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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Pentagon Asks Congress For Increased War Funding; Protesters Reportedly Killed in Myanmar Clashes

Aired September 26, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: shocking new evidence of our broken borders, a tunnel directly under a border crossing with Mexico. A Border Patrol vehicle is stolen and driven to Mexico by three suspected drug smugglers.
Also, the Auto Workers union gambles with the health care of its members and retirees. Is the union's deal with General Motors a victory or a defeat for middle-class Americans?

And buyer, beware. A new campaign warning Americans that our government has failed to protect us from toxic imports from communist China.

Also among my guests, Phil Kent, author of the provocative book "Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal Super-Rich Undermine America."

All that, much more, straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Wednesday, September 26.

Live from New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody.

The Pentagon today asked the Congress to approve a sharp increase in funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates requested nearly $190 billion in war funds for next year. And that is almost one-third more than the Pentagon's original request.

Top Democrats blasted back, saying they will not rubber-stamp every request made by the president.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to Capitol Hill hat in hand looking for more money for a war that he had to concede is requiring more sacrifice than many people anticipated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The surge may or may not have turned things around in Iraq, but one thing is certain. It will help make 2008 the most expensive year yet in what the Bush administration calls the war on terror.

The $190 billion request now includes an extra $42 billion, of which $6 billion will cover the higher pace of operations. And a whopping $11 billion would go to double the number of heavily armored MRAP vehicles on order, from 8,000 to 15,000.

In delivering the news, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged the price of the prolonged war is steep.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Mr. Chairman, I know that Iraq and other difficult choices America faces in this war on terror will continue to be a source of friction within the Congress, between the Congress and the president, and in the wider public debate.

MCINTYRE: Gates had already withstood a flurry of broadsides from committee chairman and ardent war critic Robert Byrd, who railed against the cost of what he called the nefarious infernal war in Iraq.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Such a long-term presence could cost well in excess of $2 trillion -- $2 trillion -- yes, you heard me -- $2 trillion. That's quite a burden that this president is leaving our grandchildren.

MCINTYRE: In fact, if you add the $190 billion to what's been spent since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the total is more than $760 billion. And it's well on its way to $1 trillion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And, Kitty, the -- as the news that the Pentagon would pump billions more into buying new and replacing old equipment sent stocks soaring on Wall Street today, defense stocks, as investors bought shares of companies that stand to gain if the Pentagon is unable to cut its war-related spending any time soon -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Jamie McIntyre.

In Iraq, insurgents killed another one of our troops. The soldier was killed by enemy gunfire in Baghdad; 59 of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month; 3,801 of our troops have been killed since the war began; 28,009 have been wounded, 12,577 wounded seriously.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today ordered a Pentagon team to Iraq to investigate the oversight of private security contractors. The investigation comes amid rising Iraqi anger about the role of Blackwater Security USA and other private contractors. Iraq says Blackwater's guards protecting a diplomatic convoy killed at least 11 Iraqis in Baghdad earlier this month. Blackwater says the contractors were simply defending the convoy.

Bush administration officials today blasted the Iranian president for saying the case on its nuclear program is closed. Yesterday, at the U.N., Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran will defy any new sanctions. Today, U.S. officials said the Iranian president is mistaken if he believes he's been given a pass. The United States and other countries say Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

Well, after speaking to the United Nations yesterday, President Bush today focused on his domestic agenda in New York. Now, the president called on Congress to renew the No Child Left Behind law. And he also strongly defended his opposition to expanding taxpayer- funded health care for children.

Ed Henry reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days at the United Nations did little to change the fact President Bush's legacy on foreign policy is still unsettled, at best. So, he headed to a New York City school, to shift focus to the domestic front, though that proved problematic, too, starting with Mr. Bush's syntax.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Children's do learn when standards are high and results are measured. And, so, my call to the Congress is don't water down this good law. Don't go backwards when it comes to educational excellence.

HENRY: Even the president's signature education reform is now in danger of not being extended, because fellow conservatives feel it's too restrictive, and Mr. Bush's effort to bathe himself in happy pictures with kids may be undermined by the fact he's vowing to veto a children's health insurance bill, a move that Democrats charge will leave 10 million children behind.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Mr. President, please don't veto this bill. Please do not give new meaning to the words suffer, little children.

HENRY: With Alan Greenspan's recent book charging the president did little to contain federal spending early in his administration, Democrats are delighted Mr. Bush has decided to draw a line in the sand on children's health care.

BUSH: The legislation will raise taxes on working people, and would raise spending by between $35 billion to $50 billion.

