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LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK

Election Progress; Toxic Toys Still on Shelves; Iraq Contractor Misconduct

Aired December 22, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. The first test of voter sentiment in the presidential election is now less than two weeks away. The Iowa caucuses will take place on January 3rd. Republican and Democratic candidates are intensifying their efforts to win over the many voters who remain undecided.
In a moment, three of the best political journalists anywhere will join us to give their assessment of the race. But first, Ed Henry at the White House reports on President Bush's opinion of the presidential contest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At his final press conference of this year, President Bush kept insisting he didn't want to be dragged into next year's battle to replace him.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a good attempt to get me in the race.

HENRY: But he could not resist sticking a toe in the water when asked what qualities his successor needs.

BUSH: If I were asking questions of people running for office, I would say, what are the principles that you will stand on in good times and bad times? What will be the underpinning of your decisions?

HENRY: And then another toe.

BUSH: How do you intend to get advice from people you surround yourself? Who are you going to surround yourself? And what process will you have in place to ensure that you get the, you know, unvarnished opinion of advisers?

HENRY: He would not quite bite when pressed on Republican Mike Huckabee's charge his foreign policy has been arrogant.

BUSH: I suspect my name may come up a lot. And what the American people need to do is to sort through the rhetoric and reality.

HENRY: Mr. Bush scoffed at Bill Clinton's suggestion that as president, his wife would send the 41st and 42nd presidents on a global tour to restore America's image.

BUSH: Well, 41 doesn't think it's necessary. It's going to be a one-man trip.

HENRY: The president declared he plans to help unify his party after the primaries and gave a hint of how he wants the general election framed.

BUSH: I believe we will keep the White House. I believe ours is a party that understands the nature of the world in which we live, and that the government's primary responsibility is to protect the American citizens from harm.

HENRY (on camera): But selling the public on national security may not be so easy. The president acknowledged that while there have been security gains in Iraq this year, there still needs to be more progress on reconciliation. And on Afghanistan, he confirmed that he's conducting a top-to-bottom review to figure out why that war effort has hit such a rough patch.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: National security is one of the top issues in this election campaign. But so are many domestic issues, such as the economy, health care, illegal immigration.

Joining me now, three of the best members of a political team anywhere. In Washington, senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. In Muscateen (ph), Iowa, chief national correspondent John King. And in Des Moines, Iowa, congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

And thank you all for joining us. John, let me start with you. It's about two weeks away. What's the political climate like in Iowa?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating, Kitty. You look at the Republican race, who's going to win? Your answer is, I don't know. Look at the Democratic race, who's going to win? Your answer is I don't know.

The climate seems to be the voters are looking for something different, that they want change, that they're tired of politics as usual. I think that is a fair statement about both races. That's why Obama is doing well. That's why Mike Huckabee is doing well. Two relative newcomers to the national state.

If you look at the Democratic race and the Republican race, the issues portfolio is very different. But if you're looking for the overall climate out here, people are looking after eight years of one president during an unpopular war. They want change.

PILGRIM: Mm-hmm. Dana Bash, let me get to you. There are three Democratic front-runners. What must they do to differentiate from each other at this point?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's pretty hard because when you talk about the issues, they're really not that far apart. So you know, it really does come down to, as John was saying, this kind of climate that we're in, whether or not Hillary Clinton's the thrust of her argument is going to win the day, which is that she's somebody who's been there and done that. She's somebody who has experience and really is sophisticated when it comes to the world stage and the problems here at home. Or the Barack Obama fresh face kind of approach. And John Edwards, for that matter, is sort of - you know, has a similar vein in the fact that he was only in the Senate for one term as well.

So it does seem to be coming down to kind of a gut feeling among Iowa voters in terms of who they're more comfortable with, in terms of what kind of Washington they want to see rather than necessarily a big difference on the key issues like Iraq, like health care, and things like that.

PILGRIM: So in policy, you're not seeing that big a spread. But it's more a sort of leadership issue and a -- maybe even a personality issue perhaps.

Bill Schneider, let me ask you, in Iowa many of the voters are still undecided. And I believe 34% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans still haven't even made up their minds. So even though it's tight, it's going to be an interesting shift when it happens.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. And as Dana just said, one of the reasons they're having trouble making up their minds is that there isn't that much differentiation among the products. They're like Christmas shoppers who have been waiting longer and longer to make up their minds. And a lot of them are shopping just this weekend, I mean, because in many cases, they don't know what they want. A lot of the products look exactly the same. So it's a difficult decision for many of them.

PILGRIM: Well, I don't know why anyone expected anything different. This season, everyone always waits till the last minute.

John King, the Republicans, we've seen Mike Huckabee really coming up. What is his campaign doing to maintain the momentum that he's seeing?

