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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Obama Seeks Blue-Collar Votes; McCain Lays Out Housing Crisis Plan; L.A. Mayor Demands Federal Government Stop Enforcing Immigration Laws; Victory for Second Amendment in Florida

Aired April 10, 2008 - 19:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, HOST, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Thank you, Wolf.
Tonight thousands of criminal illegal aliens released from prison and jails are on our streets. Their home nations refuse to take them back. The Bush administration, our federal government too cowardly to stop a worsening crisis. We'll have that report.

The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, is demanding the federal government stop enforcement of our immigration laws in his city because the mayor says such a crackdown would be bad for business. We'll have his story.

And a victory for gun owner rights, our constitutional rights. A Florida state law now allows employees to carry guns to work. We'll have that special report, all of that, all the day's news and more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Thursday, April 10. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

All three presidential candidates tonight try to represent themselves as populists in an effort to win the support of Independent voters. Senator John McCain announced a plan to help as many as 400,000 homeowners who can't pay their mortgages.

Senator Clinton today campaigned in old industrial areas of Pennsylvania. She was there trying to win the support of voters concerned about our worsening economic crisis.

And Senator Obama trying to sell himself as a Washington outsider, not beholden to any special interests. We have complete coverage tonight of these candidates' battle now to win the populist vote.

We begin with Bill Schneider in Philadelphia -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Lou, Obama is going after this state's huge blue-collar vote with an anti-Washington populist message.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Teamsters and Barack Obama, his benefit. Here's Teamsters' President Jim Hoffa leading a convoy across Pennsylvania.

JIM HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: I believe in Barack Obama and I believe that we can change this country.

SCHNEIDER: Obama who has not been doing well with blue-collar workers took his own tour across Pennsylvania.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I met folks in factories and in farms and bars and -- bowling alleys.

SCHNEIDER: These are voters who desperately want change.

HOFFA: There's a despair out there that we can't change things. We've been beaten down.

SCHNEIDER: On Wednesday, the Teamsters convoy made its way to Reading, Pennsylvania, where the York Peppermint Pattie factory is shutting down moving more than 250 jobs to Mexico. Your peppermint pattie will be wearing a sombrero. The target of the worker's anger, NAFTA.

HOFFA: People remember Clinton and NAFTA. And I think when we talk about changing NAFTA, I think that Barack Obama has more credibility.

SCHNEIDER: Obama's running as a Washington outsider.

OBAMA: That story of diminishing opportunity starts in Washington. It is not an accident.

SCHNEIDER: Many workers see Hillary Clinton as a Washington insider, part of the system that gave them NAFTA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When her husband was in office, he OKed NAFTA and other trade agreements.

SCHNEIDER: Obama suddenly reminds voters that he's not part of that system.

OBAMA: For over two decades what we've heard from President Bush has been the so-called ownership society, which really means you're on your own.

SCHNEIDER: Two decades, wouldn't that include the Clinton years? Yes, it would.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Obama is counting on his outsider appeal more than his lifestyle to break Hillary Clinton's lock on the blue collar vote. He reminds workers that when it comes to enjoying the gains of economic growth, they're outsiders too -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

How persuasive is that for a United States senator, a Democratic candidate for president to offer himself up as an outsider?

SCHNEIDER: He's only been in Washington a couple of years, so unlike Hillary Clinton, who has been there most of the past two decades, he claims greater authenticity as an outsider because he's new.

DOBBS: You know what I love, Bill, is these candidates offer themselves up as experienced or as outsiders, I guess in Senator Obama's case, his lack of experience in this case permits him to be an outsider, so that's an ad (ph) positive for him these days, right?

SCHNEIDER: That's turning what ought to be a disadvantage into an advantage or at least he is certainly trying.

DOBBS: Well why not?

Thank you very much, Bill Schneider.

Well Senator McCain today also trying to broaden his appeal offering something of a populist message as well to voters. Senator McCain was in New York where he presented a new plan to help homeowners caught up in our housing crisis. The senator's plan also an effort to deflect criticism that he has appeared indifferent to the plight of struggling homeowners.

Dana Bash has our report -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. You know John McCain actually went to Brooklyn today and he announced what he called a, "plan of action" to get the American economy back on track. It was by design a very different tone than he took two weeks ago when he delivered a tough love speech on the housing crisis.

That generated a pounding from Democrats suggesting he is out of touch with Americans' woes. Well today he offered his first tangible proposal to help what he called well meaning homeowners facing foreclosure on their homes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe a more robust timely and targeted effort is my home plan. It offers every deserving American family or homeowner the opportunity to trade a burdensome mortgage for a manageable loan that reflects the market value of their home. This plan is focused on people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The gist of McCain's plan is to allow people who can prove they could afford their home when they bought it but can't pay their sub prime loan now, can get a new one. And McCain advisers they had been pointing us to next week, tax day for his comprehensive economic plan, but between this today and yesterday's speech to hedge fund managers criticizing corporate greed, they clearly realized that McCain was not connecting or to borrow a phrase, Lou, feeling the pain of millions of Americans right now. DOBBS: Yes, this is in stark contrast to his basically it's your fault, a Marie Antoinette approach that he took to this housing crisis, in particular as if somebody was advising him that all of these financial institutions that have operated with impunity and disregard for the well being of the consumers that they're ripping off, for sometime that -- you know they're absolutely blameless and the people, let them eat cake.

