.

MESERVE: And, Carney says, undercutting efforts to secure the border. In May, DynCorp went to Arizona, which sees more illegal border crossings than any other state, to hold a job fair. At a congressional hearting, the company said it's only doing what the government hired it to do, recruiting the best way it knows how.

ROBERT B. ROSENKRANZ, DYNCORP INTERNATIONAL: That was the mission from the State Department. We were told what we were allowed to do and what we were not allowed to do. And we tried to do it.

MESERVE: A Border Patrol agent with three years experience makes about $70,000 a year. DynCorp is offering $134,000 on top of a $25,000 signing bonus. So far, 17 active Border Patrol agents have made the leap.

CHIEF DAVID AGUILAR, U.S. BORDER PATROL: Does it make that much of a difference? It makes a difference. But does it make that much of a difference? Seventeen out of 13,754 soon so be 18,000 agents.

MESERVE: If 17 doesn't sound like a lot, consider this: It takes $156,000 for the Border Patrol to recruit, train, equip, and deploy a single agent for a year. Seventeen agents represent an investment of more than $2.5 million.

Now others must be trained at the same cost to take their place. And DynCorp has offered to help fix the problem for more money. The company has suggested it can fill the Border Patrol personnel holes that it helped create, estimating it can recruit and train agents for $197,000 each. That is $40,000 more than the federal government pays now.

And you know who would pick up the tab, you would, the taxpayer.

GOV. JANET NAPOLITANO (D), ARIZONA: There's a phrase that's called "heads I win, tails you lose."

MESERVE: The Border Patrol for now at least says, no thanks. It will train its own agents. The governors of Arizona and New Mexico protested DynCorp's recruiting to the president. And the State Department has finally stepped in, asking DynCorp not to recruit U.S. Border Patrol agents.

But some agents might still make the leap overseas for a bigger payday. Meaning the effort to find people to patrol the U.S. borders may go round and round and round.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: U.S. Customs and border protection officials say they are back on track to meet their goal for hiring new agents. The Border Patrol union, however, disputes that claim.

Just ahead, more on Senator Larry Craig. The Associated Press reporting that Senator Craig will announce his resignation from the Senate tomorrow morning. Also, will the controversial topic of gay marriage become a gift for the GOP in the presidential election? We'll discuss that and more with our panel of political experts.

And this week's hero, he risked his life to protect innocent civilians while serving in Afghanistan. His story of bravery and courage when we come back.


ROMANS: Joining us with more on the Democratic and the Republican candidates, along with a lot more are three of the country's best political minds: Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Michael Goodwin with The New York Daily News; Diana West with The Washington Times; and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman.

Nice to see all of you. The AP reporting that the Idaho Republican, Larry Craig, will step down tomorrow, resigning -- I guess effective immediately, resigning. What do you think? I mean, is this going to put this behind the Republican Party and they can move on?

MICHAEL GOODWIN, THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: What's the old saying? Here's your hat, what's your hurry? I think the Republican Party is very happy to see Larry Craig go. I think that he clearly was a disaster for them in the next election. His seat is up for reelection and had he run, he almost certainly would have lost, given the Democrats another seat.

This way the Democratic governor will get to -- the Republican governor will get to replace him with a Republican. And that person, whoever it is, probably lieutenant governor in Idaho, will have a good shot at keeping the seat because it is, by and large, a Republican state.

ROMANS: Diana, a 25-year -- a quarter century serving the people of Idaho, to go out in this flame-out, I guess, what's your reaction?

DIANA WEST, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Well, it's a personal tragedy for him. It's a very pathetic way to leave his office. This though was definitely good politics, but it also was the best way to admit and leave behind all the mess. It will go away quickly.

ROMANS: Robert?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't agree at all. I think Mike made a very good point. This is not about standing up to a senator who behaved in a manner that was certainly unfit for public office. This was purely about politics.

And it really highlights the hypocrisy and the cowardice of the radical right wing that really does control the GOP . Obviously in Idaho there's a Republican governor who is going to put in power a new Republican senator.

In Louisiana, when Senator Dave Vitter was linked to the D.C. madam and her prostitution ring, you didn't hear the Republican Party go after Senator Vitter and call for his removal. And that's because of the Democratic governor of Louisiana...

ROMANS: But he stood up and said he was sorry -- he said he was sorry, that he had made a mistake. I mean, those are two kind of pretty different cases.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, actually not, because the issue...

WEST: He also didn't plead guilty to charges -- he wasn't pleading guilty to charges brought by a policeman. I mean, it's a different...

ZIMMERMAN: But the issue still here is hypocrisy.

WEST: ... legal issue. I think there's hypocrisy all around.


ZIMMERMAN: ... is still the same.


GOODWIN: But let's face it. Democrats do the same thing when -- remember a few years ago when Robert Torricelli was on the ropes in New Jersey and he resigned so -- from the campaign, so an acceptable replacement could be found, all because of a Democratic administration.

