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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Blunt Warning from China; Hillary's Momentum; Iraq Strategy Troubles

Aired November 15, 2007 - 19:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, take an hour's break and get ready for a great evening. Have fun tonight, Wolf. Good evening to all of you from Las Vegas, Nevada tonight.
One of the bluntest warnings so far from Communist China's government and its rising threat to this country, U.S. interests all over the world threatened. We'll have that special report.

Also, members of Congress want to hold communist Chinese manufacturers accountable for the millions of dangerous toys and other exported products that have flooded into this country. We'll have the report and we'll have complete coverage of the Democratic presidential candidates as they make their final preparations for what may be their most important election debate so far right here in Las Vegas, Nevada tonight.

The candidates finally paying attention to issues we've been reporting to you on this broadcast literally now for years. And mainstream media is catching up as well. It's an exciting night here in Las Vegas. We hope you'll be with us throughout the evening -- next, all the day's news and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Thursday, November 15, 2007. Live from Las Vegas, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Senior military commanders tonight are warning that U.S. political strategy in Iraq may be on the brink of failure. Nearly one year after the surge strategy began Iraqi political leaders have still failed to agree on major political reforms. Since President Bush announced the surge strategy back in January, 850 of our troops have been killed in Iraq. More Americans have been killed in Iraq this year than in any other year of this war that is now lasted longer than World War II.

Jamie McIntyre has our report tonight from the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the pointed question U.S. military commanders are aiming at Iraqi politicians tonight is hey, we've done our part. When are you going to do yours?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The numbers don't lie. By all accounts, things are better in Baghdad, according to U.S. commanders on the frontlines. COL. JEFFREY BANNISTER, U.S. ARMY: Since the peak of the surge operations in July, there has been a steady decrease of attacks that have occurred with October having the lowest number of attacks.

MCINTYRE: The number of attacks in the Iraqi capital has dropped to three or four a day compared to a dozen or more when the surge began. But U.S. commanders fear it may all be for nothing, that the failure of the Iraqi government to make progress on political reconciliation is wasting an opportunity as "The Washington Post" put it.

"It's unclear how long that window is going to be open, Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno told the paper, saying if a break- through doesn't happen by summer, "we're going to have to review our strategy."

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: They shouldn't wait until next summer. That's the only disagreement I have. These commitments were supposed to have been carried out a year ago, carried out a year ago.

MCINTYRE: On the Senate Armed Services Committee there is bipartisan agreement that the government of Nuri al-Maliki has failed miserably to deliver on the promises made as a condition of the surge.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I think we do have to review the strategy in the light of the inability of this government of Iraq to have fulfilled what I believe to have been a commitment they made to the president.

MCINTYRE: At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is not willing to admit defeat.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We would like to see more progress. But there have been positive developments in other ways. So I don't think that the efforts of our troops have been squandered in Iraq. They have been taken advantage of in ways that we didn't anticipate originally.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: The decrease of violence in Iraq has come at a heavy price. Lou, as you've noted, this is the deadliest year of the war so far. And with the surge finally beginning to show some signs of progress, the fear from U.S. commanders is that the mission, the operation may be a success, but the patient may still be dying. Lou?

DOBBS: If I may make just a couple of observations, Jamie, it is interesting to hear emanating from our Defense Secretary Robert Gates an articulation in terms of this war that has not been made quite often enough certainly by the civilian leadership and certainly not by the military leadership, the suggestions politically, the partisan political suggestions that the efforts of our troops have been squandered in Iraq, as he styled (ph) it, they have been taken advantage of in ways not anticipated. The idea that this administration at this point is still discussing nearly a year before changing strategy -- if these Iraqi leaders don't change direction that seems that -- it seems to me at least that Senator Levin is exactly right; that is a long time to wait to make an adjustment.

MCINTYRE: Well clearly the benchmarks that the Congress and the administration set out are not going to be met by the Iraqi government. But what now you're hearing the defense secretary argue is maybe we have some other measurements of progress that might also lead to the same results, some progress that wasn't anticipated on the local level even while the national government is floundering.

DOBBS: And of course, in Iraq, the local and provincial level is the area that is also desperately in need of political restructuring and democratization as the administration would have it. We have heard very little from General David Petraeus leading our troops in the effort in Iraq. Is that by design? What is the story there?

MCINTYRE: I'm not sure, Lou, why we haven't heard more from General Petraeus except that by all accounts he's been concentrating on trying to keep calibrating this strategy, keep a very hands-on approach to it and he hasn't spent much time talking to the press or the American people for that matter.

