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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Obama Attempts to Explain 'Bitter' Remark; Phoenix Mayor Calls for Investigation Into Crackdown on Illegal Immigration

Aired April 14, 2008 - 19:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Tonight Senator Obama struggling to shift the political discussion away from his stunning and outrageous criticism of small town America. Senator Obama apparently showing no understanding at all of the issues that matter to these Americans. We'll have complete coverage.
And the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona not doing so well either, displaying a true political agenda, calling for an investigation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's crackdown on illegal immigration. The mayor pandering to ethnocentric interest groups and political correctness, the Pro Amnesty Open Borders Lobby. We'll have that report and the day's news and much more straight ahead, here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Monday April 14. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. The battle for the Democratic nomination tonight is nastier than ever. Senator Obama refusing to apologize for calling small town Pennsylvania voters "bitter people who cling to their guns and religion." Obama instead blasted senators Clinton and McCain on issues such as free trade. The Clinton campaign declared Senator Obama's speeches won't hide what it called his condescending views of small town America and speaking for the first time on the controversy, Senator McCain accused Senator Obama of elitism. We have extensive coverage here tonight and we begin with Candy Crowley in Philadelphia -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Barack Obama went before the "Associated Press" and told reporters he knew he'd kept them busy all weekend and he hoped they weren't bitter about it. But all kidding aside, the Obama campaign knows this is no joke.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): He is accused of elitism as he faces a primary which hinges on working-class votes, so Barack Obama is looking to turn the criticism on its head.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain wants to turn this contest -- election into a contest about which party is out of touch with the struggles and hopes of working America. That's the debate I'm happy to have.

CROWLEY: Obama's more immediate problem is Pennsylvania and the as-yet unknown effect of his suggestion that small town America is bitter toward Washington and clings to god and guns because of economic distress. Hillary Clinton got scattered jeers and boos when she brought the subject up before an audience of steel industry workers, but she is pounding him.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think he really gets it, that people are looking for a president who stands up for you. And not looks down on you.

CROWLEY: In word and picture Clinton has been relentless as she goes after Obama while courting the superdelegates who could decide the nominee.

CLINTON: Democrats have reached out to me, to say that we, you know, can't afford for people to believe that the Democratic Party is elitist and out of touch.

CROWLEY: Over the weekend, she sported her own working-class credentials with tales of when she learned to shoot and a photo-op of when she sipped beer and took a shot of whiskey. On defense for three days now, Obama is on offense. Before the same steel industry audience he questioned Clinton's commitment for questioning U.S. trade policy.

OBAMA: You can't spend the better part of two decades for campaigning for NAFTA and PNTR for China and then come here to Pennsylvania and tell the workers that you've been with them all along.

CROWLEY: And he warned against Washington insiders bearing promises.

OBAMA: They'll even come around with TV crews in tow and throw back a shot and a beer. But those same candidates are taking millions of dollars in contributions from the PACs and the lobbyists. Ask yourself, who are they going to be toasting once the election's over?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Candy Crowley reporting there from Philadelphia.

As Candy just reported, Senator Obama mocked Senator Clinton's visit to an Indiana bar over the weekend when she had threw back that shot and drank some beer. Obama accused Clinton of posing for the television cameras. Well, Senator Obama's no stranger to posing for cameras as well, in times involving alcohol.

As you see, Senator Obama himself sipping beer, as he visited a sports bar in Latrobe, Pennsylvania 2-1/2 weeks ago. Well, the new opinion poll conducted after Senator Obama's controversial remarks gave Senator Clinton a commanding lead in Pennsylvania.

The polls suggest Clinton has a lead of 20 percent. The American Research Group poll shows Senator Clinton with 57 percent support, Senator Obama, 37 percent. Senators Clinton and Obama were tied in the previous American Research Group poll, that a week ago. The Clinton campaign wasted no time releasing a new ad capitalizing on Senator Obama's remarks. The Clinton ad features voter criticism of Obama's comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Barack Obama said that people in small towns cling to guns or religion as a way to explain their frustrations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very insulted by Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just shows how out of touch Barack Obama is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not clinging to my faith out of frustration and bitterness. I find that my faith is very uplifting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: The Obama campaign has also released a new ad, as you might expect, trying to portray Senator Obama as a Washington outsider. The ad fronted by leading Obama supporter, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, he says Obama is the only candidate who can stand up for middle-class Americans.

