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LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK

Iraq Burns as Bush & GOP Complain about NYT Ad; GOP Prez Hopefuls Skip Minority Events

Aired September 23, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


KITTY PILGRIM, HOST: Tonight, scathing criticism in Congress as concerns rise over dangerous imports. The crisis over lead paint and imported toys could be much more serious than originally thought.
And, should illegal immigration be a felony? Two lawmakers on opposite sides of the issue -- Congressman Brian Billbray and Congressman Luis Gutierrez will join me.

All that and much more straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK, news, debate and opinion for Sunday, September 23rd. Here now, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody. Congressional Democrats tonight appear frustrated and angry at their inability to force President Bush to change the course in Iraq. The Senate blocked an attempt to restrict the amount of time our troops can spend in combat, and Democrats also failed in their efforts to set a deadline for the withdrawal of our troops.

Meanwhile, public approval ratings of Congress have plummeted. Joining me now, two of the best political journalists anywhere, are senrior political analyst Bill Schneider and senior political analyst Gloria Borger. And thanks very much for joining us.

You know, Bill, I'll start with you. The Democrats only managed to pass -- Congress only managed to pass a condemnation of the MoveOn.org. They failed to pass anything on Iraq. What are the Democrats doing? The war is so unpopular, why are they not able to get the kind of support that they need to do this?

BILL SCHNEIDER, SR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a simple answer -- they don't have enough votes. There are not enough Democrats in the Senate to be able to pass these things. They can sometimes get a majority -- they did in this case -- but they can't get the 60 votes they need to shut down the filibuster. And so Democrats are very frustrated.

There was a few weeks this summer where they tried to make deals with some of the waivering Republicans to see if they could bring them over to vote on some measures that would help end the war. But the Republicans are holding fast with the president, most of them are -- they got a few Republicans to cross over. So the bottom line is, they just don't have enough votes to reach 60.

PILGRIM: Gloria, would you translate that as a victory for the Republicans and for President Bush?

GLORIA BORGER, SR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it is a victory for the Republicans. I think the Democrats are frustrated. The Democratic leaders right now feel like they're herding a bunch of cats, because they're looking for these moderate Republicans, can't seem to be able to grasp on to them. And meantime, the base of their party -- those folks who are going to vote in the presidential primaries -- are very upset. They are saying, This is why we gaye you the majority, and you haven't been able to do what you said you were going to do.

PILGRIM: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented on the failure of the Republicans to support legislation that she says would benefit the military. Let's listen to a comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: It seems that the Republicans are selective in how they want to honor those who are serving or who have served in the military. I think it was very disappointing, but it was also very telling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: Now, Bill, to translate this into honoring military, is that a step too far?

SCHNEIDER: The Democrats made a stab at this because they thought it had the best chance of getting Republican support. It said that troops should be given as much leave time for recuperation, after combat before they have to go back, that they've actually served in combat. But the Republicans still held fast on this. Almost all of them stood with the president and voted against it because they said they spoke to people in the Pentagon, and the military and said that they are not in favor of this. It would create too much inflexibility in the way they could handle the troops. So the Republicans said they listened to the military.

PILGRIM: Gloria, there is a strong argument for not meddling with conduct of the military rotation and military affairs in Congress. What do you think of this development?

BORGER: There is a strong argument. I think the real real death knell for this proposal was when Republican Senator Warner, who carries so much weight on this issue and has split with the White House on the war in Iraq, decided that he would not support this proposal, even though he said he would earlier on -- changed his mind. It was proposed by Senator Webb, his colleague from Virginia, and Senator Warner came out and said you know, we can't interfere with what the generals are doing. I'm changing my mind. I'm not supporting it. That was the end of it.

PILGRIM: You know, congressional approval ratings are also not that high. Let's take a look at a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll that's out, and the operative question was, whose policies would move the country in the right direction? We have: President Bush at 34 percent and Democrats in Congress at 50 percent. That's still not a great rating.

Bill, any thoughts on that poll?

SCHNEIDER: The poll is interesting because, look, 50 percent say Democratic policies, the Democratic leaders in Congress would move the country in the right direction. What does that mean? That means people want to end the war and they know that that's what the Democrats want to do. But then congressional approval in most polls is below 20 percent. How does that add up? The answer is, the Democratic policies to end the war would move the country in the right direction, but can they do it? No. They haven't been able to do it.

So the voters, when asked, Do you approve of the way Congress is operating, they say, Feh! No!

PILGRIM: Gloria, the disconnect between public opinion and Congress at this point, do you believe it's dangerous?

