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U.S. Military Stretched Thin by Wars; Foreclosure Crisis Affecting the Middle Class; Mexican Mayor Busted in U.S. for Drug Smuggling

Aired April 2, 2008 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, John.
Tonight the White House stepping up its campaign to ram free trade policies down the throats of Congress and the American people, I'll be talking with U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab in an exclusive interview. She, by the way, is the only member of the Bush administration who right now has the guts to talk to me directly and in person on this important issue.

And also seething anger among homeowners at the Bush administration's failure to tackle our foreclosure crisis on behalf of our middle class, the administration quick to bail out Wall Street, but is anyone helping out our beleaguered middle class?

And Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean facing intense pressure to end the stalemate over the Michigan and Florida primaries. Will the Democratic Party continue to disenfranchise those millions of voters? We'll report on the latest in the fight to give Florida and Michigan a say in this closely fought Democratic nomination. We'll have all of that, all the day's news and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Wednesday, April 2. Live from Washington, D.C., Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening everybody.

A blunt warning tonight that our military does not have a sufficient number of troops to fight and win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen today said we can't send additional reinforcements to Afghanistan because so many of our troops are now in Iraq.

Admiral Mullen also appeared to quash speculation that we can withdraw any more of our troops from Iraq in the fall. The number of combat brigades now in Iraq is due to decline from 20 to 15 by July.

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

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the reality is if things were going better in Iraq, the U.S. would have plenty of American troops for Afghanistan. The fact that the Pentagon can't send any reinforcements any time this year tells you about all you need to know about the prospects for future troop cuts in Iraq.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): U.S. military simply has too many troops tied down in Iraq to send much-needed reinforcements to Afghanistan this year even though the chairman of the Joint Chiefs says Afghanistan is a priority.

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: There are force requirements there that we can't currently meet, so having forces in Iraq don't, at the level they're at, don't allow us to fill the need we have in Afghanistan.

MCINTYRE: The American general in command of NATO forces in Afghanistan says he desperately needs 3,000 trainers for the Afghan military, plus another couple of combat brigades. The U.S. has already used the reduction of Marines in Iraq to temporarily reinforce NATO troops in the south of Afghanistan, but the 3,500 additional troops leave in the fall. It's why President Bush is pushing so hard for more NATO troops at the summit now under way in Romania.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We expect our NATO allies to shoulder the burden necessary to succeed.

MCINTYRE: But the implicit in the comments by the Joint Chiefs chairman is the pessimism over the prospect that additional troop cuts in Iraq will free up forces for Afghanistan any time soon. Admiral Mullen doesn't see it.

MULLEN: I have no expectation that we would generate additional -- could generate additional forces this year.

MCINTYRE: Mullen says the pause after the Iraq surge ends could last weeks or months. He's not prepared to say. And the mechanics of bringing troops home could take another month or two. Add it up and it makes significant troop cuts in Iraq appear increasingly unlikely, especially in light of the recent up tick in violence and the failure of Iraqi security forces to mount a successful operation in Basra.


MCINTYRE: Admiral Mullen's cautious assessment reflects the current thinking here at the Pentagon that success in Iraq is fragile at best and that the talk of getting U.S. troop levels in Iraq down to about 100,000 by the time the next president takes office may just be wishful thinking. Lou?

DOBBS: Jamie, to put in context what we are hearing from the United States military here, Admiral Mullen's statement today that we simply don't have the troops based upon the demands in Iraq to send additional forces into Afghanistan. On previous statements by the general staff that the United States Army is right now, in effect, broken because of the number of tours the length of those tours and the demands have been placed on those troops and their equipment over the course of the past four years.

Why is there not a comprehensive, responsible review of what is happening in this country to its military forces, what needs to be done immediately to relieve the burden that we're placing on our troops and prepare for a future in which we're going to be engaged militarily?

MCINTYRE: Well, there is a review going on. There is an effort to increase the size of the military. But the problem is it's not happening fast enough and success in Iraq and Afghanistan are not happening fast enough, either. It's a very delicate balance at the moment and they don't have any wiggle room.

DOBBS: Does the general staff there in the Pentagon with you understand that they could go -- very well go down in history as incompetent and inadequate to the most important challenge of this decade in American history?

MCINTYRE: Well, I think they're very well aware that history will judge them, but most of the military officers I talk to here are more concerned about what's happening right now and trying to do something to relieve this very obvious strain on the forces and of course one of the first things they're trying to do is reduce the length of those tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, something they still haven't been able to do because of the problems we've just talked about.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much, Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

Senator McCain today highlighted his military experience during a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, but as McCain delivered his speech, he faced new charges that he's failing to unite the Republican Party. Christian conservative James Dobson said Senator McCain is not winning the support of conservatives.

Dana Bash has our report from Annapolis, Maryland.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the images that were supposed to drive John McCain's message, a reminder of his service with a visit to the Naval Academy he graduated from 50 years ago until he spilled the beans that he now has a list of names for his running mate, on his bus, he even gave a number.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's like 20, you know. But I can't talk to you too much about it, obviously.

