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Where Do Presidential Candidates Stand on Iraq, Slowing Economy?

Aired January 17, 2008 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you. Tonight, the two issues most important to Americans in this presidential campaign, the war in Iraq and our slowing economy have left both of our political parties, the Congress and the presidential candidates divided and uncertain about the way forward. We'll have complete coverage of the nation adrift.
And pandering on the campaign trail, imagine that. Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and John McCain, all pandering to special interests and their political base in South Carolina. Democratic presidential candidates courting liberal advocacy groups and socio-ethnocentric groups, we'll have a special report on pandering, plus and the controversy over Senator Obama's minister. Is his pastor a racist or an independent thinker preaching empowerment and self determination and why is there so much interest in the subject? We'll have the answers, we'll have all of that, all of today's news and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Thursday, January 17. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. New questions tonight about the Bush administration's plans to withdraw our troops from Iraq. The Joint Chiefs vice chairman, General David Cartwright today admitted there are tensions between Pentagon planners and military commanders in Iraq about future troop levels. Meanwhile, the White House today declared President Bush will present his ideas on a possible stimulus package for this economy tomorrow. But that package, when it does come, may be too late to save this economy from recession. We'll have much more on that tonight. But first, Jamie McIntyre with our report from the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, with things getting better in Iraq, you might think that U.S. troops would be coming home sooner but that's not the way some U.S. commanders are thinking.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): As conditions in Iraq improve, there is an uneasy tension building between Pentagon planners anxious to reap a peace dividend by bringing U.S. troops home faster and front-line commanders such as Lieutenant General Ray Odierno.

LT. GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, CMDR., MULTINAT'L CORPS IRAQ: What we don't want to do is suddenly pull out a whole bunch of U.S. forces and suddenly turn things over to Iraqi security forces. I would like to see it done very slowly over time.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon says its goal of going from 20 to 15 combat brigades by July is on track. In fact, one brigade is already home. That will drop U.S. troop levels to roughly 130,000 by summer. But the hope for additional force cuts in Iraq from 15 to 10 brigades down to 100,000 troops will depend entirely on the judgment of top Commander General David Petraeus who has been told by both President Bush and Defense Secretary Gates, he'll have the final word.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I've asked General Petraeus to make his evaluation of the situation in Iraq and what he needs. And the situation on the ground, completely based on what's going on in Iraq. But he doesn't need to look over his shoulder, think about stress on the force or anything else.

MCINTYRE: General Petraeus' cautious go slow approach is budding right up against pressure from generals like George Casey, the Army chief of staff who told the "Wall Street Journal" the surge has sucked all the flexibility out of the system. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs acknowledges there's tension in the upper ranks, but insists it's a good thing.

GEN. JAMES CARTWRIGHT, JOINT CHIEFS VICE CHMN.: The important part here is we don't want everybody looking at the problem from the same direction.

MCINTYRE: Despite U.S. military maps like these showing al Qaeda's waning influence and briefing charts like these showing attacks, IEDs and U.S. casualties all nose diving, the U.S. faces the same old problem, Iraqi forces are simply not ready. That's what the U.S. general in charge of Iraqi training just told Congress.

LT. GEN. JAMES DUBIK, SECURITY TRANSITION COMMAND: But the truth is, right now, they cannot fix, supply, arm or fuel themselves completely enough at this point.


MCINTYRE: And Lou, even though the general, General Dubik says that Iraq is on track to add some 80,000 troop this year, it still won't be self-sufficient for at least four years and cannot defend its borders for at least 10 years. That means, at least for the short term, the U.S. is going to be doing more pulling back than pulling out because it's going to have to maintain a significant force in Iraq to backstop the Iraqis -- Lou.

DOBBS: If that indeed is the case as General Dubik portrays it, then there should be a complete congressional investigation as to how the United States is going to about building Iraqi security because it makes absolutely no sense from any possibility. On the other point, as you talk about the tensions, Jamie McIntyre, between the planners at the Pentagon and the commanders in the field and Iraq, I have to say that sounds like one of the most positive developments of this entire war, that we are hearing an expression of views that are in conflict, that are different, and giving us some sense of transparency and life in the thinking of the general's staff.

MCINTYRE: There are two things that are real worries. One of them is, obviously, there's a lot of stress on the U.S. military. The sooner the U.S. can pull some of those troops out of Iraq, it can relieve the stress, and by the way it might need some of those troops for Afghanistan as well. But at the same time, these gains in Iraq have been very hard won and the commanders who are in charge there don't want to see those slip away. So they want to have the flexibility to do what they think they need to maintain that momentum. So it's two competing forces and it is a lot of tension.

DOBBS: And as I say, it seems also -- although there is tension, it also seems to me at least to me a positive development that this administration and this general's staff is now beginning to express itself in more than monolithic terms and sometimes not very productive monolithic terms -- Jamie, thank you very much. Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

Well, opinion surveys show voters now believe the economy is an even larger concern than the war in Iraq. President Bush tomorrow is expected to say what he will do to avoid a recession if that is indeed possible if we are not already in recession. Federal reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke today called upon Congress to come up with a plan as soon as possible. But the stock market was certainly not impressed. The Dow Jones Industrials fell more than 300 points today, the largest one day decline since November 7 of last year. Christine Romans has our report on an economy under distress.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Fed chief wants a quick and temporary economic stimulus.