BORGER: I think it's dangerous for every incumbent. I think it reflects this sort of sense of malaise that we saw in the midterm elections. The voters didn't think that the Republicans were running the Congress properly, so they gave them a vote of no confidence.

The problem is, when you see these low approval ratings for the Democrats, some of them as low as 11 percent approval, that is a real problem for the Democratic party. They wanted the majorities, but you know, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for, because you may get it. Now people say, you're in charge, we don't care what your margins are, get something done. And they haven't done it.

PILGRIM: Let's turn to one of the big, major domestic issues, and that's immigration. We saw this week, Democrats in the Senate, Dick Durbin and Diane Feinstein, attempting to put legislation in place to give amnesty to up to 4 million illegal aliens currently living in the country. We see a piecemeal approach to getting immigration legislation into other bills. And this is after a defeat of the major immigration compromise this summer. Is this also defying the will of the American people? Bill?

SCHNEIDER: The American people want something done about illegal immigration. So that is why, since the big bill didn't pass, they're trying to do it piece-by-piece. Same thing happened after the failure of health care reform in the 1990s -- let's try it piece-by-piece. So the Republicans are talking about tougher measures to bring about border control, like a fence, and the Democrats are talking about ways to allow certain illegal aliens to become citizens. Each side believes that's a step towards solving what is indeed a continuing very big problem.

PILGRIM: Gloria, some of this legislation really sort of pushes forward amnesty for many large groups of illegal aliens.

BORGER: I think what you're seeing right now, Kitty, is political talking points for each party. Republicans, who say -- who are opposed to the immigration reform propsals in the Congress that eventually didn't go anywhere, are still using that issue because it's quite popular with the base of their party.

And Democrats are looking to bring new voters, particularly Hispanic voters, into the party are using this issue as well. This is all about election year politics. It's going to be a huge issue in the presidential campaign. That's what you're seeing playing out on Capitol Hill right now.

PILGRIM: We thank you very much for your analysis today. Bill Schneider and Gloria Borger, thanks very much for your analysis.

Still to come -- a shocking illustration of the consequences of the government's failure to secure our borders. A Phoenix police officer is killed in the line of duty.

Also, the federal government plans to build an electronic fence along our southern border. Those plans are being called a virtual flop.

And the presidential election campaign getting ugly. The candidates, their surrogates, stepping up the rhetoric and the insults. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: A major setback this week to efforts to keep illegal aliens, drug smugglers and possible terrorists from coming across our "Broken Borders." A project to establish a virtual fence of high technology surveillance along the border with Mexico is now a virtual flop.

Lisa Sylvester reports on this critical blunder by U.S. security officials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first high- tech virtual fence stretching for 28 miles in Arizona was scheduled for its grand debut in June, July, August. It's now September. And the program is still not ready for prime time.

Communication glitches, border cameras that don't focus automatically, and fuzzy video connections in bad weather are just some of the problems plaguing the system. Some congressional lawmakers fear the virtual fence is becoming a virtual flop.

REP. MARK SOUDER (R), INDIANA: There's no sign it's going to work. It's a theoretical fence, when we have real illegals, real drug smugglers, real terrorists crossing the border while we're dillydallying around here, talking about a theory.

SYLVESTER: The systems manufacturer, Boeing, declined to talk about the missteps and missed deadlines, saying: "It's inappropriate to comment about what legislators are saying about this program. You will have to ask the customer."

That customer, the Department of Homeland Security, has already paid Boeing $15 million, three-quarters of the contract amount. Secretary Michael Chertoff told a congressional committee, he's withholding the final payment until testing shows it works.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We should not accept something from the contractor and take responsibility for it unless we really kick the tires, and not only taking it for a test drive, but really gotten to drive it around for a while.

SYLVESTER: But some critics believe the administration is putting too much faith in technology and not addressing other issues, like putting more boots on the ground to go after illegal aliens and cutting off the jobs magnet that draws illegal aliens into the United States.

T.J. BONNER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: I think all of these little half-steps that the administration is taking serve to delay the ultimate resolution of the problem, which leaves us very much at risk. Every day that passes that our borders remain insecure is another day that a terrorist can easily sneak across that border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: The Boeing contract is a fixed price, which means that any cost overruns, Boeing will have to pick up the tab. But the delays have gone on for so long, the Department of Homeland Security has not set a new completion deadline -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: So, Lisa, they're just throwing up their hands and saying, we don't know when it will be done?

SYLVESTER: Essentially that is the case. They are planning on having more testing done next month. They are optimistic but they won't promise anything -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester. Thanks, Lisa.

Well, that was the virtual fence. What about the physical fence? Now President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act last October, the law calls for 700 miles of double fence along parts of our 2,000-mile long border with Mexico.