BASH: But he did, much to the chagrin of anxious aides who tried to interrupt. McCain said he wanted to start vetting V.P. contenders now to avoid what he called unintended consequences like in 1988, when George H.W. Bush picked Dan Quayle.

MCCAIN: Dan Quayle had not been briefed and prepared for, you know, some of the questions.

BASH: But as McCain plans ahead, a reminder of lingering trouble with some conservatives. Prominent conservative James Dobson released a harsh statement saying, "I have seen no evidence that Senator McCain is successfully unifying the Republican Party or drawing conservatives into his fold. To the contrary, he seems intent on driving them away."

McCain responded that polls show conservatives are behind him but admitted he hasn't talked to Dobson, a frequent critic.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why not you know pick up the phone and call him and try to...

MCCAIN: Well, if Dr. Dobson wanted to speak to me, I'd be more than -- I'd be glad to speak to him. I just feel that I -- I'm doing what is necessary to keep our party united and to win in November.

BASH (on-camera): McCain pointed to polls showing he now has as much Republican support as George W. Bush did as a candidate. Privately, though, McCain's advisers say this kind of rebuke from Dobson may actually help them in their quest for Independent voters -- Lou.


DOBBS: Thank you very much, Dana Bash with the McCain campaign in Annapolis, Maryland, where apparently it does matter who makes the call.

Senators Clinton and Obama today battling over economic policies during campaign stops in Pennsylvania. Senator Clinton gave new details about her plan to stop corporate America from exporting middle-class jobs to cheap overseas labor markets. Senator Clinton said she would eliminate tax breaks for corporations that send those jobs to other countries.

Meanwhile, Senator Obama said he will oppose any trade agreement that threatens jobs in this country. Senator Obama criticized the proposed free trade deal with South Korea saying it would be, "bad for American workers".

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke today delivered his most pessimistic assessment yet of the state of our economy. In testimony on Capitol Hill this morning, Bernanke admitted for the first time that a recession may be under way or possible in this country.

Some economists say the economy is already in recession. Millions of our homeowners are caught up in the foreclosure crisis and many of them face bankruptcy.

Lisa Sylvester with our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kelly Vaccaro is a mother of five living in California. When her adjustable rate mortgage reset, her house payment went up $1,200. KELLY VACCARO, HOMEOWNER: I knew that it would change but my understanding was it would be a couple hundred dollars. I never dreamed that it would go up this much.

SYLVESTER: On the verge of losing her home, Vaccaro worked with her mortgage company to freeze her rate for two years but other homeowners have had a harder time, foreclosure are soaring in states like Michigan.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Families who are seeing their life's dream, their home being lost as a result of this crisis.

SYLVESTER: A bipartisan plan is in the works in the Senate. It could let states offer $10 billion in mortgage revenue bonds to subsidize mortgage refinancing, overhaul the federal government's loan insurance program, offer tax breaks for people to purchase foreclosed homes, and tax incentives for home builders. But skeptics say these are only small steps.

GUS FAUCHER, MOODY'S ECONOMY: The government may need to step in at some point and say either we're going to buy up some of these mortgages or we're going to help homeowners refinance through the FHA and guarantee those loans and to be honest with you, I think it's going to take some big step like that in order to really solve the problem.

SYLVESTER: The Bush administration and some Congressional members have resisted proposals like that.


SYLVESTER: Democrats point out the federal government was quick to act to save Wall Street's Bear Stearns from declaring bankruptcy. The Federal Reserve acted within 24 hours, but policymakers have moved as a snail's pace to save middle-class families from losing their homes -- Lou.

DOBBS: And there is some movement here in the nation's capital to help those homeowners but it's moving, as you say, at a snail's pace. The Senate barely moving procedurally ahead. I do not, for the life of me, understand what in the world is taking so long here to deal with this.

SYLVESTER: They've been doing a lot of horse trading, so you've got corporate groups, you've got home builders, everybody wants a piece of this so they see potential for tax breaks and such and that is what is slowing down the help that these homeowners really need.

DOBBS: And this is what is passing for leadership at a time when we are definitely in crisis in this economy. Thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester.

Still ahead, the federal government trying to overcome final resistance to the Real ID program.

Louise Schiavone will have our report -- Louise. LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the Department of Homeland Security is giving the state of Maine a year and a half extension to meet requirements for a tough, reliable driver's license.

DHS calls it a victory for the homeland. Opponents in Maine say it's a pause in the fight -- Lou.

DOBBS: Incredible and we look forward to your report.

Also, the latest on an outrageous miscarriage of justice, the imprisonment of former border patrol agents Ramos and Compean. We'll have an update and tell you what's going on there.

