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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Seeking Justice for Green Zone Rape Victim; GOP Debate in Iowa

Aired December 12, 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, thank you.
Tonight neither former Halliburton subsidiary nor the U.S. State Department has brought justice to a young woman who says she was gang raped in Baghdad's green zone by workers of a former Halliburton subsidiary. We'll be talking with a congressman seeking justice for her.

And from Iowa tonight, the Republican debate, who won, who lost, and why did the debate's moderator seek to eliminate two of the most important issues facing voters, the war in Iraq and illegal immigration; all of that, all of the day's news, and much more, straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Wednesday, December 12. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. The last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses in 22 days. Today's moderator tried to eliminate two of the most important issues from that debate, Iraq and illegal immigration, two of the issues most important to voters everywhere. And the GOP front-runner in Iowa, Mike Huckabee, was a favorite target in the debate this afternoon.

John King has our report from Des Moines, Iowa -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this was the last Republican debate before Iowa votes and as you might expect plenty of talk about cutting taxes and cutting spending, but if there was one surprise, it was that the issue that Iowa Republicans tell us they care about most barely came up at all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): Feisty it was not, this early exchange on taxes providing one of the few mild flash points.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm concerned about the taxes that middle class families are paying. They're under a lot of pressure.

FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My goal is to get into Mitt Romney situation where I don't have to worry about taxes anymore.

(LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) your situation.

THOMPSON: (INAUDIBLE) percent quote, you know you're getting to be a pretty good actor actually.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: The prospect for fireworks faded at the outset when the most emotional dividing line of the Republican race was taken off the table.

CAROLYN WASHBURN, EDITOR, "DES MOINES REGISTER": We won't talk a lot about issues like Iraq or immigration.

KING: Congressman Tom Tancredo tried, taking aim at Iowa front- runner Mike Huckabee.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have to ask you a question...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to keep moving.

TANCREDO: And the question is how are you going to convince America that you in fact changed your mind...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman...

TANCREDO: ... on the issue of immigration from when you were a governor...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: No answer allowed, so few sharp exchanges, but some risky snippets. The farmers in Iowa and elsewhere, this from Senator John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will also eliminate subsidies on ethanol and other agricultural products. They are impediment to competition. They are impediment to free markets and I believe that subsidies are a mistake.

KING: Absent fireworks, the last GOP debate before Iowa votes in three weeks became a competition to show conservative credentials. Cutting taxes was popular.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A flatter tax, a simpler tax you could file on one page as an option would be a good idea.

KING: Cutting spending, too.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the sacrifice we need for the American people it is this. It is saying let the programs that don't work go. (CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Don't lobby for them forever.

REP. RON PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We maintain an empire which we can't afford. We have 700 bases overseas. We are in 130 countries.

KING: When the topic turned to improving education, former Senator Fred Thompson took aim at the nation's largest teacher's union.

THOMPSON: The biggest obstacle in my opinion is the National Education Association, the NEA.

KING: Governor Huckabee knows his record on immigration, taxes and crime faces tough scrutiny in the next 21 days, so he looked to build goodwill.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the first priority of the next president is to be a president of all the United States. We are right now a very polarized country and that polarized country has led to a paralyzed government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Several of the campaigns complained after that the format was too restrictive, saying a little bit more interaction would help voters make their choices. No more debates, but safe to assume over the next three weeks there will be no shortage of fireworks -- Lou.

DOBBS: John King reporting from Des Moines, Iowa.

Joining me now for more on the GOP debate our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Candy, these, the candidates all talking about the importance of reducing the size of government, but they differed certainly on the issue of so-called free trade. What was your interpretation?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things. First of all I thought that it was a very kind of Reaganesque debate in some ways. As you mentioned, they were talking about shrinking the size of government. They were talking about strengthening the military. They were talking about returning power to the states. On the issue of free trade, there was some disagreement, Lou, but in the upper tiers, there was none.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will open every market in the world to help Iowa's agricultural products. I'm the biggest free marketer and free trader that you will ever see.

THOMPSON: Well I think free trade and fair trade is the backbone of our economy. I think it has been just as good for us as it has Mexico. In fact, I think Mexico needs to think about that when they criticize us for trying to enforce our border.

GIULIANI: Reality is NAFTA has been a good thing. I was concerned about NAFTA and I became convinced watching it that it has actually helped us. Our percentage of exports, the size of GDP has gone up dramatically.

