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Border Patrol Expands Zero-Tolerance Policy; Oil Prices Hit All-Time High

Aired October 26, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the Border Patrol expanding a zero-tolerance policy against illegal aliens along part of our southern border with Mexico. What took the Border Patrol so long? Authority for that policy has been in place for more than half a century. We will have a special report for you.
Also tonight, a new shock for middle-class families already struggling. Crude oil prices hitting $92 a barrel for the first time ever. We will have a special report.

And Governor Eliot Spitzer insists his plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens will cut insurance rates for New Yorkers. What is he thinking? The good governor is refusing to publish any evidence to support his assertion. We will publish some evidence that shows other states have had a quite different experience.

And I will be joined by three of the country's best political analysts and strategists. We will be discussing the plunging new poll numbers for this Congress and trying to figure out what in the world Senators Obama and Clinton think they're doing. Just who are they representing?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Friday, October 26.

Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

We begin tonight with a startling new warning to the United States from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin today compared U.S. plans to build missile defense in Europe to the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly half a century ago. Putin's warning is the latest in what has been a series of escalating challenges to U.S. foreign policy.

Iran, an ally of Russia, is increasingly defiant over its nuclear weapons program and its meddling in Iraq. One Iranian official saying the threats of a U.S. attack against Iran are just exaggerations.

First, tonight, Ed Henry reporting from the White House on President Putin's latest outburst and, perhaps, perceived threat -- Ed. ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, President Putin has declared that Iran does not want nuclear weapons, a complete contradiction of U.S. policy. And now he's ratcheting up the rhetoric to a whole new level.


HENRY (voice-over): Another blast from Russian president Vladimir Putin, now comparing President Bush's plan for a mission defense shield to the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were on the brink of nuclear war.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): For Russia, these situations are technologically very similar.

HENRY: Hit with questions about a potential new Cold War, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino tried to downplay it by noting Putin also called Mr. Bush a friend.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no way you can walk away without thinking that he thinks that we can work together.

HENRY: But with friends like Putin, who needs enemies? A point made recently by even Republican John McCain in a mocking reference to Mr. Bush's infamous declaration that he had seen into Mr. Putin's soul.

JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I looked into Putin's eyes and I saw three letters -- a K, a G, and a B.

HENRY: But Perino insisted a missile defense system in Europe would be good for Putin because it could help prevent rogue states like Iran from attacking Russia.

PERINO: And that's the purpose of it, and President Putin identified two people to work with, two people the president designated, Secretary Rice and Gates, who were there just that week.

HENRY: Of course, at that meeting, Putin mocked the two cabinet secretaries, declaring the missile defense plan should be built on the moon. This week, Putin also slammed the White House's latest sanctions against Iran, comparing that to Running around like a madman with a razor blade.

PERINO: But the problem here isn't the United States, it's not the international community. The problem is Iran, and Iran has not stepped back from trying to pursue a nuclear weapon.


HENRY: In private, administration officials explain this away as Mr. Putin's bark being bigger than his bite. But his escalating rhetoric is raising questions whether the president and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who was billed as a Russian expert, have misjudged this alliance -- Lou. DOBBS: Well, there seems to be little question that Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, is hardly the appropriate person to be responding when you have a secretary of state, a president, a host of top administration officials, including a national security adviser. This is a very strong statement from the Russian government and the head of that government. What in the world is this White House thinking about?

HENRY: Well, in fact, at one point Dana Perino today essentially blamed this on the media saying that we were hyping up Mr. Putin's comments, when in fact it is just his comments that are in fact escalating the situation.

And for some reason this White House doesn't want to answer him point for point. They think it's because he throws out this rhetoric, but then in private is more constructive. But for whatever reason they believe, the bottom line is they're not responding directly and, meanwhile, he continues to escalate and escalate it -- Lou.

DOBBS: And the success of this administration in convincing Turkey not to launch an incursion against Kurds in Iraq, that meeting with about the same level of success.

Ed Henry, thank you very much.

The Bush administration tonight is still trying to formulate an approach to convince Turkey not to launch its military into Iraq. Turkish war craft and helicopters today attacking Kurdish rebel positions inside Iraq. More than 60,000 Turkish troops are now massed on the border with Iraq. Turkey today saying it will delay a decision on any incursion until after the Turkish prime minister meets with the president, that to occur on the 5th of November.

Insurgents in Iraq killed another one of our troops. Three of our troops killed in combat this week; 33 of our troops have been killed so far this month; 3,840 of our troops killed since the war began; 28,327 of our troops have been wounded, 12,685 of them seriously.

A top U.S. commander in Iraq, Major General Benjamin Mixon, today declared al Qaeda in Iraq has suffered what he called a serious blow. General Mixon attributing that success to the increased number of U.S. troops in Iraq. But the general warned northern Iraq remains -- quote -- "fertile ground for insurgents."

U.S. officials say Iranian special forces are helping insurgents in Iraq kill our troops. Iran remains defiant, of course, in the face of new U.S. sanctions targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Tehran also appears quite confident that the United States will not launch a military attack against Iran.