And troubling new evidence that some Mexican government officials are helping drug cartels smuggle drugs into this country. Imagine. That report and more straight ahead.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The mayor of a Mexican city tonight is facing charges of smuggling hundreds of pounds of cocaine into the United States over the past several years. Ruben Gil, who is the mayor of Izucar de Matamaoros was arrested in Los Angeles and flown to New York today for arraignment.

Bill Tucker has our report from outside the U.S. district court in lower Manhattan -- Bill.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the mayor, Ruben Gil, will be arraigned here in federal court tomorrow. He will be charged with one count and that is conspiracy to distribute cocaine and intent to possess to distribute cocaine. The mayor came to the attention of authorities a few years back in 2004 when a truck that was being driven by his brother that had the name "Gil Moving and Storage" (ph) written on it was pulled over and found to contain 330 pounds of cocaine.

The U.S. attorney here says they believe that Mr. Gil has been involved in other drug deals including some recent ones back in 2006, of a 48-pound shipment of cocaine and then just as recently as November of last year, a 24-pound shipment of cocaine. If he is convicted on this single count, he faces a maximum of life in prison in a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in jail.

U.S. attorney Michael Garcia praised the international law enforcement efforts, released a statement today saying that, "his arrest is the result of an extraordinary cooperation of international law enforcement partners." We did call the Mexican Consulate here in New York, Lou. The Consulate issued a simple statement saying that they will monitor his legal situation in the same way that it follows other cases involving criminal proceedings filed against Mexican nationals.

Now, as of now we should note that Gil has no listed counsel. But according to the U.S. attorney's office that I did speak with this afternoon, he is expected to have his own lawyer in court tomorrow, so we'll see.

And this is a long way away from his home, which is a small town down south of Mexico City, where, Lou, apparently, he's not very much missed. His brother-in-law has taken over position of acting mayor. They say they have no intentions of holding any new elections because things are going fine without him and they are not even sure that they understand what he's doing in Mexico, Lou, because apparently, he told local papers down there that he was in the United States seeking treatment for a kidney ailment and might not be back for some time -- Lou.

DOBBS: To be clear, this, these hundreds of pounds of cocaine on trucks that the mayor owned were in the United States? Is that correct?

TUCKER: That is correct, yes.

DOBBS: I suppose they weren't part of the Department of Transportation's pilot project to permit those Mexican trucks to roll across our roads, one only assumes. Thank you very much, Bill.

TUCKER: You bet you.

DOBBS: Bill Tucker from lower Manhattan outside the U.S. District Court building.

Former border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean have now been in prison in solitary confinement for more than a year. Now two congressmen are demanding that the Bureau of Prisons transfer those agents to a minimum security facility. Ramos and Compean are awaiting a decision from the appellate court, awaiting a decision on whether their convictions for shooting and wounding an illegal alien drug smuggler will be overturned.

Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former border patrol agent Ignacio Ramos is in this federal prison in Phoenix. Last year, he was brutally assaulted at another prison by inmates who learned he was one of two agents convicted of wounding an admitted drug smuggler who is an illegal alien and covering up the shooting.

Ramos has since been in solitary confinement for his own protection. Now, Congressman Duncan Hunter and Dana Rohrabacher say they've persuaded Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lapin to meet with Ramos. They're demanding transfers to a minimum security facility for Ramos and fellow former agent Jose Compean.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: They are going to review the incarceration status and the prospects of moving our two guys to a lower security facility. If they're in a lower security facility where you don't have lots of drug dealers and hard-core criminals, then they would probably be allowed to be with the general population in that lower security environment.

WIAN: A Bureau of Prison spokesman would not even confirm the meeting took place saying, "I have no information on it nor would that be information we would provide."


WIAN: Ramos and Compean are still waiting for a decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. At a hearing in December, two of three judges were critical of the federal government's prosecution of the two agents -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, we've been critical throughout of the federal government in this prosecution. It is disgraceful and by the way, the cute little statements from the Bureau of Prisons they wouldn't provide that information. You know come on, get real. You're talking about information that should be public.

It is a matter of public interest. We need to really get a hold of some of these people in this government and tell them to start thinking a little bit, at least, about their responsibility to the public. Then there is, of course, the issue about why in the world the appellate court is taking this long. What are you hearing about that, Casey?

WIAN: Well, what I'm hearing from attorneys involved in the case, from lawmakers who have taken up the case of these two agents, they're saying they're taking it as a good sign that the appellate court is taking so long, perhaps they're consulting with other judges on the appellate court.

They want to make sure -- because this case has so much national interest, they want to make sure they do the right thing. They want to take it very seriously, so they're holding out that hope that this means that the...

DOBBS: Here's the really serious issue, this administration railroaded these two agents. It's a miscarriage of justice. This -- the prosecutor in this case not putting that information that their so-called victim was, in point of fact, a perpetrator even as the case was being brought against these agents. This is disgusting.

This is how careful you've got to be. Put those facts in front of -- oh. It is just ridiculous, the situation we find these agents in. And for this to be tolerated in this country, this is the land of the free sometimes. I mean it's ridiculous.