What is getting through to him? Is it polling? Is it advisers? What is it?

BASH: Well you know I will tell you what the McCain campaign insists is that what we all took from his speech two weeks ago was you know let them eat cake part of the speech that the tough love part of the speech and that in there he did have some empathy for people who kind of got caught up in this and didn't mean it.

But the reality is, Lou, it was very much a tough love speech. And the answer to your question is that if you just look at the kind of pounding he's been getting from Democrats and the reality of what's going on out there, he realizes -- the McCain campaign realizes, especially on the issue like the economy, he's got to be able to connect more. That's why we're seeing this. There's no question about it.

DOBBS: If he continues this business of being the biggest free trader at a time when we're now have witnesses 32 consecutive years of trade deficits. If he continues this stuff of not wanting to regulate these markets when they are absolutely requiring regulation and when he is blaming consumers rather than those institutions that have taken advantage of those consumers, this senator is going to have a very hard time upgrading his job, it seems to me. Is there that sense in his staff?

BASH: Well what they do say, Lou, and particular on an issue like trade, they insist he's not going to change his position on those issues. That at his core, he is a free-market Republican and wants to stick to the principles that guide Republicans on those issues like anti or deregulation for a lot of these markets. But you know as they said and as was very evident by today, they also understand there's a balancing act with regard to the reality that people are peopling out there.

DOBBS: Well if there is some sort of commitment, a high bound commitment to the orthodoxy and this senator believes that means he has to be a faith-based, free-trade advocate just like this president and if he means that he believes we should not be regulating these markets, he's far a field, it seems to me, from traditional Republican values. Not so far a field from recent Republican and Democratic views.

Dana Bash, thank you very much.

Senator Clinton tonight is in Pennsylvania where she is trying to improve her support among Democrats. Senator Clinton emphasizing also populist themes, trying to appeal to voters concerned about soaring energy and health care costs, skyrocketing gasoline prices, and stagnate or declining wages.

Suzanne Malveaux is with the Clinton campaign in Pittsburgh and has our report -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, Senator Clinton is really emphasizing a number of things. She's talking about tax cuts for working class families. She's talking about repealing those tax cuts, those tax breaks for the wealthy. She's also talking about amending the North Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, as well as trying to create these new green jobs, thousands of green jobs by trying to get alternative sources of energy.

But another thing that she's doing, Lou, here is that she's trying to paint herself as the leader and McCain and Obama as the followers. That she has taken the lead on a number of issues including the economy, so what we heard from her today is essentially saying that she was happy that McCain has followed her lead when it comes to calling for President Bush to boycott the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. That she is pleased that McCain has followed her lead when it comes to providing federal aid for those families who are caught up in the mortgage crisis.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two weeks ago Senator McCain said he would rather do nothing than something about the housing crisis and attacked my plans with tired right wing talking points. Well today it looks like he's proposing a warmed over, half-hearted version of the very plan he criticized. To help families restructure mortgages and keep housing prices from falling further. Apparently Senator McCain got the message, letting the phone ring and ring is not the way to respond to economic crises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So Lou, you hear that familiar refrain there, the 3:00 a.m. phone call, the phone ringing, accusing McCain of not responding to the crisis or at least not responding quick enough or really enough in a fashion that would be adequate. She is setting up this scenario, this contrast, saying essentially she's got a plan, some $30 billion to help the states buy those foreclosed properties, that she's got a 90-day moratorium on these foreclosures.

That this is what people need and that McCain's plan is not adequate or at least he's a bit late in coming to the table with these ideas -- Lou.

DOBBS: And I think as a matter of just simply independent objective verification here, we should point out that Senator Clinton is exactly right. She was first on those issues, first with the recognition of the problem and first with a proposal to deal with the crisis -- correct?

MALVEAUX: She was first, she did take the lead. We heard Senators Obama and McCain follow -- Senator Obama a very similar plan to McCain's talking about a 30-billion economic stimulus package, as well as some other regulation in government incentives here. But clearly, Senator Clinton was out ahead of both her opponents when it came to specifics on the housing crisis.

DOBBS: And while it sounded -- I have to say her analysis today sounded compelling as soon as she dropped into that 3:00 a.m. phone call. Have you talked with her staff? Is there any thought of perhaps since she's doing so well on the other part, perhaps belaying the 3:00 a.m. phone call or are we going to hear that for the rest of the campaign?

MALVEAUX: I think you might hear that refrain coming up again, Lou. This is something that they feel initially at least when it came to national security, it worked very well, somewhat mixed reviews when it came to this economic crisis, painting an economic crisis at 3:00 in the morning, but clearly that is something, a refrain that they're going to stick with for a while.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Suzanne Malveaux.

Time now for our poll question tonight: Is which of these candidates do you believe is sincere in their positioning as a, "populist" president? Senator Hillary Clinton? Senator Barack Obama? Senator John McCain?

We'd like to hear from you on this. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later.