HENRY: That may be difficult to sustain politically, especially with Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealing the White House is now seeking another $190 billion to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: I do agree with the president. We do have excessive spending. We have excessive spending in the war in Iraq. One day for the war in Iraq would give 250,000 children health care in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HENRY: Now, 45 House Republicans, more than expected, sided with Democrats and voted against the president on this health bill last night. Democrats privately acknowledge they are very unlikely to get enough votes to override the president's likely veto, but Democrats are fine with that. They think they will make a lot of political fodder in 2008 about getting the president on record against a bill that will help children -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Ed Henry.

Well, the United States and Europe today demanded that the government of Myanmar stop using violence against pro-democracy protesters. As many as five protesters were reported killed in violent clashes in city's such as Yangon.

Now, the government said its forces opened fire on demonstrators who refused to disperse. Hundreds of monks and other protesters have been arrested.

And Dan Rivers reports from the border between Myanmar and Thailand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There have been a dramatic escalation in the situation in Myanmar, with violent confrontations between the thousands of people who have once again taken to the streets, including thousands of monks and nuns and the riot police and army.

There are reports of shots being fired, of people being injured, of the police baton charging the crowds. Also reports from Western embassies that the crowds marched past the embassies, saluting them as they went. The U.K. ambassador said that thousands of people marched past and applauded as they reached the U.K. embassy.

There is now a curfew in place during the hours of darkness, but it will be critical to see whether the military ruler, the junta, is able to reestablish law and order and get those people off the streets. They have been ordering that for days now, and this is a real serious challenge to their authority.

Having this level of defiance openly day after day is gradually undermining their authority, and at some point they will either be forced to crack down very hard on these protesters or surely be forced into some sort of compromise and possible negotiations with the leaders.

Dan Rivers, CNN, on the Thai/Myanmar border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Still to come: an astonishing illustration of the gaping holes in our border security.

Casey Wian will have the story -- Casey. CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, three suspected drug smugglers caught by the Border Patrol, you would think that's a job well done. Not when the suspects steal the Border Patrol vehicle and use it to escape back to Mexico. We will have details coming up -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: I can't wait for that, Casey.

Also, another state is fed up with the federal government's failure to deal with our illegal immigration crisis and that city is cracking down on criminal illegal aliens.

Also, startling new developments in the airport sex sting case involving Senator Larry Craig -- all of that and more next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: The arrest of a trio of drug smugglers from Mexico turned from a success into an embarrassment. While in custody, the smugglers managed to steal the Border Patrol agent's vehicle.

And, as Casey Wian reports, they drove it across the border to Mexico.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): For a Border Patrol agent, apprehending a drug smuggler is second only to catching a would-be terrorists. Busting three suspected smugglers, that's a good day. But when those three manage to steal your Border Patrol vehicle and escape back to Mexico, well, that's exactly what happened Sunday evening on a remote highway near Calexico, California.

A Border Patrol spokeswoman says: "We can confirm a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle was stolen. It has been recovered. It is under investigation."

The Border Patrol agent reportedly left his vehicle running with the handcuffed suspects inside. While the agents searched their vehicle for drugs, they drove off across the Mexican border. The Border Patrol says, Mexican police, using a helicopter, helped locate and return the vehicle.

Customs and Border Protection had better luck earlier Sunday, when they discovered a tunnel officers say is the first of its kind. It was being constructed directly under a traffic lane at the official port of entry connecting Nogales, Arizona, with Nogales, Mexico.

BRIAN LEVIN, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: What we do know is that it's not finished. It's only a partially constructed tunnel. So, I don't believe they have been using it for anything at this point.

WIAN: Like most, the tunnel was discovered by accident when an officer noticed a hole in a lane traveled by thousands of cars, trucks, and buses daily. Mexican police found digging tools on their side. It was the second cross-border tunnel uncovered in a week. This one, near Yuma, Arizona, was found after a Department of Homeland Security water truck dropped four feet into a sinkhole. CBP says this tunnel originated in a Mexican house and stretched 100 yards into the United States.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It tells me that they are awfully brazen, that they can build a tunnel underneath an existing four-lane highway or right by the port of entry just within yards of where you have Border Patrol agents. My suspicion is that the problem is much worse than we know.

WIAN: More than 40 tunnels have been found under the U.S./Mexico border since September 11, 2001.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Congress last year passed a law increasing criminal penalties for those who build tunnels under the border. Customs and Border Protection says that tunnels are evidence they're doing a better job, making it more difficult to sneak into the United States by traditional methods -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Casey, they must be terribly embarrassed about that stolen vehicle.

WIAN: Absolutely. They are not saying much publicly about the incident. We have reported everything they are willing to tell us.