KING: Well, I'm fresh from Mike Huckabee event, Kitty. And I can tell you, one of the things that happens is he makes the joke at the beginning of every event as he has much more people in the room than he did a few short months ago. They are trying to convince people don't give up.

Many of their voters, like homeschoolers, people who are new to the process, haven't been in caucuses before. The worry in the Huckabee camp is make sure you come out. He was just joking at this event I don't care if there's six feet of snow, you've got to find a way to get there.

He's a very home spun, very folksy kind of guy. To the point Dana made earlier, Mike Huckabee hits all the Republican issues about smaller government, about taxes, about trying to win the war and succeed in Iraq. He differentiates himself with Bush foreign policy. But in the end with him, it really comes down to likability and trust and his deep support among the Christian evangelical community here on issues like abortion and same sex marriage.

PILGRIM: Oh, come on. What's six feet of snow in Iowa, John.

BASH: And Kitty...

PILGRIM: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: I was just going to say, I've also spent a considerable amount of time with Mike Huckabee recently here in Iowa. And the other interesting note that he hits over and over again now that he's actually doing well and he's in the lead is he tries to convince Iowans he's still actually the underdog and to appeal to their sort of anti-Washington, anti-conventional wisdom, sensibility. Talks about the fact that Mitt Romney has outspent him by a ratio of 20 to 1. So he's trying to kind of stoke the passion among Iowa voters. And that's the way you to try to continue to maintain his lead and maintain this sort of, you know, excitement basically about his candidacy.

PILGRIM: Bill Schneider, anything on Huckabee? Or should we go to issues here?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think that the voters, frankly, want two different things. And that's how they're having trouble making the decision. They want competence, something they haven't seen a lot of in the Bush administration. And that leads a lot of them to be attracted to Hillary Clinton and to Mitt Romney, both of whom have reputations for knowing what they're doing, business experience, long experience in government.

And on the other hand, they also want someone different, someone who doesn't sound like a typical politician because they're sick and tired of fighting and bickering in politics in Washington. And that's what Huckabee and Obama promised. So one of the reasons voters can't make up their minds is they're attracted to two very, very different kinds of things.

PILGRIM: You know, I really want to get to the issue of Iraq. Because it's fascinating when you look at Democrat/Republican. And maybe we can show in Republicans, Iraq is second to the bottom on the -- only 12 percent think Iraq is a big issue. But when you look at issues for Democratic voters, Iraq is at the top of the list. Why are we seeing such a split out, John King?

KING: Well, in part, because Republicans support their Republican president. And Republicans believe that for all the mistakes made early in the war, that the surge policy is now and that this president and the next president need to continue that policy. That is the belief of the Republicans.

Kitty, the differences on Iraq will be in the general election. The Democrats are largely in agreement. Some differences, but the main point is, get out as soon as you can. The Republicans are, stay as long as it takes. The differences on Iraq will be aired in the general election. They're not so much in the internal party fights we're worrying about right now and focused on right now. Just like on many of the other issues, there aren't big differences.

PILGRIM: Yes, it's an interesting distinction, John. But then, will we see the general election turn into an election about Iraq? Or will it disappear and economy and other issues turn up as the big event? Or does anyone know?

KING: Well...

BASH: Well, it's hard to tell, of course, at this stage, because if we would have predicted that Iraq would have been the way it is, kind of like lower on the food chain, if you will, of issues, no one would have believed it maybe six months ago. And that is because things do seem to have calmed down in Iraq right now.

But I think when you said the economy, there is no question about that. You see it, you feel it, and you taste it when you go these events, these very small events where these - what these candidates are dealing one-on-one with these voters getting very tough questions, a lot of questions on bread-and-butter issues like the economy, like on and health care.

That is the thing that you definitely are struck by when you go to these events because the issues are really coming home, if you will, at this point in the election cycle.

PILGRIM: Bill, anything on issues you'd like to add?

SCHNEIDER: We're seeing domestic issues, as Dana said, pocketbook issues rising in importance. Americans very pessimistic about the economy, feeling very pressured. Most Americans believe that there is -- the country is already in a recession. And when the economy is bad, the economy is the issue.

PILGRIM: Yes. And it certainly has become a very big topic, as you say, in these campaign events. Bill Schneider, Dana Bash, John King, the best team on television, thank you very much.

Still to come, a troubling new warning about Christmas toys. Christine Romans will have the report. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, what do you have wrapped beneath the Christmas tree? A coalition of environmental groups found toxic toys still on store shelves. I'll have that story.

PILGRIM: Thanks, Christine. Two leading toy safety experts will also join us for that.

Also, one state that refused to help enforce our immigration laws backs down. We'll have a special report.