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: A fiscal stimulus package should be implemented quickly and structured so that its effects on aggregate spending are felt as much as possible within the next 12 months.

ROMANS: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke supports an emergency infusion into the economy, avoiding specific details. Democrats and Republicans differ on what it should look like, but a consensus is emerging for a one-time cash rebate like the $300 to $600 taxpayers received in 2001.

REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Does it matter what they spend it or and if they're spending it on credit card debt? Are they spending it to pay their heating costs, if they're spending it to pay for health insurance premiums?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you'd hope that they would spend it on things that are domestically produced so that the spending power doesn't go elsewhere.


ROMANS: The idea to pump cash into the economy, but Bernanke also acknowledged debt-strapped Americans would benefit from paying off credit cards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well paying down debts you know has some benefits of its own.

ROMANS: Bernanke's testimony before the House Budget Committee comes amid a barrage of bad economic news. The stock market is tanking. Home builders are getting the message loud and clear, new home construction is at its lowest level since 1980. Citigroup and Merrill Lynch this week reported billions lost on bad investments and mortgages. American financial powerhouses so hobbled wealthy investors and Middle Eastern and Asian government have bailed them out to the tune now of more than $35 billion. Bernanke downplayed concerns of cash infusions by foreign governments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those have been relatively small and they have in general not involved any -- any control rights in the firm.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, the president, upbeat on the economy until very recently, will lay out his criteria for economic stimulus in a speech on Friday.


ROMANS: Any tax rebate check for Americans probably won't be ready until June or July at the earliest. The last time consumers got a stimulus check in the mail was 2001. In the year since economists say the accelerator has been to the floor, massive monetary and fiscal stimulus, the result, a housing crisis and the weakest economic recovery since World War II, and now possibly, possibly, another recession, unless we avoid it.

DOBBS: Well, in the nature of economic cycles we are in point of fact, due. In terms of public policy, we're not hearing any of these candidates speak substantively or in my judgment, reasonably, about what we have to do to change policies to benefit both the middle class. To benefit the nation and to deal across the board with the debt that is just swamping the dollar and indeed the next generation of Americans who will be paying for it. This is -- and for Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, you know he looks like Methuselah (ph) for crying out loud with his beard. I wish he brought as much sustainability and reason and wisdom because the reality is he's talking about spend this money, whatever form the stimulus takes, spend it on domestically produced products, what the heck is he thinking about?

ROMANS: Well something I found...

DOBBS: Give me a list of products that we can spend it on.

ROMANS: Well, you want to spend that money on the economy, to get the economy going. But he admits, Lou, that people are strapped. Maybe the best thing is not to go out and spend it but to figure out how to shore up your own finances.

DOBBS: Well, shoring up finances defensively makes all the sense in the world. The reality is that won't be very stimulative. And as I say, those domestically produced products that the Fed chairman would like us all to spend our money on; I wish somebody would think of a public policy that would make that possible. That would help us all. Thank you very much, Christine Romans.

Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke's comments raise the questions of who would benefit from any stimulus package. The fact is consumers spend most of their money on imports. You heard him say domestically produced products would be lovely. The fact is that stimulus package would likely be buying a lot of foreign goods and stimulating a lot of foreign economies rather than our own.

These figures show our complete dependence on the imports that we receive for some key consumer goods categories. Imports in point in fact account for 92 percent non athletic footwear; 92 percent of audio video equipment; 89 percent of our luggage; 73 percent of power tools. By contrast, you'll be pleased to know, we're importing only 3 percent of our mattresses, so perhaps the best possible stimulus package of all would be a massive increase in spending on mattresses.

Maybe the Fed Chairman Bernanke can sleep a little better now that we figured that part out. And perhaps the Fed will help us out and come up, along with our Congress, and just a wonderful, wonderful Bush administration and create some policies that would make it possible to produce goods here in the United States.

Well, the Bush administration doesn't seem too concerned by the collapse of huge swaths of our economy. In point of fact, a top Bush administration official today launched a new effort to solve the president's faith-based free trade agenda that has brought us such joys as a $6 trillion trade debt. U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab pandering once again to the country's corporate elites with gusto. Louise Schiavone has the report from Washington.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bush administration's trade representative chose the sumptuous halls of the nation's largest business lobby to spell out trade policy goals for the coming year.

SUSAN SCHWAB, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: The mission of opening markets, spurring development, and keeping the United States at the fore (ph) of the rules-based trading system must go beyond party affiliation.

SCHIAVONE: At the top of the White House trade agenda, pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Critics say opposition to all three will go beyond party affiliation due to deep disappointment in other free trade agreements.

LORI WALLACH, PUBLIC CITIZEN: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. It's just a crazy trade policy because they keep doing the same thing over and over, knowing it is killing American jobs, destroying our manufacturing base, undermining our national security. SCHIAVONE: The liberal watchdog group Public Citizen estimates at least 500,000 American jobs have evaporated under NAFTA. Since President Bush took office the U.S has gone from a federal budget surplus of roughly $230 billion to a deficit of at least 155 billion. The trade deficit exploded to almost three quarters of a trillion dollars last year. The gap with China alone was one-third of that. And even those who commend President Bush for what they call a constructive response to globalization predict the latest free trade proposals would leave American workers in need of government help to find new jobs.