DOBBS: And the fact is, since August, we've seen the number of our troops. Although those troop deaths continue in Iraq, we have seen an improvement as you reported from what is ostensibly the surge strategy in Iraq. And that will, of course, be taken note of here tonight in Las Vegas during the presidential debate because it is one of the issues that will have to be contended with by these Democratic candidates who have simply written off the prospect of any real success in Iraq in their political thinking.

Jamie, thank you very much -- Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon.

Well two more of our troops have been killed in Iraq, one soldier was killed in a bomb attack in Diyala (ph) province north of Baghdad; another soldier died of his wounds in the hospital; 22 of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month; 3,866 of our troops killed since the war began; 28,489 of our troops wounded; 12,754 of them seriously.

The White House tonight stepping up its demands for tougher sanctions against Iran to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. The White House now saying a new International Atomic Energy Agency report proves that Iran is continuing to defy the rest of the world. But U.S. and European efforts to impose new sanctions face strong opposition from communist China and Russia.

Ed Henry has our report from the White House -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Russia and China may think they have new ammunition to block sanctions from this report because the report claims that Iran has been quote, "generally truthful about its nuclear work." Iranian officials declaring that this shows that any new sanctions would be an illegal action against Iran.

But in fact, this report also says that Iran has not stopped enriching uranium which obviously could be converted into nuclear weapons. And that's why White House officials say they believe this is a strong report that will help them make the case for a third round of sanctions before the U.N. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino today saying that selective cooperation from Tehran is just not good enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe that what they should do is take us up on our offer. We've continued to offer negotiations for Iran so that we can have a diplomatic solution. That is two basic things. Suspension of enrichment for suspension of sanctions as well as a negotiated settlement that would give Iran access to nuclear energy while assuring that its intent is peaceful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now officials here adding that the U.S. will not stop its push for new sanctions until Iran stops enriching uranium and also comes clean about its previous nuclear activities. Lou?

DOBBS: Thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thank you.

Communist China aggressively challenging American policy not just on Iran but on many other fronts as well. An influential bipartisan commission today declared that communist China is now engaged in the world's largest military buildup since the end of the Cold War. The commission also reporting that Chinese spies are the biggest espionage threat facing U.S. technology companies, as well.

Christine Romans has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS (voice-over): A stark warning on China's military buildup, its ambitions in space and cyberspace and its escalating espionage targeting U.S. technology.

DAN BLUMENTHAL, U.S.-CHINA REVIEW COMM.: The Chinese government has become the number one threat to U.S. technology in terms of espionage.

ROMANS: In its annual report to Congress, the bipartisan U.S.- China Economic and Security Review Commission found recent missile tests and the blinding of U.S. satellites ominous projections of power.

CAROLYN BARTHOLOMEW, U.S.-CHINA REVIEW COMM.: If they can wipe out one of our satellites, which they have demonstrated that they could do, they could take down the communications that are essential to our ability to fight a war. ROMANS: A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had this response.

Quote, "China never does anything undermining the interests of other countries."

The U.S.-China Commission report stopped short of labeling China a military adversary but said its military buildup is made possible by a trade relationship it called "severely out of balance." Despite high level talks between the Bush administration and Beijing and high hopes for economic reform, nearly six years after it was admitted to the World Trade Organization, China is moving away from free market.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It actually turns out that they're going in the other direction.

ROMANS: Subsidizing industry and manipulating its currency. China, the report says, maintains state control of a huge swathe of its economy from information technology and telecommunications to shipping and civil aviation, at the same time tightening its grip on news, controlling information about product safety and public health with serious consequences for the rest of the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Now, the Chinese people will not be able to read this report to the U.S. Congress. The U.S. China Commission says its Web site is blocked in China. The commission is now studying how outsourcing of manufacturing will affect the U.S. military, Lou, and its ability to get supplies in a conflict and also investigating China's intentions for investing hundreds of billions of dollars gained from its trade imbalance in the world economy, Lou.

DOBBS: And these issues that we've been reporting on in this broadcast literally now for years absolutely unacknowledged by the Bush administration or the White House in any way and all but dismissed, but for a small number of men and women in Congress and the Senate. This is a clear wake-up call; any response today from the White House or the leadership of the House or the Senate?

ROMANS: We have the Treasury secretary will be going to China in December. This was a warning to Congress. This is a committee that only appeals to Congress to put pressure, Lou, on the Bush administration. But something to note, 12 members, a bipartisan committee, this was a unanimous report, unanimous from 12 members of a bipartisan committee. So there was a very clear signal being sent here to Congress about putting pressure on the Bush administration, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, good work and timely work by the commission, our congratulations to them. And frankly, everyone watching this broadcast even those not as few as they may be, should be expressing some gratitude. Thank you very much -- Christine Romans.

