Return to Transcripts main page


Prez to VETO Expanding Child Health Insurance Program; Pentagon Asking for $200 Billion in War Money; Dangerous Toys

Aired September 30, 2007 - 18:00   ET


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, some Federal and state officials are beginning to realize the huge scale of our illegal immigration and border security crisis, but the Bush administration still refuses to give up its amnesty agenda.
And more recalls of toxic toys made in Communist China and a new campaign to protect our children from dangerous imports. We'll have a SPECIAL REPORT. All that and much more straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is Lou Dobbs This Week -- news, debate and opinion for Sunday, September 30th. Here now Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody. A new showdown tonight between the Bush Administration and Congress. Senate and Democrats, some Republicans, defied a presidential veto threat and voted for a big expansion in taxpayer-funded health insurance for children.

Now the administration says that would create a new entitlement program for higher income households, and this latest confrontation comes as Democrats continue to battle the White House over the president's conduct of the war in Iraq.

So joining me now three members of the best political team on television. We're joined by Chief National Correspondent John King, Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, and Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger and thank you very much for being with us.

You know, this looks like a veto fight shaping up between the president and Congress. By a vote of 67 to 29, the Senate passed legislation for SCHIP, this State Children's Health Insurance Program. On the House side, however, they did not have enough votes to necessarily overcome a veto.

Where do we stand on this bill in terms of the fight between the president and Congress? Clearly they are at odds with each other.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They certainly are and what was telling about that vote is that is was the Democrat -- sorry, the Republican senators who are in a tough re-election fight next year who voted against the White House for this bill and many of the Republicans in the House who are in tough re-election fights also voted for this bill.

There is going to be a lot of pressure on those Republicans who are facing re-election, all of them in the House next year, to vote for the bill. The Democrats are already threatening e-mails. They are threatening ads and they are threatening a very tough battle targeting those Republicans who refuse to support children's health care.

PILGRIM: Right. 18 Senate Republicans broke ranks. John, what do you make of this?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, this is a fascinating debate remember George W. Bush came to office saying he was going to be the compassionate conservative. He argued with some conservatives saying there is a role for the government to help people in some cases.

On this point, the president says, and even many Republicans concede it's a legitimate point that the Democrats want to expand the program too much. They want to go beyond helping lower income and poor children and try to expand it for people who perhaps have money and other means, but it comes at the worst possible time for Republicans.

The war is very unpopular in the country. Republican identification if you will, voters who say they are Republicans are going down. Republicans are looking at next year as a disastrous possible year for them so they want to show some achievements on domestic issues so it's not moderate Republicans, even many conservative Republicans are saying Mr. President, on this one you have to give in and throw us a lifeline, but the president is holding fast.

PILGRIM: Let me just -- Gloria, let me just point out what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. She commented on a potential veto by the president. Let me go to that first.


NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What is happening here is that the president will find himself alone. He will be drawing a line between him and all of the people across America who support the health and well-being of America's children.


PILGRIM: Gloria, on Friday she even said she would pray for President Bush that he would have a change of heart. What do you make of it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think this is one of those real easy bumper sticker issues. You know Kitty, it reminds me when Ronald Reagan declared ketchup a vegetable and everybody jumped on him. That was during the school lunch program, and, of course, he wanted to cut school lunches for kids.

Here you have the same kind of a debate. The president says as John said before that this is a question of runaway government spending, that it's a question of an entitlement that's going to go to children who are already insured, but what it is is a very easy campaign issue. Either you're for kids or you're against kids and so the Democrats are jumping on this. It would be easier for Republicans to support this president on this issue if this had been the 50th in a string of vetoes on runaway government spending, but it's actually his third veto threat, and that's really a problem for them because there is no legislative history of this president trying to control spending. That's a problem.

SCHNEIDER: And one other thing about spending -- this program is a $35 billion expansion of the current program. Now that sounds like a lot of money, but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing $3.5 billion a week, so to pay for this entire program for the next five years or the expansion of this program that the Democrats are seeking is ten weeks of warfare.

PILGRIM: All right. You know, the money question is interesting in the context of the war, Bill, as you bring it up, because the Pentagon is asking for $190 billion for 2008 for Iraq and Afghanistan, an additional $42.3 billion of war funding, so we will have a serious debate over funding versus the intent of the administration coming forward in regard to Iraq. John, what do you think this fight will turn into?