The Department of Homeland Security says it has built 70 miles of new fencing along the border in the last 12 months but Congressman Duncan Hunter's office questions that number and believes only about 18 miles of the fencing required by law has actually been built.

A tragic reminder tonight of the consequences of the federal government's failure to secure our borders. As Casey Wian reports, a Phoenix police officer is dead, killed while trying to arrest a once- deported illegal alien.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Phoenix Police Officer Nick Erfle was a two-time cancer survivor. But he did not survive his encounter with Erik Martinez, a criminal illegal alien who reentered the United States after being deported last year.

LT. BENNY PINA, PHOENIX POLICE DEPT.: He has had several arrests in the past and is a documented member of a local street gang.

WIAN: The Phoenix Police Department says it happened like this. Tuesday, Officer Erfle and his partner saw Martinez, nicknamed "Droopy (ph)," jaywalking. Martinez gave the officers someone else's name, which turned up a warrant.

When Erfle tried to arrest Martinez, the suspect pulled a gun and shot and killed the officer. Martinez fled, took a motorist hostage, then was killed by other officers as he pointed a gun at the hostage's head.

PHIL GORDON, MAYOR OF PHOENIX: This individual that took our officer's life today is a perfect example, poster child, of the failed Washington policies in terms of securing our border.

WIAN: Initially, Martinez appeared to represent law enforcement success. After serving prison time for theft, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported him to Mexico in March of last year. Then the system broke down, twice.

Martinez was able to sneak back into the United States illegally. He was soon arrested for assault by the Scottsdale, Arizona, Police Department, which never reported him to federal immigration authorities.

An ICE spokesman says, if it had been notified, it would have sought federal prosecution of Martinez for felony illegal reentry, which carries a 20-year prison sentence.

Border security advocates are furious.

RUSSELL PEARCE (R), ARIZONA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Every day you pick up the paper or turn on the news, there's another citizen being killed by an illegal alien. I mean, this business of they're just coming here for jobs is garbage.

WIAN: At the place where Erfle was killed, fellow officers mourned while a man scrubbed his blood off the street.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Now, Scottsdale Police said in a statement: "The immigration status of any individual is not contained in any of the criminal history checks that we routinely do on arrested individuals." An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman says ICE has a good working relationship with Scottsdale Police.

And, Scottsdale, Kitty, is not considered a sanctuary city for illegal aliens.

PILGRIM: But such fatal consequences. Thanks very much, Casey Wian.

Still to come, buyer beware. Disturbing testimony about dangerous toys imported from communist China.

And it's getting ugly in the presidential campaign trail. Candidates and their surrogates are firing off personal attacks on each other.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: It is getting ugly on the presidential campaign trail. As the fall campaign heats up, before the first caucus and primary, the candidates and their surrogates are getting personal.

Candy Crowley reports on who is firing off all the nasty rhetoric.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Clinton nixed Cheney. Vilsack skewers Giuliani. And Edwards -- Elizabeth, that is, hits Clinton.

The presidential campaign has succumbed to a mild case of the nasties. Closing in on that third quarter fundraising deadline, Hillary Clinton was in New York raising money, chatting up the crowd about how hard it is to win over Republicans on Iraq.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can always tell when the Republicans are restless, because the vice president's motorcade pulls into the Capitol and Darth Vader emerges.

CROWLEY: Kid stuff compared to the former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack. He emceed Clinton's New York fundraiser and took her case to TV, laughing at the idea of a Giuliani candidacy.

TOM VILSACK (D), FMR. IOWA GOVERNOR: I can't even get into the number of marriages and the fact his children -- the relationship he has with his children and what kind of circumstance New York was in before September the 11th.

CROWLEY: What does she think as using an opponent's personal life as a campaign issue?

CLINTON: Well, I'm not engaging in any of that.

CROWLEY: Moving south, Elizabeth Edwards, a pointed weapon in her husband's arsenal, pummeled Clinton for a recent Washington fundraiser, where $1,000 Clinton donors got to meet with powerful committee chairmen on Capitol Hill.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: What this is saying is she's willing to sell special access to the government if you just have the check.

CROWLEY: The Clinton campaign had no on the record comment. Just another day in the fall campaign.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Two leading presidential candidates faced off earlier this week. In a new Internet ad, Rudy Giuliani attacked Hillary Clinton, saying: "Just when our troops need all our support to finish the job, Hillary Clinton is turning her back on them."

Clinton quickly responded, saying: "Giuliani should tell voters why he thinks sticking with the Bush strategy makes sense."

Coming up, are we in for a whole year of attack ads and insults? Well, joining me next with their thoughts, three of the country's best political minds.