And a woman who says she was gang raped in Iraq gives testimony on Capitol Hill about her ordeal. Her congressman, Ted Poe, is among our guests.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PILGRIM: With Christmas just days away, dangerous toys are still in the stores and likely under Christmas trees also. A coalition of environmental and consumer groups tested 1,200 toys and other children's products. And it found that many contained toxic chemicals including lead. But the toy industry, despite record recalls, is still standing by the safety of its products. Christine Romans has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Steel workers' kids telling parents to check where their Christmas presents are made. It's part of the steel workers' union campaign urging Congress to get the lead out of imported toys. Now even after millions of toys have already been recalled, an environmental watchdog again warns there are still tainted toys in your shopping cart, like these baby shoes and these, and this doll.

JEFF GEARHART, ECOLOGY CENTER: We think that parents should be able to buy toys and feel that they do not contain lead or other chemicals of concern. And we think that the toy companies should take the position that they do not want to retail products with chemicals of concern in them.

ROMANS: Healthytoys.org tested products right off store shelves and found 22 more toys it says contained dangerous chemicals, including lead. One of them, the popular Fisher Price medical kit, specifically the red blood pressure cuff. Consumers Union has already urged parents to take this toy away from children. A Fisher Price spokeswoman, though, again defended the toy. "The Fisher-Price Medical Kits are safe for consumers." The company says the toy meets all federal and international product safety and lead standards. But consumer groups say those rules are weak. And the Illinois attorney general is so concerned, she will not allow the toy to be sold in her state, telling us it's time, "to find ways to review and tighten up the quality control process in order to eliminate these health risks."

The Toy Industry Association called the healthytoys.org review of toys misleading. "The mere presence of inaccessible substances in trace amounts does not mean a product is harmful," the group says. But after so many toy recalls, these kids aren't so convinced.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: The steel workers' union says Washington trade policies have allowed companies to sacrifice safety when they outsource production. The group healthytoys.org is less concerned with trade policy and more concerned with chemicals in our household products, Kitty.

PILGRIM: As you've pointed out so often in your reporting, Christine, even if a toy has a trace element or if it has inaccessible lead, which is beneath the surface, if that toy is damaged, that can be released. ROMANS: That's absolutely true. And some of these environmental groups say we just don't know, and we're beginning to know the impact of all of this inaccessible lead in so many of our different products. It's dangerous, they say. And they'd like to see stronger laws.

PILGRIM: And how inaccessible is it if some child is chewing on it?

ROMANS: Chewing on it? I mean, these little shoes with vinyl on them, you know, that a child -- a child chews on little shoes. And they say that those are dangerous.

PILGRIM: Yes. Christine Romans, thank you very much.

Well, three months ago, the head of the U.S. Toy Industry Association promised Americans a safe Christmas saying, "we are out to make sure that toys are among the safest things parents can bring into their homes this holiday season."

But after yet another toy recall, those assurances ring hollow. Tens of millions of toys have been recalled this year, most of them made in Communist China. Author Richard Miniter and Laurie Wallach of watchdog group Public Citizen have been following this crisis. And Public Citizen just released a report which puts the blame firmly on America's toy brands.

LAURIE WALLACH: Well, in that report, we basically track the deliberate decisions by the big U.S. toy companies to relocate their production wholesale overseas to countries, where they couldn't ensure the safety of the products they sold back here. We also document how their profits and CEO pay went through the ceiling. But making toys in unsafe places has resulted in skyrocketing recalls. And it was a deliberate choice. This was not an act of God. And then, the same companies pushed for trade agreements to lock in this low road strategy at enormous risk to all of our safety.

PILGRIM: You know, when I looked at the CEO salaries in relationship to the salaries of the workers, and when it's outsourced, how low those salaries go, it's shocking stuff. It really is very interesting read.

Let me get Richard in on this. And Richard, you know, I was very interested in your take on this. Because you take it as a very -- almost as an academic subject, although you have concrete examples. But you talk about how America has failed to see the threat posed by Chinese goods. And you talk about safe trade. You say that debate is limited, because it gets bogged down in free traders versus protectionists. And in fact, safe trade is really what we should be pursuing. How do you define that?

RICHARD MINITER, AUTHOR, "BUYER'S REMORSE": Well, the safe trade is United States that is open to trade that believes in global trade, but believes in consumer safety rules, too. It's not possible to trade with someone without a degree of trust. And trust is fortified through safety regulations. The same safety rules that apply to American-made products sold in America should apply to imports.

And we know that expecting the Chinese to fix this is naive. We know that the Chinese, who I went through in my report "Buyers Remorse", I looked at Chinese language press accounts. They have dangerous products in their own country, made by their countrymen, which are killing in one case 16 infants. Another case, hundreds of adults.

So they're living with dangerous products in their own country. And now they're exporting them to ours.