KING: Kitty, there's no question that the president will get his money for the wars because the last thing the Democrats want to do is have another debate about whether or not they support the troops, but Bill and you just hit on a very interesting point going into an election year, the Democrats will give him the money for the war although they will debate again whether they can attach any strings to that money, whether they can force the president into somehow a timetable. That looks unlikely.

There are Republican compromise proposals that would force the president to shift from a combat to a support role although the Democrats say right now they won't support those because they want that timeline, but it does give the Democrats a platform to say to the American people what should be the priority be in Washington. The president wants to spend all this money on a war that we think is a mistake. We want a small slice of that have money to give to children's health care. We want a small slice more to go to other programs like college loan programs.

So the Democrats have a chance now to focus on priorities. And Kitty, the Democrats are in trouble too. The people who elected them to end the war have not seen them do that and many others are saying what about the bread an butter issues.

PILGRIM: Well, exactly John. And in fact, the Democratic presidential candidates met this week for a debate in New Hampshire and none of the candidates could make a guarantee they would bring the combat troops home at all so it seems that the Democrats have -- it's their turn to make a suggestion and yet there haven't been really clear suggestions about this. Gloria, I've cut you off twice, I'm sorry.

BORGER: The leading candidates in the debate this week said that they couldn't guarantee that all the troops would be out of Iraq by even 2013, and that could turn into a problem for them. But on the larger issue, there's a question of Congressional approval.

Congressional approval ratings are between 20 percent and 30 percent and that's even lower than the president right now so what you see the Democrats trying to do is to set up these issues for themselves as they head into the next election because they know that they -- that the public doesn't perceive that they have been leading, whether it's on Iraq, whether it's on domestic policy. They understand that the American public still believes that Congress isn't getting anything done, and that's a big issue for them now that they are in control.

PILGRIM: Bill, last word on this.

SCHNEIDER: The differences among the Democrats are really relatively small. They all are in favor of ending the war, at least the combat phase of the war where the Americans are actively fighting in the middle of an insurgency. The difference is they got into war, how many troops should be left. Should there be some troops to fight al Qaeda? Should there be some troops to train Iraqis? Should they be there to protect the withdrawing American troops or those that are left to protect American interests, but those are very, very small. The big issue is ending the war and all the Democratic candidates want to do that.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, John King, Bill Schneider, Gloria Borger Thank you very much.

Still to come, rising anger over dangerous imports from Communist China and this country's failed trade policies.

Also, you know him as Cliff from Cheers, but now John Ratzenberger has a new role and he's trying to save what's left of the manufacturing industry. He's among my guests.

And also, a new move to enforce our immigration laws, but our borders remain wide open to illegal aliens, drug traffickers, and possibly even terrorists. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: State officials in Virginia are taking action to keep criminal illegal aliens off their streets. Those officials want to build a jail for illegal aliens convicted of crimes and who are awaiting deportation.

As Lisa Sylvester now reports, the state is planning a jail because the federal government has failed to take action.


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 HOUSE: I'm disappointed in the president of the United States, who is a member of my party. I think he has 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.


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.


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


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: Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester. Thanks, Lisa.

While Virginia is trying to enforce immigration laws, Illinois wants to stop a federal plan to crack down on illegal aliens. But the federal government is fighting back. The Department of Homeland Security is suing Illinois over a new state law. And that state law would block a federal plan to crack down on employers of illegal aliens.

As Bill Tucker reports, DHS says that puts Illinois in conflict with federal law.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Department of Homeland Security has sued the state of Illinois. It's over a federal government online program where employers can check whether their employees are allowed to work in the United States.

Illinois has decided to outlaw employers in its state from using the program. The Department of Homeland Security says, that's usurping federal law. In legal speak, the lawsuit: "Seeks to invalidate an Illinois state law that frustrates our ability to assist employers in making sure their workforce is legal, and, in doing so, conflicts with federal law."

On his blog, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff is more plainspoken: "The American people have been loud and clear about their desire to see our nation's immigration laws enforced. We are taking aggressive steps to do that."

And Chertoff says the Illinois law is in effect illegally getting in the way. Illinois' governor and the attorney general say they will "vigorously defend the state law." Advocates for immigration law enforcement praised DHS for the lawsuit, but admit it caught them by surprise.

KRIS KOBACH, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: This is the first time that the federal government has sued a state in recent years where we have seen states and cities deliberately undermining federal immigration law and, in some cases, deliberately contradicting and violating federal immigration law.

TUCKER: The Illinois law goes into effect on January 1st, unless DHS prevails, and the law is overturned.