What I can tell you, though, is the Border Patrol in many cases is outmanned by the number of drug and alien smugglers that they encounter down on the border. This is likely a case where a single or maybe two Border Patrol agents were simply outnumbered for the job they have to do -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Yes. Thanks very much, Casey Wian. Thanks, Casey.

Well, a government Web site has published plans for new fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border. The details were posted by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It gives locations, construction details, photos of what the DHS hopes to build; 21 segments of fencing along 70 miles of the Rio Grande River are identified.

Now, the information was released as part of an environmental impact statement. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 requires 700 miles of fencing to be built along the border.

State officials in Virginia are taking steps to deal with criminal illegal aliens. They want to build a jail to house illegal aliens convicted of crimes and awaiting deportation.

As Lisa Sylvester now reports, the state feels it's forced to act in the light of the federal government's failure to take action.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In March, illegal alien Alfredo Ramos was driving under the influence in Virginia Beach. He killed two teenage girls. It was not his first DUI conviction.

Now the Virginia Crime Commission Illegal Immigration Task Force has proposed building the first-of-its kind state jail. It would be used to house up to 1,000 illegal aliens while they are awaiting deportation for crimes like DUI and domestic violence. Currently, many criminal illegal aliens are released on the streets after posting bail. Virginia lawmakers say they have to act because the federal government has not.

JOHN REID (R), VIRGINIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I'm disappointed in the president of the United States, who is a member of my party. I think he's let us down, sold us out on this. Yet, I think we have a responsibility to try to address it, as best we can, until the federal government accepts their responsibility.

SYLVESTER: The commission also recommends making illegal aliens ineligible for bail and improving data collection, so illegal aliens are not inadvertently released. Immigrant groups dismiss the new proposals as costly, express concerns about racial profiling and said witnesses may be discouraged from coming forward.

TIM FREILICH, VIRGINIA JUSTICE CENTER FOR FARM AND IMMIGRATION WORKERS: Using limited Virginia law enforcement resources to enforce a broken system, I think, leaves all Virginians less safe and less secure.

SYLVESTER: The recommendations must be approved by the state general assembly and Governor Tim Kaine. The Democratic governor has been reluctant to embrace all of the commission's recommendations, but during a radio show, he used his toughest language yet to define the problem.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: I mean, it's an outrage that the federal government has basically had a consensus that the existing immigration laws don't work, but they won't enforce them, and they won't come up with a new set of laws that they're willing to enforce.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: The new jail hinges on whether the federal immigration and customs enforcement would pay the state a per diem to use those beds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Now, the jail would only hold illegal aliens accused of lesser offenses and waiting to be picked up by federal immigration officials. Those facing felonies or more serious crimes would still serve their prison terms and then be deported -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Lisa, to what degree has the governor shifted position on this?

SYLVESTER: Well, you can see -- if you follow this closely, you can see slight shifts in the governor's position. Now, he's under tremendous pressure from many of his constituents. This is a Democratic governor and his tone has changed. He did use the strongest language yet when talking about this issue of illegal immigration, calling it an outrage that the federal government has not acted yet. So, we will keep tuned on that and see where his position stands -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: We know you're watching. Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester.

Well, two more communities are taking action against illegal immigration. Cabarrus County sheriffs in North Carolina will begin working with the federal government to enforce immigration laws starting later this year. Three North Carolina counties already work with federal immigration agents.

Brewster, New York, is applying for the same federal program. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says 29 law enforcement agencies across the country already participate in this program.

Coming up: massive new recalls of toys made in communist China. We will have a special report.

And Senator Larry Craig, tainted by an airport sex sting, will he resign? A court in Minnesota may hold the answer. We will have a report.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: Massive new recalls to report tonight. About 600,000 children's toys and other products made in communist China are being recalled because of excessive lead. Target is recalling the largest number of products.

Now, this retailer is pulling about 300,000 Happy Giddy gardening tools and children's Sunny Patch chairs off of the store shelves. Now, six other manufacturers also recalling toys and other products. The complete list of all the items recalled can be found on our Web site, loudobbs.com.

Now, many critics say this country's failed trade policies are to blame for the recent wave of recalls of dangerous products. A coalition of union leaders, environmentalist and politicians say the policies are not only killing American jobs, but putting Americans' safety at risk.

Christine Romans reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You crack, listen. OK. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Chicago grandmother is demonstrating how to use a home lead kit, like the one she used to detect toxic lead in her grandson's baby bibs, a bib imported from China.

Lead is an invisible poison that lowers a child's I.Q. and can cause brain damage. The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not advise parents to use home lead kits, saying they are unreliable.

Outraged parents, union leaders, environmentalists and lawmakers in Washington today blamed the overall import safety crisis on -- quote -- "unregulated globalization and the gutting of federal regulatory agencies." United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard says, toxic trade kills jobs and endangers family. He cites recalls of food and dangerous tires made in China.