TANCREDO: If NAFTA had worked so well, as everybody on the stage appears to think it did, why would we still have so much pressure on our southern border from people trying to escape from a country that does not provide them with the economic opportunities that NAFTA promised?

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you take your product made in Iowa down to the Mexican border right now and try to get it across, you will pay a 15 percent tariff, which they moved into place after we passed NAFTA. You know trade deals are business deals between nations. And we haven't made good business deals between nations and NAFTA is a bad business deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: You know so Lou, what we see here obviously is some difference of opinion among Republicans, but as they say, when you get to the upper tier, those who are actually are seen as having a chance to get the Republican nomination, there is absolutely no difference. They think NAFTA is a great deal.

DOBBS: Well, it's wonderful that the moderator had some follow- up questions, could ask them about 31 consecutive years of trade deficits run by the United States, the level of unemployment in Mexico that -- my goodness, gracious. I mean the only two people making sense on the issue were Congressman Duncan Hunter and Congressman Tom Tancredo. I mean how can we be conducting debates in this country without anyone understanding the moderator's, the questioner's insisting that the candidates respond with some relevance to the empirical data in front of them?

CROWLEY: Well you know I think as John mentioned this was a debate that didn't really lend itself to debate. It was sort of you know 30 seconds here and 30 seconds there, so it was, you know it was hard for them to kind of engage each other because those who did disagree with NAFTA and other trade deals didn't really have a chance to confront the other one.

DOBBS: So this kabuki dance goes on. Let me ask you this, Candy. The candidates, any real solutions offered to the crisis in our public education system? Did any of them actually acknowledge we have a crisis in this country's public schools?

CROWLEY: Well you know what's interesting is, again, you know kind of back to Reaganism and how the top tiers sort of approached this subject. They took the Republican line that listen this is not about the federal government. This is about the states and more importantly this is about the parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole role of education is a state issue. It is not really a federal issue. The worst thing that we can do is to shift more burden, more responsibility, more authority to the federal government when more of it needs to go to the states.

GIULIANI: Instead of these education standards done in Washington by the Education Department or some bureaucrats in a state Capitol or in a board, the choice should be made by parents. Parents should choose the school that their child goes to, the same way people choose higher education.

MCCAIN: The answer to the problem in education in America is simple. We need more choice and more competition. Entrance (ph) by a good student into college today, they have a number of choices and people are seeking them to be part of those educational institutions. We don't have the choice and competition we need in K-12.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So again Lou, yes, I think in answer to your question, they agree that there was a problem. The solution we got again has been sort of a long-standing Republican solution, which is the idea of allowing parents to choose the school their children go to, to have charter schools, and more competition among public schools.

DOBBS: And Candy, an awkward moment today when the moderator of this debate asked the candidates to show their hands like children in a classroom about whether or not global warming is a serious issue and whether it is manmade. Let's just show everyone how Fred Thompson reacted to that absurdity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to see a show of hands, how many of you believe global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not doing...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not doing hand shows today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No hand shows?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No hand shows...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so...

Does that mean -- is that yes or no for you? Do you believe that global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, do you want to give me a minute to answer that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, then I'm not going to answer it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Wow.

CROWLEY: Well, rebellion in the ranks. Yeah, listen I think they all hate those questions where they raise their hands, first of all because they think it is really un-presidential and second of all, it doesn't really give them a chance to explain why they feel yes or no and I think they see those commercials coming up where someone takes their position and they're raising their hand saying yes or no without sort of being seen as trying to explain the way they feel because you know actually sometimes the answer to these questions are yes and no, so I really did think...

DOBBS: Don't encourage these politicians, Candy.

CROWLEY: I'm sorry.

DOBBS: Yes and no...

CROWLEY: I do think Fred Thompson kind of...

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: I do think that Fred Thompson kind of came alive in this debate. There was that moment and other moments really -- he really seemed to take out after people.

DOBBS: Well you know I have to conclude here with you, Candy, you know by saying in this case I think the candidates are exactly right. It's periled (ph), the show of hands nonsense. These are people that want to be leaders of the free world and we have some moderator, by the way, and she was not the first moderator to do it, raise your hands like you're some sort of trained dog.

I mean I think Fred Thompson did the right thing by telling them to go to hell. I'd like to see more of it frankly. And by the way, I'd like to see the American people reciprocate toward their candidates with precisely the same response. Candy, thank you very much, as always; Candy Crowley from Des Moines.

CROWLEY: Sure.

DOBBS: We asked 21 so-called undecided Republican voters to watch this debate.