TUCKER: Now, according to the DHS, more than 23,000 companies nationwide are currently enrolled in the E-Verify program, including 800 of those companies in Illinois alone. Now E-Verify, Kitty, used to be known as the Basic Pilot program, in case you haven't heard the phrase and it sounds unfamiliar. But Basic Pilot now known as E- Verify.

PILGRIM: E-Verify, which actually is the more descriptive term. You know, Bill, it is interesting, the states taking action on their own, so many of them now.

TUCKER: They are, and they're not consistent. And it is the direct result, a lot of people would argue, of the federal government abandoning the enforcement of immigration policies and laws that are in place. And so what is happening is states like Illinois feel like, well, we can go off and make our own rules and this lawsuit by DHS is a reminder that, no, not when we don't want you to.

PILGRIM: It will be an interesting case to follow. Thanks very much, Bill Tucker.

Well, just ahead, the illegal alien movement may have a new ally, as in MTV enters the illegal immigration debate.

And toxic trade. How America's failed trade policies are putting your health in danger. We'll have a special report.


PILGRIM: The Senate this week laid the dream act to rest, for the time being at least. Now Republican opposition prevented Senator Dick Durbin from attaching the amnesty provision to the defense appropriations bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed to revive the issue before the year's end.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Senator Durbin and all who care about this matter should know that we will move to proceed to this matter before we leave here. I am going to do my utmost to do it on November, by November 16th. This is important legislation. We have a commitment to young people to do this.


PILGRIM: Now the dream act would in effect grant amnesty to millions of illegal alien whose entered the country before they were 16 years old. The illegal alien amnesty movement may have found a new partner, MTV. The network's Latino channel, MTV Tr3s, is airing a program this weekend called "Beyond Borders," ostensibly to explore solutions to the illegal immigration crisis.

Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): MTV has long history of youth-oriented political activism with its Choose or Lose campaign and partnership with Rock the Vote. Now MTV's fledging Latino network, MTV Tr3s, is entering the immigration debate.

LILY NEUMEYER, VICE PRESIDENT, MTV TR3S: Seventy-six percent of the audience that we poll said that the issue of immigration and the stance on immigration of the candidates will determine who they're going to vote in the presidential election.

WIAN: MTV Tr3s says its "Beyond Borders" program, a panel discussion among Latino activists, entertainers, and others, is giving a voice to youth who are ready to go beyond the politics and rhetoric of the immigration debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think President Bush is the best amigo for Latinos in the immigration debate?

WIAN: "I want to see action," says California Congressman Xavier Becerra, an advocate of giving legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.

Following MTV Tr3s' format, the forum was conducted in Spanglish, a mix of Spanish and English.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think so many other artists given (SPEAKING SPANISH)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I find it hard to believe that America does not understand our presence here in the United States. We are here working the most undesirable jobs. I just want to know why they think that we're taking the jobs that they want, because we really aren't.

WIAN: That was disputed by the forum's lone voice opposing amnesty, a young Minuteman.

CALAN, MINUTEMAN: Well, that's a difficult question for me to exactly tackle. I do believe that Americans will do those jobs.

WIAN: The network would not permit our camera to record the event. It provided clips and access to audience members, who viewed a documentary about life on the border.

MARIA FRANCO, ATTENDED PANEL: I have a lot of friends and family members who are my age, and are trying to go to school, trying to get an education. They keep up a good GPA, but have to be deported sadly because they have no choice. They have been here since they were young and just trying to go to school

WIAN: The MTV Tr3s Web site has a poll question asking not whether illegal aliens should receive amnesty, but which illegal aliens should receive amnesty first. The documentary and forum airs Saturday.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.


PILGRIM: Coming up, drivers licenses for illegal aliens, we'll tell you why New York's governor, Eliot Spitzer thinks that's a good idea and why his opponents disagree.

And toxic trade, from dangerous toys to tainted foods and medicine, one group says our failed trade policies with China are a hazard to your health.

And actor John Ratzenberger from "Cheers" takes on a new roll as an advocate for American workers. We'll hear from him when we return.


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, I'm Veronica de la Cruz. A quick check of the headlines. Make sure that you check your refrigerator. The Topps Meat Company has recalled more than 21 million pounds of ground beef. The meat could be contaminated with E. coli. Affected packages have a sell-by date or best-if-used-by date between September 25th, 2007, and September 25th, 2008.