Well this newfound populist movement extending to the House of Representatives today on the issue of free trade. The House of Representatives voted to 224 to 195 to block a vote on a free trade agreement with Colombia. That vote effectively kills the deal. That amidst a rising backlash by Democrats against the president's so- called free trade agenda and his economic and national security policies that have been conflating when it comes to dealing with Colombia.

President Bush's handling of our economic crisis has helped pushed his public approval to an all-time new low, the latest Associated Press/Ipsos poll gives President Bush an approval rating of only 28 percent, his previous record low was 30 percent, that a month ago.

President Bush today focused on the war in Iraq. The president ordered an indefinite halt to withdrawals of our troops from Iraq after July. That's when the last surge reinforcements are scheduled to leave Iraq. President Bush endorsing General Petraeus' call for that pause in troop cuts. And President Bush also announcing Army combat tours overseas will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months.

Insurgents have killed another of our troops in Iraq. A soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad; 19 of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month; 4,031 of our troops have been killed since the war began; 29,676 of our troops wounded; 13,249 of them seriously. Coming up next here, the city of Los Angeles taking its sanctuary policy for illegal aliens to a new level.

Casey Wian will have our report -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the mayor of Los Angeles has a new reason he wants immigration officials to stop raiding businesses that hire illegal aliens here. We'll tell you what it is coming up.

DOBBS: Thanks, Casey. We look forward to your report.

And a stunning new example of United Nations meddling. What is this institution all about, this United Nations? This time in the war against violent drug cartels in Mexico, the United Nations wants to interfere this time with the sovereignty of Mexico.

And gun owners across the entire country today are celebrating an important victory. We'll be telling you all about that, a great deal more.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, Immigration and Customs Enforcement not only has to fight of course to apprehend illegal aliens in this country and other violators, they also have to fight all sorts of adversaries and political opponents as well. First, it was the Catholic Church, then the police chief of Los Angeles, now the mayor of Los Angeles demanding that our federal agents stop enforcing this nation's immigration laws.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says immigration raids are "bad for business in Los Angeles," just another example of that city's utter contempt for our laws and the city's outright support for ethnocentric special interest groups.

Casey Wian has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN (voice-over): Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is demanding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement stop targeting employers who hire illegal aliens. He says ICE raids are bad for business.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: We're the second largest manufacturing center in the United States of America, apparel, 75,000 employees. We have got to focus our efforts on the bad guys, on those who are exploitative, those who are engaged in criminality like the gang criminals.

WIAN: Villaraigosa wrote Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff saying, "I am gravely concerned that ICE's current apparent focus on non-exploitative employers in and around the city of Los Angeles could have severe and lasting effects on our local economy." The mayor says he's been contacted by businesses worried they could be targeted by ICE including American Apparel, sponsor of an ad campaign called Legalize LA. The company did not respond to requests for a comment about its hiring practices.

Villaraigosa says ICE should instead target businesses that exploit illegal aliens by violating wage and safety laws.

VILLARAIGOSA: We have to enforce our laws, but we have to enforce them in a humane way, in a way that reflects our Constitution and in a way that prioritizes our resources.

WIAN: In a statement the Department of Homeland Security responded, "We focus our enforcement efforts on employers who are egregiously violating immigration laws, especially when those violations compromise our nation's security. Violators face prosecution for federal crimes that include hiring illegal aliens, harboring illegal aliens, identity or document fraud and Social Security fraud. No industry regardless of size, type or location is immune from complying with the law."

A spokeswoman says ICE has conducted just one major worksite raid in Los Angeles in more than a year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Villaraigosa says he wants ICE to focus on arresting illegal alien criminals and gang members. Yet he still supports the Los Angeles Police Department's policy of not arresting known gang members for solely immigration law violations -- Lou.

DOBBS: How does this mayor in any way square off this absolutely irrational, contradictory approach on sanctuary, on 287-G, on a host of other elements of our immigration law?

WIAN: He says that the police chiefs of Los Angeles for the last 30 years have supported this approach and that's why he supports it. He says he wants illegal aliens who are witnesses of crimes to not fear the police so they don't want them to think that they're going to be arrested...

DOBBS: And we should...

WIAN: ... just for their immigration status.

DOBBS: And we should remind everyone this is the same city, the City of Angels that is participating in an exchange program with other hemispheric police departments, what are they sending eight -- are they exchanging -- what is it eight police officers, that's their big contribution to this anti-gang task force?

WIAN: Yes I think it's four from each side to stop the -- it's a pilot program, Lou. They're hoping to expand it, but for now it's four on each side to stop this cross border movement of gangs.

DOBBS: Let's be clear the mayor of Los Angeles no matter what else he is, he is acting with impunity because this administration is made up of cowards. All of the elected officials who can take action against this intellectual and I think political fraud, they are even as much lacking in both character and capacity as he.

Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Casey Wian.

Well the United Nations is at it again. The United Nations Human Rights Commission is notorious for defending the world's most oppressive and disgusting regimes. But even by United Nations standards this next story that I am about to tell you is just pretty much unbelievable.

The United Nations now -- the United Nations now wants Mexico to stop using its military to fight vicious drug cartels on our southern border. And the reason -- the United Nations is concerned about the rights of the members of those drug gangs.

Kitty Pilgrim has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Violent Mexican drug gangs are a scourge on the U.S./Mexican border. But the U.N. high commissioner of human rights is worried about protecting human rights in the area, objecting that Mexico uses its military to engage in law enforcement activities.