Barbara Starr has our report from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an Iranian made-for-TV parade. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader, inspects the troops and then his message to the U.S. A formation designed as a sword pierces a Star of David, the American flag and a swastika.

Iran's leaders appear to be hardening their position. The day after the U.S. announced its sanctions, Iran's nuclear negotiations said U.S. action would have no effect on Iran, saying -- quote -- "They have imposed sanctions on us for 28 years. The new sanctions are just in the same direction."

The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard was quoted by Iranian news agencies as saying Tehran would respond to any U.S. strike with -- quote -- "an even more decisive strike." Many wonder if President Bush is still trying to send his own signal.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in prevent them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

STARR: But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made his position clear. U.S. commanders want a diplomatic solution.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think that we have to be very mindful of risks associated with follow-on steps, which would engage us in yet a third country in that part of the world in any kind of conflict.


STARR: Lou, the military is making one very interesting step, however. This week they asked for money to finish building a new 30,000-pound bunker-buster bomb. It would be the biggest bomb in the inventory and it would, in fact, if it all worked, go after those deeply buried hardened targets, the very type of thing that U.S. believes Iran is using to hide a nuclear weapons program -- Lou.

DOBBS: It also reminds us that we heard a great deal about shock and awe and bunker-busters and MOABs during the Iraq invasion, and suggests that this military might be considering other issues, as well as new ordnance.

STARR: Well, I think, Lou, there is no question I think the message Admiral Mullen is sending is that the military would do it, if ordered, of course, is ready to do it, but no one in the U.S. military wants a war with Iran. They feel they have got a pretty full plate as it is.

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much, Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

The Border Patrol has a new policy along part of our southern border with Mexico. They are going to force existing law and that is going to be called zero tolerance. Imagine that.

Lisa Sylvester with have our report -- Lisa. LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, illegal aliens caught crossing into the United States from Mexico are generally not detained. They're just sent right back across the border. But the Border Patrol is changing that in Laredo, Texas.

DOBBS: Looking forward to that report, Lisa. Thank you.

Also, a new shock to middle-class families already struggling in this economy, trying to avoid in many cases financial disaster. We will have a special report.

And firefighters, they are reporting significant progress in the battle against those raging wildfires in Southern California, but the death toll has risen. We will have complete coverage. Stay with us. We're coming right back.


DOBBS: Law enforcement officials now are targeting a new section of our broken border with Mexico trying to stop a wave of illegal aliens entering this country illegally.

Beginning next Tuesday what is called a zero-tolerance rule will go into effect along a section of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

As Lisa Sylvester now reports, zero tolerance already has a track record of producing dramatic results.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): These two illegal aliens make a run for it, entering Laredo, Texas. Illegal Mexican border crossers who are caught are simply sent right back to Mexico, free to try again and again. In Texas, illegal aliens are generally given a free pass, the first seven entry attempts without being detained, along most of the Arizona border, the first 15 times, according to Representative John Culberson.

But the Texas congressman says not any more in Laredo, Texas.

REP. JOHN CULBERSON (R), TEXAS: The border in Laredo will be closed to criminals beginning October 30. Every single illegal alien who crosses in Laredo will be arrested, prosecuted and thrown in jail for up to six months.

SYLVESTER: The second offense, a felony, carries a sentence of up to two years imprisonment. The zero-tolerance policy will apply to the 171 miles along the Rio Grande in the Laredo sector. The program known as Operation Streamline, was first put in effect in Del Rio, Texas, two years ago and expanded to Yuma, Arizona.

The results have been a dramatic decline in the attempted illegal crossings. Apprehensions dropped 67 percent in Del Rio, a 70 percent drop in apprehensions in Yuma.

CARLOS CARRILLO, U.S. BORDER PATROL: A reduction in illegal alien traffic will also allow our Border Patrol and other law enforcement partners to focus on more serious threats, such as terrorism, border violence, narcotics.

SYLVESTER: The authority to detain the illegal aliens comes from a law that's been on the books since 1952, the crime of entry without inspection, Title 8, Section 1325 of the U.S. Code. The law has just been ignored. Critics say there will not be enough detention space for the alien detainees.

The American Civil Liberties Union worries illegal aliens will not receive due process, but the Border Patrol says the same concerns were raised in Del Rio and Yuma, but have not been a problem.


SYLVESTER: Now, the Senate approved just last week an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science spending bill that sets aside up to $10 million to expand Operation Streamline, money that can be used for more bed space and to hire more judges and public defenders -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, the idea that it took Congressman Culberson, the Laredo Specter of the Border Patrol all of this time, bless them for trying to do something about it, but what in the world inspired this action that is perfectly rational, but has been on the books, as you say, for more than half a century?

SYLVESTER: It has been on the books since 1952 and that very question was asked at a news conference today. And what they said, the Border Patrol says it's a resources issue. Only recently, have they received the necessary resources.