Reporter: I'm sorry. I do think Fred Thompson came alive in this debate. He seemed to take out after people.

I have to conclude here with you by saying I think the candidates are right, it's puerile, the show of hands nonsense. People that want to be leaders of the free world. She was not the first moderator to say raise your hands, like you're some sort of trained dog. I think Fred Thompson did the right thing. I would like to see more of it. I would like to see the American people reciprocate with the candidates with the same response.

We asked 21 undecided voters to watch this debate together and to score the candidate's performance with real-time favor-ability ratings. Some of the highest points we learned; Mitt Romney, when he called for higher pay for better teachers and more parental involvement in our schools; and Mike Huckabee, when he recalled his humble roots and criticized leaders for forgetting their obligations to the people who elected them.

Overall the same group scored Giuliani the debate's winner, but said Huckabee would be the choice if the election were held today. I will leave it to you to sort out what in the world that means. As I said, the moderator in today's GOP debate tried to stop these candidates from talking about our illegal immigration and border security crisis, along with the war in Iraq, this despite the fact that illegal immigration is in fact a national crisis, one of the top issues for all voters across the country.

But as Kitty Pilgrim now reports, to their credit the candidates again ignored the questionable instructions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An arbitrary rule.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We won't talk a lot about issues like Iraq or immigration...

PILGRIM: For an arbitrary reason.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're important issues no doubt, but Iowans say they know where the candidates are coming from on those.

PILGRIM: A rule that Republican presidentials hopeful broke almost immediately the very first second they could during the allotted free comment period.

HUNTER: As president I will finish that border fence in six months.

TANCREDO: We have had 40 years of unlimited, 45 years really of unlimited immigration both legal and illegal into this country. It has become a -- that is a problem.

PILGRIM: Six out of the nine candidates jumped back to the topic when asked what they could accomplish in the first year as president.

GIULIANI: We could end illegal immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enforcing the U.S. border. That means building the border fence and making sure that we know who is coming into this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to end illegal immigration. We can get that done.

PILGRIM: Senator McCain quickly putting it in the middle of his to-do list.

MCCAIN: Of course we have to fix our borders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would establish a national border guard. I would seal the borders of the United States so that only those who would cross our borders who are subject to our laws and the terms of those laws.

PILGRIM: Towards the end of the debate, candidates used the illegal immigration issue as one of the few sniping points, Tom Tancredo to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you going convince America that you in fact changed your mind...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Paul...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... on the issue of immigration from when you were a governor...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Paul...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Our recent poll show illegal immigration was the fourth most important issue for Iowa voters -- Lou.

DOBBS: All right. Kitty, thank you very much. Quite a debate; we get to watch it all again tomorrow when the Democrats step up to the podium. Thank you.

It's the turn of the Democrats, as I said, tomorrow they face off in Des Moines. We'll have coverage of the debate. It begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

The Hillary Clinton campaign has to be stunned tonight by the results of a new opinion poll released today. The CNN/WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire shows Senator Hillary Clinton's lead in New Hampshire has evaporated. Senator Clinton is now in a statistical dead heat with Senator Barack Obama. The poll shows she has a lead of only one percent over Senator Obama, among Democratic primary voters obviously within the margin of error.

Still ahead here, more on this presidential campaign and the role of God and politics in it. Republican and Democratic presidential politics invoking religion at almost every turn. One of the country's most influential religious conservatives, Tony Perkins, will join me here.

Also tonight troubling new evidence that our public schools are failing an entire generation of our students. We'll have that special report.

And President Bush had an opportunity to address an outrageous miscarriage of justice. He chose not to. Casey Wian will be telling us about that -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, President Bush has nine drug dealers on his latest list of pardons and commutations, but nowhere on the list are two important prison border patrol agents who risked their lives to apprehend drug smugglers -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you. We'll look forward to that report and a great deal more straight ahead. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: More frustration and anger on Capitol Hill tonight over the CIA's destruction of videotapes showing harsh interrogation of suspects. The bipartisan leaders of the House Intelligence Committee today said the CIA failed to inform Congress about the destruction of those tapes. Members of Congress said they are launching an investigation. The Intelligence Committee's leadership today held a private meeting with CIA Director General Michael Hayden on Capitol Hill. Hayden acknowledged that he knew about those videotapes before he became CIA director. Of course, all of the events took place before he took his post as the leader of the CIA.