So these things happen all the time in politics. Each party plays this -- I mean, yes, it's clear it's politics. So what else is new?

ROMANS: What does it mean...

ZIMMERMAN: But the difference here is, Michael -- the difference here, Michael, is that the Republican Party is trying to position itself as the arbiters of family values and moral standards for our nation. And they selectively enforce those standards based upon what suits their political agenda.

Senator Vitter behaved in as untoward a fashion as Senator Craig did.


GOODWIN: I'm surprised you're shocked, Robert.

WEST: I would say that it's not so much Republicans place themselves as arbiters, I think they hope that people adhere to family values or virtues or whatever word we want to use. It's not that they're setting themselves up as high priests. I think they're more just urging the importance of these values. And in this case we see a failed...

ZIMMERMAN: Quite to the contrary, Diana.

WEST: Well, I don't agree. ZIMMERMAN: Senator Craig didn't advocate family values. He advocated exploiting bigotry and fears towards the gay community.

WEST: Oh dear.

ZIMMERMAN: And of course, in light of -- and look at his record, voting against employment rights for gays. This is an individual who is not just a hypocrite, he reflects the fraud of the right wing.

ROMANS: The fraud of the right wing. Those are fighting words, Michael.

GOODWIN: I'm not going to take the bait. I think Larry Craig is best forgotten and I think we should also remember that this was a week where we saw Alberto Gonzales resign. And so looked as though the Democrats would be on a roll. But by the end of the week, we have the Norman Hsu and the fund-raising scandal that involves Democrats.

So I think that we have a very bad week for politicians in general, which is why President Bush has a very low approval rating, and why Congress has an even lower approval rating.

ROMANS: Robert, let me ask you, despite your charges of Republican fraud and hypocrisy, if this were your client, if you were advising politically, would you have said he should have stepped down immediately? He should -- I mean, was there anything else he could have done?

ZIMMERMAN: Look, if Larry Craig were my client, I would encourage him not to run because he's not fit for public office based upon his record. But in light of what transpired, he should have stepped down immediately. He attempted to cover up his criminal record. He didn't disclose truthfully and honestly what was happening to his own constituents. He wasn't fit for public office. Obviously he should leave.

ROMANS: Robert, I should point out to our viewers, if they don't know that you support the Hillary Clinton campaign, and I can't even hypothetically get you to discuss how you would advise a Republican candidate for anything.


ZIMMERMAN: Well, let me say for full disclosure, I'm a member of the Democratic National Committee.

WEST: I just had a question, since we're talking about Republican fraud. What about the Hillary Clinton revelation this week that 2 million pages of her White House records, her White House files, have been placed under lock and key until after the presidential election? What is she afraid of? Why isn't this being open to our vetting?

ROMANS: Robert?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, Diana, you know, it's interesting. I don't think the Bush administration can attack anyone for secrecy based upon the extreme measures they have taken...

WEST: I'm not the Bush administration. I'm asking a question about a candidate for office -- for presidential office. We don't have a record to look at, and they're taking it out, they are putting -- it's in the Clinton Library and nobody is allowed to look at it.

ROMANS: Let me just...

WEST: Why?


ROMANS: ... quickly and tell you all that CNN has now...

ZIMMERMAN: I don't know the nature of the documents.

ROMANS: Gentlemen, let's hold on just a second.

WEST: Well, neither do I. That's the point.

ROMANS: Let me break in here to this spirited debate and tell you that we have confirmed -- CNN has confirmed, that Senator Larry Craig from Idaho will announce his resignation tomorrow at 12:30 Eastern time. He will announce that resignation in a September -- effective, rather, September 30th.

So not effective immediately but certainly he will be leaving Washington and he will be leaving behind his tenure...

GOODWIN: There must be a pension issue there if he's hanging on for another month.

ROMANS: Who knows? Who knows? But can the Republican Party move on to some other issues? We've got an awful lot of deadlines coming up for the Iraq War in the next few weeks -- the next 10 days. Does this put all of that behind it and move on to the business of the nation?

GOODWIN: Well, I think it probably does. I mean, the calendar turns. Congress is back in session. Iraq is clearly number one on the agenda. Petraeus is going to testify, Crocker. We've got the reports coming out already of what they're saying. The president met with them today.

So I think clearly the calendar is going to turn, the seasons are going to turn and we're going to be back to Iraq. I think also we're going to -- the economic issues are going to creep up and be very important. The president spoke today on the mortgage meltdown.

So I think these two issues, the economy and sort of blood and treasure together are on the agenda. It could be a very volatile time in September.

ROMANS: Diana, quickly, do you think it will volatile time in September? WEST: Yes. I think we can all agree on that. It's going to be a very heated partisan, passionate debate. And I just hope we get to some of the real issues behind the benchmarks, behind everything else that show us the fallacies of the strategy at this point. I hope we get some new thoughts on what to do.