But Representative John Culberson will say, look, this started as a grassroots effort. We could have been doing this all along and we should be doing this all along.

DOBBS: Well, I think it's important that -- I will put it this way. Everybody in this country who believes it's time for the nonsense to end should let their congressman know and the Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security, particularly Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, let them know that this is exactly what they expect.

The idea, Lisa, that the idiots at the Department of Homeland Security would as a matter of policy permit seven attempts, seven entries into the United States before getting annoyed, or 15, if you happen to be in Arizona, this flies in the face of everything that Chertoff has been saying, this president has been saying about border security.

SYLVESTER: You know, John Culberson put it this way. He said, look, I'm a Texan and I'm a Republican, but I clearly blame the president, his own president, a member of his own party, for failing to secure the border. So, he places the blame on the president, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, in Texas, they have got a word for people who behave as Chertoff and this president have. I won't use that word during a broadcast that is during family hour. But when we move to 7:00 on November 5, Lisa, I just might.

Thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester, from Washington.


DOBBS: That brings us to the subject of tonight's poll. Should the federal government institute that zero-tolerance policy across the entire southern border of the United States? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We will have the results here later in the broadcast.

I would also hope -- by the way, I should add, if I may, that I believe the Border Patrol and this administration and particularly the Department of Homeland Security ought to start a zero-tolerance policy for illegal employers of illegal aliens in this country. I think we might see things happen pretty quickly that would be very positive for this country.

Well, speaking of things that are not positive for this country, New York's Governor Eliot Spitzer citing lower car insurance now as a major reason for his desire to give away driver's licenses to illegal aliens.

Well, this governor is, without question, a beauty.

As Bill Tucker now reports, other states have found that doesn't necessarily work, Governor.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the sharp debate on whether to license illegal aliens to drive in New York, there is one point that all agree on. There are hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens driving without licenses in the state. Rather than ticket them, Governor Eliot Spitzer wants to license them. Doing so, he says, means they will buy car insurance and thus lower premiums for everyone else.

Yet, the governor is still to release a copy of the study which he says proves his argument. It is what they believed would happen in Tennessee, but didn't.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Not only did the rates not go down, not only did they not stay the same, but, indeed, the rates went up. And one of the reasons is because, once you become a magnet for those that are entering the country illegally...

TUCKER: Tennessee reversed its policy last year. In New York, when the policy was laid out to the state's DMV county clerks, one clerk asked if the state is now going to make insurance a condition of getting a driver's license. The answer was no. Insurance will remain only a condition of registering a vehicle. North Carolina had a policy similar to Tennessee's. And like Tennessee, it reversed its policy because the projected insurance benefits didn't materialize. REP. SUE MYRICK (R), NORTH CAROLINA: It's a very simple fact. It happened to us. It has happened to other states. And, you know, the excuse is always used, well, we want them to have insurance. Hey, in North Carolina, they would get insurance and then let it lapse because they knew nobody was going to check. So, it really didn't make any difference.

TUCKER: Meanwhile, the state of New York continues its "Trust me" policy, saying the insurance data indicates lower rates.


TUCKER: Now, what the critics of policies that award illegal aliens driver's licenses don't understand is why won't New York State learn from the lessons of Tennessee and North Carolina, which seems to be a reasonable question, Lou.

DOBBS: Two straightforward answers to that seem to be the only plausible responses. And, of course, this governor is being disingenuous, at best.

One is, they don't really care. And, therefore, they're just blathering. Two, that that isn't the issue at all, that they want the massive voter fraud that will result from providing this identification, this form of identification, despite the fact that state law requires a Social Security number.

The other possibility here is that the governor might have considered, if he wanted to avoid all of this, is putting a special, you know, temporary or an "I" on that driver's license, so that there wouldn't be an issue of voter fraud. One wonders why.

TUCKER: Well, Lou, it wouldn't seem he ever considered that, because, remember, on September 24, he took away from the license the little denotion that it had when your visa expired. So, now all of those licenses, including the illegal aliens', look exactly like everyone's in New York State.

DOBBS: So, let's be really clear, if I may, and say to the governor one more time, Governor, your imperious, arrogant disregard for law, for the well-being of new citizens and for particularly the citizens of your state, that may be just hunky-dory with you, but it is not to either your citizens -- I suppose you and your father would look upon them as tenants, Governor.

But the fact is, they're citizens and deserve regard and respect, you know, the kind of regard and respect you're offering the socio- ethnocentric interest activist groups to whom you're both pandering and paying off for their support.

Governor, you might start thinking for a change. We would appreciate it, all of us who happen to hang out in your fair state. Thank you, Governor.

Thank you, Bill Tucker. Many of you wrote in to express your outrage over both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama's support of the so-called DREAM Act, which the Senate defeated Wednesday.

The DREAM Act would have effectively granted citizenship to more than a million illegal aliens in this country and their relatives.

Molly in Texas wrote in to say: "DREAM Act? Dream on. Hillary and Obama, you both just lost my support, not to mention my vote."

