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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Are China and Russia Real Threats for the U.S.?; Reversal of Policy on Licenses for Illegal Aliens; Gunman Opens Fire at Northern Illinois University

Aired February 14, 2008 - 19:00   ET

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


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.
We'll have the latest on the shootings at Northern Illinois University. Nearly 20 people are wounded in the attack.

And the Republicans tonight rallying around Senator John McCain, his early campaign rival, Mitt Romney, just a short while ago threw his support and his delegates to Senator McCain.

And Hillary Clinton breaks the Obama winning streak.

We'll have all that, and much more, straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate, and opinion for Thursday, February 14th. Live from New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody.

Mitt Romney today throwing his full support to John McCain, with Romney's endorsement, McCain should pick up all of Romney's delegates and that would give him a total of 1,044 delegates. Only 147 short of what he needs to clinch the nomination. Now, this move would allow McCain to focus his attention on the Democrats.

Meanwhile, Senator Hillary Clinton today took her message to Ohio's working men and women. Hard hit by the weakening economy. We have extensive coverage tonight.

We begin with Dana Bash in Burlington, Vermont -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, sources close to Governor Romney have told us since last week when he dropped out that he would be likely to endorse John McCain. But today with John McCain already here in New England and with a little behind-the- scenes prodding, we're told at the last minute from one of McCain's old advisors, Romney decided this morning that he would, in fact, throw his full weight behind the man that he fought so hard to beat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): It may be an awkward alliance, but what a valentine for John McCain.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am honored today to give my full support to Senator McCain's candidacy for the presidency of the United States. I'm officially endorsing his candidacy.

BASH: After a bruising primary battle, Mitt Romney now found qualities he says will make John McCain a good president.

ROMNEY: This is a man who tied his political fortunes to the fortunes of our country at a time of war. Such courage is not always rewarded in politics. But it was this time.

BASH: McCain, standing with Romney in his headquarters, where just last week they were devising strategy against him, expressed thanks.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all know it's a hard campaign. Primaries are tough, and we know it was a hard campaign. And now we move forward. Now we move forward together for the good of our party and the nation. And I'm honored. I am very honored, to have Governor Romney and the members of his team at my side.

BASH: For McCain, Romney's endorsement is his best shot yet at bringing the party behind him. After all, it was Romney who stoked conservative distrust of McCain with lines like this.

ROMNEY: If you want that kind of a liberal Democratic course as president, then you can vote for him.

BASH: Privately Romney advisors acknowledge this Kumbaya moment is as much about Romney's political viability as McCain's.

ROMNEY: This individual should be the next president of the United States not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

BASH: Romney looking towards another potential run in the future is hoping being a team player now will be remembered by a party that traditionally rewards that.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't afford a coronation.

BASH: It's also a message to Mike Huckabee, who's trying to prove his GOP chops by staying in as an alternative for GOP voters dissatisfied with McCain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Huckabee responded to Romney's endorsement of McCain today by saying, "this goes to show there's a lot of me-too going on in the party. I just happen to be the leader of the not-me crowd." That may be, Kitty, but he is still mathematically, it is still mathematically impossible at this point for him to get the Republican nomination.

PILGRIM: Yes, the numbers are pretty compelling. Thanks very much, Dana Bash. Well, a much-needed victory for Senator Clinton today, albeit a minor one. The results from last week's New Mexico caucus were released and they give Clinton a win by a narrow margin. Now, the senator was campaigning in Ohio today. She needs a victory in the primary there and her competition against Senator Barack Obama. Clinton blasted Senator Obama charging that he has not done enough to help America's beleaguered middle-class. Jessica Yellin has our report from Columbus, Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Auto plant workers in east Ohio heard Hillary Clinton seemingly channel John Edwards.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a fighter and a champion in the White House again for the American people!

YELLIN: Unveiling a tough new line on special interests...

H. CLINTON: President Bush has blown the bank on tax breaks for his friends and no-bid contracts for his cronies, borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars from China to pay for it.

YELLIN: Then turned her attention to Barack Obama.

H. CLINTON: There's a big difference between us, speeches versus solutions. Talk versus action. My opponent doesn't have much experience creating jobs.

YELLIN: Senator Clinton is appealing to hard-hit Ohio voters, desperate for an economic turnaround. They're drawn to her plans on the economy, the mortgage crisis, and health care reform. She has the support of the state's popular governor, her husband won here twice. And polls taken before Obama's recent winning streak show her with a healthy lead. But the Obama campaign is just now turning its sights to this state.

JOE HALLETT, COLUMBUS DISPATCH: This steamroller that Obama has growing, you know, this momentum he has, it's just almost appears unstoppable.

YELLIN: And now Obama is trying to peel away low-income voters, in this mailing accusing Clinton of promoting NAFTA, which many here believe sent jobs overseas. Clinton insists Obama is distorting her record, and with time and delegates running short, it's an argument she cannot afford to lose.