Also, buyer beware. Mattel now says communist China is actually not to blame for all those dangerous toys which made their way into this country.

Then, two lawmakers debate two very different bills on how to handle the illegal alien crisis in this country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris. Mychal Bell remains in jail tonight. Lawyers for the only jailed member of the so-called Jena 6 failed to win their client's release this week. That's despite the flood of protestors and attention focused on the racially-charged case in the small town of Jena, Louisiana. We don't know what happened inside the courtroom, it was closed to the media.

In North Carolina, police are trying to find out who hung four nooses from a tree at a high school. Students and teachers in the town of High Point discovered the nooses Friday morning. The principal wrote to parents saying the school won't tolerate discriminatory behavior.

Police in Indiana want to know if you have seen this woman. She is 28-year-old Nailah Franklin. Her family reported her missing on Tuesday. Today, they found her car near an abandoned building in Hammond, Indiana. Franklin is a sales representative for Eli Lilly & Company. Last week she filed a police report about threatening phones calls she got from a man she once dated.

Delaware State University getting back to normal, classes resume Monday even though Police have yet to make any arrests in an early morning shooting Friday that sent two students to the hospital. Campus police indicate the shooter is a male student. They're also looking for a third so-called person of interest.

Tanks, missiles, marching troops filling the streets of Tehran today, a military parade marked the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq War. Some of the trucks and missiles had the words "down with Israel and down with the U.S." printed on them. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, spoke. He said threats and sanctions will not slow his country's technological progress. President Ahmadinejad arrives in New York tomorrow, he is going to address the United Nations.

False alarm. Residents of New Orleans are breathing a sigh of relief tonight. One hour after the city opened its shelters, a tropical depression veered off course and moved hundreds of miles away. The system isn't expected to strengthen, but forecasters warn heavy rain is possible for parts of the Florida Panhandle and southwest Alabama.

Those are the headlines at this hour. Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news.

PILGRIM: Mattel, the world's largest toy brand, in an unbelievable act of appeasement, apologized to communist China over the recalls of dangerous toys. An executive of the toy company made the extraordinary apology after Chinese officials said Mattel maintained weak safety controls.

Mattel's apology, of course, doesn't explain the many other unsafe products coming from China, including children's jewelry, tainted food and medicines, defective batteries, defective tires and more.

And just Friday, 1 million baby cribs made in China were recalled. Now the cribs were marketed by Simplicity and Graco. Two children died in the recalled cribs. A third child died in a newer model crib that was not included in the recall. Now that type is under investigation by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Outraged members of Congress this week blasted American businesses for importing dangerous toys made in communist China. The hearings also revealed that retailers have even more unsafe toys in their warehouses. And those toys have not been officially recalled.

As Christine Romans reports, even more recalls of products with lead paint are expected in coming weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: No one believes that Mattel intentionally sold toys that they knew were painted with lead, but they certainly didn't do enough to stop it.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An angry House subcommittee asks Mattel's CEO point blank, will America's toys be safe for Christmas?

ROBERT ECKERT, CHMN. & CEO, MATTEL: My number-one goal is to make sure that this holiday season's toys are the safest ever.

ROMANS: Yet, more recalls are expected in coming weeks, and congressional investigators revealed there are lead-tainted imported toys and jewelry in stockrooms that have not yet been recalled, evidence that top American brands have lost control of their products.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: If you're going to manufacture them in China or Taiwan or Timbuktu, wherever, they better meet the American safety standards.

ROMANS: And we're learning just how badly companies have failed those standards. Some of Mattel's recalls this summer, Barbie, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street toys, typically had 16 times the lead allowed by law. And Mattel admitted some items had patches of lead paint 183 times acceptable levels.

For children, exposure to lead can cause learning disabilities and lower I.Q.

REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: The parents of this country right now really feel like they are under siege.

ROMANS: Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush personally asked retailer Dollar General to testify. The company declined.

REP. BOBBY RUSH, (D) CHAIRMAN, COMMERCE SUBCOMMITTEE: If a company like Dollar General can sell their products and make money off my constituents, one would think they could at a minimum appear before this subcommittee and answer some important questions for my constituents.

ROMANS: Again and again, members of Congress demanded more be done to protect children. And blasted the Consumer Products Safety Commission for being ineffective.

NANCY NORD, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION: There are just thousands and thousands of containers of consumer products coming into this country from overseas.

ROMANS: Namely from China. And just what are the consequences of dangerous products?

NORD: The consequence to them is what has been happening in the market place. People don't buy their products. They are very concerned about that and that frankly at the end of the day, economics counts for everything.