BILL REINSCH, NAT'L FOREIGN TRADE COUNCIL: There will be a price to be paid for each of them. And one price, probably the first price would be a significantly expanded trade adjustment assistance program. Probably more expanded, the more expensive that he wants.

SCHIAVONE: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pledging to press Congress this year to adopt the three trade pacts.


SCHIAVONE: Lou that is easier said than done. The speaker of the House says there is little hope for action out on a Colombian free trade agreement due to major labor issues and ongoing violence there, the outlook for a free trade arrangement with Korea is equally gloomy with perceived inequities and agriculture and auto manufacturing souring the deal for many lawmakers -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Louise Schiavone from Washington.

We're going to have much more on the battle over what this administration, corporate America likes to call free trade. You know the policy is being pursued by this administration and the previous to the point that the president, the Consumer Electronics Association has challenged me to a debate accusing me of fear mongering on the issue of trade. Shuttering as I did, worrying profoundly, I accepted the challenge.

And I'm going to debate him here tonight. We'll have a full and frank exchange of views. Also former President Bill Clinton he lost his temper at the Democratic president race intensifying. Can you imagine that, losing your temper? He must be excited about something, upset about something, he must care about something.

Socio-ethnocentric special interest and pro amnesty groups preparing a massive campaign to influence the outcome of our presidential election. You'll never guess which nation is so vitally interested.

And our public education system as we have reported here for years is on the verge of disaster but there is hope. And I'll be talking with one of the country's very best educators, (INAUDIBLE), who will join us with two of his students.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.


DOBBS: A federal judge today approved those casino caucuses in Nevada. It doesn't get better than that, does it? The decision is seen as a boost for Senator Barack Obama. He was endorsed by the Culinary Workers Union. Its members will be allowed to vote where they work and they work in those strip casinos. The lawsuit was brought by the Teachers Union. It hasn't endorsed a candidate but its members favor Senator Clinton. The Clinton campaign denied any role in bringing that lawsuit and before the ruling an angry President Bill Clinton made that very clear to a Las Vegas reporter.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it looks as though to a lot of people as though the Clinton campaign...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the Clinton supporters...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Clinton supporters, not the campaign...


B. CLINTON: We had nothing to do with that lawsuit.


B. CLINTON: I read about it in the newspaper.


DOBBS: He read about it in the newspaper but he sure read the riot act to that reporter. You know, the analyst, the pundits, the savants are just clucking that Bill Clinton lost his temper with a reporter of all things. I have to tell you, in my opinion, bring it on.

Let's see some people with some passion. I would much prefer a president, a political candidate speak with passion and conviction and emotion about those things that are important to them rather than look like an insurance clerk showing up to sell a new policy. I mean it's just ridiculous the things that people are worrying about.

Anyway, the judge rejected the Teachers Union argument that opening up those casino sites gives about 200,000 workers on the Las Vegas strip a little unfair advantage over everybody else in Vegas. The battle over illegal immigration is about to become the subject of a multimillion dollar advertising campaign in this country.

And guess who may be -- pay for a large part of that? You'll never guess. The government of Mexico. A U.S. advertising executive says he is close to a deal with the Mexican government to help fund $100 million ad campaign that would be pushing, you guessed it, amnesty for illegal aliens. Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lobbying groups for the U.S. construction, agriculture and other industries with large illegal alien work forces are funding a series of pro-amnesty TV ads scheduled to air after this year's presidential conventions. And Mexican funding for the ad campaign is quote, "a very, very strong possibility", says the executive director of, Mexicans and Americans thinking together. It is hoping to raise $100 million for the ad campaign.

LIONEL SOSA, EXEC. DIRECTOR, MATT.ORG: This campaign is as important as a presidential campaign. You know candidates for president spent millions upon millions of dollars so that they can get their message across. If we are to get the voice of reason across, we need to do it in the same way. Let's make them legal. That way we won't have to be against anyone. We will know who they are. We don't have to be afraid. And we will all win.

WIAN: Not so says the Federation for American Immigration Reform which is planning its own ad campaign on a small fraction of the budget.

DAN STEIN, FED. FOR AMER. IMMIG. REFORM: Big business and foreign governments underwriting ad campaigns are going to be met with ads that are actually paid for by the American people that show that illegal immigration is hurting the opportunities for American minorities, for less advantaged Americans. Certainly, the most vulnerable populations.

WIAN: We asked Sosa about the idea that corporate America, not the average American is the true beneficiary of the illegal alien labor.

SOSA: It benefits you. It benefits me. It benefits Lou Dobbs. You know I don't know who cleans the offices at CNN after Lou Dobbs leaves, but if somebody were to come in and they would check on the people, I don't know where Lou Dobbs eats and what restaurants, but if he would go behind the kitchen I think we all know who is there. It touches every single one of us. And anybody that says that it doesn't is nuts. Crazy.