LEO GERARD, PRESIDENT, UNITED STEELWORKERS: The bad trade deals cost us jobs and they cost us the safety of our kids and our grandkids. They cost us the safety of our driving. They cost us the safety of our things we ingest, whether it's toothpaste or whether it's food.

ROMANS: He says American producers of toys, food packing, steel, and tires are unfairly competing with unsafe imports. And American consumers may be getting cheaper Chinese goods, but are still paying the price. The trade deficit with China last year, a record $232 billion.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: The real threat is a failed trade policy that allows recall after recall. The real threat is our failure to change course and craft a new trade policy. The real threat is this administration's insistence on more of the same.

ROMANS: He wants tougher laws for importers and clear labeling of where food comes from. And he wants importers to have insurance to cover the cost of product recalls and liabilities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: The CPSC says it is a lean and efficient organization, and product recalls show the system is safe and working. They are considering new rules on baby bibs and lead jewelry for children, but that process will likely take months -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Those are very valuable months in the life of a developing child. Thanks very much, Christine Romans.

Well, a cluster of E. coli cases in the Northeast has forced the recall of more than 330,000 pounds of frozen beef. Now, this beef was distributed by the New Jersey-based Topps Meat Company. And the recalls include two-pound boxes of Topps 100 percent pure ground beef and three-pound boxes of Topps 100 percent ground beef hamburgers.

These boxes carry the USDA inspection mark EST-9748. And they were produced in June and July. You can find a complete list of all the recalled beef on our Web site, also, loudobbs.com. That brings to the subject of tonight's poll. With food and product recalls dominating the headlines every day, are there any items you feel 100 percent secure buying for your family? Yes or no. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. I will bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.

We do have time now for some of your thoughts.

And thousands of viewers still telling us how angry you are at Mattel for apologizing to the Chinese government about dangerous imported toys.

Now, Jim in New Jersey writes: "The CEO of Mattel said his number-one priority was safety. I'm pretty sure his number-one priority is profit."

Joseph in Illinois: "I think Americans should quite buying Mattel products, and maybe the rest of these clowns will get the message."

And James in Virginia wrote: "I thought this country was run from the White House. Instead, I find it is being run by corporate America."

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

And also coming up, are wealthy liberal elites betraying this country? Author Phil Kent says they are, and he's my guest.

Also, a critical test tonight for Democratic front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton. We will have a preview.

Also, Senator Larry Craig speaks to CNN briefly about his restroom sex sting case. And we will hear what he had to say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: Workers are back at work today at General Motors. The United Auto Workers union and the country's largest automaker have a new tentative agreement.

And, as Bill Tucker reports, GM has shifted the burden of retiree health costs away from the company to the union.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first national strike at an automaker in 31 years ended in smiles.

RON GETTELFINGER, PRESIDENT, UAW: We feel very good about this tentative agreement.

TUCKER: But it's not exactly clear what the United Autoworkers won in terms of promises of job security. They haven't said. General Motors' management was relieved that an agreement was reached. "There's no question this was one of the most complex and difficult bargaining sessions in the history of the G.M./UAW relationship." The deal is supposed to cure a big financial headache for G.M., by shifting all financial responsibility for the health care costs of all retirees -- present and future -- off of its books and onto the union. G.M. will do that with a one time payment of $36 billion into a fund known as the Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association, or VEBA. The fund is one of the most intriguing and riskiest parts of the deal for both sides because no one knows if the fund will be enough to cover future benefits.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Is Gettelfinger going to tell these retired workers they're going to get less health care if the price of health care goes up too rapidly?

And we all know it's been very difficult to forecast that stuff.

TUCKER: Retired employees of Caterpillar understand how difficult, because their VEBA went bankrupt and their health care costs soared. And we don't know yet whether the UAW can go back to G.M. and demand more money if its funds prove inadequate.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TUCKER: Now we should be learning more about the details of the contract as the briefings take place over the next several days. The details are important because the G.M. agreement sets the pattern for what will happen at Ford and Chrysler in the weeks and months to come.

So, Kitty, the dye has been set, essentially, for the union and the automakers. We'll see what goes.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Bill Tucker.

Thanks, Bill.

Well, Senator Larry Craig won't resign from the Senate while he waits for a Minnesota judge's ruling. The senator wants his guilty plea in a restroom sex sting withdrawn. Now, Senator Craig was not in a Minnesota courtroom today, but he was on Capitol Hill, where CNN's Congressional producer, Ted Barrett, caught up with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED BARRETT, CNN CONGRESSIONAL PRODUCER: Are you sorry that you're not there to present your own case?