ROMANS: On that, there was some agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my household, if it's made in China, it does not come home.

ROMANS: After years of lax oversight, members of Congress are now all too aware that is an issue they cannot ignore.

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS, (R) TX: You can't turn on the television at 6:00 at night in Washington, DC without hearing Lou Dobbs talk about this. And I always watch him because I want to see what my e- mails and letters are going to look like the next day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (on camera): As committee members again and again demanded answers and accountability, Mattel's CEO stressed that his top priority is now safety. But he also noted that the volume of recalls within the huge scope of American toy imports, Kitty, is relatively small.

PILGRIM: Ah, but with all that are expected, perhaps he'll have to change his mind on that. Thanks very much, Christine Romans.

Well, Lori Wallach, with Public Citizen was one of the experts who testified on Capitol Hill about the millions of dangerous toys and poisonous food products imported from communist China. She told the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection that the root cause of these unsafe products is U.S. trade policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LORI WALLACH, PUBLIC CITIZEN: Right before NAFTA was the peek of U.S. toy production at home. After NAFTA the companies moved for Mexico's six dollar a day wages. Then in 2001, after Congress voted to let China into the WTO, all the jobs went to one dollar a day China, to a point where literally we have 25 percent of the jobs in the industry. So it's not surprising, the production has been moved to countries like China where there's no safety structure. Are we shocked when those toys get sent back they are dangerous? We've created a problem with our trade agreements.

PILGRIM: Certainly seems so. We have some Peru and Panama agreements pending. Will this make the problem worse do you believe?

WALLACH: Well, if the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect a different result, these are some crazy ideas to expand NAFTA to Peru and Panama, which is what's at stake. So we're taking the NAFTA model, which both sets limits on safety standards and limits how much products can be inspected at the border and we're literally incorporating the worst parts of NAFTA and WTO and extending those failed agreements to more countries. It's a very bad idea.

PILGRIM: One of the things you explained so well is how the U.S. is limited in their inspections of foreign operations. Why is that? Is that built into the trade agreements?

WALLACH: So trade agreements like NAFTA, like the NAFTA expansion to Peru and Panama, they have a rule that says you can't treat foreign goods differently than you treat your domestic goods. Now, in the case of imported food or toys, that's crazy because when you have production in a place where the business guys call China the wild, wild East, there's no regulation, then you need really tight inspection on the way back. Versus in the U.S., there are many levels of inspection, the final check is the final touch.

But under the trade agreements, we're required to treat domestic and foreign goods the same. Even if we have a good reason, a serious safety reason based in fact, to do otherwise.

PILGRIM: So these are written right into the agreements? We agreed to this up front?

WALLACH: It's crazy, but I always hope members of Congress didn't know, but now they know and that's why they shouldn't vote for these Peru and Panama NAFTA expansions. Now, the thing is we need to fix our trade agreement, update our laws because the laws were written when a lot of this stuff was made here. We need to update our laws to take into account it's being made in places where there is no safety standard.

And we need to get money from the importers to pay for the extra expenses and inspection in China and at the border. They want to go for dollar a day wages and get rid of all those jobs. They should pay for the added costs to make sure the products they want to send back under those conditions are safe. Let's not add insult to injury.

PILGRIM: Lori Wallach, we are glad you're on the case and thanks for talking to us. Lori Wallach of Public Citizen.

WALLACH: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: For the latest information on recalled products from China, go to our Web site, loudobbs.com.

Coming up tonight, two lawmakers clash head on about two competing immigration bills. Up for debate on Capitol Hill. Now one bill makes illegal immigration a felony. The other grants amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

Plus, Jesse Jackson accuses presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama of quote "acting white." We'll hear what that is about.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: This fall, border security advocates on Capitol Hill are working on a bill that makes illegal immigration a felony. And cracks down on sanctuary cities. Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray is one of the co-sponsors of that bill. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez is sponsoring the STRIVE Act that effectively gives amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

First I asked Congressman Gutierrez why illegal aliens shouldn't be charged with a felony when they break the law and cross our borders.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS IMMIGRATION TASK FORCE: Well, first of all, because it's not a felony on our books. Illegal immigration and coming here to work is not like some larceny. It's not like breaking into someone's house. It's not like killing someone. It's not like stealing. These are people who have come here to do, in many cases, jobs which no one else will do.

As evidenced by that, Kitty, we have the Growers Association from across this country calling upon the federal government to reform a broken immigration system so that the crops -- the crops in Oregon, the crops in California, the crops across this country can be picked by someone. There is a labor shortage. The fact is that they admit...

PILGRIM: But those are laws, Congressman.