H. CLINTON: When my opponent in the primary puts out a mailer, which some of you may have gotten, with all sorts of false claims about my position on NAFTA, I'm going to count on working men and women to know the truth.

(END VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN: Now, Kitty, Senator Clinton is appearing here at the Ohio State University, with the governor of the state, and Senator John Glenn. She knows she need it to win here and win big to still stay in this race and stay viable. But she's not focusing only on Ohio, she has sent her husband to Wisconsin and her daughter is en route to Hawaii.

Both of them are focusing on the states that vote next week. The Clinton campaign says they can't take any state or any delegates for granted -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Jessica Yellin.

Well, administration officials told Congress today something that every middle-class American already knows, the economy is deteriorating. The chairman of the Federal Reserve indicated further interest rate cuts could be coming in an attempt to revive the economy.

Elaine Quijano has our report from the White House -- Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, they did not use the term recession to describe the economic forecast, but Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as well as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson did not paint a rosy economic picture. At a Senate Banking Committee hearing today, Bernanke cited two major strains on the economy, the housing and credit crises, and looking ahead Bernanke said that he expects a period of sluggish growth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: The outlook for the economy has worsened in recent months and the downside risks to growth have increased.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now Bernanke said the Fed would be watching the economic situation closely, and he signaled the Fed could once more cut interest rates. He also said, though, that he does expect growth to pick up later this year as the effects of interest rate cuts coupled with those tax rebate checks are felt.

But Democratic senator, Robert Menendez, says that officials, "hit the snooze button, in his words, on the economy last year and should have reacted sooner in his view as the housing crisis was unfolding." In addition, Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd said he thinks officials need to do more to respond to the economic slowdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Our economy is clearly in trouble in my view, and the most important thing we can do right now is restore that consumer and investor confidence which is absolutely critical if we are going to get back on our feet again. (END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Now Treasury Secretary Paulson insisted the Bush administration is taking steps to boost the economy. He cited mortgage help already in the works as well as those tax rebate checks that are part of the economic stimulus plan. But today Republican Senator Richard Shelby expressed some skepticism about that, saying that really wouldn't necessarily have that much of an impact. He likened those checks to, "pouring a glass of water in the ocean" -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: It seems like this administration is putting a lot of faith in some fairly meager, modest measures.

QUIJANO: Well, that's certainly the criticism of the Bush administration, and also as we heard today that more should have been done sooner. Now it was interesting to note that one point during this hearing we heard Treasury Secretary Paulson say in effect look I'm open to suggestions. It is one thing to identify a problem. It is quite another to understand and know what should be done about it.

PILGRIM: And the extent of it, which is still very much unknown. Thanks very much, Elaine Quijano.

President Bush today blasting House Democrats for not responding to his calls for quick passage of a terror surveillance law. The president said he would delay his trip to Africa, scheduled to begin Friday, if it would help the Democrats complete their work on the bill. Now the president wants the House to essentially rubber stamp the Senate version of the bill so he can sign it immediately. The Democrats, however, stonewalled the president and refused to speed up deliberations.

Coming up, the policy of granting drivers' licenses to illegal aliens seems to be losing ground across the country.

Bill Tucker will have that report -- Bill?

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, there are now fewer states where illegal aliens can go to obtain driver's license. We'll be talking about that next -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks, Bill, we look forward to it.

Also, it's business as usual for Congress. It is earmark season; billions of taxpayer dollars are up for grabs by special interests. We'll have a special report on that.

Also, another campus shooting, this one at Northern Illinois University just west of Chicago, almost 20 people wounded. We'll have the very latest on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: The state of Oregon tonight has officially reversed its policy of granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens. Oregon is just the latest of several states reversing the controversial policy, and as Bill Tucker reports, Utah could be next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER (voice-over): Utah's moving to revoke its policy of documenting illegal aliens and licensing them to drive. It's the only state in the country that grants illegal aliens the ability to drive by issuing what the state calls driving privilege cards. Ironically, to get one, a person has to lack any documentation proving lawful residence.

In other words, they have to basically admit that they're an illegal alien to get a state-issued piece of documentation. A bill rescinding that policy has been approved by the State House and is now in the Senate. The sponsor of that bill says a ruling by the Internal Revenue Service has undermined the basis for the identification used by the state to issue the cards.

REP. GLENN DONNELSON (R), UTAH STATE HOUSE: It is a national security issue. They issue the drivers' privilege card off the ITN (ph) number, which is the Social Security number for collecting taxes. And, so it came out IRS said that you can't use it for identification. And we are using it for identification with no background behind it.

TUCKER: In Oregon it's a done deal. The state legislature has followed the lead of its governor and passed legislation requiring that anyone applying for a driver's license must show proof of lawful residence in the state.