Her name is Madison (ph). She is safe. She is sound. It is the best case scenario police were hoping for since a videotape emerged showing Madison being sexually assaulted. It turns out the video is several years old. A Nevada man has been identified as a suspect.

Myanmar melting down. But witnesses describe the city streets as quieter. A senior U.N. diplomat arrived there today, hoping to engage Myanmar's military leaders in talks to end a worsening streak of public tension and violence. Armed security forces have forcefully put down a wave of pro-democracy marches and demonstrations.

Newt Gingrich gave it some thought but he says that he is not going to run for president in 2008. The Gingrich spokesman says the former Republican House Speaker realized he can't form an exploratory committee to run for president and run his political action committee at the same time.

And those are your headlines at this hour keeping you informed. CNN, the most trusted name in news.

PILGRIM: More than a million children's toys and products made in communist China were recalled over the past week. Now the products include about 425,000 Kolcraft Playard brand infant playpens. Kolcraft says a design flaw caused the death of a 10-month-old child. Six hundred thousand toys and children's products were pulled off the store shelves because of lead contamination. Critics say this country's failed trade policies are to blame for the recent wave of product recalls. Policies they say that are not only outsourcing American jobs but also putting your safety at risk. Christine Romans has our report.


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 liability.


ROMANS (on camera): The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it is a lean and efficient organization. And all these product recalls show the system is safe and working. Now they're considering new rules on baby bibs and lead jewelry children, but Kitty, that process will likely take months. In the meantime, many experts are predicting even more recalls ahead.

PILGRIM: It really is horrifying when you think that you as a consumer would have to buy a lead testing kit to make sure that your child is not ingesting a poison that would lower its I.Q.

ROMANS: The fact that families are become their own product safety commission is something that many consumer advocates say is a perfect example of how out of control all this outsourcing has gotten.

PILGRIM: Buyer beware. Thanks very much, Christine Romans.

Actor John Ratzenberger is known to millions of Americans for his role as Cliff the letter carrier on the TV show "Cheers." Well, now John Ratzenberger has a new role as advocate for American workers and the host of the program "John Ratzenberger's Made In America."

Ratzenberger is also moderating several town hall meetings around the country on the issue of trade and manufacturing and jobs. We spoke to him about manufacturing in the United States and this country's trade policies


JOHN RATZENBERGER, "JOHN RATZENBERGER'S MADE IN AMERICA": Well, I grew up in a factory town, Bridgeport, Connecticut. And that's one of the reasons I do my show, John Ratzenberger's "Made In America" on the Travel Channel, because I understand that it's the people who get up every morning and go to work and actually make something that's the basis -- that's the foundation of our entire civilization. And I think the people in Washington have forgotten that. It seems like they pass legislation that actually undermines the very foundation of -- on which we exist.

So I've come here to New Hampshire to do town hall meetings. The town hall meeting here -- this is the first one. And to get this on the presidential candidates', well, radar -- to have the people of the town start asking questions about when are you going to start supporting American workers?

What are you going to do about, you know, enforcing the trade agreements that are already in place?


RATZENBERGER: There's a train going by. I love that sound. That's the sound of America working, my favorite sound in the world.

PILGRIM: Since 2000, we've lost three million jobs in the manufacturing sector in this country.

Do you think the candidates are paying enough attention?

RATZENBERGER: You know, if they don't, you know, within six to 10 years, we're not going to have factories. If we don't have factories, we don't have workers. And they talk about us becoming a service society. No one's been able to explain what that even is. See, if you don't make something, then really there's -- that's actually what communities exist around. If you have a factory, they support the pizza place, they support the hardware store, the local tire shop. You're never going to see the name of a Chinese factory on your kids' Little League uniform.

So the fabric of the entire community is affected and when I cross the country with my show, I see that time after time after time, is that no one's paying attention to the very people that make it possible for to us get up in the morning and do what we do.

PILGRIM: You know, we have seen a rash of dangerous imports, mainly from China, that -- things that are really dangerous to have in American homes -- children's toys with lead, tainted food, food that is inedible. And we're importing so much from overseas, especially from China ...


PILGRIM: Do you believe that that's a negative in the American economy right now?

RATZENBERGER: Oh, sure it is, especially the fact that there is no regulation in China. An article in the Boston paper yesterday, I was down there, and the apple juice you're feeding your kids is coming from China. It's the concentrate, reconstituted apple juice. There's only one company, according to the article -- it's Martinelli's -- that uses American apples.