Robert in Arizona said: "I listened with horror yesterday when you mentioned the comments that Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama made concerning proposed legislation to give citizenship to one million illegal aliens, plus maybe several million more relatives. Lou, it's too early to spring Halloween on us."

I'm not the one doing it. I apologize for what Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and the Democratic leadership in Congress would have -- would have spook you, if I may.

"Thanks to the failure of the DREAM Act, we got to see the true colors of Clinton and Obama. Unfortunately, they weren't red, white and blue."

We will have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast.

And, if your e-mail is read here, we will send you a copy of our colleague Jack Cafferty's new book, "It's Getting Ugly Out There."

Coming up next, improving weather giving California firefighters a better chance to control those fires. We will have a report.

A young child dead from a drug-resistant infection. Health officials now concerned about the spread of a deadly superbug. We will have that report.

And America's struggling middle class increasingly facing steep heating costs for the winter. We will be telling you about that and the prospects for improvement.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Crude oil prices today hit $92 a barrel for the first time in history. The spike in crude oil prices will heavily affect middle-class working American families already struggling with soaring mortgage interest costs, higher health care and college tuitions and spiraling debt.

Christine Romans has our report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Winter is coming and middle-class families will dig deep to heat and drive this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a struggle every day, everyone that's out here working. I work two jobs, OK, and I'm still struggling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on a trip to New York now, but it's probably the last one I will take for the winter season. It's just too expensive.

ROMANS: The cost of a barrel of crude oil has spiked more than 30 percent over the past month. And gasoline prices are following quickly behind, ending the week at a national average of $2.82 and expected to rise.

A growing number of experts predict $100 oil and gas above $3 a gallon.

MARK ZANDI, MOODY'S ECONOMY.COM: Try to turn down those thermostats, drive less, drive a car that is more fuel-efficient. Try to think about insulating the home a little bit better. But, when you get right down to it, for most people, this means they are going to have to dip into their saving. And if they don't have saving, they are going to have to cut other kinds of spending.

ROMANS: The government says Americans will spend 10 percent more this winter to heat their homes, $977 on average. Heat with oil, like the majority of the northeast, and bills will be 22 percent higher.

PETER BEUTEL, CAMERON HANOVER: It looks like it's only going to get worse until we have clear signs that we're going to have a recession, so, these are not good choices at all.

ROMANS: For some Americans, he says it will be heat or eat this winter. He forecasts home heating prices will be up 33 percent, and every penny increase at the pump takes $4 million out of Americans' pockets that they would normally spend elsewhere.


ROMANS: As heating the house gets more expensive for millions, so does the house payment. According to the Center for American Progress, more than 2.8 million families have mortgages that will reset this year or next. The average monthly payment on those loans will spike 37 percent. That means the average family in that situation will spend another $10,000 a year in mortgage payments. Try to put some higher energy prices right on top of that, Lou.

DOBBS: And the leadership, of course, emanating from Washington is brilliant dealing with the issue of $92-a-barrel crude oil, a Middle East policy that is a joke, an energy policy for this country that is nonexistent.

This administration and the previous absolutely derelict. And these political candidates, these candidates for their party's nomination, the whole bunch of them, haven't come up with a single original idea to deal with the energy crisis, to assert world leadership on the issue of energy, nor how to deal with OPEC, as previous administrations have had to do.

ROMANS: Well, the folks we talked to today, they're just trying to figure out how to deal with the next few months, how to deal with filling up their heating oil or their natural gas, how to try to figure out how to get through, when the money coming in is not, not going to compensate for what's going on.

DOBBS: And I love, I love these jackasses in this administration, particularly in their -- the treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, the commerce secretary, this president, all of them talk coming together to create a super-fund for the money center banks, investment banks in this country to put together maybe about $100 billion fund, so that they won't have to suffer losses as a result of their bad credit market investments and risk taken in their portfolios, particularly in subprime mortgage.

But we have got millions of people facing foreclosures, the resets that you're talking about on those mortgages, ARMs that were designed for the convenience of the industry. And this administration and this Congress is not moving to deal with a way to relieve that debt and that incredible pressure that it's going to put on middle- class families.

You know, if there's such a thing as moral hazard, if it's going to apply to J.P. Morgan Chase, Citibank, etc. It sure as -- it sure as hell ought to be applying to middle class America. And I hope somebody in this Congress and in this administration would wake up to that reality.

We'll continue to follow what is, again, just further, a further assault on our middle class.

Thank you.

Christine Romans.

Up next, the super bug turning into a killer in another school. This time, the deadly virus claiming a 12-year-old life.

And scorched Earth and ruined homes in Southern California -- police searching for the arsonist who started some of those devastating fires.

And media coverage of the local state and federal responses to this disaster -- fair, biased, predictable?

We'll talk about that and a lot more with some of the country's best political minds.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Lighter winds and lower temperatures are helping firefighters gain control some of those California wildfires tonight. Here is the very latest. Fourteen of the 23 major wildfires in Southern California have now been fully contained, leaving nine active fires. Those fires have scorched nearly half a million acres of land -- slightly larger than the island of Maui. The fires have also destroyed more than 1,600 homes. The fires also blamed directly for seven deaths.