BRUCE STARR (R), OREGON STATE SENATE: You got a lot of folks that are in our state illegally that are getting driver's license and that we were a magnet for those kinds of individuals coming to our state to get driver's license. As you know, the driver's license opened so many other doors.

TUCKER: In Michigan, the State Legislature has passed a bill reinforcing a recent ruling by the state's attorney general that only citizens or lawful residents may be granted drivers' licenses.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: And it's a bill the governor says she will sign. But the Michigan ACLU has filed suit against the state seeking clarification on what and who is exactly a lawful resident. Some of the plaintiffs in their lawsuit are people who are currently here seeking asylum under immigration law and the civil liberties group believes that they should be eligible for the licenses, Kitty, but the law they say is not clear enough in that direction.

PILGRIM: It's very clear that this is enormously unpopular, isn't it?

TUCKER: It really is. Since we saw that huge uproar that we documented so carefully here on the program, what we've seen that Hawaii insist that it doesn't give illegal -- drivers' licenses to illegal aliens, Oregon reversing its policy, Michigan reversing its policy. Utah looks like it might do the same there. So, the trend in the country definitely has been to report (ph) tightening the standards on drivers' licenses.

PILGRIM: And that big debate generated in New York started this whole...

TUCKER: The whole big debate here is what set it all off.

PILGRIM: Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

In California tonight amnesty for illegal aliens tops the agenda of one advocacy group and that group is pushing to have the state of California declared a sanctuary for illegal aliens. Casey Wian reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The California chapter of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens unanimously voted to declare call what it called California Del Norte (ph), a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. The group, the largest and oldest Latino group in the U.S. demands an end to all state and local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Things like immigration and customs enforcement raids of businesses employing illegal aliens.

JAN TUCKER, CALIFORNIA LULAC: Most responsible law enforcement officials would agree with us on -- at least to the extent that when local police get involved in trying to enforce immigration laws, that it just creates an environment that's hostile towards the police, no one cooperates with them whether they're here legally, illegally.

WIAN: California LULAC also wants the Mexican government to seek the assistance of a third nation to resolve disputes with the United States over American immigration laws and their enforcement. The group cites Article XXI of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War and transferred part of northern Mexico to the United States. LULAC sanctuary state declaration seemed ironic to this California lawmaker.

CHUCK DEVORE, CALIF. STATE ASSEMBLY: I guess one could argue we are in effect already a sanctuary state. If you look at our $103 billion annual general fund budget, most estimates are that we spend in upwards of $11 billion of that money caring for, providing welfare, educating, housing people who are here illegally.

WIAN: Devore has introduced a bill that would end California's policy of subsidizing state college tuition for illegal aliens. Instead, he wants to provide free tuition to members of the California National Guard. Devore estimates the proposal would save the state well over $100 million a year.

(on camera): Because California's Legislature is dominated by Democrats who favor amnesty for illegal aliens Devore's bill is not expected to pass. The LULAC declaration, of course, carries no legal authority, but both demonstrate the deep divide that remains in California over illegal immigration.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Mexican President Felipe Calderon wrapped up his visit to the United States today in Los Angeles where he met the city's mayor. Now Calderon has spent the week praising the contributions of Mexicans working both legally and illegally north of the border, in an effort to curb what he calls anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States.

Despite the estimated $25 billion Mexico receives annually in remittances from Mexicans living in the United States, Calderon said in an address to the California Legislature Wednesday, he has no interest in his citizens fleeing north to find work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICO: I want to assure you that Mexico does not encourage its citizens to migrate. I'm the president who is not glad to see Mexicans migrating to the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PILGRIM: Calderon's trip includes stops in New York, Boston, Chicago, Sacramento and also Los Angeles.

Still ahead, it's that time of year again. Special interest groups line up to receive billions of dollars from Congress.

And another shooting rampage on a college campus. We'll have the latest details. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: The 2008 earmark season is under way. Congressmen and senators from both parties are telling constituents and lobbyists to recommend pet projects that could be financed by the federal government. According to a new report by Taxpayers for Common Sense, Congressman Jack Murtha, the head of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, leads the list of congressmen obtaining earmarks. Louise Schiavone reports there may be a distinct correlation between earmarks given by Congressman Murtha and campaign contributions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the world of federal spending, it's that time of year again, just two weeks to go to get your request in for earmarks, specifically-targeted spending awarding essentially in the form of no-bid contracts. Submissions are to be entered on this handy House Appropriations Committee Web site, and if history is any guide, defense of Committee Chairman John Murtha of Pennsylvania promises to be a standout.

RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: Representative Murtha in the House has always been a champion and he's at the top again. Every single earmark that he made was to someone who gave him a campaign contribution.