The question is, are we going to change our border procedures, make these bureaucracies work together, coordinate them, and treat it like a national security threat. You know, God forbid if the Chinese actually decided to intentionally start shipping dangerous products to the United States, we're wide open. We have no defense. Less than 1 percent of all containers that come into the United States are actually inspected.

PILGRIM: Yes, and you say about one-fifth of the consumer products right now in this country are made in China. I was also struck by some of the products that you mentioned that weren't really on my radar. These lead coated steel pipes and things that are going into buildings. And these are sort of hidden dangers that we don't even notice at this point.

MINITER: That's right. And we know that lead in high doses leads to mental retardation in children and that it can poison adults as well.

Look, the Chinese don't want to follow American safety standards if they want to sell into the American market. And we're going to have a level playing field. And I know this term has been abused by some critics of free trade.

And I consider myself a free trader. But before that, a safe trader. I don't want people selling products labeled food that's actually poison and selling medicine that doesn't actually cure.

We went through a period in this country in the mid 19th century, where people sold snake oil and other people died. Do we really need to repeat it with a Chinese accent?

PILGRIM: Yes, Lori, you know, you and I have been talking about this absolutely for at least the last year. And before that, you've been following this as your life's work. And basically, we look to you to say we've all been talking about this for so long, but not much has been done. We've had hearings and reports, but not that much has been done. What needs to be done? And what needs to be done right away?

WALLACH: Well, there are two things that have to happen. To make the improvements in our domestic system, we need to change the Consumer Products Safety Commission. There was legislation passed in the House on that issue. It didn't deal with import safety in the middle of the biggest import safety scandal in our country's history. So we need to give the powers to the inspection agency, for instance, to inspect overseas, to stop things at the border, to require importing companies to post bonds so their goods can be recalled, to make them subject themselves to U.S. jurisdiction for enforcement actions. So he playing field is leveled for the U.S. companies and the foreign companies.

But to make those improvements, to increase inspection, to do the things that need to be done, you have to change the trade rules as well. And the reason why is, currently under the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, CAFTA, there are ceilings on the level of safety standards the U.S. can apply to imported goods. And our domestic inspection rates have to be the same as our international import inspection rates, which means even though a good coming from China has no safety standards in its manufacturing, we can't inspect it at a higher rate because of trade rules.

PILGRIM: Right.

WALLACH: It's got to be changed.

PILGRIM: We're limited. Richard, any thoughts on this, on how to actually change the system?

MINITER: Well, first of all, I think the Bush administration's plan announced last week is insufficient. They're going to only inspect ten product lines coming from China out of the thousands of goods. And the Chinese haven't even agreed to when we can send those inspectors.

But firstly, I think the Chinese have to stop denying American health inspectors who want to go to China to inspect these subcontractors of American companies. Visas have got to stop being denied.

Secondly, we've got to form a safe trade center, where all of the agencies that look at border security and product safety come together. The FDA, the Consumer Products Safety Commission, Customs and so on can share information. I think it should be modeled on the counterterrorism center that brings together the CIA, the FBI, these other agencies.

If there is a major problem that emerges, these groups can then mobilize quickly as opposed to now where they're in separate silos. They barely communicate with each other. And that bureaucracy could magnify, that bureaucratic failure magnify the size of any failure. We can't afford to wait. We've got to act now.

PILGRIM: That sounds like a very sensible, sensible plan. Richard Miniter and Lori Wallach, thank you for joining us tonight.

WALLACH: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Coming up, Catholic church leaders pushing a pro- amnesty agenda, using the Christmas story to make their point. We'll have that report. And Illinois backs away from a plan that would bar companies from obeying federal immigration laws.

Also, did the U.S. government conspire to cover up the rape of an American citizen in Iraq? Congressman Ted Poe asks the Justice Department to investigate. You'll be shocked by his response. Congressman Poe will join me here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TIME STAMP: 1825:50

PILGRIM: Catholic churches across this country this week held services to honor International Migrants Day and to demand amnesty for millions of illegal aliens. Incredibly, priests compared modern-day immigrants to Mary and Joseph.

Casey Wian reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Declaring there is room at the inn for millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States, the Catholic church says the Christmas story of Mary and the birth of Jesus mirrors that of many immigrants. Priests use that story to promote what they call comprehensive immigration reform on International Migrants Day.

SCOTT SANTAROSA, REV., DOLORES MISSION CATHOLIC CHURCH: On behalf of our (INAUDIBLE) communities, I would like to welcome you on this International Migrants Day, as we give thanks to God for the presence of our migrant brothers and sisters, and recommit ourselves to work for a just and humane reform of United States immigration law.

WIAN: At a service in Los Angeles, the priest introduced an immigrant couple he called a modern day Mary and Joseph. Claudia says she is a U.S. citizen and has filed a petition for her husband.