WIAN: Sosa says he believes in secure borders and law and order, but he says Americans invited illegal aliens into this country and that our economy would collapse without them. Sosa says he's already raised $25 million for the advertising campaign -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well that's exciting and good for him. I mean it's delightful. And the reality is that illegal aliens are working throughout this economy. But they're working to benefit the corporate and illegal employers of those illegal aliens. And that is the issue here. And the reality is that we're talking about the Mexican government paying for an advertising campaign to influence American politics. And you don't see public officials at every level of government in this country outraged. I mean it's just mind-boggling.

WIAN: Yeah, and it's really clear that the Mexican government is now working with corporate America to push this amnesty agenda. It couldn't be more clearer than spending up to $100 million on television ad campaigns right before the U.S. presidential election -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well you know and let's be really clear. Even though I'm outraged, I'm not shocked here. I'm not surprised. We report all of the time on this confluence of interest between the establishment corporate elites, the liberal socio-ethnocentric groups and the multibillion dollar lobbying campaign on the part of corporate America in Washington, D.C.

The only people who don't have a voice here are the American people, the American middle class, working men and women and their families. And you have people sitting there saying we should just do whatever the Mexican government says or what corporate America says. It's time for people to wake up and tell these people to go straight to hell. I mean it's ridiculous. The idea that American elected officials are going to sit here and just be swamped with this kind of nonsense.

WIAN: And the fact that these people are blaming the American populous, average Americans for inviting illegal immigrants to cross the border, to falsify Social Security numbers, to lie on job applications, to break the law that it's somehow the fault of the American consumer I think is ridiculous.

DOBBS: Yeah. And let's remind folks watching us, on this broadcast we look at the United States as a nation first then perhaps as a market and economy. And we look at the American people first as citizens and then perhaps as a consumer or a worker or unit of labor, as our friends like to refer to it in corporate America. Casey, thank you very much. An amazing story. Bring it on, as they say. Thank you very much.

The president of the Consumer Electronics Association says I am a protectionist because I don't like these faith-based trade policies of this administration and the previous. He's challenged me to a debate. I've accepted his challenge. You don't want to miss it because that's coming right up.

And rising controversy over Senator Barack Obama's preacher. A lot of people are getting a little concerned because Barack Obama goes to this church, this preacher, well, he doesn't sound like a lot of other preachers. Is he a racist? Maybe he's just an independent thinker? I'll be talking about that with a panel and race and politics in this election campaign. We'll see if we can make a little sense out of all of this.

We'll try. We promise. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Presidential candidates today OUT on the campaign trail doing what they do very well, pandering. Particularly the corporate interests in what they see as their base Republican candidate former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee telling a religious Web site he believes the Constitution should be in strict conformity with the bible.

Responding to charges that it's radical to amend the Constitution, Huckabee said, quote, "I think the radical view is to say that we are going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and an animal", end quote.

Huckabee insists he was not equating homosexuality with beastiality. Senator John McCain not to be lost in the effort at pandering today proposed a host of tax breaks for big business. And on the Democratic side, Senator Hillary Clinton praised Dr. Martin Luther King, while at the same time promising to improve economic opportunities for African Americans.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts now. Dennis in Michigan said, "Bernanke just doesn't get it. A tax break won't help us. Food stamps won't help us. We had factories here in Michigan that are gone now. People are trying to survive on Wal-Mart wages. The answer is we need good paying jobs. We need to bring companies back to America." You sound like you should be an economist.

And James in Virginia, "Lou, the elections mean nothing now. They all promise and then deliver what big business and corporate America want."

And Dee in Texas, "Lou, California is broke? Wow. They're supporting illegal aliens who receive welfare, health care, schooling, housing and legal aid, all at taxpayer expense. How can any state pay its bills when it is supporting another country?"

We'll have more of your thoughts here later. And each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my new book "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit". The book that corporate America, the Democrats and Republicans, their parties don't want you to read nor the government of Mexico, especially the government of Mexico -- well no, not especially the government of Mexico, also the government of the United States.

Coming up next, the battle over so-called free trade is intensifying. Faith-based free traders and corporate elites are now targeting me. Imagine that. One of the free traders targeting me has challenged me to a debate and debate we will next.

And our public school system has failed an entire generation of Americans, but it isn't too late to fix our schools. One of our most innovative public school teachers, (INAUDIBLE), he joins us with two of his students. They'll be here.

And Senator Barack Obama's preacher he won't be here, but many are accusing him of a form of racism, but is the minister simply an independent thinker? What's really going on? Why is this a controversy? We'll be examining that next.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.


DOBBS: The president of the Consumer Electronics Association takes issue with me over my position on so-called free trade policies, policies that cater to businesses and multinationals. Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro challenged me to a debate, saying, quote: "Dobbs' anti" -- not Mr. Dobbs, it was just Dobbs, "anti-trade comments on his cable show and his refusal to grant equal time to opposing viewpoints are inconsistent with CNN's great legacy as a pioneering news network. We are hopeful that CNN will wish to retain its credibility."

Whoa. Well, CEA President Gary Shapiro joins me now. We're going to have that debate. Now let me say, I'm one of those folks who pioneered this joint. So -- and but it's good to have you here. I don't know why you want to debate me. But here we are. Fire at will, Goodley (ph).