SCHIAVONE: Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group, reports that last year Murtha single-handedly nailed down $160 million worth of earmarks. On the receiving end of these earmarks, businesses like Concurrent Technologies, DRS Technologies, Inc., and The National Drug Intelligence Center, all of which have two things in common, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, an address in Murtha's district and contributions to his campaign chest. Congressman Murtha refused to comment, but his critics aren't holding back.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: When I see reports like Congressman Murtha that every single recipient of an earmark turns around and puts campaign cash into his campaign coffers, the system is broken and he's the number one ear marker on Capitol Hill. And it's the triumph of politics over merit, and the system is broken.

SCHIAVONE: At the end of this month, Congressman Murtha will host a campaign fund-raiser at a posh hotel near the Pentagon, an annual event where defense contractors have been regular attendees.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHIAVONE: Kitty, President Bush has vowed to veto any spending bill that does not reflect a 50 percent or more reduction in last year's earmarks. But it remains to be seen if members of both parties can stop binging on these earmarks -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Louise Schiavone. Thanks, Louise.

Senator Hillary Clinton leads the presidential candidates in the use of earmarks. According to the study for -- of Taxpayers for Common Sense, the New York senator secured more than $340 million for home-state projects. That places her among the top ten Senate recipients and that's almost four times as much as Senator Barack Obama.

The Illinois senator supported $91 million in earmarks. And in sharp contrast, Senator John McCain, a fierce critic of earmarks, did not request any. McCain is one of only five senators to do so.

Time now for tonight's poll. Do you think it's possible for a member of Congress not to be influenced by special interest groups that direct generous campaign contributions to them? Yes, it is possible. No, it isn't possible. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll bring you the results later in the broadcast.

Coming up, a new Cold War may be brewing as the Russian president makes a new threat at the West. We'll have a special report on that.

Also, will previously shutout voters from Florida and Michigan decide the Democratic nominee for president? We'll talk about that and a lot more with three of the best radio show hosts in the country.

Also, five people are dead in a shooting rampage in Northern Illinois University outside of Chicago. We'll have the very latest on that. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: A gunman opened fire at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, this afternoon. At least five people are dead including the gunman. Witnesses say the shooter walked into a lecture hall and fired 20 to 30 shots.

Susan Roesgen joins us now on the phone from DeKalb with the very latest -- Susan?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Kitty, I can tell you that this university is in lockdown. The students have been told to go to their dormitories and stay there, even though the danger is apparently over. The students have been told to call their parents and let their parents know that they are OK because of this terrible shooting this afternoon.

Apparently a young man, between 18 and 20 years old, possibly a student, possibly not, walked into a lecture hall full of students. There were believed to be about 150 students in the main lecture hall on campus. This young, white gunman had a shotgun, at least a shotgun, and perhaps a pistol as well.

He walked down to the pit, the stage area, where the professor was giving a lecture, and started blasting away. He was wearing all black. He didn't say a word. But started firing into the audience. Students started stampeding to the exits. And he fired at the professor as well. We don't know yet the identities of the dead. But as you mentioned, Kitty, five people are dead, including the gunman.

At least 17 other people were taken to a local hospital, four of them in critical condition right now. No motive yet. We don't really know what might have set this person off. And, again, we don't know whether he's someone from on campus or someone from off campus -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: And the response from school officials at this point, Susan?

ROESGEN: School officials said they did everything they could, and the students have been saying that they believe the university did everything right. They have a Web site with an instantaneous alert that went out not more than 10 minutes on the Web after the shooting alerting students stay wherever you are. There's a gunman believed to be on campus.

Now of course most of these kids don't have Blackberries (ph) and if they weren't at a computer at that moment, they wouldn't have known about it. But the police chief told me just moments ago that the first officers were on the scene within a minute after the report of the shooting and he says the gunman at that time was already dead, had already killed himself.

So, apparently the university did everything it could, but one guy with a gun in a crowded lecture hall did a lot of damage. Many injured today, and, again, five, including the gunman, dead.

PILGRIM: And the 17 wounded is in addition to the five that are dead, is that correct, Susan?

ROESGEN: Yes, that's right. That's in addition to those who are dead. And, again, with four in critical condition, we may have more fatalities later this evening.

PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much. Susan Roesgen in Dekalb, Illinois. Thank you very much, Susan.

Overseas today, China and Russia, both taking a stand against the United States. Communist China said the United States should, "Give up its Cold-War thinking," after the Justice Department announced charges in two different cases of Chinese espionage in this country.

Meanwhile, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, threatened U.S. bases in Europe calling the U.S. Missile Defense Program, "A threat to Russia's national security."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Vladimir Putin, today, threatening to target planned U.S. Missile Defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. In his last news conference, before presidential elections on March 2nd, Putin told a hall packed with hundreds of journalists he is not running for president again, but he has no problem with sharing power with Dmitry Medvedev, the man he calls, "The best person to succeed him."