WIAN: Yes, and if the Bureau of Prisons actually grants the requests by these two congressmen to move these agents to a minimum security facility and give them a little bit better treatment, it will be the first time that the federal government has acted in any way in the interests of these two agents in three years, Lou.

DOBBS: This administration has a lot to answer for and you can certainly put the names Ramos and Compean at the head of that list. Thank you very much, we appreciate it -- Casey Wian. Time now for our poll: Do you believe imprisoned former Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean should be set free while they await the results of their appeal?

Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Up next, the latest on the rebellion by some states against the Real ID Act. The federal law mandating secure driver's licenses and identification, what in the world is going on?

And the Bush administration pushing its free trade agenda. The only member of the Bush administration with the guts to appear -- member of this administration with the guts to appear on this broadcast and talk about issues with which we disagree is U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab. The ambassador joins us for a candid discussion of free trade and Colombia.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The governor of Maine today assured the Department of Homeland Security that new restrictions will be in place on the state driver's licenses. Those restrictions qualified Maine for an extension to the Real ID program. Now all 50 states have complied with the Department of Homeland Security's deadline, but there are a few twists in all of this.

Louise Schiavone has our report.


SCHIAVONE (voice-over): In an eleventh hour letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Maine Governor John Baldacci instructed by state law not to participate in a national identification card system has promised that he will, "seek legislation to halt Maine's current practice of issuing licenses to those not present lawfully in the United States," consistent with the will of Congress.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: Real ID is essential to make America safer.

SCHIAVONE: But Maine's Speaker of the House is signaling his colleagues won't make this easy for the governor telling LOU DOBBS TONIGHT quote, "the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles is not the place to be enforcing federal immigration policy. It is the job of the federal government and it is a job they should be doing."

A federally chartered post-9/11 Commission concluded that Real ID is a personal and national security must in the 21st century.

Said one member...

STEPHEN SPOONAMORE, CYBERSECURITY EXPERT: The federal government is making a decision, at least through the FAA and the airports to say, look, we have to draw the line.

SCHIAVONE: The 9/11 hijackers had ID's from Florida, California, Virginia, Arizona and Maryland. That day, 9/11 hijacker Muhammad Atta traveled through the airport in Portland, Maine.


SCHIAVONE: Lou, the state now has until the end of next year to resolve this before the down-easters (ph) of Maine confront ID rejections at the airport, but the debate comes as federal charges are pressed just this week against two accused illegal aliens from Brazil, one accused of driving the other from Massachusetts for a driver's license in Maine where no proof of residency or citizenship is required.

DOBBS: Bottom line, they're providing driver's licenses to illegal aliens in the state of Maine, thank you very much. And Governor Baldacci is playing games. The whole State Legislature is playing games and it's highly irresponsible and furthermore, we've seen established in this country, and thanks to the attorney general in the state of Michigan, the fact that the state of Maine is the one violating the law because they are the facto (ph) giving rights of citizenship to those who are not here lawfully.

It has got to stop. It is so simple, so straightforward the fact that they're putting the entire nation's security at risk. What did they say?

SCHIAVONE: Well, the word is out, evidently, because one of these two accused illegal aliens that was nabbed in this ID scam this week has been reportedly driving illegal aliens to Maine for a while to get their driver's licenses.

DOBBS: Well, Governor Baldacci -- please. This is ridiculous. And for it to be tolerated in this country is absurd. It's absolutely obscene what is happening and the fact the American people are tolerating it, the people of Maine putting up with this nonsense. Talk about being on a list of fools. That would, it seems to me to be the order of the day for them.

Thank you very much, appreciate it -- Louise Schiavone.

Well, "The New York Times" today writing an editorial that claims illegal immigration is saving our Social Security system. Now, folks, I've had a few problems with this liberal house organ for the Democratic Party. A newspaper that is wanting often in both reason and conscience, but this editorial titled how, "Immigrants save Social Security" highlights the 2008 annual report on Social Security and says illegal immigration is even better than legal immigration when it comes to the financial health of Social Security.

"The New York Times" editorial board has en masse lost its mind. Always, always an easy thing, it seems to me for "The Times" to do from time to time. They chose to pull out one isolated statistic this time rather than to report the total impact of illegal immigration on the federal budget. According to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, illegal aliens cost the federal government $10 billion a year more than they pay in taxes.

And, by the way, grab hold of this one; this is one of the few moments where "The New York Times" agrees with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been trying to push this Social Security salvation nonsense as the basis to ramp up that illegal immigration. We should bring maybe 100 million illegal immigrants into the country.

Maybe that would really, I mean, we could be probably balancing the federal budget, eliminate the national debt, the trade debt, get rid of $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities. How about that "New York Times" editorial board? Give us a little analysis on that.

The Bush administration so-called free trade agenda faces a lot of criticism on this -- on the campaign trail and here in this city in Congress, U.S. trade representative, Ambassador Susan Schwab joins me.