Coming up next, a critical battle in this presidential campaign taking place right here in Nevada. Casey Wian will have the report for us -- Casey. CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Nevada's electorate has a strong independent streak. Tonight Democratic presidential candidates will try to appeal to those voters. We'll have a preview coming up -- Lou.

DOBBS: "Independents Day" in Nevada. I love it. Thank you very much, Casey, looking forward to it.

Also ahead, complete coverage of the countdown to tonight's Democratic presidential debate. How will these candidates handle the top issues? Will they handle them? Issues would include of course the war on the middle class, our failing public schools, the need for investment in our public infrastructure, the illegal immigration crisis, border security, free trade and oh, yes, the war in Iraq.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Welcome back. We're here in Las Vegas. There are seven Democratic candidates for their party's presidential nomination about to take center stage in less than about 45 minutes to debate the issues of importance to all voters -- illegal immigration, water use, energy consumption among the major concerns among Nevada voters. And as Casey Wian now reports, Nevada will be the first western state to hold a presidential caucus just two weeks from now, a lot of interest here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN (voice-over): Nevada's effort to become the New Hampshire and Iowa of the west had a rocky start. Democratic presidential candidates made fewer trips here than expected. Some even relocated campaign staff to other early voting states. But party leaders hope tonight's debate and January's early caucus will help secure a seat at the nominating table for Nevada and more influence for Democrats in the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The purpose to move the caucus up was twofold. The first is obviously to get representation of western issues in the Democratic Party. The Democratic party has made no sort of made it clear that their future lies in trying to turn Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and those states into Democratic states.

WIAN: The number of Democratic registered voters in Nevada passed Republicans for the first time in 15 years this year. But that advantage may be illusory because Democratic voter turnout usually is low. In fact, Nevadans often display a deep distrust of government and politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I care right now that there is no viable candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abraham Lincoln couldn't get elected nowadays. You need $50 million.

WIAN: And a fierce independent streak.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an independent, but I guess I'm registered as a Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like to think I'm independent, but I registered Democrat.

WIAN: Democrats are gambling their presence here will attract Nevada's powerful labor unions and the state's rapidly growing Latino electorate. While every Democratic contender favors amnesty for illegal aliens, a Las Vegas review journal poll last month found 59 percent of Nevadans prefer tighter border security, implore sanctions and deporting illegal aliens. Only 36 percent support a guest worker amnesty approach. The state Democratic Party chair says Nevadans are looking for answers on issues such as the war in Iraq and health care as well as regional priorities.

JILL DERBY, NEV. DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: Water is always an issue for us. Land use is an issue for us. The federal government owns a big chunk of Nevada. Renewable energy, you know we have a lot of wind, lots of sun, lots of geothermal energy. We're very focused on renewable energy. Those are all interesting issues, plus all the issues surrounding the economy.

WIAN: In Nevada, the main economic issue is a home foreclosure rate. It has been the nation's highest for nine consecutive months.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Now 40 percent of Nevada voters are Democrats; 39 percent are Republicans. It is the remaining 21 percent mostly nonpartisan voters who are likely to decide which way the state falls in 2008, Lou.

DOBBS: By my quick math, Republicans and Democrats evenly balanced and independents holding 20 percent of the vote, they sound like they might be kind of important.

WIAN: Absolutely and even those who are registered Republicans and registered Democrats have strong independent leanings on issues like illegal immigration as the polling shows.

DOBBS: It's going to be fascinating tonight and for the next two weeks. And I hope for the next almost year in this campaign. Thank you very much, Casey Wian.

We'll -- Casey will be staying with us as the hot topics tonight include of course illegal immigration, border security, our middle class, some of the people running for office are actually beginning to remember them, the issue of outsourcing of jobs. It looks like the Democrats are beginning to take a cue from this broadcast where we've been reporting on those issues (INAUDIBLE) for years and rather regularly.

Joining me now with what we can look forward tonight, CNN's chief national correspondent John King and our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. Thank you very much for being with us. Good to have you.

The independents tonight, are they going to be in full voice in that hall behind us and questioning these candidates, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is one of the most fascinating dynamics of the campaign because you have the seven candidates tonight and it will be the same on the Republican side. They're competing for their own party's nomination, so they tend to you know attack the base, if you will, and play the issue of the base.