She goes on to worry about the legal oversight of the military, writing, "effective remedies must be available for human rights violations perpetrated by military personnel." After 5,000 deaths in the last two years, some think she has it backwards like this former U.S. diplomat.

JIM ROBERTS, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think it's very unfortunate that she would focus on something like that and not on the bigger picture, which is the human rights of Mexicans who are being violated every day by these well-armed extremely wealthy drug gangs who have corrupted the local police in northern Mexico to the extent that President Felipe Calderon has felt the need to use the Mexican army, at least in the short term to fight against these thugs.

WILLIAM NEWELL, ATF: Make no mistake it's a war in Mexico. It's a war between the drug cartels for power and for control of territory and it's a war between the government of Mexico and those drug cartels.

PILGRIM: It's not the first time the U.N. got it wrong. The U.N. track record on human rights has been described as so disgraceful the former commission on human rights had to be disbanded for ignoring human rights violations in Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea, and Sudan.

JOSH MURAVCHIK, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The U.N. has made a mockery of human rights. It's never said a word in criticism of China. It's never said a word in criticism of Saudi Arabia.

PILGRIM: The United States still refuses a seat on the so-called newly reformed Human Rights Council, saying the body has lost its credibility.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: A spokeswoman for Louise Arbor, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said from her office in Geneva today they had received calls questioning her position, but the commissioner, "stands by her statement on Mexico" -- Lou.

DOBBS: No one is more critical than I am of the government of Mexico on the issues of illegal immigration on border security and drug trafficking. But I have been as commending as I possible can be of Felipe Calderon in his efforts to fight the drug cartels within his own country, doing far more than Vicente Fox ever considered doing, don't even think about going back to Carlo Salinas (ph) and beyond that in Mexico.

He deserves great credit and great support. But the United Nations and Louise Arbor, they are frankly these are not only embarrassing and disgusting statements, but these are statements that are supportive of the drug cartels. And I think that she should be investigated for supporting them in her statements rather than condemning them and there is no question that that should take place immediately.

PILGRIM: You know you really have to question why she didn't stick up for the violation of the human rights of the people who are victims of the drug cartels. That would seem to be the role.

DOBBS: She is a corrupt and pitiful and apparently to some useful fool. She deserves investigation. We need to know why this is happening. And the United Nations frankly is an institution that has frankly outlived its own futility.

It is time for the United States to withdraw from it, to get rid of it. It is a nonsensical and ineffective organization and expensive one, too, expensive in that we have to carry responsibility for these kinds of embarrassments as well as the financial cost of course.

Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

Coming up next, another housing bailout, why there's so much help for big business and so little help for our home owners.

And a new gun law in Florida, well it's a victory for one of this country's most cherished basic constitutional rights and it's really, really upsetting the politically correct crowd that would like to roll the Constitution over. We'll have that report and a great deal more straight ahead.

Stay with us. It's going to get even more fun.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We have a new record to report to you tonight, the federal budget deficit soaring to an all-time record of $311 billion for just the first half of this budget year. That's up more than 20 percent from a year ago. And the U.S. trade deficit also soaring to its highest level since last November to more than $62 billion.

Gasoline prices, I am sad to report to you, have hit another new record high at more than $3.35 a gallon nationwide. Diesel prices also hitting a new record, hitting independent truckers and particularly hard more than $4 a gallon, while the dollar rebounded a bit after hitting a new low against the Euro.

The Senate today passed a $15 billion plan to tackle our housing crisis, that's right, it's a $15 billion plan, a crisis that is devastating millions of our middle class families. This plan has however a fundamental flaw. It does far more for big business than it does for embattled and threatened home owners.

Christine Romans has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Democrat- led Senate overwhelmingly passed a housing and mortgage relief plan that gives billions of dollars in tax breaks to home builders losing money. The very companies that made a fortune during the housing boom.

Business tax breaks, the biggest chunk of the Senate plan, though it would also give a $7,000 tax credit to people who buy foreclosed homes and $4 billion to local governments to buy homes in neighborhoods blighted by foreclosure.

Here in Cleveland, the foreclosure crisis has bombed out entire neighborhoods, and the county treasurer is fed up with Washington politics and the bailouts for everyone but the homeowners.

JIM ROKAKIS, CUYAHOGA COUNTY TREASURER: We just -- look at this. Look at today: $25 billion for home builders. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Why don't we talk about the moral hazard of bailing out home builders who continue to build?

ROMANS: Across the country, some 20,000 families a week are losing their homes, and that's just subprime foreclosures. Prime loans are beginning to fail, as well.

On the campaign trail, these three Senators are trying to show they feel the pain of working Americans. Republican John McCain giving his most detailed stance yet on the housing crisis. He opposes funds to purchase homes in foreclosure and tax breaks for home builders and says in some cases, lenders and borrowers both made greedy choices.

MCCAIN: And it's not the responsibility of the American public to spare them from the consequences of their own bad judgment.

ROMANS: The White House announced its own plan this week to help 100,000 more homeowners by the end of the year. But the end of the year might be too late. The way they see it in Cleveland...