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: No, not at all. My attorneys and the judge in the oral argument case oftentimes (INAUDIBLE).

BARRETT: Are you confident that the judge will reverse his decision, sir?

CRAIG: (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP) PILGRIM: Kyung Lah is in Edina, Minnesota and she has the very latest -- Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, certainly what the judge decides will determine not just the senator's legal status, but, by the senator's own admission, the status of his political career.

Now, a short time ago, he did release a statement. And that statement said that today's hearing was a step toward clearing his name. The statement reads: "The court has not issued a ruling on my motion to withdraw my guilty plea. For now, I will continue my work in the United States Senate for Idaho."

Now, the prosecutor appeared equally determined, saying that he does not intend on backing down.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

LAH (voice-over): What happened inside this men's room was a crime and one Senator Larry Craig admitted to, according to Minnesota prosecutors.

PATRICK HOGAN, PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, METRO AIRPORTS: The defendant unequivocally pled guilty to the crime of disorderly conduct. The plea was made voluntarily, accurately and intelligently.

LAH: From Minneapolis to the capital in Washington, the public scrutiny has followed the conservative Republican senator from Idaho. It's bad publicity that prosecutors say drives his legal push to withdraw his guilty plea.

The senator mailed in his plea nearly two months after June 11th for soliciting sex from an undercover officer in the men's room. Only after the arrest became public did the senator call the plea a mistake, which he said was made under the pressure of a newspaper investigating allegations that Craig is gay.

CRAIG: I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport. I am not gay. I never have been gay.

LAH: Senator Craig did not show up for Wednesday's hearing. He says that if the judge has still not ruled by September 30th or reopens the case, he will not resign at the end of the month.

BILLY MARTIN, LAWYER FOR SENATOR CRAIG: Senator Larry Craig denies that he went into that restroom for anything other than to go to the restroom.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LAH: Now, the judge has indicated that there has been a lot of paperwork filed in this case and that he may not have a ruling until the end of next week -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Kyung Lah reporting from Edina, Minnesota.

Thank you, Kyung.

Well, a startling new opinion poll on the race for the Republican presidential nomination in the make or break state of New Hampshire. The CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, says Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are neck and neck. Now, this poll gives Mitt Romney 25 percent; Rudy Giuliani, 24 percent. Romney has lost nearly 10 points since July, while Giuliani and Senator John McCain have picked up support.

In the Democratic contest, Senator Barack Obama in New England today blasted critics who challenge his political experience. It's a staple of his campaign. He said, "A long resume doesn't guarantee good judgment." He cited Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as examples.

But the eye of the Democratic debate could also have been talking about his main rival for the party nomination -- Senator Hillary Clinton. Now, the latest CNN poll shows Senator Clinton with a commanding lead -- 43 percent to Senator Obama's 20 percent.

What does Senator Clinton have to do to keep it that way?

Candy Crowley reports from Hanover, New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her part is easy -- keep doing what she's doing and make no mistakes. And so far in these debates she hasn't. Hillary Clinton will be the voice of unity, the one who says the similarities among Democrats are far greater than the differences. Clinton can easily dodge any rocket that may come her way. Among likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, she has a 23 point lead -- pretty much the cat bird seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the poll yesterday, sir, that was (INAUDIBLE)...

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I'm not worried about polls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not worried about polls?

Can you make up the 20 points?

OBAMA: I never worry about polls.

CROWLEY: Camp Obama appears to see the double digit Clinton lead through a different lens. They're eying a field of opportunity in the 55 percent of likely Democratic primary voters still making up their minds. But significant progress may require roughing up Clinton -- a quandary for Obama, who has criticized attack politics and said he's running a different kind of campaign.

JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At this point in 2003, when I was also running, Governor Dean had a bigger lead in New Hampshire and was doing much, much better nationwide than the other candidates. And he never finished higher than third.

CROWLEY: Inside the third place Edwards campaign, the thinking has always been that the race comes down to Hillary Clinton and someone else. Eyeing Obama's seven point drop in the New Hampshire polls, Edwards may turn his attention to Obama.

Still, rough and tumble politics can carry a price. More often than not, A attacks B and C is the winner.

Down the list, there are others who take heart that New Hampshire and Iowa can be quirky and surprising places. And in general, Democrats are happy with nearly everyone in the field.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CROWLEY: Now, this the eighth time Democrats have debated. That doesn't even count some of the forums they have all been to. But it is the first Democratic debate of the fall campaign. And believe it or not, Kitty, they are closing in on time when someone has to have a breakthrough moment.

PILGRIM: It certainly is interesting.

You know, Candy, you point out when A attacks B, C is the winner.

CROWLEY: Right.

PILGRIM: Are strategists talking about this danger?