What happened? Did we forget how to grow apples in Washington or the upper state in New York?

I don't think so.

Yes, it's a big danger. It's a very big danger because all we're doing is feeding the dragon that one day is going to turn its head and come after us.

PILGRIM: The Bush administration is pushing free trade agreements -- four of them currently. And they call any critic of these agreements protectionist.

Do you believe that label is accurate?

RATZENBERGER: You know, I kind of enjoy that label. It's -- if you boil it down, you know, like Tip O'Neill said, all politics is local. Your family you're going to protect. Your neighborhood, you're going to protect. You might love the people in the other neighborhoods, but you protect those around you.

It's the same thing with America. This is our neighborhood. This is our family. We should protect us, because once we give it all away, I don't know what happens.

Do we become a slave nation? Do we take our marching orders from someone else? And it seems to be heading in that direction.

So protectionist -- I think it's a good label.

PILGRIM: How -- what kind of turn out are you expecting tonight?

RATZENBERGER: They say it's going to be a full house tonight. So we'll see.


Well, we wish you every success with it.

And it's very nice that America is getting to hear about these sort of policies that make common sense in this country.

Thanks very much. John Ratzenberger.

RATZENBERGER: It is common sense.

And tell Lou I hope his tonsils feel OK.


PILGRIM: Well, we spoke to Lou. And he is resting. And looking forward to coming back to work. And we thank all of you for your concern about that. Coming up -- New York's governor wants to give drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. We'll have a lively debate with two New York senators with opposing sides on this issue. And Senator Hillary Clinton has a commanding lead in the latest polls. Can her Democratic rivals change that. We'll hear from our distinguished panel of analysts. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: New York Governor Eliot Spitzer wants his state to issue drivers licenses to illegal aliens. Now those illegal aliens will only have to show a valid foreign passport. They will not have to produce a Social Security number or evidence of legal entry into this country. Governor Spitzer says it is not New York's business to do the job of federal immigration authorities.


GOV. ELIOT SPITZER, (D) NY: 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 job and put it on the shoulders of every agency in the State of New York. It's wrong. We're not going to do it.


PILGRIM: Well now tonight we're going to hear from both sides of the issue. I spoke with Kevin Parker, a Democratic state senator from Brooklyn. He supports governor Spitzer's measure and Martin Golden, a Republican state senator also from Brooklyn and he thinks the governor's plan is a threat to national security. I asked Senator Golden why he doesn't like Governor Spitzer's plan.


MARTIN GOLDEN, (R) NY STATE SENATOR: 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 ...


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: If 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 (ph) 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 were.

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.


GOLDEN: These are the (INAUDIBLE).

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 ...

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.

Many elected officials in New York State, oppose Governor Spitzer's plan to grant drivers licenses to illegal aliens. They say licenses could go to potential terrorists. The New York City Mayor, Mike Bloomberg says issuing licenses to just about any body is quote, "wrong at every level and conflicts with federal guidelines." At least one of the states, county clerks, who issues drivers licenses says he will not carry out the policy. The other county clerks are considering legal action.

Up next -- is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich closer to making a run for president? Well we will discuss that story and more with three of the best political minds in the country. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: Joining me now are three of the best political analysts and strategists in the country. We have "New York Daily News" columnist Errol Louis. We have Democratic strategist and national committeeman Robert Zimmerman, and Robert also a supporter, we should point out, of Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign, and in Washington, Diana West of "The Washington Times."

And thank you all for being here. You know it has been, the political season is getting really interesting. Let's look at the New Hampshire Republican rankings and polls right now and see what we have. We have Romney at 25. Giuliani at 24. McCain at 18. And Thompson at 13. Let's start with you, Robert.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: One of the most interesting aspects about polls, only 19 percent of Republicans that were polled were pleased with their candidate selections. And that shows an enormous number that are very dissatisfied or have serious question as but their choices. And further in the poll, 66 percent said they would consider making other choices.

They weren't settled on their choice. Which tells me it is a wide open race, New Hampshire. It is obviously significant to see McCain move up and to see Romney fall back because it is really Romney is really running as a favorite son coming from neighboring New Hampshire. Massachusetts rather. And having an estate in New Hampshire.

PILGRIM: That's right. Diana what is your thought?

DIANA WEST, "WASHINGTON TIMES": Well I think Robert's assessment is good. I think this is also -- anyone's race at this point. And it is very interesting to see McCain moving up for a change.