But to win in November, they do need to get to the independent streak and look Democrats have the advantage right now, but more and more Americans are saying I'm either an independent or I'm very softly associated with one of the parties. So it is a challenge and one of the difficult issues for both parties will be trying to find the middle after shifting left to right.

DOBBS: And as our Bill Schneider has been reporting now for some months, independents are registering at a rate far faster than either Democrats or Republicans and would it be a bad thing to see these partisans on either the left or the right go away and let the middle of this country govern?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Probably not. It's a question of...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: It's wishful thinking...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: You know it's whether you're ever going to be able to see that happen, given the partisan political environment we're in. But I think as soon as these primaries are over, you're going to see whoever's the nominee on either side rush as far as they can to the center. Because they know that independent voters hold the key.

DOBBS: How are we going to understand the sincerity, the authenticity of these candidates when a candidate such as Senator Clinton expresses herself so clumsily and reveals a position that is first of all I care less about the flip-flopping in positions than I do the fact that she came down with a position that is antithetical in my judgment at least and millions and millions of Americans antithetical to the interest of the middle class of this country, antithetical to the national interests?

BORGER: Well I think she's got a tough road, but I also think any candidate right now has a tough road to convince the American public that they're authentic. I mean I think that's key to this campaign. Do we believe you? Do we trust you? Do we share your values? In addition to all the issues, and the issues of course play into it, this is a presidential vote. It's very personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean her evolution on this immigration issue and the drivers' licenses... (CROSSTALK)

KING: But look at both parties, Lou. This issue (INAUDIBLE) -- both parties are so nervous about this issue. You have disagreements among these Democrats tonight on the driver's license issue and other matters of immigration and...

DOBBS: Drivers' licenses for illegal aliens.

KING: Right and just as much of a few over immigration policy among the Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: It is the emotional issue right now and both parties are nervous as I'll say heck and they're trying to figure out how to deal with it.

DOBBS: Well if they can't, Casey, come up with a legitimate position expressing both the will of the majority, respect for law and order, national sovereignty, what in the world are we to do, we mere mortals who simply vote?

WIAN: It's been a sentiment we've heard from voters, potential voters in Nevada since we've been here. They don't think that there's a real candidate that they want to vote for. They're just trying to figure out who they dislike least.

DOBBS: Gloria, you get the last word here. Are we going to really hear these candidates get pinned down tonight and express themselves eloquently and straightforwardly?

BORGER: All I can say is that CNN will try to pin them down.

DOBBS: And good luck to us is what I can say then...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: ...and to all of us. Thank you very much, Gloria. Thank you, John. Thank you, Casey.

Our panel is staying with us. The subject of our poll tonight, the question in our poll is do you expect to hear honest straightforward discussion in tonight's debate about the illegal immigration crisis in this country? Yes or no. Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results for you later in the broadcast.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Heinrich in Ontario, "I've heard that in Washington instead of saying, I've got a migraine. They now say, I got a Lou Dobbs." It could be, I think, perhaps in the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, a couple of Houses of Congress, maybe the White House.

And if we may, Pamela in New York, "I'm a faithful viewer of your show, but I haven't liked the way you've continued to speak negatively about Governor Eliot Spitzer after he reversed his driver's license policy. I don't think illegal immigrants should get driver's licenses. However, I admire Governor Spitzer because he did what he thought was right, but then was man enough to back off when it turned out that the majority of voters disagreed with him. What more can you ask from an elected official?"

Well I think you have a point. I've tried to, as they say, reach rapprochement with the governor, but when you say he reversed himself, I have to ask which time did he reverse himself. When you say that he was right to abandon his principles that he was so convinced of initially, I remember a time in this country when we respected a man or woman because they stood by their principles and their convictions rather than abandoned them.

We'll have more of your thoughts later in the broadcast. Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my new book, "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit". And we're doing just that in Las Vegas, Nevada tonight. We'll have more with our political panel as we count down to the beginning of that critical election debate and we'll tell you what voters are really looking for they tell us in presidential candidates.

We'll be right back live from Las Vegas in just one moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Welcome back. We're here in Las Vegas tonight where the eighth Democratic presidential debate of this 2008 campaign will take place in about a half hour from now. Seven Democratic candidates will take the stage behind me. They'll lay out their positions for the American people, we hope. But judging from some interesting poll numbers, voters may end up basing their decisions on something other than what these candidates say about the issues.

Bill Schneider has our story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Why is Hillary Clinton the Democratic frontrunner? Polls suggest it's the E-factor. Democrats see her as the most electable candidate.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know how to beat them.