GUTIERREZ: ...and people already -- if I could just finish.

We already know. And, yes, people, there should be a consequence to your action. So when you look at the STRIVE Act as we propose it, there are penalties. There's a $2,000 penalty. People must get at the back of the line. People must wait. People must be fingerprinted to make sure they haven't committed any felony that's on the book and that their only violation is ...

PILGRIM: Let me get Congressman Bilbray in on this.

GUTIERREZ: And so we think that that's a better way of addressing the issues ...

PILGRIM: Honestly ...

GUTIERREZ: ...simply criminalizing 12 million people does not correct the situation.

PILGRIM: Congressman Bilbray, you know, the felony provision was in the Sensenbrenner immigration bill. It failed.

Is this too hard to get through?

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, IMMIGRATION REFORM CAUCUS: In fact, Mr. Gutierrez voted last year to maintain the felony part of the Sensenbrenner bill. The fact is we all know the overwhelming majority of those who come into this country illegally use false documents and take other people's Social Security numbers, which is a felony. And the fact is, is when the Congressman says they just come here to work, he doesn't admit to get those jobs and to get those benefits, they show false documents, which is a felony and continues and has been a felony for a long time.

So the fact is, is that we are talking about felons, that when people come into this country illegally, their intention is to get a job, even if it means showing a false ID or a false Social Security number, stealing somebody else's number, which is a felony.

So it's -- it's kind of disingenuous to say, oh, these people haven't committed a crime. The overwhelming majority of them, to get a job that Mr. Gutierrez says they deserve, they must commit a felony to get those false documents, and they do.

So let's just be up front about it. That's why the Congressman, along with 199 other Democrats, voted against Mr. Sensenbrenner's amendment to his bill to take the felony part out. He voted to maintain it in the Sensenbrenner bill.

PILGRIM: Let me move on to another issue. The felony is important. Let me move to sanctuary cities. And Congressman Bilbray, in H.R. 3631, Accountability of Enforcing Immigration Act of 2007, there is a major crackdown on cities offering sanctuary.

Why is that important?

BILBRAY: Well, first of all, because it sends a clear message that the days of sanctuary and being protected illegally in this country are over with, that 9/11 changed it and that when you come to this country, you're not going to have cities that are going to not only, you know, ignore that you're illegal, but actually shield you from federal enforcement.

What's important is send a message to those who may come here illegally and also to the cities that you want to come and ask for money from the federal government to fight terrorism, to protect your neighborhoods, you start by stopping the hiding of people who are illegally in this country, and that cities like New York and San Francisco should not be asking the federal government to subsidize their homeland security program when, in fact, they are undercutting it by hiding illegals in the country.

Remember, the 9/11 terrorists were overstays. They stayed in this country illegally, used false documents. And the fact is, is that they were illegal and the fact is, is that we've got to make sure we send a signal that that doesn't happen again.

PILGRIM: Let me bring up this point, because -- and Congressman Gutierrez, I'd like to get your comments on this. The sponsor of this bill, Florida Republican Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, said of this bill -- and we would like to bring up her quote: "When cities proclaim that they will not check immigration status, they essentially become a safe haven for not only out of status immigrants, but criminal aliens who have often committed violent atrocities in our country. And we run the risk of inviting terror into these cities."

Now, Congressman Bilbray brings up the whole security issue after the 9/11 attacks.

This is not something that you can argue about, is it?

GUTIERREZ: Well, let me just say the following.

First of all, I didn't want to interrupt Congressman Bilbray, and so I hope he doesn't interrupt me.

He said that I said that they deserved these jobs. You can check your tape, Kitty. I never said such a thing.

You started out saying my bill was an amnesty bill. It's an earned legalization bill. There are penalties. We don't forget about the actions that they make.

Our immigration system is broken. It's an unworkable system.

PILGRIM: Let me ask you a quick follow-up, though. GUTIERREZ: I think, certainly, not, that we shouldn't criminalize them. They are part of a broader problem that we have. Sanctuary cities -- because cities look at issues such as crime locally. They want everyone to participate. And in the absence of the federal government fixing our broken immigration system, they have taken actions in order to secure the safety of the people who live in that city.

BILBRAY: Congressman, you said the word, though. You even slipped and said they're illegally in the country. And the fact is they're not only they're illegal, but they're using false documents, which are a felon. They're using other people's Social Security numbers. And the fact is they are committing felons out there just to get those jobs that you say that isn't a big deal.

It is a big deal.

PILGRIM: Congressman Gutierrez, let me just ask you a quick follow-up question.

The Senate's comprehensive immigration failed in June because it granted amnesty. The American public clearly is not in favor of this.