Yesterday, the Border Patrol found the charred bodies of four people in a canyon believed to be illegal aliens. But as a sign of progress, officials today closed Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, which had been serving as an evacuation center. The few hundred remaining evacuees all moving to a smaller facility. And the NFL also announced that things improved to the point that the San Diego Chargers will be able to play the Houston Texans in Qualcomm Stadium there Sunday as scheduled.

Investigators in Orange County say they are determined to find the person who started the Santiago Fire. There are still no official suspects but law enforcement agents are hoping that a hefty reward will help them.

Casey Wian now reports from near the Santiago Fire in Orange County, California.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For families returning to what's left of their homes, the magnitude of the devastation from the firestorm finally is finally real.

LOUELA BINLAC, RESIDENT: We see like pictures from online and on TV, but this is just -- it's different. It's much different like, you know, when you see it up front.

WIAN: Similar scenes are playing out at more than 1,600 home sites six days after flames propelled by hurricane force desert winds first ripped through the region.

JERRY BREWSTER, SAN DIEGO BATTALION CHIEF: Southern California has been in a drought. We have a lot of dead fuels out here that burns just like petroleum. However, the relative humidity is starting to come up and that assists us in managing the fires. But it's still very dangerous out here and the fuel beds -- the brush is just ready to go at a moment's notice.

WIAN: The wildfires charred nearly 800 square miles, from well north of Los Angeles to across the Mexican border, near places where illegal aliens frequently cross into the United States. So far, at least four charred bodies were suspected border crossers.

AGENT DAMON FOREMAN, U.S. BORDER PATROL: The Border Patrol has made several rescues during this -- during this whole week. We've rescued well over 50 people who were affected by the fires and we've made more than 200 arrests in this area, as well.

WIAN: Five suspected arsonists also have been arrested, though none in connection with the largest wildfires. Investigators hope a $250,000 reward will lead to the person responsible for setting Orange County's Santiago Fire.

CARL VASILKO, ATF NATIONAL RESPONSE TEAM: It's just a despicable act to set a fire. You don't know where that fire is going to go. Under the conditions you all had here, the way those fires were going to travel, to set this intentionally, at the very least, if nobody was hurt, you know, to pull those fire suppression resources away from other efforts to fight another fire, you know, that alone is despicable.

WIAN: Meanwhile, federal, state and local officials promise help for those who've lost nearly everything.

MAYOR JERRY SANDERS, SAN DIEGO: As a community, we grieve for your loss and want to assure you that we'll do everything within our power to help you with your rebuilding efforts.

WIAN: Rebuilding after a disaster is something Southern Californians have learned to do time and time again.


WIAN: While the cooler weather continues to help firefighting efforts today, there are some concerns, because weather forecasters say those hot, dry Santa Ana winds could return -- perhaps, Sunday, perhaps, Monday. They're not expected to be as strong as they were last weekend but, Lou, no one here is letting down their guard.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much.

Appreciate it.

Casey Wian.

Well, New York City parents tonight are absolutely concerned and looking desperately for any sign of what has turned out to be a deadly staph infection. This anxiety created after school officials announced that a 12-year-old Brooklyn boy died from the so-called super bug nearly two weeks ago. A concern for parents here and around the entire country.

Jim Acosta has our report.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weeks before Omar Rivera died of a drug-resistant staph infection, his friends at school said they saw something wrong with the seventh grader.

ANDREW MCKENZIE, FRIEND OF VICTIM: One I was at lunch and he had told me something about something that was on his leg. And he had like a whole bunch of stuff on his back. So then I didn't know what to do, so I just sent him to the nurse. And from then, I never saw him again.

ACOSTA: Health officials now the bacteria MRSA, AKA the super bug, has struck again. The 12-year-old student from Brooklyn died on October 14th. But parents and teachers didn't know about the potentially infectious bacteria that killed Omar until the 25th -- 11 days later. That's when city officials sent this letter home to parents, informing them the school had undergone an extra cleaning and encouraging students to practice good hand washing.

Instantly, many parents were alarmed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told him to wash his hands constantly and we bought him a sanitizer and have him clean his hands a lot.

ACOSTA: Some city leaders are slamming the response as tardy.

CHARLES BARRON, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: I want to know why the Department of Health -- even if they suspected this was something, they should have disinfected the school immediately, because I'd rather proceed with caution and even if it isn't then, you know, you have, at least, a safe school.

ACOSTA: City health officials claimed they were never required to inform parents insisting the odds the infection would spread to other students are low.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: In this situation, where people are grieving because a child has died, it's natural to inform people. But there's no need to necessarily inform the school and there's certainly no urgency about informing the school.

ACOSTA: Health officials are concerned the bug is spreading from outside its traditional breeding grounds in hospitals. A Virginia high school student died from a MRSA infection earlier this month.