President Bush had an opportunity this week to correct an outrageous miscarriage of justice that we've been covering here for the better part of two years. Shockingly President Bush did not take that opportunity. As Casey Wian reports, former border patrol agents Ramos and Compean remain in prison.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN (voice-over): President Bush was in a forgiving mood Tuesday night. He was pardoning or commuting the sentences of nine drug dealers, eight thieves, and 13 assorted moonshiners, tax cheats and other criminals, but he again failed to pardon imprisoned border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, despite a request he do so by 102 members of Congress.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: To watch the Thanksgiving turkey be pardoned and know that Ramos and Compean are in solitary confinement.

WIAN: For nearly a year the president has ignored congressional pleas to free Ramos and Compean. They're serving 11 and 12-year sentences mostly in solitary for their own protection for shooting and wounding illegal alien drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in 2005.

BILL DELAHUNT (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This sentence is entirely disproportionate. And it has created a significant miscarriage of justice that reflects poorly on our judicial system. You have the opportunity to redress that miscarriage.

REP. VIRGIL GOODE (R), VIRGINIA: It's a travesty that two men who are standing up for America fighting for the integrity of our border and fighting against drug smugglers are still in prison system.

WIAN: The White House says it won't consider pardoning the agents while their case is being heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: (INAUDIBLE) processes in place for pardons and those two individuals if they want to seek a pardon they can go through the process as well.

WIAN: The Justice Department requires applicants to wait five years after their sentence before applying for a presidential pardon, but lawmakers say it is well within the president's power to release the agents now.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Yeah, I think the president has been lying about this from day one. Got that lying, not telling the truth and that was fully exposed when he let "Scooter" Libby go in a millisecond.

WIAN: This month Rohrabacher and Delahunt introduced a new bipartisan resolution, asking President Bush to immediately commute the sentences of the former agents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: But it appears likely Ramos and Compean will spend the holidays in prison away from their families. In fact, (INAUDIBLE) Ramos' wife, Monica, said she has been told she won't even be allowed a phone call or a visit with her husband on Christmas Day -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, we can still hope that the appellate court will act correctly and bring some justice to these two men who have been wronged so shamelessly by the U.S. attorney in Texas and by the U.S. Justice Department and this president. Do we have any update on that process, any suggestion that it could come before the anticipated six to eight weeks that it normally takes to get a decision out of the appellate court?

WIAN: No indications that it is going to come any sooner, but the families of both agents are very heartened by the questioning that those judges did of the government's prosecution of this case, two of the three judges, as we've previously reported, expressing strong concerns about the prosecution and the sentences given to these two agents, so there is some hope, Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much; Casey Wian reporting.

The presidential power to grant clemency dates back to George Washington. Just 16 pardons under his tutelage, far short of President Bush's record, but with 142 pardons and the commutation of five prison sentences since 2001, President Bush is not even among the top 10 presidents in granting pardons. Leading the list, Franklin Delano Roosevelt granting clemency in 3,687 cases; second place, Woodrow Wilson; Harry Truman running a close third; and then again President Bush is still in office and has another Christmas season as president to commute sentences or absolve criminals of their guilt. Time now for some of your thoughts. Mary in North Carolina wrote in to say, "Lou, I come from a long line of Democrats, so does my husband. I can not believe how over the years they have changed, from working for the middle class vote to working for the illegal alien vote."

And Roger, in Georgia, "So certain people believe that issuing drivers certificates to illegal aliens in lieu of drivers' licenses is treating them as second class citizens. Gee, I didn't think illegal aliens were citizens at all." Well, you've got to get with the times and some of the thought of leaders in this country; just kidding.

And Guy in California, "Hi Lou, thank you for keeping all of us American citizens informed. I've been registered as a Republican since I was 18 years old. Today at the prime age of 55, I can now proudly say I am an Independent. We really need someone we can trust that will listen to the America people that we can vote for. Who is it going to be I wonder?"

Well let's hope they step forward soon. We'll have more of your thoughts here 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", a book that neither corporate America or those two, our gust (ph) political parties want you to read, I can assure you.

In our poll tonight, do you believe that Democrats and Republican presidential candidates should be emphasizing religion and faith in their campaigns? We'd love to hear from you on this question. Again, do you believe that Democratic and Republican presidential candidates should be emphasizing religion and faith in their campaigns? Yes or no. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later.

Coming up next, failing grades, American students sliding far behind students in other industrialized nations.

And failing trade, American negotiators being lectured by and caving in to who else, the leaders of communist China, especially on the issue of dangerous exports from China to the United States.