ROKAKIS: Things are not getting better; they're getting worse. And for a lot of neighborhoods, it's too late.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Jim Rokakis in Cleveland says he's discouraged by the idea that home builders and big business could be eligible for billions, and that people buying foreclosed homes could be investors. They could get a nice little tax break. He's concerned we're not doing enough to prevent foreclosures in the first place, Lou.

DOBBS: It is discouraging to say -- and this is putting it as gently as I can -- to see Senator McCain talking about, effectively no responsibility for those people who were defrauded by financial institutions, the very home builders. He's right.

Let me say this clearly and unequivocally so there is no distortion whatsoever of what I'm saying. Those home builders should not be receiving that money. That's absolutely wrong, just as Bear Stearns should not have seen a single dime.

And I will tell you this. The Fed, the treasury secretary, they're utterly wrong about what have been the consequences, had we not bailed that institution out.

We have got to come to terms with one thing. This government, this country exists for the people. And if we're not going to take care of the people, we haven't got a chance of holding onto anything that is worthwhile. Except, of course, for the CEOs who are making 400 times more their average employees' salary. It's unconscionable.

ROMANS: In the meantime, you've got people who are really trying to figure out how to save their homes. You've got people who earn a 30-year fix whose neighbors are losing their homes. Their own property values are going down.

DOBBS: They're plummeting.

ROMANS: Plummeting, right. And you've got hearings. You've got competing congressional legislation. You've got White House plans. You've got community redevelopment plans. And people on the campaign trail with their own plans.

DOBBS: I am reminded, and frankly, you and I have been business journalists in our -- in our recent past. I'm reminded, without question, of the Great Depression in this regard, that politically, the country had a right-wing president sitting in the Oval Office. The country supported that president, without question.

Herbert Hoover was a popular president until -- until the economy reversed and people were absolutely hammered by a reversal of economic fortunes. And people in this country believe that we cannot see a left-wing politician elected president. They should think back to that period and what happened with the fellow by the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

ROMANS: Voters can become very powerful at times like these. Right now, Jim Rokakis in Cuyahoga County says that you've got all the action in Washington is drive by special interests right now. But there's one big special interest they're ignoring, and that are -- those are the people who are going to -- are going to -- they're going to vote on this.

DOBBS: Well, one would hope that the people will be driven to vote on this. Because if I hear one more politician, whether it's Senator McCain, whether it's a governor, whether it is a senator or a congressman, say that they have a responsibility to institutions that transcends their responsibilities to the people, I mean, it is absurd what is going on in this country right now.

We're talking about a trillion-dollar credit market crisis. We're talking about more than $2 trillion in lost value to Americans' home values. You get the foreclosure part of this. Just the lost value as these prices are receding. We have to have leadership.

Instead, what we have are more pigs lining up at the trough. And with the -- with the -- abetted by Democrats as well as Republicans. This is what we're watching. This is what we're witnessing, and we've got to turn it around soon.

I hope one of three candidates -- I hope all three of them. I'll be ecumenical, if I may. All three of these presidential candidates, make it all four, including Ralph Nader, should be certain, standing up and speaking loudly and directly. Because this time, this timid approach that is being taken is simply not going to get it done, in my opinion.

Christine, thank you very much. Christine Romans.

Coming up next here, a victory for our Second Amendment. Gun rights in the state of Florida. We'll have a special report.

And President Bush suspends withdrawals of our troops from Iraq after July. General David Grange joins us. And the three senators running for president discover the merits of something called the people. Populism, it's here. I'll be talking about that and more with three top political analysts and strategists.

Stay with us for it, coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, the Supreme Court will be making a decision this term about the Second Amendment. But I'll tell you one thing: we don't have to wait for the Supreme Court to tell you about a victory for Second Amendment.

The Florida state legislature passed a law allowing gun owners to keep firearms locked in their cars at work. The compromise legislation is being called "Take your gun to work" legislation. It's the result of a three-year battle with business groups that had strongly fought this measure.

Bill Tucker has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In October 2003, eight employees of Weyerhaeuser in Valley, Oklahoma, (ph) were fired for having guns in their cars. The cars were parked in a public access parking lot. It was the start of deer-hunting season.

In March 2004, Oklahoma passed a law allowing employees to carry their firearms to work, leaving them stowed in a locked car. The bill passed overwhelmingly.

Since Oklahoma passed its law, seven other states have followed the example and passed similar laws: Alaska, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi and Kansas.

In Florida and Georgia, where there are bills needing only the signatures of their governors, big business groups have led the fight against these laws, their lawyers arguing that business has an obligation to protect workers from potential harm in the work place.

The National Rifle Association says that without these laws, right-to-carry legislation in 40 states could be null and void, endangering the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Every hotel, every motel, every gas station, every fast-food outlet, all would be off limits to -- to pulling into the lot with a firearm in the trunk of your car.

So, while you may have a Second Amendment right to have a firearm in your home, you could take it for a ride, but you couldn't stop anywhere.

TUCKER: Last fall in a challenge led by ConocoPhillips, a federal court in Oklahoma struck down the state's law. That decision has been to appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Now all of the employees fired by Weyerhaeuser have good records and had worked for the company for at least 20 years, if not more. Down in Florida, a couple who worked for Disney for more than ten years with clean work records were fired because they stored a licensed gun in the trunk of their car when they came to work.