CROWLEY: Well, absolutely. I mean and they know there's a danger. And they always say, no, no, this going to be about the differences in policy. But, in fact, sometimes voters can't tell the difference. They tend not to like -- particularly in a primary season -- for Democrats to beat up on Democrats or Republicans to beat up on Republicans.

But as we know, negative ads are run because they work. And sometimes if you can rough somebody up so that it makes a connection, then it's worthwhile. But it's a very fine line.

PILGRIM: It certainly is.

Thanks very much.

Candy Crowley.

Thanks, Candy.

Still ahead, are this country's liberal elites destroying America?

Well, we'll talk to author Phil Kent about his book, "Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal Super-Rich Undermine America."

And New York's controversial new plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens -- we're going to hear two opposing points of view.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: New York Governor Eliot Spitzer wants his state to issue driver's licenses to illegal aliens. They will only have to show a valid foreign passport. They do not have to produce a Social Security number and new rules will also not require evidence of legal entry into this country.

And Governor Spitzer says it's not New York's business to do the job of federal immigration authorities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ELIOT SPITZER (D), NEW YORK: The INS has failed. The INS is a broken organization. I will not, as the governor of New York, let them shift the burden of taking their jobs and put it on the shoulders of every agency of the State of New York. That's wrong. We're not going to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: Now tonight, we are going to hear from both sides of this issue.

Joining me is Kevin Parker, a Democratic state senator from Brooklyn. And he supports Governor Spitzer's measure.

Also, Martin Golden, a Republican state senator, also from Brooklyn. And he thinks the plan is a threat to national security.

Gentlemen, thanks for coming on to discuss this, a critical issue for Americans.

Let me start with you, Senator Golden.

You're a former NYPD officer.

MARTIN GOLDEN (R), NEW YORK STATE SENATE: That's correct.

PILGRIM: You take the law seriously. You do not like this measure and you are asking -- you're introducing legislation to block it. You're also sending out e-mails to constituents to say oppose this.

Why don't you like it?

GOLDEN: I think that only one has to reflect and look at what happened at 9/11 here in this great city, in this great state, this great nation. And we've seen over 3,000 families that lost loved ones. And it was amazing the group that did this. Mohammed Atta was stopped in Florida and he was asked for his license. He didn't have one. And he recognized how important that license was. So he sent out a signal to the rest of the cell and the rest of the cell, within 15 days, was out there getting licenses.

Sixteen of those individuals had licenses and 14 state I.D.s. That's how important that key -- that was a key for them to get around, to rent apartments, to fly planes, to transfer money. And that's exactly what this document does. It's the most secure document that this state has. And it's a very important document. And what they've done to this is just -- what this governor wants to do is just plain wrong.

PILGRIM: You know, this an establishing document. As you point out, the terrorists had it and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, they also used licenses to rent trucks.

Why do you think that that's not a problem, Senator Parker?

KEVIN PARKER (D), NEW YORK STATE SENATE: Well, first, let me applaud the governor for doing -- standing on the side of right, especially when it's not popular. It's always easy to kind of do what the popular thing is. But this makes total sense.

And I'm glad that Marty thinks that this is important, how secure the document is, because really New York has one of the -- and still continues to have one of the most secure licenses in the entire country.

This measure is totally...

PILGRIM: But it won't now.

PARKER: Well, no, absolutely it will be, because we're not only providing an opportunity for people who are undocumented to become documented, but we're also making, you know, the security around this document much safer. They're adding optical, you know, scanners in terms of photos. They're checking...

GOLDEN: (INAUDIBLE).

PARKER: Sure they are. Yes, sure they are, Marty. They're putting in lots of measures to check documents and to make sure that people are who they say they are, under the principle under the principle of one person, one life in the entire state of New York.

GOLDEN: The information end is bad. It doesn't matter how secure the document is if the information going into is bad information. We have cells that have been laying around here in this country for years. Today there are cells living in this city and in this state. And they're just waiting to get a New York state license.

What this gentleman did, this governor, what he did was put a sign on New York and say, welcome. Come over here. We have a Christmas present. Come live in the State of New York and we're going to give you a New York state license.

It is abhorrent. And it's abhorrent to the families of 9/11 and it's abhorrent because this the greatest state in the nation. And so goes New York, so goes other states. That will reduce and devalue this card.

The 9/11 Commission, they came out with this and said, do not, do not have this license devalued. The 9/11 Commission is the reason we put the real I.D. Act into play. And the real I.D. Act is what's giving us the premise -- not a premise, but a belief that this card that we have today is a safe, secure card, checked with a Social Security number, to know who is living in this city and in this state, and who is driving those vehicles so they cannot fly planes into those buildings again.