CLAUDIA VIDALES: So please, United States of America, give us the opportunity to have papers for everybody because they need it.

WIAN: Then the congregation posed for a picture to send to the presidential candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We call upon the presidential candidates to support immigration reform policy that is just, humane and comprehensive.

WIAN: While similar services took place in Chicago, New Jersey and San Antonio, another pro-amnesty religious group went to the border and held a posada, Mexico's traditional pre-Christmas celebration.

Illegal alien Elvira Ariano, who claims sanctuary for a year in a Chicago Methodist church before finally being deported, joined other families separated by the border. They shared food through the fence and prayed for amnesty.

ROCIO CARRILLO (through translator): I'm happy today, but also outraged because I can't believe that this divides us. There should be no borders because God created only one world, not many.

WIAN: Ariano, appearing healthy despite her recent hunger strike at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, is continuing her campaign to stop all raids and deportations by U.S. immigration authorities.

Ariano told a Mexican newspaper she is considering leading a march on Washington, D.C. to demand more right for illegal immigrants on May Day next year. She doesn't say how as a deported felon, she plans to reenter the United States. If she doesn't go, she's considering sending her eight-year old U.S. citizen son, Saul (ph).

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Coming up, the state of Illinois backs down after refusing to enforce some of our immigration laws. We'll tell you why they did that.

Also, charges of a cover-up against the federal government after an American woman says she was gang raped in Iraq. And her congressman joins us next.

And with the Iowa caucuses less than two weeks away, what's in store for the presidential candidates? Well, some of the best political minds in the country will join us with their insight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

PILGRIM: States across the country are passing legislation cracking down on illegal immigration. And those states are taking action because the federal government is unable to control this crisis. Illinois, though, has been moving in the opposite direction. Now that state passed a law barring employers from using a federal database to check workers' immigration status. But faced with a federal lawsuit, Illinois put the measure on hold.

Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a compromise reached quietly. The attorney general of Illinois agreeing to postpone implementing a new law that would make it illegal for employers in the state to use the federal program E-Verify to check on the legal status of new hires. The attorney general declined our request for a comment but a supporter of the E-Verify program from Illinois welcomed the news by the governor's administration. REP. PETER ROSKAM (R), ILLINOIS: They really had bad judgment when they signed this bill into law. And I think they're beginning to posture in realizing that they're on the wrong side of common sense and they're on the wrong side of public opinion on this.

TUCKER: Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff was pleased and said that DHS will "communicate with each of the Illinois employers enrolled in E-Verify to let them know that they may continue using E- Verify without fear of state enforcement action on January 1."

Homeland Security wants all employers interested in signing up for the program to know that DHS welcomes them. And there are employers who want to use the E-Verify program, saying that it makes complying with the law to hire only citizens or legal immigrants easier. One is Jason Spear, quality float systems.

JASON SPEAR, QUALITY FLOAT: We need a tool to comply with it. And it's hard. And this seems like a very easy solution to accomplish that.

TUCKER: DHS is emphasizing that the program has an accuracy rate of 99.7 percent, an error rate of three people out of 1000. Critics of the program challenge those statistics.

The department is stressing to employers, as well as employees, that a letter indicating a problem or a no-match with a Social Security number and a name is just that -- a problem which needs to be fixed. It is not a letter ordering the employer to fire anyone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Now the postponement of the implementation of the law does not mean that DHS has dropped its lawsuit against the state of Illinois. The lawsuit will proceed. But the state legislature is currently considering amending the law to allow for the use of E- Verify by employers in the state, Kitty.

Thanks very much, Bill Tucker.

Missouri is taking the initiative to solve the crisis caused by illegal immigration. That state, like so many others, forced to act on its own because of inaction by the federal government. Now Missouri's plan will take action against cities offering sanctuary status. And it will toughen regulations to make sure that businesses don't hire illegal aliens. Missouri's Governor Matt Blunt explains what he'd like these tough new measures to achieve.

GOV. MATT BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: You know, right now, we're allowed to assess about a 20% withholding against construction contractors that used illegal labor. I'd like to expand that to 25%, but more importantly, expand it to all contracts. So that if a contractor with the state is using illegal workers, they could lose up to 25% of that contract's value. It's really just about insuring that taxpayers don't in any way subsidize illegal labor.

PILGRIM: That makes perfect sense. You also have new requirements for schools and cities and counties. Tell us a little bit about that.

BLUNT: You know, some time ago, I directed that state government begin to use E-Verify, which is provided by the Department of Homeland Security as a mechanism that exceeds your normal I-9 verification to ensure that those you're hiring are not illegal and indeed that they are legal.

And we've been using that in state government. We've had over 10,000 verifications. It's a system that we see works well. And I have - encouraging the legislature to pass legislation that I could sign, that would require it in all governmental entities. So school districts, local government, municipal government, county government, all government would be required to use E-Verify. Again, to ensure that tax dollars were in no way being used to subsidize illegal labor.