GARY SHAPIRO, PRES., CONSUMER ELEC. ASSN.: Well, first of all, thank you for having me, Lou. I wouldn't call this debate. This is not a debate format. But you're very gracious to have me. Look, Lou, the fact is everyone knows you're a protectionist. You want to close the borders. We think they should be open...


DOBBS: Wait, wait, stop. Sorry, we have got to stop the debate, all right. Just for an insert, and then you can continue.


DOBBS: One, I have never, ever once called for higher tariffs or to stop international trade in any way, therefore, how could I be a protectionist?

SHAPIRO: Well, you may not be a protectionist in your view, but you play one on TV.

DOBBS: OK. Well, that's a very, very cute expression. I give you credit for a nice line. Now, again, the definition of a protectionist is?

SHAPIRO: Well, Lou, a protectionist is someone who wants to close off the borders. You want to rescind our trade...

DOBBS: Close off the borders.

SHAPIRO: You have said you want to rescind our trade agreements. We have free trade agreements which have been nothing but beneficial to the United States.

DOBBS: Nothing but beneficial.

SHAPIRO: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Shall I respond?

SHAPIRO: If you'd like.

DOBBS: OK. Beneficial to the point that we've run 31 consecutive years of trade deficits. We now have a trade debt that's in excess of $6 trillion. We have a trade debt that's rising faster than our national debt of $9 trillion. We've lost more than 3 million manufacturing jobs. This country cannot even clothe itself because we've outsourced and offshored the production of clothing, in nearly every element possible in apparel overseas. So I don't quite understand how beneficial it is. Help me out.

SHAPIRO: Well, you've given a lot of partial facts. I know I'm not going to change your mind, but I'd like to present the whole story. We've lost 3 million American jobs, but you know, we've gained 25 million jobs in the last 15 years because of free trade agreements, 25 million high-paying, good jobs.

We've also -- every country that we have a free trade agreement with, our exports have grown dramatically, we've gotten more jobs. Thiel...

DOBBS: Dramatically?

SHAPIRO: Thiel, in Lexington, Kentucky, is loudspeaker maker. They are exporting. They're hiring people. They just hired a mother of six kids because they're exporting more loudspeakers, why, because of free trade. The U.S. is an open free trade country. What these agreements do, Lou, is that they allow us to get into other countries. That's why it baffles me that you oppose them.

DOBBS: OK. Let me help you a little bit with it as to why. How many of your members, would you say, produce goods overseas and bring them to the United States?

SHAPIRO: Well, we have 2,200 corporate members, 80 percent of those are small businesses. A large number of them are manufacturing in the U.S. We have almost 800,000 U.S. -- Americans employed in facilities in the U.S. We're making jobs like yours. In fact, that camera over there, that's not made in the U.S. That allows you to be broadcast. That allows you to be shown.

DOBBS: My question was this, Gary, how many of your members produce goods for export to the United States?

SHAPIRO: For export to the United States? None of them do. What we have is you must be a U.S. company to be a member of ours, as we have, we have mostly small businesses. We have companies like Sony which manufactures in Pennsylvania TV sets. We have companies like MiTek in Arizona, which employs several hundred workers, manufacturing all sorts of audio products.

So many companies manufacture in the U.S. But that's not the point. The point is that free trade is good for the country and putting up borders and putting up walls is bad. And as much as you say you're a free trader, you don't want free trade agreements. You oppose them every chance you get. And that not good for this country, Lou.

DOBBS: All right. Let me try this again. The country can't clothe itself. The country imports most of its consumer electronics, 80 percent of them. We are told by many like you who talk widely about free trade that this is a knowledge or service economy, but point of fact, we are now a net importer of technology.

We rely on China or much of Asia for more than 80 percent of our computers in this country. And the reality is, I'm just curious, you have sort of said that's part of the story, but what I've said to you is, 31 consecutive years of trade deficits. A quarter, a quarter of a trillion dollars with China alone.

We have a $6 trillion trade debt that is, frankly, contributing to a decline on the dollar which is doing only this, which is making the goods that we are importing -- consumer electronics, for example, making them even more expensive for a nation that really can't afford it right now.

SHAPIRO: Well, I've heard you saying a few statistics repeatedly, but there's other statistics as well, 20 percent of our exports are technology, $160 billion a year. And you want to talk about that trade deficit, let's face it, most of it is oil, 70 percent has to do with oil.


DOBBS: No, no, that is not -- whoa, whoa partner. No, that isn't...


SHAPIRO: Well, you're entitled to your opinion, but you're not entitled to a different set of facts here.

DOBBS: No, I'm not. And what I would like to point out to you is the deficit itself, what percentage is oil?

SHAPIRO: Seventy percent of the trade deficit in 2006 had to do with oil. I would guess it's higher in 2007.

DOBBS: And what percentage went to China, to Japan, to Germany?

SHAPIRO: Of course, I could get you those numbers later, but the fact -- yes, we have...


DOBBS: Right. But the reality...


SHAPIRO: ... a trade deficit with China. DOBBS: The reality is this, we have a significant deficit in exports to imports, do we not?

SHAPIRO: Well, our exports are going up.