Back at Omar's Rivera's school, the principal is both defending her handling of the infection and trying to comfort students.

BUFFIE SIMMONS-PEART, PRINCIPAL: We have taken every precautionary measures -- internally and externally -- to ensure the safety and welfare of our students.


ACOSTA: And a parents' meeting is scheduled at the school tomorrow, where the question of the day will be why did the school not know sooner -- Lou.

DOBBS: I mean that's a remarkable attitude on the part of school officials to suggest that they don't have a requirement to tell parents. I mean that's arrogantly paternalistic. This is still a democracy. They still are working for those parents and those students.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And they put out a letter that says you need to practice good hand washing.

Where was that letter 10 days ago, 11 days ago, when this student died?

Hand washing now might not do a whole heck of a lot of good.

DOBBS: We have been reporting on this broadcast now for three years about staph infections in this country. Ninety thousand people a year, as of three years ago, were dying from staph infections, most -- nearly all of them contracted in hospitals. It is clear now -- irrespective of what anyone is saying in the public health system -- that it is moving rapidly and significantly beyond the health system itself and hospitals.

ACOSTA: And if it's cropping up in school systems and public schools all the way down to middle schools, where is the responsibility for the administrators, the school system officials?

They're the ones who are supposed to be protecting these students.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And in their own way, I'm sure they feel that they are doing what is best -- that paternalistic attitude. But, please, I mean, you know, as parents, as American citizens, the thing we know that works in this country is transparency, honesty and openness. Let's please be open. I mean it is basic decency, as well as, I think, damn good health -- public health policy.

Jim, thank you very much.

And I know you're going to stay on this story. This is frightening to all parents. It's something of concern for all of us in this country. And it's not -- not going to get better soon.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Jim, thank you very much.


DOBBS: Jim Acosta.

Well, those MRSA infections were reported at schools in at least at a half a dozen states this year. The Centers for Disease Control are now warning more than 90,000 people could become infected with this so-called super bug this year. The CDC says there were almost 95,000 cases in 2005, nearly 19,000 people dying of those infections the same year, surpassing the number of deaths from AIDS. The CDC says up to a third of the population carries the staph bacteria at all times. It is one of the most common, in fact, causes of infection in our bodies.

An update now on the case of a young man in prison for having had consensual sex as a teenager. Georgia's Supreme Court today finally freed Genarlow Wilson. The court ruled that Wilson's 10-year sentence was cruel and unusual punishment. Wilson was convicted in 2005 of aggravated child molestation when he had sex with a 15-year-old girl while he was 17 years of age at the time. Wilson was in prison for two years. The mandatory sentencing law that sent Wilson to prison in the first place was changed as a result of the public outcry over his incarceration. Up next, the amnesty agreed -- the majority of voters don't like it. The Democratic presidential candidates just keep on pushing it.

And how low can they go -- the latest approval ratings on your Congress and mine. You're going to love it. You may not love Congress, but you're going to love the poll.

And is the national media affair in its coverage of the governmental response to those Southern California wildfires?

That and a number of issues to be taken up here shortly.

Stay with us.

We're coming right back.


DOBBS: Well, joining me now, three of the country's very best political minds and three of my very favorite.

Ed Rollins -- he is the former White House political director and Republican strategist.

Michael Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, "New York Daily News".

Democratic strategist, Democratic National Committeeman, Robert Zimmerman -- and Senator Hillary Clinton sympathizer, supporter and advocate.


DOBBS: Boy, your candidate is all excited about The DREAM Act.

ZIMMERMAN: Along with 55 other U.S. senators.

DOBBS: Well, 52, actually.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, actually -- that -- you're correct, Lou. But there were three who didn't show up who would have voted for it.

DOBBS: Well, I don't count the ones who don't show up...


DOBBS: ...because -- including Senator John McCain, who was there for the previous hour but didn't see fit to support that.

You know, I have to tell you, any senator who would support that bill -- and amongst them, Senator Jim Web, who, in all other respects, I think has done a good job -- I think it's a disgusting, pandering piece of nonsense. It's irresponsible public policy. And I think Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and every other senator who voted for it owes the country an apology, unless they're committed to group and identity politics. ZIMMERMAN: I guess that's...

DOBBS: Say you what?

ZIMMERMAN: I guess that's my cue.

DOBBS: There it is.


ZIMMERMAN: OK. First of all, in the same way I supported the fence along the Mexican-American border and opposed the so-called grand compromise, I that passionately support The DREAM Act, because it's focusing on children 15-years of age and younger. And it's not holding them accountable for the crimes their parents made by coming here illegally.

I think what's most significant is that it only comes into effect if these children go to college -- not with grants, but with loans -- or serve in the military. And if they serve in the military -- and we have a shortfall right now -- that truly could be a great service to our country.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I think The DREAM Act is principally different from the amnesty of the general immigration bill in that these kids were brought here by their parents. I think the problem with it...

DOBBS: But, you know what?