PILGRIM: You know these four front runners were criticized for skipping a debate on minority issues, do you believe, Errol, that this will have an impact on their campaign?

ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I think in the long term it does. When you talk general election. If the leading Republican candidates decide they don't want to try to reach out to black voters which really is what it was, the debate at Morgan State, that is maybe understandable. Republican candidates don't break into double digits with black voters for a lot of different reasons. But if you start to look overall where, they're not doing very well with Latino voters and not doing well with voters under 40 as Newt Gingrich has said when he talks about the race, at, one morning you wake up, and there is no way to get a majority and govern the country. So Republicans have to be very mindful of that.

PILGRIM: Let's talk about Newt Gingrich. He's announcing he'll get in the race for president if he can raise $30 million by October 21st. That is something that puts a wren wrinkle in this line-up. Robert, what's your thought?

ZIMMERMAN: Newt Gingrich has been described by Democratic members of the House as perhaps the most brilliant strategist since Sam Adams. He is truly one of the most astute players in terms of political guerrilla warfare, in terms of political tactics. So he has been very carefully building the scenario to try to get into the race. All the while, he is raising his lecture fees on the circuit and also selling books. So he is a very smart man. He is a man of ideas. And he had quite an impact if he got in the race.

PILGRIM: Diana, do you think he will make it into the race?

WEST: I do. I think this has been his plan for a long time. And it has a very dramatic element. We'll see if he makes the money. They have also been talking how Republicans have not been giving money in the sums that they usually are, at the rate they usually do. So there is a lot of untapped money out there for a Republican to draw on.

LOUIS: I would lock to announce, by the way, if I get $25 million in donations, sent to me at the "Daily News" I too will jump into the presidential contest.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm sending my Internet check in.

PILGRIM: All right. We can't be doing that here. Let's move on to the Democrats, all right? We have Clinton, OK, 43 percent. Then very far trailing her, Obama, 20 percent. Edwards, 12 percent. Richardson, eight percent. And we see Clinton really pulling ahead at this point. Robert. Thoughts on that.

ZIMMERMAN: Hillary Clinton's greatest opponent in the race is expectations. And I think that is really her greatest challenge. Because it's not just -- I'm old-fashioned. I used to think the person with the most votes wins. It's the person who beats expectations comes out the winner. So that is her big challenge in this election.

PILGRIM: And in the national polls she is ahead. Diana what do you think state-by-state. Does she keep the lead?

WEST: It's -- you know it looks that way. We have seen frontrunners stumble before. So we still have to say, have to say we have to wait and see. But it certainly looks very good for her at this point before any single vote has been cast.

LOUIS: More to the point. You go state by state and she's got those double digit leads in state after state in the early going. So Obama doesn't, he doesn't come close in Iowa, not in New Hampshire, not in South Carolina, not in Florida, not in California. It becomes very difficult to see how, although we in the press sort of want to make this into a race. But it really becomes difficult to see if this is going to be a real contest.

ZIMMERMAN: But those early contests will be more important now than ever before. I'm referring to the Iowa caucus, Nevada caucus, New Hampshire primary and the South Carolina primary. Clearly they're going to be decisive for Edwards. If he is going to gain traction to move forward and for Barack Obama as well and if Hillary Clinton does not emerge successfully in the early contests, it's going to get much difficult down the road. The real challenge here is going to be to see how these states which are, which like to make their decisions at the last minute. How they respond to a frontrunner because they like to pick the frontrunner not let the media pick the frontrunner.

PILGRIM: Well, we won't be doing that. We'll be taking a quick break and have more with the panel after this.


PILGRIM: Now the results of tonight's poll. Ninety-seven percent of you applaud Rnsselaer County Clerk Frank Merola's decision to refuse to issue drivers licenses to illegal aliens.

Time now for some more of your thoughts. Bob in Missouri. "It should be very obvious by now that our elected representatives will not listen to the will of the American people. Mr. Bush's request for 190 billion in 2008 to continue the insanity of this war must be denied."

Okey in Indiana. "C'mon Americans. Vote your incumbent senators and representatives out of office. Let's shake up Washington and start fresh while we still can. I'm fairly certain that the founding fathers never intended on having 'career politicians' working for corporate empires as our governing body."

Mike in Florida. "The Democrats want to give millions of illegal immigrants amnesty and the Republicans pander to the top three percent. As to the middle class, good luck, you are on your own. Add another independent voter to your list, Lou."'

Thanks for joining us, we'll see you later. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good bye from New York.