And thousands of our children diagnosed with autism each and every year. Tonight I'll be joined by one of the country's leading authorities on autism, Dr. Thomas Insel. And there are a lot of questions to answer.

Senator McCain facing new charges; he's not uniting the Republican Party says Christian conservative James Dobson. Three of the best political analysts in the country join me to talk about that and a great deal more.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The Bush administration continuing to push its free trade agenda, a policy that has cost millions of Americans their jobs. The president wants agreements now with Colombia, Panama, South Korea approved by congress before he leaves office.

The administration official leading the president's push for free trade is U.S. trade representative Ambassador Susan Schwab. She joins me here in Washington, D.C. tonight. And I have -- as I would like to tell everybody, Ambassador Schwab is one of the few people in this administration of the top levels, secretary levels, ambassador levels, with the guts to actually push the administration's proposals in the face of those who disagree with it.

So I compliment you both on that courage and the directness with which you apply yourself to your job. Welcome.

AMB. SUSAN SCHWAB, U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE: Happy to be here. Thank you. Very happy to be here.

DOBBS: Free trade. It sucks and I have been saying that for years. You think it's a panacea for much. Your president does. You want a free trade agreement with Colombia, why?

SCHWAB: Free and fair trade. You look at the strongest, most positive point in the U.S. economy today, it's U.S. exports. 40 percent of our economic growth last year was attributable to the increase in exports. So, here you got this deal with Colombia we negotiated and you can throw a lot of aggregate numbers about jobs and trade, we put this together one deal at a time and this deal even Lou Dobbs should like.

Right now, Colombia gets almost unlimited access to the U.S. market. 92 percent of what Colombia produces has been coming in here duty-free since 1991. This free trade agreement opens Colombia's market to our exports. And that means Caterpillar Tractors. It means John Deer equipment in Illinois. It means Sony televisions.

DOBBS: Coca-cola.

SCHWAB: Sony televisions out of Pennsylvania, apples, poultry, rice.

DOBBS: Sony televisions out of Pennsylvania?

SCHWAB: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shipped to Colombia. We have today 8,000 small and medium sized businesses that ship to Columbia. Right now, they face tariffs up to 35 percent. Here's the key. If we're going to be competitive vis-a-vis China, for example, those 8,000 small, medium-sized companies are competing with the Chinese for the Colombian market. If this free trade agreement gross through, we have the edge. We are more competitive.

DOBBS: There shouldn't be any doubt about it because if we have our markets open to 92 percent of Colombia's exports already, what in the world could China do that would be better than that? This is a $14 trillion economy and what do we get from, I mean, what does Colombia get by allowing g us to send our exports into Colombia?

Because this is sort of a unique reversal. It's an inverse free trade deal from the typical deals constructed over the course of the years.

SCHWAB: Well, it's similar to the agreement that went through the congress by an overwhelming majority with Peru. It is an example where because the U.S. has very low import restrictions, as you know very low tariffs, when we do a deal with a country that has trade preferences like this or a country that has very high barriers, it makes a huge amount of sense.

These are U.S. jobs, U.S. farmers, U.S. small business people, and the reasons the Colombians want to do it is they've had these temporary preferences rolled over since 1991. They want to lock it in and have that stability.

DOBBS: What does Congress say right now?

SCHWAB: We're waiting to find out. We need congress to move on this. This is in the U.S. interests and interests of our economy. You would need, I assume you would agree. It really is a good deal for American workers and American farmers by any definition.

DOBBS: What I don't agree is the overall policy of free trade that has been pursued by this administration and previous administration and point of fact since 1976 is in the interests of the United States. We've run 32 consecutive years of trade deficits. We need to get a handle on what is a sensible trade policy.

This nonsense, as this administration has advanced it even before you were trade representative, I would say that Mr. Market is, you know, Mr. Market's happy, we're all happy. That is such utter nonsense in international trade, in international finance, in our domestic economy.

We are going to be paying for those misjudgments for years and future generations for years if we don't come to terms with it. Why can we not have a rational, balanced mutual reciprocal trade policy?

SCHWAB: I think we do and if you look at our trade agenda and you look at the president's trade agenda, we're talking about free and fair trade and we're talking about being tough in terms of enforcing existing trade agreements, whether those are agreements associated with China coming into the WTO --

DOBBS: Then why do we have an $8 billion current account deficit?

SCHWAB: Well, there are a lot of macroeconomics. But when it comes to trade agreements, when it comes to trade agreements, U.S. exports to those countries where we have free trade agreements have gone up much faster than our exports to the rest of the world. Our trade deficit or surplus with any of these countries, free trade agreement countries, has improved with most of these countries during the course of this administration.

DOBBS: Susan Schwab, thanks for being here, U.S. trade representative.

SCHWAB: Thanks for the invitation.

DOBBS: Coming up next, why autism is becoming one of the fastest growing diseases in this country. Why it is still a mystery. The director of the National Institute of Mental Health joins me for some very important answers.