PILGRIM: Your highway patrol is allowed to check immigration status since August. What have you turned up?

BLUNT: You know, since -- in August, I directed all of our state law enforcement, the primary largest agency being the highway patrol, to verify the immigration status of anybody we present for incarceration, which essentially means any time we arrest somebody for a crime that would lead to jail.

Since we - since I made that directive in August, we've apprehended and turned over to the federal government 126 illegal immigrants. And those are people that committed crimes in our state against life and property in Missouri. And I think it's a demonstration of how significant and widespread this problem is across the state and across the country.

PILGRIM: Do you believe it is a significant problem? Some of your critics say you're doing this simply for the camera?

BLUNT: You know, I'm doing it because when I visit with Missouri families, they tell me it's a concern. And there are millions of illegal immigrants in the country. Given Missouri's size and large population, you would assume that there are at least thousands at a bare minimum in Missouri. So this is a real issue. It is certainly a concern of Missouri families. And that's what government needs to do because Washington's failed to do that. Washington's failed to address a very real concern to families in my state and across the country. That means states have to do even more. And in Missouri, we are doing more to curb illegal immigration.

PILGRIM: You know, governor, this does seem like a hard-headed approach to me. And some of the measures are quite tough and very strictly enforced. Some of the critics say that you don't go after private business significantly, that this is somewhat cosmetic if you're not going after private business. What do you have to say to that?

BLUNT: Yes. And you know, I am very supportive of any measure that increases employment verification across the board and mandated E-Verify for state government. I want to apply it to all government. And I encourage all businesses today to use it. And I've actually voiced support for requirements for, at a minimum, any company that's ever hired an illegal should be required to use E-Verify going forward at a minimum. And I'm certainly willing to consider even stricter standards than that.

PILGRIM: You know, governor, you supported President Bush's immigration reform plan. And you're very critical of the federal efforts. What would you like to see going forward?

BLUNT: And I'd want to clarify. I specifically supported one component of President Bush's immigration plan. And that was posting the National Guard on the borders. And when he announced that, I issued a very strong statement in support of placing the guard on the border. And we had a number of people in our guard that recognize this is a problem and volunteered to go down there. I had an opportunity to visit them in Arizona and see the great success and stopping attempted crossings and increasing apprehensions. But that's the component that I supported, not the entire plan.

PILGRIM: All right, Governor Matt Blunt, thank you very much for being with us, sir.

BLUNT: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Did the U.S. government conspire to cover up the rape of an American citizen in Iraq? Some say they did. We'll talk to Congressman Ted Poe about this disturbing case.

And the Iowa caucuses are less than two weeks away. We'll hear from our panel of distinguished political analysts. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TIME STAMP: 1843:14

PILGRIM: An American woman was working for former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root in Iraq. She charges she was gang- raped by the American contractors working for the country. Jamie Leigh Jones claims the U.S. government was involved in covering up the crime. And her family went to Congressman Ted Poe for help. This week, Jones testified before a House committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE LEIGH JONES, FMR. HALLIBURTON EMPLOYEE: The KBR security then took me to a trailer and then locked me in a room with two armed guards outside my door. I was imprisoned in the trailer for approximately a day. One of the guards finally had mercy and let me use a phone. I called my dad, who contacted Congressman Ted Poe, who took actions to get me out of the country. I believe he saved my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: Congressman Poe is concerned that the Justice Department isn't investigating the case, didn't even show up at the committee hearing. REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: Well, their absence and their silence seems to speak volumes about what they're not doing in this case and similar cases. The Justice Department had the opportunity to be there and answer questions from the members of Congress about what happens when an American citizen like Jamie is a contract worker overseas and she is sexually assaulted by other American citizens. What is going on in those cases?

PILGRIM: Let's remind our viewers how long it's been since this incident occurred and how this woman hasn't seen any investigation come to a conclusion over this.

POE: This happened in 2005. And after she was rescued and brought back home, we inquired as to the State Department to proceed with criminal investigations through the Justice Department. And we have not heard anything from the Justice Department. Lets us believe that no one's in charge of these types of criminal investigations that occur in Iraq and other countries.

PILGRIM: Let me read the letter that the Justice Department sent to the committee in response to their invitation. And they wrote, "We want to advise you that the Department of Justice is committed to the investigation and prosecution of criminal misconduct by U.S. contract personnel overseas. These cases can be very challenging...but the Department has and will continue to pursue them."

The government does have a responsibility to protect American civilians overseas. The Green Zone is under U.S. jurisdiction, is it not?