PILGRIM: Let me add a couple of things.

Congress passed the real I.D. Act. It's scheduled to take effect in 2013. This does not measure up with those provisions.

The other thing is that you say this isn't a popular measure. It certainly isn't. All but eight states now require driver's licenses to prove legal status. And we have a list of the eight states that don't. If New York state does this, they're going to become the largest state to allow illegal aliens to potentially obtain driver's licenses...

PARKER: Well, this is not illegal aliens. Let me just correct you. This is really -- it's going to allow about 152 people who may, in fact, not be documented, but not necessarily be illegal.

The reality is one, we cannot penalize people around the issue of immigration if, in fact, we have this slow and ambiguous process to citizenship. We can't have, you know, 10, 15 years for you to get your status adjusted and then tell people that, you know, they must be documented.

But this particular -- in this particular case, we're absolutely doing the right thing. And I have to say Marty is absolutely wrong on this issue, because the reality is, is that -- if we say -- we're Pollyannaish to think that a terrorist is going to let not having a driver's license to stop him from loading a truck with explosives and running it into the lobby of a corporate headquarters and blowing it up. I mean, if you're going to do something like that, if you're going to kill 3,000 people, do you think that you're afraid not to have a driver's license?

That's absolutely ridiculous.

PILGRIM: You need a driver's license to board a plane.

Why would New York state not be a draw for illegal immigrants -- or illegal aliens that come here?

PARKER: The reality is that everybody who was involved in this horrible incident in 9/11, we all lost people and we're all, you know, it was tragic. But the reality is that every single one of those people were, in fact, documented. And they weren't documented -- and they weren't documented because there was a lapse of security. That lapse that -- that documentation allowed us to know who those people are.

GOLDEN: The Real I.D. card would have stopped that.

PARKER: No, it wouldn't have stopped that.

GOLDEN: The Real I.D....

PARKER: No, it really wouldn't have stopped that.

GOLDEN: ...law would stop that. And I'm glad you read your talking points today, that it's only 150,000 legal immigrants. This about illegal immigrants. This about terrorism. This about the loss of life. If you remember, 3,000 families and hundreds of billions of dollars is what happened to this city, the losses here in 9/11.

PARKER: But, you know, buddy -- but Marty...

GOLDEN: Hold on...

PARKER: ...but nobody knew that 9/11 was...

GOLDEN: Hold on.

PARKER: ...nobody who did 9/11 was illegal. Everybody there was documented.

GOLDEN: That's not true.

PARKER: It is absolutely true.

GOLDEN: That's not true. That's not true.

PARKER: That's absolutely true.

GOLDEN: There were two of them undocumented and they were here on their visas and they failed to report when their visa had expired. So right off the point you're wrong on that one.

PARKER: That's not true.

GOLDEN: That is true.

PARKER: That's absolutely not true.

GOLDEN: And next, in turn, you do not want to have an individual with the right to use a New York state license to be able to go and rent a car, to be able to live here.

Do you know how you can get a license today?

You can live here for two years, have a Brooklyn Union gas bill or an electric bill and a lease. And you can go over to the...

PARKER: That's not true, either.

GOLDEN: ...DMV. That is true.

PARKER: (INAUDIBLE).

GOLDEN: These are the (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK) PARKER: I've read the bill.

And this is not a bill, frankly. This is just -- it was done by regulation, which is why it doesn't have to go through the legislature. I actually have the bill that allows people not to need a Social Security or to get (INAUDIBLE)...

PILGRIM: Gentlemen, I wish we could solve it.

I have to -- we're are out of time.

Thank you very much for arguing your points very effectively.

Senator Parker and Senator Golden, thank you.

I.D. Act, Phil Kent, the author of the provocative book, "Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal Super-Rich Undermine America."

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: Coming up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thanks Kitty.

Coming up, fear that hackers could cripple the United States' power grid. Officials successfully perform a test attack on a generator much like ones that supply electricity to your home.

But could someone bring the entire United States to its knees with just a computer and the Internet?

We're going to have much more on this developing and very important story.

The president of Iran talks to CNN. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sits down with our own Christiane Amanpour. He talks about his trip to New York City and the unwelcome mat New Yorkers rolled out.

Al Gore says everyone should worry about what he's calling a planetary emergency. He talks to me about what needs to happen to address climate change. He outlines what the Bush administration and the presidential candidates are not doing. My exclusive interview with the former vice president. That's coming up.

A lot more, as well.

Back to you -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Author Phil Kent says wealthy liberal elites are destroying this country and he makes these claims in a provocative book. And I asked him why the 16,000 tax-exempt foundations with assets of $550 billion pose a threat to America.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

PHIL KENT, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is a wonderful thing. And, you know, many of these big foundations -- Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Pew, McArthur -- all founded by the founders of capitalism. What's happened, though, are these huge endowments they're not going, in all too many cases, for education and medicine and good, charitable giving. There's a radical agenda that I underscore in my book.