The state of confusion in the Democratic Party. What Howard Dean is saying tonight about Florida's delegates. What is going on with this guy, Howard Dean? We'll have that story and a lot more.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: This is the first ever World Autism Awareness Day. This year, more than 25,000 children in this country will be diagnosed with autism. Scientists have proven the disorder is present in children's brains before the age of three.

But as Kitty Pilgrim reports now, the causes of autism remain a profound mystery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go through what you just ...

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an image of autism. Dr. Eric Courchesne and Dr. Karen Pearce at the University of California Autism Center are looking for abnormalities in the brains of young infants who develop autism.

DR. ERIC COURCHESNE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AUTISM CENTER: This region of the brain here, the frontal lobes, is larger than a typical child his age.

PILGRIM: Autism is a developmental disability that causes impairment of social behavior and communication and can include unusual behaviors and interests.

Jimmy is a patient of the clinic and is undergoing an MRI to better analyze what is happening in his brain.

COURCHESNE: New imaging techniques, new genetic techniques, new techniques for identifying molecular characterization, characteristics and blood samples now make it possible to really understand the genetics, the underlying molecular biology and the brain basis for this disorder in a way that was never dreamed of ten years ago.

PILGRIM: Early diagnosis means early treatment and the chance of a better life for each child.

Research like this may also identify new types of autism. The definition of autism was expanded in 1994 and since then, the number of cases has been going up.

COURCHESNE: There is an increase in the rate of autism. When I first began research years ago, it was about one in 2,000. Now it's estimated that it's about one in 150. So, that's an alarming difference.

PILGRIM: The cause is still unknown. Most researchers agree it is partly genetic but what triggers autism is still not known. Dr. Courchesne talks about the theory that early childhood vaccines may trigger autism.

COURCHESNE: One of the concerns was thimerosal which is a chemical that was used as a preservative in vaccines. The concern about thimerosal as a possible cause or trigger for autism is now considered to be really rejected because it's no longer in the vaccines and the rates of autism remain high.

PILGRIM: Dr. Susan Swedo at the National Institute of Mental Health is working to discover possible environmental triggers to autism.

DR. SUSAN SWEDO, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH: This is a brain-based disease in which the children have a genetic vulnerability but something in the environment has triggered it in them.

PILGRIM: She is focusing her research on viruses or microbes that may be a trigger for autism.

SWEDO: Many people think environmental triggers as vaccines or toxins or something that man has done to them but we also know that the microbes are changing and it's equally possible that it's a virus or bacterial infection.

PILGRIM: For patients like Jimmy, there is still no clear answer.


PILGRIM: Some parents believe that a change in diet helps the symptoms of autism. Now, researchers don't rule that out. It could be effective for some patients but they say the best care for an autistic child is early screening and diagnosis so that a full range of therapies can be tried at the earliest sign of autism -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you very much.

Joining me now is Dr. Thomas Insel. He is director of the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the country's leading authorities on autism, if not the leading authority.

Dr. Insel, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: This rapid epidemic, surge in the incidents of this disease, has been going on for years and years now, not just since the turn of the century. What in the world, to the best of your understanding, is driving this rapid escalation of the disorder?

INSEL: Well, we know a little bit about what the magnitude of that change is. As Dr. Courchesne mentioned in the piece that Kitty did, it's gone from about one in 2,000 to one in 150 over the course of about a decade. So that's a profound increase in the prevalence, the number of cases you can count.

During that time, it's true that the diagnosis was changed a bit. It was widened. It's also true that we've gotten much better at detecting this disorder and perhaps actually identifying children who before would have been missed or given some other diagnosis. But it's also possible, as Dr. Courchesne suggested, that there is a real increase and there are more kids with this illness than were present ten years ago.

DOBBS: We know the parents of children with this disorder think there is a tremendous increase in the incidents of it. There's great fear amongst expectant parents of this disease. There's -- it seems reasonable that there should be a great and broad concern in our society as a whole.

What, to the best of your understanding and if you could put it in terms that even I as a television journalist can understand, what is your best, best possible understanding of what is driving, creating, causing this disease?

INSEL: The cause is still very much a mystery. This is one of those places where we have a lot more questions than answers. It's clear that this is a complex, it's really an umbrella, maybe better to talk about autisms so as we think about this, it's a spectrum.

On the one hand, you've got kids who have seizures, severe mental retardation, no language and are really almost unable to function. On the other hand, you have kids still within the autism spectrum who may have a very restricted interest and a few mechanical things, may relate better to machines than people. But they're going to grow up to be great engineers. Maybe not television journalists, but they'll do very well in some part of life. That whole spectrum --

DOBBS: That's doing better.

INSEL: You call that doing better, fair enough. But what you see here then is that this is a whole spectrum. It's not a single illness. It's not a single syndrome, even.

The only thing you could say is for all of these kids and all of these people, is that by age three they had these three factors. They have social deficit. They had problems with language and in some way they have very restricted and sometimes stereotyped interests.