Putin's vision of Russia under his direction is to counter U.S. power in the region.

GLEN HOWARD, THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION: The rhetoric has a specific aim. And this specific aim is to intimidate those countries bordering the former Soviet Union and that are aspiring to become members of NATO and that's what the United States needs to be concerned about.

PILGRIM: Last year, the U.S. National Intelligence Director, Michael McConnell said Chinese and Russian spies are stalking the United States at levels last seen in the Cold War. This week, four individuals were charged with selling sensitive technology to China. China is also in the middle of a massive military buildup, refusing to explain its intentions to U.S. officials.

JOHN TKACIK, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: China certainly seeks regional predominance in east Asia. And, Russia's most recent behavior indicates that they want to return to the -- a time when they had overwhelming influence in eastern Europe and central EurAsia.

PILGRIM: China today, told the United States, to drop its Cold- War attitude. They called the charges of Chinese espionage, "complete fabrication."

(END VIDEOTAPE) PILGRIM: Now, strategic experts say Russia's strength has increased with revenues from their oil sales. China, of course, a global trade powerhouse, has the means to build up its military. Both countries have the will and the means to achieve their goals. Joining me now is Gordon Chang, one of the nation's foremost experts on China. And he says China and Russia, though not natural allies, have a lot to gain by working together against the interest of the United States.

And Gordon, thanks for being with us. First, before they team up, lets talk one-on-one. China, basically, this posture about the espionage is just complete denial and dismissal. What do you make of this latest espionage case?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "COMING COLLAPSE OF CHINA": Well the most important thing about it is that China is following the Soviet pattern of putting their best agents, not in Washington or in New York, but in California, because that's where the high technology is. They're trying to steal it, not only for their military, but for their businesses as well.

So, this is a very important thing for us to talk about. They talk about Cold-War thinking, that's because they think they're in a Cold War. We don't, you know. We're just ignoring some blatantly unfriendly behavior. But they actually think that there is a global contest with us.

PILGRIM: The -- that -- the espionage, coupled with the military buildup, is an extraordinarily dangerous situation, isn't it?

CHANG: It certainly is. And this comes at the same time as these increased cyber attacks against, not only the United States, but Britain, France, Germany, Japan. This has been occurring especially since 2003. And the United States, while we're trying to counter it, is not saying anything in public. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, went to Beijing late last year and told off the Chinese. It's high time for to us do the same thing.

PILGRIM: Yes. We are very polite. In fact, we took no response from our inquiries about the satellite -- test last year.

Let's talk about Russia. How much of this rhetoric from President Putin is posturing in advance of the presidential election?

CHANG: I think a little bit of it is. But he's very confident about the outcome. They've illuminated almost all the opposition --

PILGRIM: Confident is a euphemism.

CHANG: Yes. Putin isn't actually trying to sort of reassemble the Soviet empire. But he is trying to assert his will over what he calls the near abroad. And the problem is that there are young democracies there. Last year it was Georgia, this year he's threatening the Ukraine. This is a very bad development. The United States needs to do something about it.

PILGRIM: We have the United Nations talking about Kosovo, how much of -- and Russia, of course, opposes the U.S. and the Europeans on this issue. Is there a little bit of anger about Kosovo in this rhetoric too?

CHANG: Well, Putin has been very concerned. This is something that goes back for a number of years and here's one place where he's trying to make a stand. So, it's not just the Ukraine but it's Kosovo -- and there's all sorts of things that the Russians are doing, including buzzing our carrier groups. This is not a good development. Because this is really a return to sort of the Cold War tactics.

PILGRIM: Do you not find it disturbing, though, that so much aggressive action is being taken, the sort of games being played and these military maneuvers that are sort of quasi-aggressive, all over the globe, with China, with Russia and U.S. forces?

CHANG: Yes, and the one thing that the United States is not willing to acknowledge is the new found assertiveness of both Russia and China, which in many cases are working together, because they see their interests coincide. This is something which we see in Iran and North Korea, the two greatest threats to the United States and the international community. And China and Russia are backing both of their nuclear ambitions.

PILGRIM: How much should we worry about China and Russia teaming up? I mean, they have not been traditional allies in any sense of the term.

CHANG: Yes, but in the last half decade, though, they had their treaty of friendship. They've started calling each other strategic partners. Now it's to the generation of friendship. They see themselves working together because they sort of view themselves as rising powers and they few us as the adversary.

And so, it's something of concern. And I think that the United States needs to start talking to both the Chinese and the Russians, not only in private, but in public as well.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Gordon Chang, as always, a great pleasure to have you on the broadcast.

Coming up, we'll have the very latest on deadly shooting in Northern Illinois University. We have five people dead at this moment, more than dozen wounded. We'll have the latest details.

Also ahead, a spy satellite hurtling towards Earth, but the Pentagon wants to shoot it down because of what it's carrying. We'll have that report next.