POE: No question about it. There's not a jurisdiction issue in this case because of the nature of where this crime occurred in the Green Zone, under the control of the State Department. The Justice Department has jurisdiction to prosecute American citizens, who commit crimes against other American citizens. So it's not a jurisdiction problem at all.

PILGRIM: Do you see this being taken up? Or have you met - have your inquiries been met with any positive response on the part of any government agency?

POE: Well, we haven't received any answers one way or the other. Just general comments as the one that you just read from the Justice Department. But it seems to me that really nothing is going on. This crime occurred two years ago. There are several perpetrators who committed this brutal attack against this very young person who was working over there. And no one yet has been held accountable. Nobody's been arrested, nobody's been prosecuted.

PILGRIM: All right. And what is the role of the company that employed this young woman?

POE: Well, the - of course, companies overseas have an obligation for workers to have a safe work environment. But really, the ball seems to me to be dropped with the Justice Department, who did not investigate the case apparently at all until Jamie now has gone public with this case. And now they seem to be somewhat interested, even though they're still not communicating with us about what they're doing, if anything, against these people who committed the crime.

PILGRIM: Jamie testified that every time she goes public, does a broadcast, or brings it to the media spotlight, she gets a flurry of activity on the part of some government agencies. When you were last on the broadcast, you urged other Americans who were sexually assaulted by co-workers in Baghdad to come forward and contact your office immediately. What has been the response to that?

POE: Well, yes, last week when we were here and talked about that, we now have at least four young women who have called us, contacted us, and given us similar stories. They have not talked about it publicly until this show broadcasted the whole case last week. So there are at least four.

Now we have learned today, that there are even more that have contacted us. So this -- that's what the results have been because she has gone public. Other citizens who have crimes committed against them have gone public contacted us. And the same result, though. No one's been prosecuted.

PILGRIM: What's the next step towards justice for this young woman and others like her?

POE: The very next step is the chairman of the committee, Chairman Conyers is going to personally contact the attorney general about this case and also Secretary Gates and to see what they're doing to move forward. Congress will then move legislatively, if necessary - because the problem seems to be there are so many government agencies in Baghdad, but nobody seems to be in charge of a criminal investigation when it occurs. We're going to make that very clear that the Justice Department will be in charge and needs to move forward on all cases.

PILGRIM: We applaud your efforts. Congressman Ted Poe, thank you very much, sir.

POE: Thank you, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Coming up next, with the Iowa caucuses just days away, we'll talk about an extremely busy week on the campaign trail with three of the very best political analysis. So stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TIME STAMP: 1850:48

PILGRIM: Joining me now for all the week's news are three of the best political analysts in the country. Joining us from Washington, Diana West of "The Washington Times" and author of "The Death of the Grownup." Here in New York, I'm joined by New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis and Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. And thanks for joining us. Let's start with all the little bits and pieces that happened this week. We're following this like a board game really. Tom Tancredo dropped out. We had Mitt Romney talking about his father and the civil rights movement. And we had Rudy Giuliani hospitalized with flu like symptoms. All that constituted news this week. Let's start with you, Diana, any thoughts on those three events?

DIANA WEST: Well, quite a few thoughts, actually, yes.

PILGRIM: Yes.

WEST: No, it was a very exciting week. We're seeing Tancredo's out, he's put his support to Romney. We've seen interesting stories about Romney, whether he saw or didn't see his father marching with Martin Luther King. We have sort of reports on both sides of the story. They're wondering what he'll do with it. But basically, we are waiting for this incredible showdown and what will happen with Huckabee.

Huckabee has been pushing himself as the Christian candidate. And will that fly after Christmas?

PILGRIM: Yes. That is - you know, and all the Christmas ads. I left that out. I mean, we've been very entertained with all of the different takes on how each candidate tries to sell themselves with taste during the Christmas season.

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Yes, it's the first time you've been in the heat of the first primary as the holidays are approaching. So people had to figure out how to do it. Some succeed and some muffed it. I think Rudy Giuliani's collapse in the polls I think is noteworthy. And it kind of coincides with his illness. He actually has a history, if you look at his whole political career of when he's got a setback politically, it seems to manifest itself in his health.

Right now, he's really...

PILGRIM: I wouldn't have tracked that...

(CROSSTALK)

LOUIS: These are real people who are doing really hard work under difficult circumstances. It happens.

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: (INAUDIBLE) sick poll, is that what you're trying to say? To meet him is to dislike him. And that's what's happening in the polling data.

LOUIS: No.

SHEINKOPF: That's what the polling data shows. Every time he shows up in New Hampshire, shakes more hands, numbers drop. Get out of New Hampshire is what he did.

PILGRIM: Diana? WEST: The tank of (INAUDIBLE) correlates to the revelations about the public monies going to provide transportation and security for his now wife. I mean, is he -- the lag in the polls would seem to track with that, I think. And now Errol's -- the illness mark seems to manifest the polls.