DOBBS: And if we were to eliminate $400 billion in oil imports, we would still have a half trillion dollars in deficits.

SHAPIRO: So your answer is to put a wall up around the U.S. and that would help us how?

DOBBS: This is your answer. I'm not saying put up a wall around the United States at all.

SHAPIRO: Well, what do you want to do? What is your answer on trade?

DOBBS: My answer is very straightforward. And I've said it a number of times, but which you and your association of importers have apparently failed to take note.

SHAPIRO: Importers?

DOBBS: I have said that I want to see a reciprocal mutual balanced trade policy carried out by this country. In other words, I want us to have precisely the same trade balance as our principal trade partners around the world.

SHAPIRO: Well, you have an economics degree from Harvard, and you know that's unprecedented and undoable and unlikely and would hurt this country.

DOBBS: And tell me to what degree we would benefit...

SHAPIRO: Give me an example of where a protectionist policy like that has ever been successful?

DOBBS: That's not a protectionist policy. You didn't listen. I said reciprocal, mutual, and balanced. A protectionist policy would be mercantile and would insist upon advantage. I'm not calling for a surplus in trade. I'm not calling for an advantage in trade. I'm calling for balance, mutuality, and reciprocity.

SHAPIRO: So we can buy our...


DOBBS: What does China do? For example...

SHAPIRO: ... bowl (ph) of rice if they buy our products, is that what you're saying?

DOBBS: ... you are a fan of Chinese exports to this country and imports. You think that is wonderful. What is China's -- for example, what is their trade policy? What is Germany's? What is the U.K.? What is Japan? SHAPIRO: And that is exactly why we need free trade policies and free trade agreements. They lay out what their responsibilities are.

DOBBS: And you would bankrupt -- you and your members would bankrupt this country with a smile on your face talking...

SHAPIRO: Absolutely not.


SHAPIRO: Free trade agreements help this country.

DOBBS: Then how...

SHAPIRO: They improve -- double-digit increases...

DOBBS: Then how is it that we have amassed a $6 trillion trade debt?

SHAPIRO: Because we're doing very well and our economy has grown faster than other countries lately, that is what it is. You know that.

DOBBS: Then why is it that this country to this date is now totally reliant, not only for its consumer spending, but now for its corporate balance sheets in the financial services area, for foreign capital?

SHAPIRO: We're getting investments. Why are our exports growing lately, Lou? Why are our exports growing.

DOBBS: No, no. No, no, partner, we are getting bailouts. We're getting bailouts. And there's quite a distinction.

SHAPIRO: Well, we have the right to invest in other countries. They have the right to invest in the United States. That's free trade.

DOBBS: And you have a right your view and I mine.

SHAPIRO: Thank you.

DOBBS: I hope that we've had our debate...


SHAPIRO: Let's have a real debate sometime.

DOBBS: Well, that would require, again, the possibility that you would represent someone other than those who are creating those exports for us to buy here.

SHAPIRO: Employers aren't bad, Lou. They create jobs. Just remember that.

DOBBS: I think you said 800,000 of them, right? SHAPIRO: Yes.

DOBBS: Out of a total of 150 million jobs in this country, and $13 trillion dollar economy that's keeping your boys and girls at those lovely companies going. And from America to them, you're welcome. Thank you, Gary. Appreciate you being here.

SHAPIRO: Thank you.

DOBBS: Time now for our poll. Do you believe people who use words like "protectionism" are offering, again, a false choice between free trade and no trade in order to distract from the fact they're shipping jobs out of this country? Yes or no, cast your vote at We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Coming up next, an award-winning teacher brings us his unique methods to the classroom. We'll be talking with Rafe Esquith, the author of "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire." This is a success story in a failing public education system.

And Senator Barack Obama at the center of another controversy, we'll take a look at some of the comments made by his pastor, and we'll examine whether that controversy is -- is it manufactured or is it something more like independent thinking? Stay with us, we'll be right back.


DOBBS: This country's public schools are often accused of failing to properly educate our children. One educator who is successfully teaching students is Rafe Esquith of Los Angeles. The award-winning teacher is also the best-selling author of a very important book, "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire." That book is out now in paperback. Rafe Esquith is with us once again. Along -- as I asked him the last time we talked, I asked him to bring along two of his stellar students. And with him are Cesar Navichoque and Austin Luna.

We thank you, all three, Rafe, for being here, good to have you.


DOBBS: I'm doing great. And I know that your book is a book that has been picked up by everyone interested in education in this country and I hope that's every American. Give us a sense of these young folks with you, what they have managed to achieve, in your classroom, in their experience?

ESQUITH: Well, it's not rocket science, Lou, we basically -- you talk all the time about our culture and its failures. And in room 56, we change the culture. It's a culture where working hard really matters, where stability matters, and where kids are working on skills that will be relevant not just for the test at the end of the year, but relevant to successful lives.

DOBBS: Rafe, can I ask your colleagues there, your understudies, if I will, a couple of questions?

Cesar, can I ask you a question, would you mind?


DOBBS: What do you find the most compelling about the way that Mr. Esquith teaches? Give us a sense of your thoughts on that.

NAVICHOQUE: Well, if we don't understand anything, he always explains it to us to make sure that we would have a better chance in understanding what we are learning.