And, John McCain picks up a major endorsement, but will it be enough to bring the Republican party together behind McCain? Now, three of our most popular radio talk show hosts in the country will join us. Coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: The Pentagon, today, said it will attempt to shoot down a damaged spy satellite that is expected to drop from orbit in early March. President Bush ordered the military to take action to minimize the risk from toxic materials aboard the satellite. Jamie McIntyre has more from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sometime next week, a U.S. Navy standard missile fired from the Aegis Cruiser, USS Lake Erie, in the northern Pacific, will, for the first time, attempt to hit a satellite the size of a bus, that's tumbling toward Earth laden with 1,000 pounds of toxic hydroxene.

The U.S. spy satellite never used the fuel because it failed almost as soon as it was launched 15 months ago. Usually, satellites just fall to Earth or are guided by their thrusters safely into the ocean. That's not an option this time.

GEN. JAMES CARTWRIGHT, JOINT CHIEFS VICE CHAIR: That's what distinguishes this particular activity is we have no way to communicate, to invoke the safety measures that are already on board the bird.

MCINTYRE: With three-quarters of the Earth water, and with large parts of the land uninhabited, the chances are slim the satellite would kill anyone. But there is a danger. The problem is not so much the 5,000-pound satellite, but the 1,000 pounds of unburned fuel, which could cover 200 yards.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: It's hard to find areas that have any significant population to them where you could put a toxic substance down, across a couple of football fields, and not have somebody at risk.

MCINTYRE: Some experts think the U.S. may have another motive, keeping wreckage from one of its newest spy satellites out of enemy hands.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: This is the first of a new generation of imaging radar, intelligence satellites. It has advanced technology on it. They may just want to keep it off of eBay.

CARTWRIGHT: That is really not an issue. Once you go through the atmosphere and the heating and the burning, that would not be an issue in this case.

MCINTYRE: And even if the missile misses, there's no real downside.

GRIFFIN: So, there is almost nothing we can do here that makes it worse. Almost everything we can do technically makes it better, which was a very strong factor weighting the decision.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon says the odds of scoring a direct hit are high. And the satellite will be so low in orbit that any debris will fall to Earth within weeks, unlike the Chinese attempt last year in which they blasted an old weather satellite to bits, spreading some 150,000 pieces of space debris in a higher orbit, which will -- they will probably stay there for a couple of decades -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Jamie McIntyre.

The House armed Services Committee, today, held a hearing to determine the impacts of the war on our military's ability to mobilize. Well, joining me with his views on that issue, and that hearing, and much more is the nation's most decorated former military commander, General David Grange.

Thanks for being with us, General Grange.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: : Kitty.

PILGRIM: You know, Chairman Ike Skelton talked about our preparedness, and I'd like to actually quote. He said, "Are we digging the hole deeper or filling it in, and if we are gaining ground, can we catch up -- will we catch up fast enough?" Do you -- how do you answer that question?

GRANGE: Well, what the military's able to do right now, with the unbelievable demands that's placed upon it, is because of the wonderful troops that this country has, that defends and supports the Constitution of the United States, gives us what we live for. And, so -- but right now, they are truly stretched.

And so what has to happen is they need to regroup, rebuild, but at the same time we have sustainment missions in Afghanistan and Iraq that require a lot of security forces, reconstruction forces. So, much of this is going to have to be privatized. It's going to have to be outsourced in order to accomplish the mission and regroup with armed forces.

PILGRIM: Ike Skelton also was urging Defense Secretary Gates to establish a three-star military headquarters in Kabul that would cover military, political and economic coordination, because he says the situation in Afghanistan is not purely or even primarily a military problem.

Now, General Eikenberry, who was commander of combined forces for a while in Afghanistan, was famous for saying the Taliban begins where the road ends. Is this about reconstruction? What is this really about?

GRANGE: Well, a lot of it is about reconstruction. I'm sure the congressman received advice over there that maybe it's such a complex chain of command and it needs some more unity of effort. It needs some more coordination structure in order to handle all these reconstruction projects like road building, agricultural projects, the other things to get the locals on their feet and the quality of life that they need. At the same time providing the security. And so, this is probably just to make it more robust. I mean, Afghanistan does need some type of a surge in order to be successful. PILGRIM: Let me move to Iraq for a second. We're almost out of time, but Iraqi lawmakers this week passed three measures, and one of them will pave the way for provincial elections by October 1st. I guess the operative question is -- when will the Iraqis be able to take over their own security?

GRANGE: Well, it will take a while. But, actually, there's been wonderful progress on the security with the Iraqi forces. The political process you're talking about right now is the requirement on the State Department, on the diplomatic political side, putting professionals in there to help them. We can't blame the whole political process on Iraqis just don't want to cooperate. A lot of this is that we need to provide the expertise and the numbers of people necessary to move them along, to help them in this process.