SHEINKOPF: Could be Kerrikitis (ph) also. So problem disease you get when you have a former police commissioner...

LOUIS: The bottom line is he was leading by wide margins in the national polls in the Republican field. And now he's down to less than 4%.

PILGRIM: All right, let's take a look at this. This is Iowa Republicans. And we have Huckabee, of course, leading. We'll put that up at 33%. Romney at 25, Giuliani at 11, McCain at 9 and Thompson at 9. So that's the sort of line-up now for Iowa. Go ahead, you were making a point.

LOUIS: Well, yes, I mean, there -- when you've got the momentum, that's what you really want going into the actual election. And with just a couple of weeks to go before Iowa, you know, Giuliani's losing numbers, Huckabee's gaining numbers. Clearly, you want to be on the side of, you know, coming in strong.

But we have to keep in mind that Iowa is not a bellwether. It's early. It's important. We're going to all look at it carefully. But you know, they rejected Ronald Reagan twice.

PILGRIM: Yes.

LOUIS: They rejected Bill Clinton. I think he came in fourth place or something. So it's not -- they're not really a good predictor of who might become the next president but they are important.

PILGRIM: It gets a lot of press because of all the run-up time in advance. Let's, while we're on Iowa, though, look at the Democrats. And we have Clinton at 30%. It is a statistical dead heat basically. Obama, 28 and Edwards at 26. And then Richardson trailing far behind. Hank, anything?

SHEINKOPF: She needs to do better in order to get - going to New Hampshire with some steam. But I think what she's benefitting from as well is public opinion tends to -- public voting tends to follow public opinion. And in fact, public opinion in New Hampshire shows her doing reasonably well. So there's some kind of effect that (INAUDIBLE) in Iowa.

PILGRIM: Edwards has been putting a lot of time in Iowa, visiting a lot of the counties. Diana, anything to add to this on the Democrats?

WEST: Well, I think what we are seeing is this kind of movement. I think that what I've been surprised about is the tactics of the Clinton campaign that suggest a kind of desperation that I'm actually surprised to see at this stage of the game. And I think that that is why she is seeming to have some trouble, you know, in the polls and why this tightening is going on.

PILGRIM: All right, we'll continue this. Hank is shaking his head. And we will get to him. We'll take a little bit of a break. And we'll come back to debate this. We'll be right back with more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TIME STAMP: 1857:43

PILGRIM: We're back with our roundtable. Diana West of "The Washington Times", "New York Daily News" columnist Errol Louis, and Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

When we left, Diana was saying that Clinton was resorting to desperation tactics. Hank was shaking his head violently, no.

SHEINKOPF: Clinton is responding to great tactics to stop the opposition from growing. That is the first order of business in any political campaign. And you block them any way you can. And she did. And she stopped and she's now back on track. Simple.

PILGRIM: And -- but she does seem to be taking a sort of milder tone in her rhetoric, correct?

SHEINKOPF: Milder tone, but she accomplished, exactly what she did. She stopped them and she's moving forward.

WEST: Well, she brought her mother into the commercial business here.

SHEINKOPF: Why not?

WEST: Well, she's trying to soften her image. Because on the one hand, her surrogates are making attacks, bringing up cocaine, bringing up Barack Obama's middle name of Hussein and his Muslim parentage on his father's side. And then coming out as the very soft. If you actually listen to her voice, her voice is very soft now. Now she could be tired, that's part of it.

LOUIS: That is vintage Clinton.

WEST: It is, yes, you're right.

LOUIS: I mean, the surrogates go out and they break bones if they have to. They answer every challenge. I mean, that's really key. They don't lose ground. If it looks like there's a bump, then somebody will go out say something. They'll kind of clean it up and halfway apologize. And then she'll get back to the main business, for -- which is to soften up her image these days.

PILGRIM: Bill Clinton's been playing a bit of a bad cop role in this campaign. And he's been taking on a lot of the detractors, correct? I mean, does that work, in your opinion? SHEINKOPF: It works because his popular and he's still very high among Democrats. People trust him. Why? Best economy in 40 years. Nation not at war. And that's what they recall.

LOUIS: And if he has to, you know, he's probably the best single barometer of what they're thinking inside the Clinton campaign. When they bring the big gun out, and he starts making noises, you listen carefully, it's usually not mysterious at all what he's trying to accomplish. And that tells you where the Clinton camp thinks they are.

PILGRIM: Diana, last word?

WEST: Well, I think that any time the big gun is the spouse of a candidate, it's not a good sign for the candidate.

PILGRIM: We - Hank is again shaking his head. We'll return to that another day. Thank you very much. Diana West, Error Louis, Hank Sheinkopf, thank you.

And thank you for joining us. Please join us tomorrow. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.

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