DOBBS: And what are the most exciting thing you're learning this year?

NAVICHOQUE: I like Shakespeare.

DOBBS: Whoa.

ESQUITH: You should know, Lou, that Cesar just performed in front of Ian McKellen and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He's very modest, but he is a terrific actor.

DOBBS: Well, he is a terrific actor. He is also a terrific young man. And let me turn to you, Austin. And the same question, what's exciting you most in this school year?

AUSTIN LUNA, STUDENT: Well, most exciting is that our classroom is safe, and if you make a mistake, kids don't laugh at you. Our class is based on trust, not on fear.

DOBBS: That's a wonderful, wonderful environment. What subject are you most excited about this year?

LUNA: My favorite subject is -- like, Rafe teaches us tips on life and it's really worth it.

DOBBS: Tips on life, at your tender age. Rafe, a lot of -- first of all, a lot of teacher would say, did Austin just say Rafe instead of Mr. Esquith? And they might just say, my goodness, tips on life at such a tender age.

ESQUITH: Well, we've got to get started early because we've all seen what happens when they don't get started on a good start. And one of the reasons my kids work so hard, and I really encourage the young teachers to stick with it, is I have an army of former students who come back from top universities who mentor these young guys so when kids in their rough neighborhood tell them, nobody cares about school, these guys can say, you're wrong, I have my kids who look just like me and care deeply about school, and I want to grow up to be like them.

DOBBS: Let me ask you this if I may, Cesar, and both of you, Austin, if you would both respond to this. How do your friends feel about your commitment to education, the good fortune of being with Mr. Esquith in class, are they as excited about school as you, are they in some way motivated by your enthusiasm?

NAVICHOQUE: Well, they really like school because Rafe always helps them and he always helps all of us. And we always wants to work hard.

DOBBS: Well, that -- and, Austin?

LUNA: Yes, most of the kids love school. We have great opportunities. That's why kids love school. It's really fun.

DOBBS: Well, Rafe, we thank you very much. And, Cesar, we thank you. Austin, thank you. "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire," Rafe has been doing that for a long time and doing very well. And someone for all of us to pay a great deal of attention to. We're going to continue to pay a great deal of attention to Mr. Esquith on this broadcast, I assure you. And we hope you'll come back and bring with us your young friends.

ESQUITH: Keep on fighting, Lou, we love to hear you.

DOBBS: All right. You, too, partner. Great to talk with you.

ESQUITH: All right, man.

DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, the "ELECTION CENTER" with John Roberts. John live now in Columbia, South Carolina -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, thanks, Lou, very much. Coming to you from the Flying Saucer Restaurant in Columbia, CNN "ELECTION CENTER" coming up at the top of the hour, tonight from South Carolina where every single winner of the Republican primary has gone on to win his party's nomination.

Stopping here in the state today, a couple of the Republican candidates sounding skeptical of the administration's plans to bail out the economy. Another important part of the political landscape here, evangelicals, are they going to go for Mike Huckabee or John McCain. All of that coming up at the top of the hour.

Plus, Hillary Clinton talks about Bill and Monica. It's all coming up on "ELECTION CENTER" in just a few minutes from now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, John. Still ahead here, Senator Obama feeling the heat over comments made by his minister. We'll be talking about that controversy and I'll be talking with three of the best analysts in the country about it.

New concerns about the pace of our withdrawals of troops from Iraq. General David Grange will be here with his assessment. Stay with us, we're coming right back.


DOBBS: Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have called a truce in what became a petty and peculiar squabble that was race- based. And tonight, there's another controversy. Senator Obama's long-time minister, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has drawn considerable attention for comments he allegedly made about Bill Clinton's treatment of the African-American community.

Reverend Wright, quoted as saying: "He did the same thing to us that he did to Monica Lewinsky." Just -- these comments coming Sunday and these comments being published today, a day after we thought this thing had settled down. Joining me now to assess what in the world is going on here is New York Daily News columnist and editorial board member Errol Louis; and from Nashville and our CNN contributor, our contributor here on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT and good friend, Carol Swain, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.

Professor, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Let me start if I may, Errol, with you. The fact that these comments came out -- those comments, if they're true, are a little to me -- it seemed over the top. And we're hearing a lot about Jeremiah Wright. This is an -- it styles itself as an "unapologetically black church," and "unapologetically" -- if I can say the word, "Christian church."

The latter half of that makes great sense to me. The former, and perhaps to many people, not so much.

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILTY NEWS: Yes. Well, I think -- let's distinguish between what he said and what that church is about and the spreading of this as a way to sort of throw fuel on the dying embers of this fire.

DOBBS: Because it is odd. And I want to say, in my opinion, as one who has covered a few campaigns, this isn't an accident that these comments are being pushed around the Internet, being pushed out over on television. And let's be absolutely square about this, this business with race that's getting in here. There's something very -- first of all, it's always awkward. Secondly, it's unseemly, and it's incomplete. And so the reason I wanted to talk about with you...


LOUIS: Incomplete is exactly the right word, I think. You know, when -- it may sound jarring to the ears of people who don't really know what goes on in black churches. There are about 55,000 of them. But I think many people have never set foot in one. And they've taken something from -- a little bit from the history books and a little bit from television, or Hollywood and so forth.