SCHNEIDER: It's the same reason why Rudy Giuliani is the Republican front-runner, at least in national polls. Many Republicans who don't agree with Giuliani on issues like abortion and gay rights are willing to support him because they think he can win.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the one Republican who can win the general election.

SCHNEIDER: But just how electable are the two front-runners? Seven national polls taken this month pit Hillary Clinton against Rudy Giuliani. Clinton comes out slightly ahead in all of them by one to ten points. Average the seven polls and you get Clinton 49 percent and Giuliani 44, a five-point lead for Clinton. So the answer to the question is Clinton electable appears to be yes, by a narrow margin.

But she doesn't do as well as a Democrat ought to be doing. Asked to choose between an unnamed Democrat and Republican candidate, the Democrat leads by 13 points. Why the difference? Mainly because the former New York mayor does better with independent voters than a generic Republican does. Giuliani appeals to voters who would otherwise not vote for a Republican.

The question is whether he can retain that appeal if he sounds more and more like a Republican. Look at Nevada, a bellwether state that has voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1912 save one in 1976. How would Nevada vote between Clinton and Giuliani right now? Giuliani 47 percent, Clinton 46; too close to call.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Now who would carry New York? The state that Giuliani and Clinton both call home? Well, a poll taken for channel New York 1 this month shows Clinton with a 15-point lead over Giuliani. Presidential politics, New York is still solidly Democratic.

DOBBS: Still Democratic, but it's an interesting result to show Giuliani over Clinton in Nevada...

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

DOBBS: ... which is representative of the balance between Republicans and Democrats. It's a bit of a metaphor for the entire country facing there is a host of issues that we've already reported such as illegal immigration, scarce resources and a competition for those resources, trying to figure out how to manage both an economy and local governments. Given those restricted resources, do you think the metaphor will hold as it has with the exception of 1976? Are you a betting man, Bill Schneider?

SCHNEIDER: Well here's what I would bet. Giuliani has a lot of appeal to independents right now because they remember the image of him after 9/11. But as he runs for the Republican nomination, looks more and more like a Republican, a traditional Republican, his support from independents may begin to diminish.

DOBBS: What does Senator Clinton look like to those independents? What is the image they have there?

SCHNEIDER: Democrat. They see her as a very traditional democrat, very much in the mold of her husband's stewardship of the drat Democratic Party. She has one big advantage, change. Americans definitely want change. And if they want change from the Bush administration, they'd vote for a democrat.

DOBBS: Go back to Clinton.

SCHNEIDER: Well, a lot of them have reservations about that, but look, those are the options.

DOBBS: What happened to Obama? He's a changed candidate. Edwards is a changed candidate.

SCHNEIDER: Among democrats, that's to Obama's advantage. We'll see how far he can push it.

DOBBS: All right, Bill. Thank you very much. Bill Schneider.

Coming up here next, the presidential debate starts just about a half hour. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, they have just arrived here. How will they tackle the issues? How will they tackle one another? We'll have more as we discuss that with our political panel. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Welcome back in Las Vegas with the democratic presidential debate now less than a half hour away. Right behind us here, the podium positions for tonight, put Senator Joe Biden on the extreme left. Next Governor Bill Richardson and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and side by side the two leading competitors, Senators Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. To the right is, Senator Chris Dodd and then former Senator John Edwards. Our panelists here in their correct order as well. On the left, senior political analyst Bill Schneider, CNN's chief national correspondent John King, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley; thank you all.

Let me turn, Candy, first to you. The issues here in Nevada have got to touch on how we manage and create sustainable policies on water resources, competition to scarce resources, illegal immigration. It's fascinating, one of the issues in the polls here that comes back squarely in the face because illegal immigration is a huge problem in the state. Most people want to see those people deported, which is counter I would think to the climate of this state.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And what's interesting is that in fact, when you talk to people here, they say look, we have issues locally we want them to address; water, Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste depository and immigration, which is, as you know, it's sort of a nationwide issue. But if you talk to them, they say, but our issues are essentially the same as everyone else once you get past that middle class not being able to move up, jobs.

DOBBS: That's sort of important, too.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. You know, how to pay for a college education and the war in Iraq. So while there are those issues specific to Nevada, particularly water, you mention anything, we're smack in the middle of a desert.

DOBBS: I've been saying for 30 years as I've come to Las Vegas, I've been saying 30 years as I said to my wife today that this town can't grow any more. It grows by leaps and bounds seemingly every year.