So, what's needed is not just the military surge, but a diplomatic, political, and economic surge, together in cohort to make this work.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, General David Grange. Thank you, sir.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

PILGRIM: Still ahead, the very latest on the school shooting rampage that has left five people dead in Northern Illinois University. We'll have that next.

Also, Republicans, Democrats on the Hill, battled two controversial votes.

Also, Senator John McCain is one giant step closer to the Republican nomination tonight. But can he make it the rest of the way? We'll ask three of the top talk radio show hosts in the country. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: Coming up at the top of the hour, the "Election Center" with John Roberts. John, what are you working on tonight?

We'll be joined by John in just a few moments. We'll be right back with that.

In the meantime, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today endorsed Senator John McCain for president, and joining me now for more on that endorsement and all the day's political news are three of the top talk show hosts in the country.

In Washington, D.C., we're joined by Joe Madison of WOL and XM Radio. Michael Medved, a nationally syndicated host, Salem Radio Network, joins us from Seattle. And here in New York, we are joined by Laura Flanders of Air America. Thank you all for being here.

I guess the real headline of the day was Mitt Romney endorsing John McCain. Let me start with Michael. I always start with the one that's farthest away. Michael, your reaction to that?

MICHAEL MEDVED, SALEM RADIO NETWORK: The reaction is that the timing is very important here, because I think what it indicates is that Republicans are getting together behind McCain much more quickly than anyone had expected. And now, the pressure really is on Mike Huckabee.

And there's something else very significant going on there. Mike Huckabee isn't campaigning in Wisconsin this weekend. He's making a trip to the Cayman Islands for a paid speech. He has every right to do a paid speech. He needs to pay his family's bills. I understand that. But clearly, if you are still counting on winning primaries, you don't go to the Cayman Islands on Friday and Saturday when there's a primary in Wisconsin on Tuesday.

PILGRIM: Yes. This is -- does this endorsement -- let's -- Joe, let's ask you. Does this endorsement put more pressure on Mike Huckabee to drop out?

JOE MADISON, WOL RADIO: It absolutely does. But I think he plans to go into the convention, really, with the hopes that he will have the evangelical support. He's representing that wing, I believe, of the Republican Party. And that's exactly what he's doing. So, he can just keep going. He doesn't have a lot of money to spend anyway. And gives a few speeches here and there to pay his bills. And then goes into that convention, and he'll be in a bargaining position, he thinks.

PILGRIM: What do you think, Laura?

LAURA FLANDERS, AIR AMERICA: Well, I mean, I think it's interesting that, as you put it, the GOP is figuring out how to stand behind McCain. But where the hell do you stand by this guy? I mean, the guy who was supposed to be the straight talker is talking straight out of both sides of his mouth on immigration, on finance, campaign finance reform and now torture. I mean, this is the guy who is constantly against things before he's for them, for things before he's against them.

The fact that Romney's trying to pull, you know, the Christian right in behind McCain, you know, is a detail to, I think, the real Valentine's gift going on here, that McCain wants to give himself -- I mean, that Romney wants to give himself some future with the GOP. And maybe he's looking for a VP appointment. Who knows.

PILGRIM: He certainly looks like he has the numbers right now, McCain, I mean, 147 short of clinching it.

FLANDERS: But what does he believe in?

PILGRIM: Yes.

MEDVED: Let's talk for just a moment about that torture issue. Because McCain has voted with the president consistently when it comes to giving our intelligence agencies the right to listen in on potential terrorists and the right for stern interrogation. What he is opposed is torture.

Now, the problem with the way the Democrats framed this bill in Congress is it, for instance, prevented things like sensory deprivation kinds of interrogation. McCain's always supported that. And he's always supported very consistently a distinction between applying military rules to intelligence investigations. They are two different things. And that's...

FLANDERS: No, let's be clear. Here's a guy who's running...

MADISON: Michael, Michael.

FLANDERS: ... on trying to be the great American hero, the military veteran, and he's up there against the military that want to see their Army Field Manual expanded to cover the CIA. This is a complete flip-flop on McCain's part.

MADISON: And, of course, the reason he's flip-flopping is because he has this problem with the extreme right in his party. And, so, welcome to politics. This is the way they do things in Washington. He needs those last delegates, and he's going to do and say whatever he can to get them.

(CROSSTALK)

FLANDERS: You're talking about the issue of morality...

(CROSSTALK)

MEDVED: He'll get these delegates anyway. There's still a bunch more primaries. The Republican primaries are proportional, coming up in Ohio and in Texas and in Pennsylvania. So, he doesn't need to make any...

(CROSSTALK)

MADISON: Then how do you explain the flip-flop?

FLANDERS: Joe, wouldn't you agree that this isn't just any issue? This is an issue on which he's said there's a question of morality and legality here, and it really makes you wonder.