When a church like Jeremiah Wright's says that it's Afro-centric, that it's pro-black, that it supports building up black neighborhoods and black families, you have got to look at where they are, they are in inner city Chicago. They're dealing with people coming out of prison. They're dealing with people in public housing projects. They're talking to people in a way that they can hear it.

But when they say, we support black families, what they mean is, you know, keep your family together, take care of your children, send them off to school, don't spend your paycheck on liquor. Really basic stuff. Really, really basic stuff. It's...

DOBBS: Professor?

SWAIN: I attend a black church also that's in the inner city, it's predominantly black. Sometimes Caucasians attend. And my pastor somehow manages to preach the Gospel in a way that it's not about race, it's about how to live your life, using the principles taught in the Bible and by Jesus Christ. And so he doesn't -- he's an inner city black pastor in his 70s and he's not talking about race, race, race and politics all the time.

LOUIS: Professor, when the Christmas season -- the holiday season comes around, do they celebrate Kwanzaa, do they bring out kente cloth, do they tell kids to sort of...

SWAIN: No, we don't do Kwanzaa, we do Christmas.

LOUIS: Uh-huh. And does the church -- do they encourage kids to participate in, say, Black History Month celebrations, that sort of thing?

SWAIN: We're very aware of black history. But it's not something that -- pretty much it's hardcore Gospel, Biblical teachings, it's about teaching people how to live their lives in this culture and self-reliance. It doesn't to be Afro-centric.

DOBBS: That's something that I want to get to. Because the idea of this Jeremiah Wright -- I've never met the man. But he sounds like a fellow I'd kind of like, because he sounds very independent. He sounds like he could -- he says it the way he means it. And in this case, though, I can only imagine a white church -- a church, whatever that is, a church that's filled only with whites, saying we are a white church and unapologetically so. You know, I mean, there would be an explosion of reaction in this country.

And I think the Afro-centric that you're talking about here is the difference here. Because you're really saying that the point is one of empowerment, not so much as one of, certainly not racial supremacy, am I incorrect on that?

LOUIS: You're absolutely right. I mean, it's a self-help message. And you should keep in mind, I mean, it has been said for many years, 11:00 is the most segregated hour in America. I mean, the black church -- to go off and say, we don't want to be a part of this, quite the opposite. If you look at the history of all of the predominantly black denominations, and you won't find one where there isn't some founding story of people being chased out of an integrated setting and being forced in some to go off and create their own institution.

SWAIN: I don't think that's the case now. If you look across the South at many of the megachurches, you find very integrated religious bodies. And so I think we've made a lot of progress. And to the extent that we have segregation, I believe a lot of that is just different preferences in music and style of worship.

LOUIS: But I mean -- but just the history of the AME Church -- I mean, the AME Church, The black Baptist church, the Pentecostal churches, the Azusa Street Movement in Los Angeles...


SWAIN: ... the history.

LOUIS: I mean, there is -- yes, I mean, that is where they come from and...

SWAIN: But I thought we were talking about today. I thought we were talking about 2008.

DOBBS: If I may, Professor and Errol, we're going to come back in just one moment, we've got to take a quick break. We'll be right back. Thank you both.


DOBBS: We're back with Professor Carol Swain at Vanderbilt and Errol Louis here in New York with me. And I understand now that we've lost Professor Swain because of the satellite.

But the idea, Errol, that the issue of race and the differences in view that are expressed by both you and Professor Swain, the reality is the segregation -- de facto segregation that results there on 95th Street in Chicago, in this church being all black, because it is a community that is all black, that's where the real issue begins, isn't it?

LOUIS: Oh, absolutely. And it goes deeper than that. I would encourage anybody who's offended by, or thinks this is some sort of separatist or unpleasant or un-American kind of philosophy coming out of that church, I would say, look, you can go and compete with them or you can go and enjoin with them.

You know, you can go and knock on doors in the Robert Taylor Homes. You know, you can go down the State Street corridor in Chicago and go try and save some souls. You can go into the prisons and try and talk with some of these guys and help them prepare them for a decent life once they come out.

Frankly there's not a lot of competition for that. And I think that's why people get very protective and defensive when they see the few who are in there fighting those battles coming under attack.

DOBBS: So Jeremiah Wright, it is safe to say the good reverend may not be everyone's cup of tea. He may be a little outspoken, may take some rather extreme views in certain, but when he talks about being "unapologetically black," and his congregation, and "unapologetically Christian," he's talking good things, not bad things.

LOUIS: No, I interpret it as good. In fact, I was wondering what the controversy was about. I think it is a mainstream view within the black church.

DOBBS: Well, it's a mainstream view hopefully that we have, I imagine, at least tempted a little here tonight to soften with some reality and illumination. We thank you for providing that. We thank Professor Carol Swain as well. Thank you, Errol Louis.

The results of our poll tonight, 97 percent of you say people who use words like "protectionism" are offering a false choice between free trade and no trade. And we thank you for being with us. Good night from New York. The CNN ELECTION CENTER with John Roberts starts right now -- John.

ROBERTS: Lou, thanks very much.