DOBBS: One of the complaints that I have heard from parents of children with autism is that there's not enough money being spent in research. They're desperate for that research. They're desperate for help.

This is an ugly, ugly, ugly disorder that parents must deal with in their children. And I don't think there's certainly not an appreciation of the tremendous pain and the burden that parents experience in this disease.

What are we doing next to do something for the parents of these children? What are we doing next for these children?

INSEL: These are great questions. Certainly we're hearing the same thing from parents across the spectrum. People want answers and they want to know what caused this in my child and what can I do about it and if I'm going to have another child, what can I do to make sure the next one doesn't get it as well.

So, what we've -- first of all, I should say there has been a profound increase in the research investment here because these are science questions. The investment at NIH, National Institute of Health alone, has gone from about $22 million to $126 million this year, over the last decade. So, you see, it's about six fold increase is real ramping up of interest.

DOBBS: Is it enough?

INSEL: It's probably never going to be enough. I mean, what will determine when it's enough is when we have the answers. We're going to have to bring more people, more money and more intensity to this fight.

DOBBS: Well, Dr. Insel, thanks to you for trying to help us understand this disorder and what's happening and what's required. Thanks to everyone working in science and medicine trying to help these children and their parents and future generations.

Thank you very much, Dr. Thomas Insel.

INSEL: Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: At the top of the hour, the Election Center with Campbell Brown.

Campbell, tell us what you're working on.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well Lou, we've got a lot happening on the campaign trail tonight. Senators Clinton and Obama wooing the labor vote in Pennsylvania. John McCain sticks to telling his life's story and we'll ask our experts whether he'd do better to get back to the issues.

Also, we're going to talk the politics of autism and, Lou, it comes down to ideas but also money, big money.

We'll have all of that coming up. I'll see you at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Look forward to it. Thank you, Campbell.

Up next, hear more politics. Former President Bill Clinton some say losing his cool, some say expressing himself rather directly and the Democratic Party leadership, well, facing rising pressure, some ridicule for the way they're handling this race for the presidential nomination in their party. Three of the best political analysts in the country join me for that and a great deal more.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.


DOBBS: Joining me now three of the best and my favorite political analysts, Diana West, "Washington Times" and also the author of the book, "The Death of the Grownup." Jonathan Martin, who mistakenly referred to the Washington Redskins this week as America's team. We've got that sorted out. And Joe Madison of WOL and XM Radio here in Washington, D.C. who never makes any mistakes of any kind.

Good to see you.

JOE MADISON, XM RADIO: Certainly not about football.

DOBBS: Let's start out with this is one of my favorites. Senator McCain, according to founder of Focus on the Family, James Dobson, Christian conservative says, he hasn't seen any evidence that Senator McCain is uniting the party or drawing in conservatives. JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO.COM: There's no evidence that James Dobson is happy yet with McCain that's for sure and that's reflected by that statement and but I think McCain has made some progress towards coalescing the party around him. But as Dobson's statement reflects, there's still work to go.

DOBBS: Be careful, you could get in trouble with God.

MARTIN: There is work to go yet with Christian conservative elite folks like Dobson who I think do require some more, frankly, stroking and McCain is somebody who is the not very fond of kissing rings, Lou.

DIANA WEST, "WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, the -- they're not satisfied.

DOBBS: Who in America is? We're Americans. We're not supposed to be in the business of kissing rings.

WEST: But I think the leaders on this wing of the party are holding out for more. I mean, it's too soon for them to unite.

DOBBS: Negotiation?

WEST: Yes, negotiation.


MADISON: And it's going to be negotiations that may go awry. I think what Americans really want now and we're seeing this is they do want change. I think what's very clear, this will probably turn off more independents than anything else if we go back into this, this division that we had eight years ago, four years ago. I think it's going to be rather difficult for them if they keep insisting, but you're right. It is negotiation.

DOBBS: Difficult for whom?

MADISON: Difficult for the Republicans. This will be, this will be their -- this will be their Reverend Wright.

DOBBS: Do you agree?

MARTIN: I'm not sure I would go that far.

DOBBS: Reverend Wright and Dr. James Dobson. You've drawn a nice parallel.

MADISON: Get those two on the show.

DOBBS: I would love it.

MARTIN: Some Christian conservatives certainly are polarizing figures and for all their followers do tend to turn off a good swath of the country, like Independent voters.

MADISON: That's point I'm making.

DOBBS: The other part of this is McCain's reaction. Asked by Dana Bash if he had called James Dobson to just have a little discussion about this, he said rather, I thought with some brittleness, no, in view -- and he would be delighted if Dobson were to call him.

WEST: That's exactly right.

DOBBS: Thinking of the ring thing. Not good with this ring kissing, but, anyway. As we watch Obama and Clinton continue, I love something that's the former president did today. He suggested Obama withdraw from the race. I guess assuming it was about time to turn the tables. What do you think?