This ad reflects the tremendous challenge now facing Senator Obama, whether he can refute and rebut charges that he is an arrogant elitist. Obama's opponents say they have the advantage now and they say Obama is incapable of understanding the struggle facing working men and women and their families. Bill Schneider has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): The big issue hanging over the Obama campaign may not be race, but class.

CLINTON: People don't need a president who looks down on them.

SCHNEIDER: Obama's the latest in a long line of new politics Democrats, like Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern and Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis who drew their strongest support from educated, upper, middle-class voters. None of them got many black votes in the primaries until Obama. The class issue exploded when it was revealed that Obama had drawn a connection between small town voters' economic frustration and their values.

CLINTON: Someone goes to a closed-door fund raiser in San Francisco and makes comments that do seem elitist, out of touch and, frankly, patronizing.

SCHNEIDER: John McCain agree.

JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that's a fundamental contradiction of what I believe America is all about.

SCHNEIDER: Obama quickly moved to disconnect the connection. OBAMA: Now, I didn't say it as well as I should have because, you know, the truth is, is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important, that's what sustains us.

SCHNEIDER: Conservative bloggers had a field day with Obama's remarks. They called it the "McGovernization of Obama." Conservatives are eager to have another values election, they believe they can win those. Clinton supporters are trying to convince superdelegates that the Democratic Party will be taking a big risk if they go with Obama.

SEN EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: The far right wing has a very good track record of using things like this relentlessly against our candidates whether it's Al Gore or John Kerry.

SCHNEIDER: this is not the risk that superdelegates expected, race, but one they didn't expect, class.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Obama gave a compelling speech on race that really saved his campaign. Now, he may find he needs to give another equally compelling speech about class -- Lou.

DOBBS: You're correct, of course, Bill, that it is an issue of class. But, it is also a fundamental issue of identity, here. He is taking on working men and women and their families across this country, and doing so, you know, without apologizing. I have watched national news organizations today say this man apologize. Senator Obama has not apologized. Why not?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I don't know. I mean, I'm afraid he has to answer that. And a lot of people do think they're owed an apology for what he said. He did try to disconnect the two by indicating that he has respect for the values, traditional values of people who are religious and who own guns. But, no, he has not issued anything that sounds like an apology.

DOBBS: Yeah, it is strange indeed. And it is strange, we have been talking about this business of the have another pillow, Senator Obama, in the way he's being treated in the national media, but today a number of news organizations say the man apologized when he point- blank did not. Do you find that amazing?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I can't -- news organizations often do amazing things. I just can tell you that I have not heard the words "apology" or "sorry." I'm sure he intends to. But, I think at the very least there should be an explanation forthcoming about what his views on these issues really are and whether he really does have respect for those values that he seemed to treat as irrational in his remarks at the fund-raiser.

DOBBS: Without question. Thank you very much, Bill Schneider. We appreciate it.

SCHNEIDER: Sure. DOBBS: The -- we're going to be returning here in just a moment. We're going to be focusing on more from the campaign trail (INAUDIBLE) continues in one moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The mayor of Phoenix, tonight, is calling on the Justice Department to investigate Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio because of the actions he's taking to crackdown on illegal immigration. Mayor Phil Gordon claims that sheriff Arpaio's violating civil rights and in point of fact engaging in racial profiling. As Casey Wian now reports, Sheriff Arpaio says he's just enforcing the law.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been aggressively pursuing illegal aliens for years. In recent weeks he's deployed teams of deputies and volunteer posse members in largely Hispanic areas near Phoenix, arresting people for traffic violations and other minor offenses. Sheriff Joe calls the actions "crime-suppression sweeps." So far they've resulted in 150 arrests, including 73 illegal aliens and 40 suspects with outstanding warrants. He scoffs at accusations he's violating suspects' civil rights.

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA CO, ARIZONA: We're not violating anybody's civil liberties. Everybody's stopped for speeding, DUIs, you name it, every day thousands of tickets are given out. People are arrested for DUIs. I can go on and on. So, what is wrong with us enforcing the traffic violations also?