And I'll also be talking with Congressman Ted Poe about his efforts to bring justice to one of his constituents who has accused American contractors in Iraq of rape.

And tonight the role of religion in presidential politics, top religious conservative Tony Perkins joins me here next. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Public education it is our great American equalizer in this great democracy of ours, the path to achieving the American dream, that with an education and hard work anyone at any level of our society can succeed, but as Christine Romans reports, our system of public education is failing far too many of our nation's students. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American students' success is influenced more by their family wealth and socioeconomic status than children in other industrialized countries. This from an important international analysis of worldwide science and math scores.

BOB WEISS, ALLIANCE FOR EDUCATION: One out of four of these students in the United States are low performing and much of that is directly linked to socioeconomic status and yet the American dream is that a good education gets everyone the ability to move ahead. We clearly are falling short on providing that good education.

ROMANS: A 2006 program for international student assessment surveyed 15-year-olds in 57 countries. The newly released ranking are troublesome enough. American students ranked 29 in science and 35 in math, but perhaps even worse in America a student's social and economic status has a stronger impact on their science and math scores, more than twice as much as the top scoring countries Finland, Canada and Japan.

Quote, "Socio-economic disparities have a strong impact on student performance in the U.S." Something must be done.

AMY WILKINS, EDUCATION TRUST: The formula is a pretty simple one. It is providing them with the very best teachers we have to offer. It is providing them with the sort of rich and challenging curriculum that middle class kids and more affluent kids get as a matter of course. It is expecting a lot from them. It is holding them to high standards.

ROMANS: But education advocates say the system is failing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Now these results seem to correspond with another recent analysis, the bipartisan economic mobility project found that only six percent of children born to parents at the bottom of the income scale make it to the top of the income scale in their lifetimes -- Lou.

DOBBS: Yeah and this is less an examination of an educational system than a statement about the American dream. The reality is that 40 years ago in this country public education assured that any young man or woman in the system was going to get a quality education, perhaps not as great as the most prestige private secondary school, but certainly an education that would provide them an opportunity to succeed in our society. And if we're going to permit this education system to continue, we're destroying the American dream.

ROMANS: The fact that some other countries have somehow managed to make changes in their education system so that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where a student comes from, as long as they're in the system.

DOBBS: You know these Republicans today -- talking about choice -- and that's a favorite term of Republican candidates, and by the way, Democratic candidates aren't much better -- but the Republican candidates talking about choice in public schools in this country is a response is absolutely irresponsible. It is ignorant and it has to be changed. The only choice, candidates for the presidency, is to provide a quality education in every school district in the country. If public schools are our great equalizer and they've got to understand that this is a crisis. Christine, thank you very much. Even though the news is not good, at least we're all breaking through these myths, thanks of course to the great political leadership this country has right now. Thank you, Christine Romans.

New developments tonight in the baby Gabriel custody battle that we've been following in Oregon in recent weeks. A mediator has been expected to hear that case and to make a decision before week's end. One deadline has already passed.

At issue in this case is whether 2-year-old Gabriel Allred will be able to stay with his foster parents in Oregon, who were set up as foster parents specifically to adopt him or now be sent by the Oregon state agency to live with a grandmother in Mexico. Angela Brandt and her husband Steve have been caring for the boy since he was 4 months old. It was about that time that the boy's illegal alien father, a convicted sex offender and his American mother, were stripped of their parental rights. The grandmother flew to Oregon this week. We'll keep you posted.

Coming up next, presidential candidates debating the issue of religion as well as politics. We'll have a special guest on that issue of god and politics.

And investigating explosive charges about a rape in Iraq, charges that Americans gang raped an American woman. We'll be talking with her congressman trying to win her justice.

And charges that sweat shops filled with child labor are driving record communist Chinese exports to this country. Look around your Christmas tree. Those ornaments and lights are connected to children and the world. We'll have that special report and a great deal more. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: An American woman charges she was gang-raped in Baghdad by American contractors working for former Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root. Today Congressman Ted Poe of Texas announced a congressional investigation into those charges of rape. Jamie Lee Jones says she was held captive in a shipping container after the rape and the U.S. government is involved in a cover up. The congressman helped arranged her escape from Iraq and joins us tonight from Capitol Hill, Congressman Ted Poe. Congressman, good to have you with us. This is a remarkable case in that we're two years after the events and nothing is resolved.