MADISON: I think this is ridiculous. I mean, wait a minute. Listen. How do you suggest the person who has more delegates, more popular vote, withdraw? In other words, it's like -- it's like running a race, OK, Lou Dobbs and I run it. We're running the race. You're ahead.

DOBBS: I can see 50 percent of that.

MADISON: But you're ahead and somebody says, well, Lou --

DOBBS: I can't see that at all.

MADISON: You ought to quit. You ought to quit, you know. You're ahead, you ought to quit.

DOBBS: I would say that. Wait.

DOBBS: What, because you're out of breath?

DOBBS: Absolutely.

MADISON: He's not out of breath. That's absurd. This is ridiculous.

DOBBS: But it's fun. It's fun. It's a nice change from the nasty tenor of this --

WEST: I think it's nasty.

MADISON: I still think it's nasty.

WEST: I think it's still nasty. It's nasty.

DOBBS: Is there a thing as a sweet kind of nasty?

WEST: It's an entertaining kind of nasty and I think there's something farcical about it and there's something Bill Clinton I think this whole election has cast him into caricature status and that's kind of what her presidential run has done more than anything. Before that, he was the golden god of davos.

DOBBS: I got to tell you, I'll tell you what I really believe when we come back when it comes to Bill Clinton.

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


DOBBS: We're back with Diana West, Jonathan Martin and Joe Madison.

What I was about to say before we went to break is I believe if former President Bill Clinton weren't aggressively advocating for husband wife, all of the national media would be writing about, what happened to Bill Clinton? What do you think?

MARTIN: Well, no, I think that Bill Clinton is a double-edged sword, it's cliche, it's been said before but there's no question she has no better lobbyist than Bill Clinton. When the former president of the United States calls you and you're a superdelegate, you tend to take that call. That's a pretty powerful thing.

What's fascinating in the past couple of days, Clinton and Obama both are turning their fire to John McCain though. They recognize that there are a lot of Democrats out there that are fretting about how nasty this race is getting. Clinton has a new ad up now shooting directly at John McCain; Obama every day now on the stump that he shot with John McCain. They're trying to sway their party a little bit by dropping that sort of nasty tenor and focusing more on their fall.

DOBBS: Well part of the nastiness isn't over and it can't conclude expect with a conclusion and that is giving both Florida delegates and Michigan delegates to the national convention and that means giving them a vote, the millions of Democratic voters in both Florida and Michigan a vote. Now today Howard Dean says you know, I think we can see the delegation. Nobody knows what that means.

What do you think?

WEST: They agreed that they would accept an agreement that both sides, Clinton and Obama, would accept. And they left that to the future to be decided. That was really going back to football. That was really punting the ball on this one.

MADISON: They agreed to nothing. This was Washington speak. It was nothing. I mean, it wasn't even a framework. We know they're going to have to --

DOBBS: This is Washington, we've got to have framework.

MADISON: We know they have to agree to something. I honestly think what has to happen -- they've got to find an honest broker. It might be Willie Brown, Al Gore, maybe it's a combination of Willie Brown and Al Gore. I just throw those two names out because they're uncommitted.

But you've got to have an honest broker that both sides will accept. And this is almost like negotiating a major peace accord between two countries. MARTIN: And so far Howard Dean hasn't filled that role.

MADISON: And -- he has not.

DOBBS: Howard Dean looks like -- well, we know --

MADISON: Inept. That's my word.

DOBBS: That's a good word. That's a good word. Thank you, Joe.

And inept isn't going to get it. Becaus this isn't about the approval of Clinton and Obama. This is about what will be the reaction of millions of Democratic voters in Florida, in Michigan, if they're disenfranchised by the party they thought where was one where every vote counted.

MADISON: He lacks leadership in this situation. And leadership means you have to take a bold move and he doesn't want to do that.

DOBBS: And that's a great opportunity for one of these two candidates, either Clinton or Obama, to show the leadership necessary here. This is a real opportunity for one of them, to be innovative, to be strong, and to take action and lead.

MADISON: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Joe Madison, thank you, sir.

MADISON: Thank you very much for having me.

DOBBS: Good to see you, Diana West. Thank you very much, ma'am.

And thank Jonathan Martin, thank you sir.

MARTIN: Thank you. Go Skins.

DOBBS: We'll let you get away with that because it's early yet. But about September time, don't count on that one.

Tonight's poll results -- 97 percent of you say imprisoned former Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean should be set free now while they await the results of their appeal.

And finally tonight, I want to extend to you a personal -- I want to extend a personal thank you to the American Legion. They honored me today with a National Commander's Award.

The American Legion is this country's largest veteran's organization representing the men and women who proudly serve this nation forever. I'm honored to be recognized with such a distinguished group.

My thanks to the National Commander Marty Conatser, and everyone at the American Legion. God bless. Thank you.

And thank you for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. Good night from Washington.

The "ELECTION CENTER" with Campbell Brown begins now -- Campbell.