WIAN: Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon disagrees. This month he wrote U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and asked that the civil rights division of the Justice Department and the FBI investigate. The Anti- Defamation League, the American-Jewish Committee and the Arizona Ecumenical Council have joined Gordon's efforts.

MAYOR PHIL GORDON, PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Whites aren't being stopped. Blacks aren't being stopped, it's Hispanic. This based on race, because of the color of the skin.

WIAN: Gordon also claims Arpaio's sweeps interfere with undercover operations and have sparked potentially violent protests.

GORDON: People don't want to solve illegal immigration at the expense of the Constitution and racial profiling. They want congress to act, they want the border secured and they want immigration fixed.

WIAN: Arpaio says public opinion is on his side. A February Arizona State University poll found 79 percent of Phoenix residents favored giving local police more immigration enforcement power.

ARPAIO: So when he so the groundswell against him, his only last act is to go to Washington to camouflage this whole issue.

WIAN: The Justice Department says it will review Mayor Gordon's letter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has already reviewed Sheriff Joe's crime-suppression sweeps. ICE found that his tactics are within the guidelines of their agreement allowing Arpaio's deputies to enforce immigration law, because they are apprehending suspects for other crimes and then determining their immigration status -- Lou.

DOBBS: Yeah, I mean, this one looks -- this -- this is pretty amazing. The ADL, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Ecumenical Council, all of these groups suddenly are in an advocacy role. They're not functioning here as watchdog agencies of any kind, they are out and out advocacy groups on this.

WIAN: And they're going against the will of the people in Phoenix, Arizona. They want, polls show, over and over, they want local law enforcement to be involved in helping the feds enforce immigration law.

DOBBS: Well, with 79 percent, that's the -- that's the number, 79 percent, you would think that a person who is so quick to pander as Mayor Phil Gordon on this issue, would be paying some attention. I mean, what in the world is going through his mind?

WIAN: Well, he says that he believes that people are afraid to go out in the streets in largely Latino communities in Phoenix. I asked him why would anybody who is here legally and hasn't committed a crime be afraid to go out in the streets? He says, they are, children are afraid of being separated from their parents who may be here illegally. He also says the Phoenix Police Department does cooperate with ICE to a certain extent. They've helped them enforce thousands of illegal aliens.

DOBBS: Oh, that's baloney -- that's baloney and you and I know it. I mean, you know what? I mean, that's just baloney. It's one of the things I'll take up with the Phoenix mayor here tomorrow, Casey. Casey Wian, thank you very much. I mean, this report really -- I mean, this is -- this is playing games. And those games have got to stop. I'll be talking with Phil Gordon, the mayor of Phoenix here, and I'll be asking a few of those questions and some more. We'll find out what in the world he's thinking about.

And in our poll tonight: Do you believe more law enforcement officials should be using every law at their disposal to crack down on illegal immigration? Yes or no? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com, we'll have the results here shortly.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chernoff is now defending government efforts to secure the borders and enforce immigration laws. That's right, some of those same groups are attacking Homeland Security Secretary Chernoff for securing -- trying to secure at least, part of the border. In an interview with the "Associated Press," Secretary Chernoff said, "rising complaints from business owners proved that the administration's crackdown on illegal employers is beginning to work." Secretary Chernoff also calling Congress to pass immigration reform including what he called, a guest-worker program, that's pretty much, by the way, boilerplate for the -- that's boilerplate for the administration which basically wants to create a -- what would be an 11th, an 11th count them, an 11th guest-worker program, after years of marching around the country saying that this administration wanted a guest-worker program when, of course, there were already 10 on the books.

Embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is still showing up for work these days despite no one -- the fact that none of his colleagues want him to show up. The city council refused to hear Mayor Kilpatrick's budget proposal literally saying to him, "we don't want to hear from you." This is the first time that Kilpatrick had appeared before the council since that council voted to have him resign over a text message sex scandal with his chief of staff and, of course, a little matter of an $8 million lawsuit against the city and the -- and the destruction of two careers on the part of two police officers. Kilpatrick and his former aide faced perjury and other felony charges for trying to cover up their extramarital affair.