So how can -- how can you continue to promote The STRIVE Act through hearings?

GUTIERREZ: We have a broken immigration system. We want security in the United States of America. The STRIVE Act calls for 12,000 more border enforcement agents. It calls for over 2,000 more agents to come in to work sites. It increases the penalties. It's certainly a bill that espouses security, security, security. And part of that security, Kitty, is that let's say tomorrow we made them all felons.

Would they all suddenly disappear from our streets?

Would they all suddenly disappear from our neighborhoods?

Would they all disappear from America?

Absolutely not. This is criminalizing an element of a community. I mean watch the words. The first thing we do is we talk about 9/11. We talk about the terrorists. We mix them up with immigrants that clean our bathrooms, make our beds, raise our children, pick our foods and try to mix them altogether, criminalizing and calling them all terrorists.

They're not all terrorists.

BILBRAY: My reply is that the congressman is mixing, he is the one mixing legal and illegal immigrants. He is trying to hide illegal activity under the guise of immigrants. My mother was a legal immigrant. Many people Many people who are legal are more outraged at people like the congressman trying to hide illegal activity under the guise of those of us who are children and families of immigrants. So, the fact is, any time you reward or you try to protect illegal activity, you're going to have a bad result. And the fact is, what we saw in New Jersey, what we've seen in neighborhoods, what we saw in 9/11 and what we're seeing along the border -- I grew up and was raised on the border and I've seen the deaths that are happening there and they happen because we started rewarding illegal immigration with '96 ...

PILGRIM: Gentlemen, Congressman Brian Bilbray and Luis Gutierrez.

Thank you very much for your participation tonight.

BILBRAY: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Up next, democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton goes after Vice President Cheney. The election campaign is getting ugly and personal. And three of the best political minds in the country join me for that and much more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: Joining me now are three of the best political analysts in the country. Joining us is Errol Lewis of the "New York Daily News." Miguel Perez, syndicated columnist, and Diana West of "The Washington Times."

And thank you all for being here. You know, we just had a report from one of our reporters about the vituperative campaign that's been going on this week. It seems very early in the season to start these personal attacks. And I would like to actually bring up a comment that Hillary Clinton made about Vice President Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can always tell when the Republicans are restless because the vice president's motorcade pulls into the Capitol and Darth Vader emerges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: I was saying a little earlier that this looks like stand-up comedy. It is all very amusing for everyone to go at each other, but how constructive is this in the campaign? Miguel?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You mean he's not Darth Vader?

PILGRIM: He's not? I heard he wasn't.

PEREZ: It is getting kind of personal and she's not running against Bush or Cheney so I don't see how she could get any mileage out of that. She should be talking about the issues. ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": The Republicans have been raising money off Hillary Clinton's name, the Clinton name for many, many years. It's a tried and trued way to rile up a certain segment of their base. And she's really just giving it back to them. There's a certain element in the Democratic Party that wants to see the vice president bashed again and again or impeached or whatever it's going to be. So she knows how to fling out a little red meat once in a while.

PILGRIM: So support me and you won't get this group back. Diana, any thoughts on this?

DIANA WEST, "WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, it's so extreme and there's something very, I don't know, pedestrian about it and I'm just disappointed that the standard bearer, the great hope of the Democratic Party resorts to this kind of thing. The world is so dangerous right now and we have evil Darth Vader being thrown into our own White House. It's just -- I don't like it.

PILGRIM: I think there are plenty other world leaders that we can put into that category.

WEST: Yes.

PILGRIM: Let me ask you again about the Clinton campaign. Because we have the disgraced fund-raiser Norman Hsu this week being charged in federal court with swindling investors out of $60 million. The Clinton campaign doing everything they can to distance themselves from this person, understandably and they actually returned $850,000 of his connected donations. They also promised to do criminal background checks on donors. All of this in an effort to say this man is not associated with us. But will it damage the Clinton campaign, Miguel?

PEREZ: It probably will to a certain extent. But then again, I want to know who the rest of the money went to. Because there's a lot of other people who received donations from these people. People who actually were supposedly coerced into donating and we don't know who these candidates are who are receiving this money. They should also be stepping up and saying look, I received it, I want to give it back before the names are uncovered instead of waiting until they get it uncovered and then apologize.

LOUIS: And unfortunately, the amounts are so small, doing something like what Miguel just described is an endless process. That it really isn't necessarily worth trying to track down a wayward $500 donation. I think it says something really telling about the fund- raising process that someone who basically is criminally insane felt right at home and excelled within it. There's clearly a need to look at not just what the Clinton campaign does with its donors and bundlers but what everyone does.

PILGRIM: The upside is this entire process is being scrutinized. Diana?