We really should support every child in -- and really obviate any impact from the criminality or the illegality undertaken by their parents. You're right. That really is the province of the United States. We should continue to add to the woes of the American workforce and add to the public welfare rolls and expense and continue to, really, to put on the public expense of what is for private profit, like illegal immigration. You're quite right. I can understand your view entirely.

You would be in favor of Blackwater continuing in perpetuity as an outsourcing and privatized entity for the United States government, I take it.

GOODWIN: I'm not seeing your links there, Lou.


DOBBS: Well, let me help you out. It's all about -- it's all about private profit and it's all about public expense. And it has no...

GOODWIN: Well...

DOBBS: ...and there's no -- there's no rationality in it whatsoever. GOODWIN: Well, except that I do think the immigration thing is a very tricky thing. And I think we all agree that we've got to stop -- we've got to secure the border. But I do think that we also have to deal...

DOBBS: But in the meantime, we should continue to go ahead, give amnesty...

GOODWIN: Well...

DOBBS: ...and, by the way, under this...


DOBBS: I'm sorry?

GOODWIN: Well, no. I just think the children, in this case...


GOODWIN: ...deserving of a (INAUDIBLE) approach.

DOBBS: Do you think this is only limited to children?

GOODWIN: Well, they're basically up to -- you know, 15 is sort of the main age we're looking at here.

DOBBS: Going back 15 years. And the age could be, what, under the age of 15 when they entered.

GOODWIN: Well, all of the provisions...

DOBBS: Please.

GOODWIN: And I do think the logistics are difficult to enforce.


GOODWIN: Nonetheless, I think it's a distinction.

DOBBS: Well, let me tell you what. We have just reported that the Laredo sector of the Border Patrol is putting together zero tolerance on illegal immigration across that border, illegal entry. It's been on the books for 50 years. It's balderdash. And there's nothing complicated about it. You secure a border, you secure a port and you enforce immigration laws. You get rid of the pandering nonsense here and you deal with that issue and then you take care of the immigration law and its enforcement. There is nothing complicated here at all.



DOBBS: They're just pandering...

GOODWIN: You have to start with the border. DOBBS: ...sleazy, irresponsible public servants -- a couple of whom I...


DOBBS: A couple of whom I just named.



DOBBS: And, by the way -- no, I just want to throw in George W. Bush, all of the brilliant idiots that joined the grand compromise, Michael Chertoff, etc. I said idiots again. I didn't mean idiots.

I meant -- what's the word tonight?



ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The complexity of something like this is the local burden, which is gigantic...

DOBBS: Absolutely.

ROLLINS: ...schools, everything else. And no one bothers to ever basically say, all right, if you think this is a good federal policy, how are you going it pay for it?

Now who has to pay for it is citizens of Los Angeles school systems or other -- other border cities that have this tremendous burden...

DOBBS: No. Every state in the union, every county, every school district.

ROLLINS: And I think -- I think somewhere along the line, someone really has to look at this thing hard and fast.

What is the cost?

These are all feel good type proposals and, obviously, you know, you don't want to punish kids. But, at the end of the day, the -- it doesn't give the parents the excuse to go back where they should be until...

ZIMMERMAN: Ed's point is...


ZIMMERMAN: Ed's making a very important point, because ultimately we're seeing towns and cities and states try to resolve the immigration crisis, which is a 20-year-old...

DOBBS: Because our national leaders are a bunch of... ZIMMERMAN: Exactly.

DOBBS: ...cowardly, pandering fools...

ZIMMERMAN: Bipartisanly...

DOBBS: ...and most running for the president of the United States and seeking their party's nomination.

Any names come to mind?

ZIMMERMAN: Bipartisan agreement on what you just said.

DOBBS: Bipartisan agreement. I'll tell you, yes, I'll agree with you on one thing...

GOODWIN: I would say...

DOBBS: ...both parties filled with fools.

We'll be right back with this panel in just a moment.





As investigators widen the search for an arsonist, one man is telling a dramatic story of survival -- how he saved his own home facing a wall of fire.

A lavish lifestyle including -- get this -- a $10 million bat mitzvah. Tonight, investigators say he got the money from a company that supplies gear to the U.S. military.

And Jordan's Queen Rania -- she's a mother on a mission. I'll ask her about Iran, Iraq and what she calls the tensions between America and the Middle East.

All that and a lot more right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.

We're back with our panel.

I want to talk about taxes. Charlie Rangel, who is the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the Democratic chairman -- the Democratic Party wants taxes. They want to tax rich people.

A good idea? ROLLINS: Well, if you're in the policy -- which Democrats have been for a long time -- of taking money away from the most productive people in the society and give to those who basically aren't quite as productive. It's the reshift. It's the Robin Hood strategy. And, more important, Charlie Rangel's bill is going to be Hillary Clinton's. He has been her biggest supporter. She has to run on this. And they very subtly are saying we're going to make lots of cuts and what have you. It's a $3.5 trillion tax increase.

DOBBS: Is that too much?


GOODWIN: It sounds like a lot to me.

But what do I know about money?