John, this state serving as a metaphor for the rest of the country, as Bill Schneider and I were just discussing, is there a likelihood tonight, is there anything that indicates to you that Senator Clinton will move out of the crosshairs of the other candidates and that we will see a more robust discussion, of practice positions on the issues?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Obviously, she wants to put the dynamic of a very bad debate and a few very bad weeks behind her and as the front runner, if she can do that, even though Iowa is a dead heat, there's even another new poll out tonight. She's still in a formidably strong position. But pick your issue. You're just immigration, the middle class issues, whether they be the economic anxiety, whether they be health care issues, both candidates, both fields of candidates are paying the price. These are difficult issues because nothing has been done for so long. They say comprehensive immigration reform and I know you hate the label but to try to do it all at once.

DOBBS: I hate the label and I hate the realty.

KING: Instead of dealing with the problems as they have come up --

DOBBS: Why can't one of these candidates, Bill Schneider, say straightforwardly categorically, I acknowledge the comprehensive immigration reform is confirm by the congressional budget office would have dealt with only 25 percent of the illegal immigration issues, that it would have been horrifying in its cost and a massive bureaucracy would have had to have been created that would extended for years to even deal with the idea of amnesty. Why can't they do that? Because it's a straightforward factual context. Why can't we hear these candidates deal with these complex issues which are more complex in the discussion and the legislative attempts at solution than they are in the reality?

SCHNEIDER: Probably because they don't agree.

DOBBS: Bless their hearts.

SCHNEIDER: They simply don't agree. They believe in allowing people who are here illegally a path to citizenship. They say it's not amnesty and get into a big argument with you about that.

DOBBS: Then they have to deal with the fact that that is what it is.

KING: Campaigning in primaries is interest group chess and checkers. If they speak to one issue and alienate a group, maybe it would hurt them in the primaries. Maybe we'll get a more comprehensive discussion in a general election but it's more difficult for the candidates in the primaries.

DOBBS: Last word.

CROWLEY: In terms of the dynamics here, what the democrats have decided is that republicans look mean. And they believe this plays to them in a general election. Because republicans by and large have said, you know, let's have enforcement, they think that makes republicans look mean and they like where they are.

DOBBS: But Obama is getting mean, isn't he? He's picking on Bill Clinton's wife? We've got some nasty -- Candy, thank you very much. John, thank you. Bill, thank you.

Coming up, the democratic debate is just minutes away. We'll have more from our panel. And with broken borders on the agenda here in Las Vegas, the border patrol under fire on the border this very day. We'll have that report and an amazing development in the case of two former border patrol agents in prison for shooting a drug smuggler. This broadcast has been defending them and doing everything but standing on the neck of a confused and disastrous attorney general who prosecuted them maliciously and wrongfully. And the Mexican president butting into the American presidential race. We would expect nothing less. We'll have his outrageous comments, all of that and more, as we continue here. We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Welcome back to Las Vegas, the site of the democratic presidential debate. It's just minutes away. All the candidates are now here.

But first, this major new development tonight in a story that we've been reporting closely and frequently on this broadcast. Aldrete Davila, the illegal alien drug smuggler who was given justice department immunity to testify against two former border patrol agents now imprisoned, today arrested on federal drug smuggling charges. Former border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms for shooting and wounding Davila during a pursuit as he crossed the border with almost 1,000 pounds of illegal drugs. Given immunity by U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton, Davila today arrested at the El Paso port of entry on an indictment charging him with smuggling marijuana in 2005, that would be several months after he had been shot by Ramos and Compean in an altercation on the border. And before their trial began.

And more evidence today of the exploding criminal drug trade along our border with Mexico, a drug smuggler today fired upon a U.S. border patrol agent along the Arizona/Mexico border near the town of San Miguel. Border patrol agents saying that one of their agents was nearly run over by a car moments after he had found abandoned car loaded with 900 pounds of marijuana. The officer fired shots at the car. That's when a man who was not in the fleeing vehicle then opened fire on the border patrol agent. The violence continuing and worsening. The agent was not hit and called for support. Agents later found the fleeing vehicle that had been stuck in the sand. No suspects were found. They are all believed to have fled back to Mexico. The attack on the border patrol agents comes as federal, state and local law enforcement authorities are increasingly alarmed about being utterly outgunned by illegal alien drug smugglers and human smugglers along the boarder with Mexico.

Mexico's president once again proving that he likes to meddle in U.S. politics and is arrogant beyond belief, much like his predecessor Vicente Fox and he seems to be more concerned about Mexican citizens abroad than in his own country. Yesterday President Felipe Calderon complained about what he called the growing harassment and frank persecution of Mexicans as he put it. Calderon also injected himself directly into our politics calling upon presidential candidates to stop holding illegal alien Mexicans as "symbolic hostages on immigration issues." Calderon frequently criticizes U.S. immigration policy, but this is the first time that he's ever commented directly on the presidential campaign strategies and his own views.