PILGRIM: You know, let me just read a passage from your book. It's one of the real issues that you have. And mostly you take issue with the power that these foundations have.

And here's the quote: "It is their amazing clout that is cause for concern, and the anti-freedom and even anti-American agenda many pursue should make patriotic Americans angry."

Why do you call it anti-American?

KENT: Well, you know, it's gone beyond even the liberal charitable giving, which is fine. I'm talking about big foundations like the Ford Foundation, when they give to radical Islamic charities. You know, it's pretty sad when back in 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union, of all people, rejected some Ford and Rockefeller grants because of fear of terror links.

PILGRIM: Phil, you know, I have to tell you, the last time you were on the program, you took issue with the Ford Foundation. They did respond. So I would like to read what they have said and then we'll get your response to that. The Ford Foundation -- this was the Ford Foundation who wrote to us in 2007: "The Ford Foundation would never support groups or organizations involved in violence or terrorism and there is no evidence to the contrary. The work of our grantees in the midst of conflict is aimed at building greater respect for democratic values, human rights and peace."

That seems to be the sort of Ford Foundation that we all assume is functioning.

KENT: Well, you know, it was the Ford Foundation of many years ago that's morphed. Now, yes, they've done some wonderful work with some of their wonderful grants. But, let's talk about the Al Mazen Center, that was funded from 2001 to 2003, which provided support to Palestinian suicide bombers.

Let's talk about the admission they made to Congressman Jerrold Nadler that maybe we shouldn't have funded that 2001 United Nations so-called Committee -- conference on racism, which George Will and others called a U.N. orgy of hate against the U.S. And Israel.

So Ford has never apologized. They funded that conference. They'll probably be funding another one. They never addressed that in their statement, which I consider is a badge of honor. I'm glad they attacked me and the book.

PILGRIM: Well, they clearly have.

Conservatives have their own foundations. You don't seem to take issue with conservative foundations.

KENT: No. And, actually, I don't have a problem with liberal or conservative foundations. The subtitle of the book, Kitty, is "Undermining America," and that's what I have a problem with. And it was so underreported. That's why I wrote the book and that's why I'm glad you're focusing on it.

PILGRIM: So you say all conservative foundations pass your test?

KENT: I don't see -- I don't see any of these foundations undermining free enterprise or our sovereignty or really promoting open borders or funding radical Islamic charity. So, yes, the conservatives passed the Phil Kent test.

PILGRIM: All right.

Let me ask you another thing. Now, Congress does not seem to be interested in taking up reforming foundations. So there are 16,000 of them. I think it would be a Herculean task. And the last oversight hearings on foundations were in the -- correct me if I'm wrong, you're the expert -- but in the '50s and '60s.

Why do you think you're one of the few people in the country who is raising this issue?

KENT: Well, when you look at the vast amounts, again, of the assets -- when you started the program, you wonder how is it being spent?

Are we violating IRS rules?

Are we violating donor intent?

It's great for Congress to do oversight in this area -- Democrat, Republican, Independent.

And, you know, Kitty, it's great that the attorneys generals of all 50 states, a lot of them, are starting to get involved. In Michigan, the Ford Foundation is currently being investigated by the attorney general that state, Mike Cox. And, you know, I think it's helped a little bit. Ford is actually -- get a load of this, helping charities back in Detroit, the poorest city in the country -- and some of the traditional charities in Michigan that they should have been funding all along.

PILGRIM: So you think that a review of foundations would actually help them to pick better projects to fund?

KENT: Absolutely. I've been a president of a 501C3 foundation and there's certain rules you have to go by, including no partisan politicking. Many of these are violating that rule and that's why I call for reform and oversight. And a lot of liberals join me in this, too. PILGRIM: You call it invisible government.

Do you think the political establishment is willing to give up this invisible government?

KENT: Well, you know, it's an invisible government because they work with their allies in the media and in the regular government as a battering ram under the guise of charity. And they have their agendas.

As you know, Kitty, the open borders agenda, the radical green agenda -- and as we've talked about, funding very questionable radical Islamic charities.

PILGRIM: Thank you.

Phil Kent, the author of "Foundations of Betrayal: How the Liberal Super-Rich Undermine America."

Thank you, Phil.

KENT: Thank you.

PILGRIM: And the results of tonight's poll next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: Ninety percent of say with food and product recalls dominating the headlines every day, there are no items you feel 100 percent secure about buying for your family.

Thanks for being with us tonight.

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

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