ROMANS: Robert, can you at least agree with Diana that this is going to be a wild September?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, on a positive front, I do see a bipartisan move coming forward regarding the mortgage crisis. President Bush's comments today were very encouraging and show a willingness to work with the Democratic agenda.

On the Iraq War? I'm hoping for a partisan leadership in the Senate to help force this administration to deal with the realities of their failed policies.

ROMANS: All right. A reminder to everybody that Senator Craig will be announcing his resignation tomorrow at 12:30 Eastern time, effective September 30th. CNN will have live coverage of that.

All right. A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. Are you outraged that six years after September 11th our borders and ports are not secure? Yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll bring your results in a few minutes.

We'd like to thank our distinguished panel, Diana West, Michael Goodwin, Robert Zimmerman, thank you all for joining us. Have a wonderful, wonderful Labor Day weekend.

Up next, "Heroes," our weekly tribute to the brave men and women who serve this country in uniform. Tonight we introduce you to Army specialist Victor Thibeault. He risked his life protecting civilians in Afghanistan.


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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Christine. Thanks very much. We're going to have more on the breaking news on Senator Craig. CNN has now confirmed he will resign after he was busted in that sex sting operation in a men's room. His fellow Republicans have been pressuring him to step aside as more racy accusations come out. He will make the announcement tomorrow.

And one country might have paid to free Christian hostages. What does that mean for the strategy of never giving into terrorists? We're watching this story as well.

And one of her admirers says she had the beauty of a model and the compassion of a saint. Princess Diana, her life was cut short 10 years ago today. We're going to hear an emotional tribute from Prince Harry that he delivered today. All that coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thank you, Wolf.

Time now for this week's "Hero," our salute to the men and women who serve this country around the world. Tonight, Army Specialist Victor Thibeault, who decided to join the Army following one the country's darkest days. He quickly became a hero while serving in Afghanistan, risking his own life to protect innocent civilians.

Philippa Holland has his story.


PHILIPPA HOLLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Army Specialist Victor Thibeault followed his father's and grandfather's footsteps when he decided to join the U.S. Army. Immediately after September 11th, his unit was deployed to Afghanistan.

SPC. VICTOR THIBEAULT, U.S. ARMY: The culture was different. The hygiene was different. The people were different. So, for me, to go from such luxury here in America to see how they live over there was a culture shock.

HOLLAND: He was assigned to an Army interrogation team, providing security and building relationships with the Afghans in the village he patrolled.

THIBEAULT: I went door to door to talk to local people, to find out information for our guys in the rear. Find out who had weapons and register them.

HOLLAND: December 3rd, 2003, Thibeault was patrolling a crowded marketplace when a man ran up to his truck and threw a grenade in the open window. He grabbed the grenade from under the driver's seat and put it in the truck's console instead of throwing it back out of truck where there were civilians were in the street.

THIBEAULT: I didn't want propaganda to go out saying an American soldier threw a grenade into a crowd.

HOLLAND: The grenade exploded, shrapnel tore through Thibeault's arm and leg as well as the leg of his sergeant, who was driving the vehicle. Thibeault endured multiple surgeries and lost part of his finger. But his quick action not only saved lives, it protected the Army's image as well.

THIBEAULT: There was women and kids in the crowd. There were all kinds of people out there. There was a lot of -- in Afghanistan, there's a lot of innocent people too. It's not all enemies there.

HOLLAND: For his selflessness and sacrifice, he was awarded a Silver Star.

THIBEAULT: After you get injured like that, and you say, what if I did this, what if I did that, for a long time. And it took me close to 18 months to say that what happened is what happened. There's nothing I can do about it. So I just have to deal and overcome and adapt with what I've got.

HOLLAND: Philippa Holland, CNN.


ROMANS: Still ahead, the results of our poll and more of your thoughts. We'll be right back.


ROMANS: Now the results of tonight's poll, 99 percent of you are outraged that six years after September 11th our borders and our ports are not secure.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Paul in Colorado: "When Congress says that the Iraqi government has not met any benchmarks, I wonder if the benchmarks are not enough corruption, not enough sex scandals, not a low enough approval rating."

Another Paul in Colorado writes: "I find it ironic that the U.S. government keeps saying we are failing in Iraq when we have a lame duck president, a corrupt Congress, unsecured borders, illegal aliens allowed to break our laws, Border Patrol agents jailed for doing their job, China poisoning our children, the list goes on."

Russ in Texas: "George Bush supports testing school children just about every day of their lives. When they fail, they fail. When his Iraq policy flunks a test, he says the test was too hard. How many days do we have to suffer before he packs up and moves to Mexico or Saudi Arabia, someplace where he will feel at home?" Ouch.

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.

BLITZER: Thanks, Christine.