DOBBS: Now, big business taking this on. Now, isn't that interesting? Because that means we're talking about the chamber of commerce, aren't we?

TUCKER: We are, indeed. Yes.

DOBBS: Absolutely. So what they basically want to do is take control of every employee's life and roll back the Second Amendment? I -- I suspect that they're not going back off any, either.

TUCKER: No. A unique argument. Not only do they want to take control of your life, Lou, they apparently want to be your parents at work apparently. One of the arguments they're using is that they have to use every means they can to protect their workers when they're in the work place.

DOBBS: No, I think we really need to figure this out, because there's always another part of the agenda here when the chamber of commerce goes to work on something. This is quite a group of people.

So let's dig into this and find out exactly what they think they're doing. Where is the -- where is the lawsuit about those employees out there in Weyerhaeuser. What an arrogant thing for that company to do, by the way.

TUCKER: They're fired. They don't have jobs, Lou. Two -- two of the people got the jobs.

DOBBS: They sued the son of a gun?

TUCKER: They sued. They lost their suits.

DOBBS: They lost their lawsuit?

TUCKER: Spoke to the NRA today. They provide scholarships for some of the kids that were in college.

DOBBS: Is this a strike action or something? They just went out and went after these...

TUCKER: Unannounced, they went out and searched the cars in a public access parking lot, Lou. They searched the cars, found the guns and fired the employees on the spot, including the head of security.

DOBBS: Including the head of security?

TUCKER: Who told them, "If you're looking for guns, I have a gun in my car." And they fired him in the parking lot. Right there.

DOBBS: And they lost the lawsuit?

TUCKER: They lost.

DOBBS: How in the world did they get into their cars?

TUCKER: They told the police that we're going to be doing drug checks on the cars. The police lent them use dogs and said OK.

DOBBS: There is something more to this, too. Come on. This is not that simple.

TUCKER: This is what happened. This is what is a matter of record. It was new management at the company.

DOBBS: Well, let's get into this. Let's get into that. Because you know what? I mean, if Weyerhaeuser did that, I mean, they're just scum. I mean, they're just pure, unadulterated skunks.

TUCKER: And this is a one- -- basically, one-industry town. It's a very small rural town in Oklahoma. This was the job.

DOBBS: Unbelievable. The people of that town put up with that nonsense? It's amazing. This is where we'll lose it if we lose it. People just giving up on a fight like that over basic constitutional rights. That's disgusting.

Thank you, Bill Tucker. Let's find out what's going on there.

TUCKER: You bet.

DOBBS: Every time we can smell the chamber of commerce, it makes me kind of get committed. You know what I mean?

An update now on a story we first reported to you last month. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT has now learned the government is seeking an even tougher sentence than we originally expected against Army veteran and reservist David Olafson of Wisconsin.

Speaking of cases difficult to understand, try this on for size. Olafson was convicted of, "transferring a machine gun" after his rifle misfired at a shooting range. The government is seeking a sentence of three-and-a-half to four years against Olafson.

This Army veteran, a man with an otherwise absolutely clean record and a wife and three children. His sentence is scheduled for May 8. Now we don't know what's going on. We've been reporting on it. Bill Tucker has been out to -- to meet with Olafson or report on the story.

Now the National Rifle Association's civil rights defense fund said it has this case under review. We'll, of course, keep you informed on this incredible story. Bill Tucker will be amongst those going out to Wisconsin to find out what is going on in that state. It is really an incredible story.

Up next here, Senator Obama's controversial former pastor, well, guess what? He's got a major date for a major speech. We'll be telling you all about that.

And the presidential candidates adopting a decidedly populist tone. Do they mean it? Are they for real? I hope so. We'll be talking with three of the sharpest political minds in the nation. They're sometimes a little more skeptical than I am.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Campbell Brown.

Tonight in the CNN "ELECTION CENTER," we are looking at John McCain's ongoing effort to reinvent himself. It's taking him into some real interesting new territory, even onto daytime TV.

We're also going to see how Barack Obama can deal with one of his biggest vulnerabilities, plus the story that everybody's talking about and why our political leaders aren't doing more to stamp out polygamy.

Join me in the CNN "ELECTION CENTER" at the top of the hour. Lou Dobbs will be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, General David Petraeus, in charge of our troops in Iraq, in charge of that war, testifying for two days on Capitol Hill. And today, President Bush, he announces the suspension of the withdrawal of our troops after July.

Joining me now to figure out what in the world just transpired over the course of the past three days, General David Grange.

General, are we in good shape or bad shape according to General David Petraeus?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I think we're in pretty good shape, Lou. He -- actually, this plan is what's being executed right now. And I think it's very prudent. As you draw down through July, you then pause with that new force structure, you do what they call a troop-to-task analysis to see if you have enough troops or the right type against the right task to continue the mission.

DOBBS: Can I ask you a question? I'm going to ask you the question. You don't have to answer. But is there anybody in the United States military in the year 2008 who just says things like, "We're going to keep the troops in Iraq that we have there now, and we're going to decide at some point whether or not we've got enough troops to get the job done?"

Does anybody just talk straight in the U.S. military anymore? I mean, they're starting to sound like the politicians they have to put up with.