A reminder to vote in our poll tonight. Do you expect to hear honest straightforward discussion tonight in the debate over such issues as the illegal immigration crisis in this country? Yes or no, cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Up next, the presidential a debate is now moments away. We'll be talking with our panel of experts, great journalists. All are about the illegal immigration and the other hot topics for the debate tonight. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Back with our panel now. Gloria, does former Senator Edwards feel a little left out? It's getting really nasty between Obama and Clinton. He's sort of getting pushed out.

CROWLEY: He's trying to be the nastiest one actually. He's trying to sort of egg on Hillary and say you know, you flip-flopped on this, you're not honest about this have you no leadership skills. He's the one out there really taking her on and doing Barack Obama big favor.

DOBBS: Is it just me or is his voice not breaking through in that nasty business?

KING: It hasn't broken through nationally. And it is frustrating because he was the guy, after all. who was the vice presidential nominee last time. So you would think he would standing in the party but the former first lady and the newcomer, Barack Obama, have overshadowed him. But Lou, it's a three way tie in Iowa. We have focused all along in the national polls. Forget about them now. Just throw them away. They're useless to us now because the national polls will change once the people of Iowa render their verdict. And Edwards obviously he needs to win or it stays close, if it's 27, 26, 25, he's probably okay to continue. But the money will dry up. But he has one shot. It was called Iowa.

SCHNEIDER: You know, he's hitting hard at Hillary Clinton. There's a rule in politics. When you've got more than two candidates, if A attacks B, a lot of votes go to C. Which means if Edwards attacks Clinton, then a lot of people will not like his attacks but they'll hurt Clinton and maybe Obama will have the benefit but he's not getting much benefit from it. A little because you know what the democrats say about Obama very often, he doesn't have the fight they want in a nominee. They are tired of getting pushed around by republicans. They want someone who will punch the bullies in the nose and don't think Barack Obama will do that.

DOBBS: That in itself is a sort of soft kind of thing to say, isn't it?

CROWLEY: Sometimes the voters punish the fellow or woman who's doing the attacking. That happened last time around when Dick Gephardt got punished for attacking Dean

DOBBS: In Iowa.

CROWLEY: In Iowa. And I think Edwards has to be very careful because his campaign, as Chris Dodd said, is angry and voters don't like angry.

DOBBS: Chris Dodd is another fellow, is he getting any traction at all? He differentiated himself on driver's licenses but they're all in favor of comprehensive immigration.

CROWLEY: Hasn't helped.

KING: He moved to Iowa. Joe Biden is not going to have his thanksgiving dinner Iowa. They're good men. Whether you agree or disagree with the issues, they've been in the business a long time but they're having a very hard time. It is hard to break through when you have someone as for biddable as Senator Clinton. Barack Obama.

SCHNEIDER: I think her most effective line is to say I know how to deal with the right wing attack machine. I've been dealing with them for years. A lot of democrats say that's what we want.

DOBBS: We'll come back with our panel in just a moment. And we're going to have some more insight. Time for a few more of your thoughts.

Susie in Illinois wrote in to say, "I am a mother who home schools her son and have learned more from you, on middle class issues, than I could ever teach from a book. Thanks for all the history and economic lessons." We thank you and good luck.

And April in Wyoming said, "Not only have I removed the Yahoo menu bar from my computer, but I've also registered as an independent! Thank you Lou!"

And Paul in Virginia, "As I retired 21 year Navy man, I can't help but admire that eagle picture you stand next to. Keep up the good work for us middle class independents." I love that eagle myself. And we certainly will try.

And in terms of the independents movement, Paul in California wrote in to say, "With this independence movement, the eagle can fly high by restoring its dignity once again through the values that the United States was founded on, freedom, liberty and equality under the law. Thanks for your leadership, Lou Dobbs." Thank you.

Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read receives a copy of a new book, I think a very important new book, beautifully written new book, I wrote it. It's called "Independents Day." Coming up next, we'll have much more with our panel. Stay with us. We'll be right back as we near the eighth presidential debate for the Democratic Party. Here we go. Stay with us.

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DOBBS: Many of you are intensely awaiting the beginning of tonight's debate but also most of are you anticipating the results of our poll. The results are, 94 percent of you do not expect to hear honest straightforward discussion in tonight's debate about at least one issue, the illegal immigration crisis in this country. Let's hope that we're all proved wrong.