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: That's correct. After she was rescued by State Department officials in Baghdad, found in a sea going cargo container where she had been held hostage. Medical injuries were treated, brought back to the United States, we have been trying to find out for two years who the people were that assaulted her, where are they and why they haven't been prosecuted and we haven't received answers to that as of this date.

DOBBS: You questions are going to the State Department, to Kellogg, Brown & Root, they're now at the time a subsidiary of Halliburton, correct?

POE: Correct and the Justice Department as well.

DOBBS: None of these agencies will respond to the charges by a U.S. citizen?

POE: That's correct.

DOBBS: Represented by a U.S. congressman?

POE: We haven't gotten any answers. They won't tell us in an investigation is taking place. That is going change now that Jamie has made her case public. There's going be a hearing.

DOBBS: I think all of us want to get this straight. She has not had nor has your office or any attorney representing her an explanation and response from the U.S. government, under whose jurisdiction she was at the time?

POE: That's correct. You said it exactly as it is. We're not getting any response as to what is being done about the criminals who did this against her.

DOBBS: And we understand further, as we've reported, this Halliburton subsidiary carried out an investigation. The State Department supposedly carried out some sort of investigation but for some reason the investigations were broken off. Do we have any indication as to why?

POE: No, we don't know the truth yet as to why they stopped the investigation. The State Department made some inquiries. They stopped. They were not passed on to me or the victim of the crime. We haven't gotten a satisfactory answer to this date.

DOBBS: Now I know you've written a letter to the U.S. attorney general, Michael Mukasey, seeking his intervention in this case. Is there anything the audience of this broadcast can do so assist you?

POE: Yes, exactly. There's something you can do. We do not think this is an isolated case of sexual assault against American citizens in Baghdad by coworkers. We want the other victims to notify my office immediately. Because now Congress is getting involved, there will be hearings. What happens to American workers working overseas working for American contractors and the crimes committed against them?

DOBBS: Well Congressman Ted Poe, you can go to the congressional website. We'll put up your website and direct e-mail on our website, at LouDobbs.com. And Congressman Poe's website, the idea that these agencies and the -- a private corporation working in the green zone in Baghdad would not be responsive to a U.S. Congressman is mid boggling.

POE: We feel the same way. We don't understand why we're not getting a response. Citizens have rights in Baghdad. That area is controlled under the United States government. There's jurisdiction. We want answers.

DOBBS: Thank you for being with us. Coming up next and a reminder, please send the information. We'll have his address on our website. Congressman Ted Poe.

Up next here, presidential candidates, both parties, clashing over god and politics. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, one of the country's leading religious conservatives will join me here next.

The invasion of cheap imports from communist China, guess what? Things will continue. We'll have all of that and more.

Yes, we'll have the Bush administration's response. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, now we turn the battle over god and politics to the front page. The latest clash of presidential candidates, particularly Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Huckabee posing this question for a magazine piece coming up this week in the "New York Times" magazine, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?" That was an aside that Mike Huckabee has apologized for today to our Wolf Blitzer in point of fact.

Joining me now, Tony Perkins, he's the president of the Family Research Council, one of the nation's leading conservatives. Thank you for joining us. You've been kind enough to take time out of a formal event to be with us. You and I have discussed over the years the issue of god in the public square. It seems that this campaign is settling that issue. God is at every turn in this campaign by every candidate.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: On both sides, in both parties. I mean it is all over. You're absolutely correct. I think personal faith is defining. It's a characteristic that people want to see, but they don't want it to become a stick by which people beat each other up. Mike Huckabee was right in acknowledging that he went too far in his comments or his questioning about Romney's faith with what he said.

DOBBS: People shouldn't be beating each other over this issue. But the reality is, there's also freedom in this country not only of religion or freedom to believe whatever one thinks, that includes being an atheist or an agnostic.

PERKINS: That's correct. In fact, the constitution says when it comes to those holding office, that there should be no religious test. That of course was put in particular because the catholic population is about 1.2 percent of the population and they were being excluded at the state level and the feds said there's not going to be an exclusion. We're going to include people but increasingly, we're seeing some, using a reverse religious test. Some attacks toward Mike Huckabee implying that if you have a faith that affects your life, then somehow you do not qualify. It's beginning to pop up.

DOBBS: Well it is popping up. In this campaign in particular, unlike any I can remember witnesses. Perhaps god was sub text some years ago. To move to the forefront and be central to the public statements and the written materials of nearly every candidate is remarkable.