GRANGE: Well, I mean, I'm sure there's been some leaders that have made that comment. But the real issue is the balance between conducting an operation and recycling the troops, because you remember now, some of these troops have been there three, four, five tours.

DOBBS: Don't you hate that term --

GRANGE: And so there is a sustainment issue.

DOBBS: -- Don't you hate that term, recycling the troops? I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: ... words. I hear this "recycling the troops." I mean, my -- and President Bush just handed everybody in the military a great gift. He gave them a 12-month tour instead of a 15-month tour. He didn't cap the number of tours, however, which I would have felt a lot better about. Wouldn't you?

GRANGE: Well, there's not enough troops to cap the number of tours.

DOBBS: So what kind of leaders are we in this country? What kind of leaders do we have? We're a 300-million-person nation, with the -- with -- that is a super power. Has to put up with this kind of nonsense. Why in the world don't we have enough troops to -- to take care of and engage on behalf of our interests?

GRANGE: Because we have many interests and many commitments around the world. None the least, of future conflicts that we may not be ready for if we don't sustain, you know, the movement of troops back and forth through Iraq and grow the Army...

Remember, Lou, out of the...

DOBBS: ... and grow the Army.

GRANGE: The eligible recruits that you can get. The eligible recruits you can get in this country is only seven percent of what's available. Seven percent. And they were hoping to volunteer enough. I mean, that's a very tough task with the low propensity to serve. So it is a challenge.

DOBBS: So do you think maybe our presidential candidates ought to be talking about these issues?

GRANGE: Absolutely. This and the way ahead with all the other threats that are out there facing our nation.

DOBBS: I think we -- we can look forward to that soon, I'm sure. General David Grange, as always, good to have you with us.

GRANGE: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Coming up next, Populism has arrived on the campaign trail. I'm excited. Let's see if three top political analysts and strategists are, as well.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: (AUDIO GAP) ... investigation into whether one of its public schools is blurring, or crossing, the line between church and state, teaching Islam. According to the "Star Tribune," of Minneapolis, St. Paul, the Taiza Academy (ph) in Indberg Rove Heights (ph) is an Islamic school funded by the state of Minnesota. The Taiza Academy is sponsored by the California-based Islamic Relief USA.

What does all that mean? Let me try to sort it out. The school requires all of the students learn Arabic and they pray several times a day. Also, it refuses to fly an American flag; that's required by state law, however. And a spokesman from the school telling the "Star Tribune," it does not teach religion. So we're going to be watching the state of Minnesota sort that all out.

Joining me now, three of the very best political analysts and strategists. Republican strategist, former campaign manager for Governor Mike Huckabee, and a host of other distinctions to his credit, least among which is he is a contributor to LOU DOBBS TONIGHT.

Ed Rollins, good to have you with us.

Democratic strategist, Julie Roginsky.

Good to have you with us, Julie.

And Keith Richburg, New York Bureau Chief, "Washington Post."

Keith, good to have you here.

What in the world are we watching here? It sounds like we've got Populism on the move, Keith. I'm excited.

KEITH RICHBURG, NEW YORK BUREAU CHIEF, "WASHINGTON POST": It's exciting. It's exciting if you're a homeowner about the lose your house, too, because everybody is trying to help you now. At first, they were jockeying --

DOBBS: Well, they're saying they're trying to help.

RICHBURG: Well, they're saying that. But it seems that -- McCain couldn't get away with what he said previously, which is, it's your own fault if you got into a home you couldn't afford. And now he's kind of recognized that it's not a popular position. So he's kind of come around.

But, he didn't come quite all the way around. So he's still getting beaten up on by the other two.

DOBBS: Well -- he still deserves to. He's not far enough to get the Lou Dobbs Populist stamp yet.

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Or the Julie Roginksy Populist vote. He is -- I guess, kind of being scitzaphrenic about the whole thing, saying on the one hand, no, we don't want to bailout any -- tax payer money to bailout any irresponsible homeowners, but I guess maybe we'll bailout a couple hundred thousand of them.

Although I'm not sure how I'm going to do it or what I'm going to do to get ti done. Please, John McCain, people are hurting. He finally realized that there needs to be some sort of a solution.

DOBBS: A lot of liberals in this country, liberal columnists at "The New York Times," lots of folks who have gone after me because I'm an Independent Populist.

Populism looks like it might be taking hold. Is it in favor here suddenly?

ROGINSKY: Well because for the past eight years, who is being paid attention to? Wall Street has done very well, and people in power have done very well. I think the middle class, as you know, their earning potential has fallen for the first time since World War II. And the middle class isn't being paid attention to, Lou. So, obviously, yes, I'm glad somebody woke up and realized the middle class was hurting.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If you don't get tap into that base, you're not going to be victorious. Mike Huckabee tapped into it, did very well in the primaries. Obama, to a certain extent, has tapped very much into it.

DOBBS: He's starting to make --

ROLLINS: And if John -- this is a very serious problem facing Americans. And I've said on the show before, when a couple of million people lose their homes, there's another four or five million that start worrying about losing their homes. And if you don't basically offer some kind of solution, when you can bailout major financial organizations around Wall Street, the public thinks you're not relating to them. I think John McCain is getting it.