Back with Candy Crowley now rejoining us, Bill Schneider, the debate, as I said, just moments away. The two top issues in your mind that these candidates are going to have to contend with, Bill.

SCHNEIDER: Health care, the mortgage crisis. Very big issues, concern to the middle class and most people think the reason they can't get solved is there's too much politics. If one of these candidates if they can say they'll put politics aside and fix the health care system and the mortgage system, they'll get a tremendous response.

DOBBS: I'm curious about something. By the way, I think that would be true of any party, any candidate. They would deal with the issues and deal with real solutions for real people. But is there any sense on the campaign trail, as you all go around the country, that the candidates are distanced from the issues, they don't have true empathy with the middle class of this country, are not, if you will, dialed in.

CROWLEY: Can I tell you they talk endlessly about the middle class. They have middle class agendas and they have college tuition agendas and putting more money into loans. I mean, I wouldn't say they didn't have empathy. I wouldn't say they didn't understand what's out there. The question is, you know, the people think, as you point out, that they say the sort of thing all the time and then they get in office and nothing happens. So it isn't that they don't talk about it. It's that people don't believe them when they talk about it.

DOBBS: To that, is there any, if you will, splash back from a congress that after all was elected a year ago this past week to make changes in Washington? The democrats have been in charge for almost a year now, about ten months or so. And is there any splash back on the democratic candidates for the failure of the democratic leadership in both the senate and the house.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, there is. There's a huge amount of anger in Washington at politics and politicians. There's a lot of cynicism out there and the voters hate it. They hate that cynicism. They want to believe again and they're looking for a candidate who will allow them to believe. A lot of them see that in Barack Obama. That's why he's number two in the democratic race and they're hoping to see it maybe from a republican. They want someone who can crash through that cynicism and let them believe again.

CROWLEY: When you look inside the poll numbers that show you they're really angry at the democrats as much as the republicans and you say why, what's the problem here? They say they are so out of touch. They don't understand what's really bothering me.

DOBBS: John King and I were discussing, I thought that he had about the difference between the Bill Clinton Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton Democratic Party. Bill Clinton with the influence of the democratic leadership council pushed the Democratic Party I think you would say to the right more to hypocrisy. Is that where Hillary Clinton lives in your judgment, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: That's where she appears to live and why a lot of democrats are unhappy with her. One of Bill Clinton's major achievements, free trade, welfare reform, balanced budget. Those are not high on the democrat's agenda and they're worried, some democrats are worried Hillary may be following that same centrist, triangulation agenda. That's what she's being criticized for by other democrats.

DOBBS: Is it a crazy primary season? If I may ask this, I hope I don't seem overly naive, just really interested and concerned a little. Is the problem for the nation when we start thinking that centrism is a problem for a party?

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

CROWLEY: Well, it's a problem you have in a primary season. They spend the entire general election trying to undo the damage of the primary season because as you know, the democrats go to the left, the republicans go to the right and the public is like I'm right here.

SCHNEIDER: Voters are in the middle. The vast majority of voters are in the middle and they just want things solved and don't hear solutions coming.

DOBBS: The idea that we can't get to a nonpartisan independent view of this country, I mean, we've even got this nonsense of fair and balanced overwhelming the media now with this utter nonsense. The truth is never fair. It's never balanced. It just is. Any idea that the objectivity is purchased at the price of -- objectivity is purchased at the price of neutrality on so many issues? It sort of seeps back to the candidates. It's like they're trying to be all things to all people. Will we see a break away from that tonight? Will they go at least to the left? Will we see great sparking annunciations?

CROWLEY: I think some of them go to the left but you know they're going to be the ones that you expect. I mean I think tonight, again, it's I think it's about positioning. I think you're going to come away unhappy, Lou. SCHNEIDER: I think the winner is someone who can make a serious commitment to bring this country together and solve problems. Voters are waiting to hear of that. They want someone who can break through the political screen, the political wall. It's like an iron curtain between the political class and ordinary Americans.

DOBBS: Tonight's forecast, are we going to advance the body of public knowledge about where these candidates really live intellectually, emotionally and politically?

CROWLEY: I think that you will see a stepped up version of what we saw in the last debate. I'll tell you that Obama and Edwards say we're defining the differences here. We're not attacking here. They think we're attacking policy.

DOBBS: Ten seconds.

SCHNEIDER: You're going to see unscripted moments. That's what debates are all about and those unscripted are the most telling are the most telling like when the first George Bush looked at his watch.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Those telling moments begin now. CNN's presidential debate begins right now with Wolf Blitzer from Las Vegas. I'm Lou Dobbs. Good night.

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