PERKINS: It is. I think in part a number of the topics you've had on your show tonight, the problems we're facing as society, there was a very common world view 50 years ago. There was a very set way we viewed the issues around us. There's been a battle raging with the elite secularists that have tried to keep religion out of the public square. So there's a push back. That's why you see a strong confrontation. There are those trying to reinsert it and those trying to push it out.

DOBBS: One interesting thing to me, and I want to ask our producer if we have this because circulating around the Internet right now is a very interesting and popular e-mail talking about the role of religion in our culture. Do we have that available? Apparently, we don't have any of that on the screen. But basically saying you don't have to believe in god, you don't have to do all but it's a contest between the secular and the religious suggesting that if we're going be totally secular, why are we giving people off on Sunday, a religious day of rest historically and also in sectarian terms the idea that everyone having Christmas and Easter off. It's really quite an interesting turn.

PERKINS: We're not a country that has embraced a secular world view. We are a country that has embraced a Christian world view. That is what our legal system is founded upon. It's embedded into our government and the fact that we do recognize Sunday. We saw it in the blue laws. We saw it in various ways increasingly America is becoming more secular. That's where you see the conflict. There is clearly among the American people, a desire that their leaders have a religious faith. I have not seen it dissected but hunch would be there's some comfort in knowing that the leader of the country believes in god.

DOBBS: Right now this nation could use a little comfort.

PERKINS: There's too many politicians for you and both to keep an eye on so it's a good thing we do have a god.

DOBBS: I think this is something we can all pray over. We thank you very much for being with us here tonight.

PERKINS: Merry Christmas, Lou.

DOBBS: Merry Christmas. Thank you, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. And a reminder to vote on our poll tonight. We would like to know from you whether in believe the democratic and republican presidential candidates should be emphasizing their religion and faith in their campaigns? What is your comfort level and what do you believe is the appropriate direction for the candidates when it comes to the issues of god, politics, and the roll of religion in campaigns. We'll have the results here in a just a matter of moments.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "OUT IN THE OPEN" with Rick Sanchez. Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We're following Lou this story out of Houston where this homeowner was trying to protect his neighbor's property and he ended up shooting two guys ripping off his neighbor's house. They were illegal immigrants. There's been a big controversy ever since. The city council there is Pasadena is saying they don't want any protesting. In the meantime, we're going have the exclusive interview for the lawyer of Joe Horn, working our way to talking to him. There's another case here in New York the same as this as well. This is interesting because it makes you start to wonder comparatively. This is a case of an African-American man that shot and killed a teenager that was in front of his house and yelling at his family, threatening him. It's an interesting case to compare as well. And the New Life Church in Colorado, they're gathering tonight Lou for the first time since the horrible shooting and the pastor is going to talk with us. I think we've got a pretty good show lined up for you tonight.

DOBBS: And you might be interested to know, I know your viewers would, the viewers of this broadcast said that the Texas laws that permit deadly force to protect the property of individuals and third party property approving that as an idea and concept by 94%.

SANCHEZ: That's interesting. We're going have guys talking about this. You're correspondent, Tuck, put together a piece for us. He and I had lunch today and he was telling me the details of this case. Interesting stuff. It's a fascinating case Lou. You're right.

DOBBS: That you very much, Rick. Look forward to it. Rick Sanchez.

Up next, a warning that communist China is exporting Christmas tree ornaments made by their children in sweatshops and of course those lights going around our Christmas trees in this country. And communist China's threat to American consumers, are trade negotiators giving in to Beijing? The faith-based free trade, in all its glory. We'll have a full report. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Communist Chinese exports to the United States continue to soar in despite all sorts of problems and recalls of other unsafe products. Today top Chinese government officials actually warned a U.S. trade delegation was warned not to confront China on trade issues. Bill Tucker reports on the shrinking industrial might of America. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Chinese are in control in their latest meetings with Treasury Secretary Paulson. The communist officials told him they oppose the polarization of trade and warned that bills in congress would undermine business ties between the countries. The underlying problem, a rising U.S. trade deficit of $57.8 billion. About 26 million of that total or roughly 45 percent is the result of trade with China. So a substantial part of getting America's trade in order requires action with China. So far, he is content to just talk. Not the right approach says the administration's trade critics.

PROF. PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: What history teaches us on trade with China, if we're willing to take tangible actions in response to their mercantilism, they will stop. If we're not willing to take tangible actions, and just talk, they'll talk back and nothing will happen.

TUCKER: And then China, Paulson continued to talk.