DOBBS: You think he's getting it to the point he's going to move far enough away from this idiotic free trade at any cost nonsense?

ROLLINS: I'm not part of his group and I think to a certain extent, as we read in --

DOBBS: Well they ought to fix that.

ROLLINS: Well -- I want to stay right here with you.

As we've seen on many -- there's lots of different advisers, unfortunately, around candidates, and particular candidates who come out of Washington. And I think to a certain extent, his economic team is not quite as astute as his foreign policy team yet.

DOBBS: They're pretty astute, are they?

ROLLINS: Well -- you've got both sides of the debate being argued, at least, inside your own camp. So at least you know what the positions are. It's up to him now to decide which one he wants to march forward with.

DOBBS: Well just as I compliment Senator Obama for starting to pick up on the Populist message, and drive it -- as he has now for some time. Senator Obama today -- got some bad news, or some good news depending on wheer he is on this.

The NAACP of Detroit announcing Reverend Jeremiah Wright will be their keynote speaker at their Freedom Fund dinner later this month.

What do you think about that?

RICHBURG: I think Obama is probably hoping it's after the Pennsylvania primary.

DOBBS: It is five days after the Pennsylvania primary. RICHBURG: So this whole thing could be over by the Pennsylvania primary, so it won't matter, except for the general election.

DOBBS: Is that a forecast? Because as we look at --

RICHBURG: It could be all over.

DOBBS: Timing -- taking something of a contrary view, they're projecting Senator Clinton now with an eight point lead, just as CNN was projecting the Poll of Polls with it tightening to four points.

RICHBURG: Yes, but you know, if you look a month ago, she had a double digit lead. It's been narrowing. And you know, even when it was a double digit lead, I always said the one thing that I was most interested in is -- she never got about 51, 52 percent, so it was never like she was blowing him away. It was always 51 percent to 38 percent, the rest undecided.

Those undecideds --

ROLLINS: My Democrat friend will tell you it's all about momentum. And he said the momentum for the last month --

DOBBS: You agree?

ROGINSKY: Yes, I do.

ROLLINS: -- his numbers have been moving, her numbers have been moving backwards. And I think to a certain extent he can win this thing.

ROGINSKY: And he needs to catch up in the popular vote in order to make that case the superdelegates -- I don't know that a four point win, or even an eight point win is going to be enough for her to propel herself into so much momentum --

DOBBS: So a win doesn't matter for her now?

ROGINSKY: A win matters, but it depends how big it is. A couple of points is not going to make Hillary Clinton the next nominee.

DOBBS: Well she's obviously nor going to win in North Carolina.

ROGINSKY: She may win Indiana, though, and West Virginia, places like that.

DOBBS: Is it looking -- You believe that that's possible?

ROGINSKY: I believe that's possible. The question is, how big is that win going to be in order to get her into the popular vote --

DOBBS: Now you're going to our friend Ed Rollins point there, Julie -- momentum. Momentum isn't gained by winning by three or four points?

ROGINSKY: No. DOBBS: No?

ROGINSKY: Not a state that you were leading by double digits. She can claim that victory, but again, for her, the problem is going to be going to the superdelegates and saying, look, the momentum is on my side. I'm winning with such large numbers that you have to come and support me . A couple point win is not going --

ROLLINS: She had to convince people he could not win. And she has not been able to do that. He's leading in the national polls now. He's been a very strong candidate.

DOBBS: Do you think the Republicans want Barack Obama as the nominee?

RICHBURG: You know, I think in the beginning, they probably were thinking Hillary Clinton would be the easiest to go against. I think now, with the Jeremiah Wright scandal -- controversies, et cetera, I think they have been kind of re-aiming their guns in the other direction. But I think they're --

DOBBS: As Ed Rollins was speaking, I sort of heard a preference there. I -- did I?

ROLLINS: Well, you know, Hillary --

DOBBS: Not that I just don't trust you implicitly and --

ROLLINS: Hillary obviously energizes the Republican base. Barack is an unknown entity. I think he's also an untested entity. And I think to a certain extent, it would be a much more interesting race and I think we've got a good shot at both of them.

DOBBS: Who wants the last word?

ROGINSKY: Well, I'm glad that Barack Obama got his Ed Rollins endorsement right here. But I --

RICHBURG: I think they are very worried about Barack Obama, simply because he appeals to the same Independent base as McCain, and also he's just drawing in so many new voters. And it's just not clear if they stick with him and vote in November, that could just alter the whole electoral vote.

ROGINSKY: He's got the 'Big Mo' going into November, not just going into the convention.

ROLLINS: And the big money. We should not forget about the money.

DOBBS: That's also a 'Mo' of sorts.

(CROSSTALK)

ROGINSKY: Well, the money follows the 'Mo.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: The 'Mo follows the 'Mo.

All right. Good to have you with us.

Keith, thank you very much.

Julie, thank you.

Ed --

The results of our poll -- 49 percent of you say Senator Clinton is sincere in her position as "Populist President," followed by Senator Obama's 42 percent. John McCain coming in at nine percent.

Ed Rollins will be talking about that later.

Thanks for being with us. The "ELECTION CENTER" with Campbell Brown begins right now -- Campbell.

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