Look, I think that the -- this is another indication of the problems the Democratic leadership in Congress is having. Charlie Rangel has gone way off the reservation as to what Nancy Pelosi came in talking about. And I think it -- the...

DOBBS: No, I'm not sure you can find the reservation for the Democratic leadership in Congress right now.

GOODWIN: Right. Well, she tried to stop...


DOBBS: I don't know that it has any boundaries. It certainly has no borders, is that...

GOODWIN: But her, you know, her attempt to get the Armenian resolution through was another...


DOBBS: Oh, good god.

GOODWIN: It was a bad idea. And...


DOBBS: You don't want to stick just with taxes (INAUDIBLE)?

GOODWIN: Well, but no, because I think the whole thing shows that the Democrats ran that Bush is bad, Bush is bad, Bush is bad.

DOBBS: Mr. Zimmerman...

GOODWIN: They've had...

DOBBS: ...wants to defend them.

GOODWIN: Let's give them -- let's give them tundaway (ph).


GOODWIN: And so they've had...


GOODWIN: They've had 10 months and their numbers keep falling because they're showing that campaigning is a lot easier than governing.

ZIMMERMAN: You know, one of the benefits...

DOBBS: Mr. Zimmerman, please.

ZIMMERMAN: ...of the Bush administration is that he has destroyed the Republicans' credibility on economic management.

ROLLINS: I thought we were talking about Democrats.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I try -- I'm getting there.


DOBBS: OK. Let's -- can we stipulate this?


DOBBS: I think the Bush administration has been a disaster in many respects. And I think that my colleagues are...


DOBBS: ...we've -- OK. So we've got that stipulated. We are now speaking of your party, the Democratic Party, its woeful leadership of Congress and the tax increase that the chairman of the Ways and Means committee -- a good friend, Charlie Rangel -- would like to see imposed.

ZIMMERMAN: And I think...

DOBBS: If I could bring that down...

ZIMMERMAN: Let me try to join you on that and bring it more concisely to you. There's no question, the tax cuts that this administration put forward and, in fact, Charlie Rangel's efforts to close the tax loopholes and to refocus tax cuts for middle income people is, in fact, I think, an important direction. But if the Democratic Party falls into the trap of looking like a tax and spend party, they're going to suffer, as Ed points out, serious setbacks.

The point is, if we have to roll back the tax cuts...

DOBBS: Will your candidate run on that $3.5 trillion in new taxes and taxing the rich and taxing everybody?

ZIMMERMAN: I don't know what she's going to run on...


ZIMMERMAN: But I'll tell -- I can't tell you what her position is, but I can tell you what I think...

DOBBS: Well, let me tell you what...

ZIMMERMAN: ...the Democrats' position should be.


DOBBS: Gentlemen, let me tell you what my position is now.


DOBBS: These taxes right now -- to pick a number is ridiculous. But if we do not have the capacity as a nation to be at war, to tax the people and to carry sacrifice -- to carry the burden across our entire society at a time of war and run up deficits, we should be ashamed.

Is it 4 percent?

Is it a surcharge of $3.5 trillion?

I don't know.

But what is going on in this country right now -- whether you're a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent -- is shameful and it should not be tolerated.

Congressional ratings.

GOODWIN: Well, it's one...


ROLLINS: It's one thing to put in a surtax, as Lyndon Johnson did, to pay for the war. And he basically ended up with a balanced budget.

DOBBS: Right.

ROLLINS: And he was a gigantic spender. Bush is a now bigger spender and I think, to a certain extent, as long as we're going to...

DOBBS: The biggest since Lyndon Baines Johnson.

ROLLINS: Right. As long as we're going to continue there, we should do so. But to change the whole tax structure and pretend like we're going to fix and take care of the rich and do it this way...

ZIMMERMAN: I don't think we have to be afraid of a debate, though, on the topic, Ed. And I think the reality...

ROLLINS: We'll have a debate.

ZIMMERMAN: I think...


DOBBS: You want a debate, I want action.

GOODWIN: Yes, but it...


GOODWIN: And it's not really...

DOBBS: You get the last word.

GOODWIN: Well, it's not really a debate. It's clear that Charlie Rangel (INAUDIBLE)...

DOBBS: I said I want one. I didn't say it was.

GOODWIN: No, but I'm saying Charlie Rangel -- what Charlie Rangel wants to do is not a debate. He wants to raise taxes.

DOBBS: Well, that's fine...

GOODWIN: He's already decided the outcome of the debate.


DOBBS: And we've got it flat out, gentlemen.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you.

DOBBS: Robert, Michael, Ed, thank you.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

GOODWIN: Thank you.

DOBBS: Next week, we'll get it resolved.

The results of our poll coming up next.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight -- only 98 percent of you say the federal government should institute a zero tolerance policy across the entire southern border of the United States.

Are you listening, Michael Chertoff?

Do you care?

Thanks for being with us tonight.

Thanks for caring. Join us tomorrow.

For all of us here, thanks for watching.

Good night from New York.

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