HENRY PAULSON, TREASURY SECRETARY: The United States welcomes the rice of a prosperous and stable China.

TUCKER: A prosperity that is being fueled in part by the United States and its trade politics, policies will help the Chinese economy grow a projected 11 percent rate next year according to the World Bank.

ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY COUNCIL: This is a complete sham. There has been no significant progress made on any front. Secretary Paulson should have the decency to stop wasting taxpayers' money on these expensive trips and these expensive meetings.

TUCKER: The U.S. Business & Industry Council says that while Paulson flies, the real output of the factories declines.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: According to their analysis output, on a core group of 114 manufacturing sectors, industrial out put is falling. Since 1997 it is down three and a half percent. It's not just the jobs that are going. It's the manufacturing base that's being eroded.

DOBBS: No surprise to me. The offshoring of production has been going on in a fever pitch for five or six years. The idea that the administration is sending these -- these government officials, Secretary Paulson and the others, over to look like a bunch of buffoons, being led around by the minister there in China, she had to bring him into line. A wonderful metaphor for what exactly China is doing to the United States. This administration is complying to the expense of all that we hold dear in this country. Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

Still ahead, Christmas tree ornaments made by children in sweatshops in communist China. We'll have that special report and more. All of that coming up, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: More dangerous Christmas gifts from communist China. Thank you very much. The National Labor Committee today warning China is exporting Christmas ornaments manufactured by child labor working in sweatshops, this on top of the millions of toxic toys from China that will be going under our Christmas trees. Louis Schiavone has the report.

LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These south China factory workers range in age from 12, to 13 and 16 years old. They're cranking out ornaments for Wal-Mart customers, charges human rights advocate the National Labor Committee.

CHARLES KERNAGHAN, NATIONAL LABOR COMMITTEE: The reality behind these bargains is so ugly that Americans would be saddened to see it.

SCHIAVONE: The group claims to have work records smuggled out of the factory showing that at 26 cents an hour, they make only half of China's minimum wage. The median pay for 110 hour work week is $49.29. And for the eight months leading up to the Christmas shopping season, the work week is seven days long.

SCOTT NOVA, WORKERS RIGHTS CONSORTIUM: You have products being made for exports to the United States in factories overseas that would be embarrassing to Ebenezer Scrooge.

SCHIAVONE: Wal-Mart says it maintains rigorous ethic standards and is investigating the report saying "Wal-Mart maintains a very strict Supplier's Code of Conduct, and employs over 200 people to ensure supplier adherence." These pictures that the National Labor Committee says were recorded on cell phones in the factory reveal another crack the U.S.-China relationship, already characterized by life-threatening product flaws in everything from toothpaste to pet food to toys.

MICHAEL WESSEL, U.S. CHINA ECON. SECURITY REVIEW: The Chinese flood our market with their products, but they basically don't accept many of ours. It's time for us to have a trade policy that really says we have basic rules and standards that are going to guide this trade.

SCHIAVONE: Senator Byron Dorgan has introduced legislation to authorize the Federal Trade Commission to investigate overseas labor abuses.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: We should not have on the store shelves in this country the product of sweat shop labor that results from abusing workers.

SCHIAVONE: Until Congress acts, however, the abuses are likely to continue.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHIAVONE: Lou, seemingly unfazed by the torrent of bad news about his country's products, a Chinese official stepped forward at the start of the international trade talks to tell parents everywhere, quote, "cheap and nice toys are sure to bring joy to the children of the world." End quote. Lou.

DOBBS: Sounds like a Christmas song. Thank you very much, Louise Schiavone, from Washington.

The results of our poll tonight -- 84 percent of you say you don't believe the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates should be emphasizing their religion and faith in their campaigns.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Ralph in New York. "Dear Lou, I have voted Democrat for 45 years. Then the majority of the Democrats tried to stuff the immigration bill down our throats. I'm now proud to say I'm registered as an independent."

Donna in South Carolina wrote in about our poll question last night, asking whether Mexican President Felipe Calderon should take his citizens who are in this country home with him after he complained about U.S. government treatment of them. She writes -- "Dear Lou, why doesn't President Calderon put as much effort into running his country as he does in trying to run ours?"

And Stacy in Tennessee, "Lou, not only should the president of Mexico take his illegal people back home, I think he should take the Bush administration back home with him as well. What a win-win situation that would be."

Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my new book, "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit."

We thank you for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thank you for watching. Good night from New York. "OUT IN THE OPEN" with Rick Sanchez begins now.

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