(CROSSTALK)

PILGRIM: Michael, go ahead.

MEDVED: Absolutely incorrect. There's a distinction between torture, which McCain opposes, and he does consider waterboarding torture. Still does. There's a distinction between that and very aggressive interrogation.

One of the problems with the way the Democrats set up this bill and one of the reasons they only got five Republicans to come over onto their side on this, one of the problems is that they ruled out things that some of our military interrogators, some of our intelligence interrogators, suggest that they really do need for the war on terror, which is going to be the main issue in this election.

PILGRIM: All right, Michael, Laura, Joe, we have to take a break for a moment.

MADISON: Oh, no, the main issue is going to be the economy!

(CROSSTALK)

PILGRIM: Joe, we'll come back to this in a second. We have to get a little pause here for a second.

We'll have much more of our panel. First, we want to update you on the deadly school shooting. Five people dead after a gunman opened fire at Northern Illinois University this afternoon, 17 others wounded, before the shooter turned the gun on himself.

Now, this university is located in Dekalb, Illinois, about 65 miles west of Chicago. Witnesses say the shooter walked into a lecture hall and fired 20 to 30 shots. Now, police do not believe the gunman was a student at the university. Investigators say they do not have a motive for the shooting. This is the fifth school shooting this year.

We'll continue to bring you the very latest details as they become available to us.

We'll also be right back with our panel. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: We're back with Joe Madison, Michael Medved and Laura Flanders.

Let's talk Hillary Clinton and Obama. Now, Hillary on, you know, in Ohio today, she also picked up the New Mexico vote, so that was finally counted and she won that. She attacked Obama today, saying her opponent is about programs -- she's about programs, he only makes promises. And her whole middle-class issue is very much the centerpiece of her campaign.

What do you think?

FLANDERS: Well, I mean, you know, the U.S. troop surge in Iraq may not be working, but the Democratic voters surge is working, and both these candidates are hearing it. Hillary Clinton got it, that she needed to come to Ohio, she needed to talk -- what she needed to talk about was trade. She needs to get way out from underneath Clinton, the Bill Clinton legacy of NAFTA. That's what she's trying to do in Ohio. Unfortunately, it's a lot been cast as a kind of critique of China, but it's not China that's the problem; it's the Clinton-era fast track trade policy. That's what she needs to break with to make an impact on working-class voters in Wisconsin, and those are the folks -- in Ohio -- and those are the folks she needs.

PILGRIM: Yes, she really made quite a few remarks about China. Joe, your thoughts on this. MADISON: Well, my thoughts is that it's really kitchen table issues. There is no ifs, ands, buts about it. It's amazing how they sound like populists now. They are really talking hard issues.

Look, I just read in a newspaper where the second biggest crisis economically is the repossession of cars and trucks, second to the foreclosure of homes. The Democratic Party, to piggyback on what Laura said, is on fire right now.

And they need to capitalize on this, and I think what you're going to see is a major turnout, no ifs, ands, buts about it, but it's really going to be a horse race in Ohio. And a lot of it is going to depend on your debate next week. And that's where you'll start hearing details, and I think that will be healthy for this primary.

PILGRIM: That will be a critical moment.

Michael, your thoughts on the kitchen table issues as we call them.

MEDVED: Well, the kitchen table issues are very important, but some of the inside-baseball political issues are also going to be important for Democrats.

Right now, you have a situation where there are 336 delegates from Michigan and from Florida, who Howie Dean is saying will not be counted, will not be seated in the convention. And this is going to decide, it seems to me, the nominee. Because most of those delegates are for Hillary Clinton, who won both of those two contested primaries where they don't want to seat the delegates.

I think it's going to be very tough to say to 1.6 million Democratic voters in Florida that the same party that has been whining for seven years about disfranchisement in Florida isn't going to count your votes in a primary. And if all of a sudden they seat those delegates, and Hillary goes above Obama in the delegate totals -- which I think is entirely possible -- you are going to have some very bruised feelings in the party, and lots and lots and lots of lawsuits.

PILGRIM: Finally, Joe, we have got to wrap it here, but extremely contentious issue, and certainly won't go away between now and the primary.

Thanks very much for being with us. Joe Madison, Laura Flanders, Michael Medved. Thank you.

Tonight's poll. We do have results: 85 percent of you do not believe it's possible for a member of Congress not to be influenced by special interest groups that direct generous campaign contributions to them.

We have time for some of your thoughts. Dick in Nevada wrote: "Lou, while President Calderon is here in the United States, President Bush should be in Mexico. After all, Bush has done more to help Mexico than he has for America." And Sandy in California: "Dear Lou, President Calderon is pleased with all the candidates running for president of the United States and their amnesty stance, and I see that as a very, very bad sign."

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

Thanks for being with us tonight. Good night from New York. The "Election Center" starts right now.

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