WEST: Well, there's another point that I hope the media takes a look at. Because from what I understand of Secret Service protocol if you are a Clinton, a senator or a former president, people in your sphere, people who can get close to you have to submit their names, date of birth and Social Security numbers. So in other words, a background check would seem to have had to happen long ago. So the idea that the Clintons knew nothing about this man really doesn't hold water. And I would love to see more reporting on that.

PILGRIM: I'm sure we will have more details as this evolves. Quick question about Jesse Jackson charging Senator Barack Obama with being white, acting like he's white over not supporting the Jena Six. This incident has generated groundswells of demonstrations in the area. What do you think, Miguel?

PEREZ: Well, you know, the civil rights movement has been revitalized by what is going on here and I think, you know, hanging nooses from a tree at a school is a problem that we should all be ashamed of in this country in the 21st century. This should not be happening.

On the other hand, this young African American man did beat up somebody and that's not how the civil rights movement operated back in the '50s and '60s. So we have to separate the two.

LOUIS: And Obama has always tried to set himself apart from the mainstream civil rights movement. He is always pushing to get beyond sort of traditional politics. What happens is once in a while, when you're out of step with the NAACP and Jesse Jackson and the Children's Defense Fund and these other leaders who have made a big deal out of the Jena case, you're going to get some blowback. That's really, I think, what Jackson's comment represents.

PILGRIM: The Jena Six turnout was so large that it certainly indicates more than just this incident is being discussed in this context. Diana, what do you think about the general civil rights movement in the country?

WEST: Well, I'm not sure that we know everything we need to know about this particular case. My mind was blown just reading a column, a recent column in the "Kansas City Star" by Jason Whitlock which he reported that the U.S. attorney who happens to be black on the case, actually established that there was no connection between the nooses and the three month later assault, alleged assault.

So again, I'm not sure we know everything here. There were a number of other interesting things that we don't usually get, such that the young men in question was actually -- this was his third assault charge in two years. So I don't know that this is a grand cause celebre for civil rights that people want to get themselves attached to.

PILGRIM: Miguel?

PEREZ: What we do know is that people are hanging out confederate flags as a statement. They're making -- I have nothing against the confederate flag except when it's used to show I'm a racist and this is what's happening there. PILGRIM: It is an unfortunate incident. We'll be back and we'll continue our discussion in a moment. And also one of the country's top generals under attack this week. We'll discuss that and more with our panel right after this. So stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: We are back with Errol Louis, Miguel Perez and Diana West. And I would like to bring in the General Petraeus Iraq situation this week. The Senate voted 75-25 to condemn an anti-war ad that really took on the reputation of the U.S. commander in Iraq, General Petraeus. President Bush actually criticized Democrats for not being stronger in condemning that. Let's listen to what the president had to say first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: Most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left wing group like moveon.org, are more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: So he's accusing Democrats of playing politics with the war. What do you believe?

PEREZ: Yes. It's not the Democrats. The Democrats should be condemning MoveOn. I think the best friend Bush has right now is MoveOn. Sometimes I wonder whether republicans in disguise, because these ultraliberals are what supposedly have given ammunition to Bush and the Republicans to continue the war.

LOUIS: It's classic Bush politics. Split the country down the middle and try to come up with slightly more than half and just kind of inch along. That's how he's won his elections. That's how he's tried to govern. It hasn't worked particularly well. In this case, with the moveon.org ad, there was no particular reason Democrats had to denounce it. I think a fair number of Democrats felt the same way as the president, it was a disgusting ad, a distraction at best, an unwarranted attack on someone who has more important things on his mind than some ad in the "New York Times."

So I think it was a distraction that the president tried to use for political reasons and it's about as unfortunate as the ad itself.

PILGRIM: Diana, Senate Democrats this week failed to pass any measure to change the course of the war. What's your view on how Democrats are proceeding through their own policy agenda?

WEST: Well, I'd like to address Errol's last comment because I don't think this is a matter of Bush playing politics. You had this really disgraceful attack on General Petraeus' honor and conduct as a commander and you had all of the Democrats to a man and woman not moving away from it, not denouncing it, indeed, finding nothing objectionable about it. And I think it put our whole debate last week onto the worst kind of footing and it distracted from the important questions. President Bush, in this case, I've been critical of him in terms of the war but in this case he said the only thing that could be said to defend the general and to really wonder where the Democrats are also joining him in doing so.

PILGRIM: Yeah. It was not a good episode.

We have to end it there. Errol Louis, Miguel Perez and Diana West, thank you very much. And thank you for joining us. Please join us tomorrow. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Enjoy your weekend. Good night from New York.

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