Up next, more fallout tonight from senator Obama's slam of small town Americans, including senator McCain's reaction. We'll have all of that and three of the best political minds in the nations join me. And a call for a boycott and why the White House says other countries are copping out when it comes to China and the Beijing Olympics. We continue in one moment, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The McCain campaign tonight is making the Obama controversy a central issue, the campaign also using it to help raise funds. In an e-mail to McCain supporters, the campaign manager, Rick Davis wrote, "If Barack Obama's the Democratic nominee in the general election, the American people will have a clear choice between two different visions. Senator Obama's liberal, elitist philosophy and John McCain's faith in the small town values that continue to make America great."

Senator McCain himself, today, blasted Senator Obama. McCain accused Obama of disparaging hardworking Americans. McCain said people who live in small towns are the heart and soul of this nation. Dana Bash has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Off the trail, all weekend as Barack Obama's so-called "bitter" comments brewed, John McCain for the first time launched the attack on his Democratic rival that campaign aides spent three days doing for him.

MCCAIN: I think those comments are elitist.

BASH: Repudiating Obama for disparaging what he called, "hardworking people who cherish the second amendment and their faith."

MCCAIN: These are the people that -- that -- that have fundamental, cultural, spiritual, and other values that, in my view, have very little to do with their economic condition.

BASH: It's a political no-brainer for a Republican to jump on a Democrat for suggesting bitter Americans are clinging to faith and firearms, but while McCain is occasionally asked about the subjects...

QUESTION: Senator McCain knows, what are your views about gun control, like a gun registration?

MCCAIN: I do believe in the protecting the constitutional rights ensured by the second amendment to the Constitution.

BASH: the reality is, McCain is a GOP candidate who rarely talks unprompted about either god or guns on the stump. So, the McCain campaign strategy is to cloak his hit on Obama in a theme where McCain has more credibility, patriotism.

MCCAIN: My other profession in the war I served in, the country relied overwhelmingly on Americans from these same communities to defend us...

BASH: Suggesting in prepared remarks and Q&A at an "Associated Press" forum, that Obama is impugning the culture he knows, one that produces American soldiers.

MCCAIN: These are the people that today their sons and daughters are in harm's way, defending this nation.

BASH: But this is a fine line for McCain, who swears he'll run an above-the-fray campaign.

QUESTION: If his remarks are elitist, which you say they are, does that make him an elitist?

MCCAIN: I don't know, I don't know him very well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: He doesn't know him very well, but Senator McCain spent a good part of his plane ride from Washington, here to Pittsburgh, pounding away at Senator Obama saying his remarks are defining because it shows a fundamental attitude about the heartland of America.

And, Lou, talking to McCain advisers they say they don't know, obviously, if they're going to run against Obama, but if they do, they think that this is a political gift and that they'll run their campaign through the prism of this elitist comment, of course, they're trying to make the point that he doesn't get America. As you heard from Democrats, they make the point over and over again when it comes to America's economic pain, McCain is out of touch, too -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, I don't know about who's most out of touch, but I do know this, if Senator Obama had not made these rather absurd remarks from his perspective, insulting from the perspective of those to whom he directed them, there wouldn't be an issue about whether or not he would be the candidate or not. Now, there is very much a question about whether or not he'd be the candidate. Correct? BASH: Well, you know, we're going to have to wait and see what happens with the polling, obviously, more importantly, we'll have to see what happens in the next contest in Pennsylvania. So, that's my way of saying I'm punting on that one -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well you know what, the fact is that we can sit here and we can just get ready for the seven-day wait, next Tuesday, April 22, we'll know what the people of Pennsylvania say. Thanks a lot.

BASH: Yes, we will.

DOBBS: Dana Bash, thank you.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Erin in California said: "Coming from a small town myself, we are not bitter, but tired of our government not listening to what we have to say or what we have voted on. We're hard working and proud of it."

Victoria in Pennsylvania, "I'm a 'typical' white person, and now I am 'bitter!' I can't wait to find out more about who and what I am, like all of the people from Pennsylvania."

Angelia in Pennsylvania said, "I hope Governor Rendell will stand up for Pennsylvania and let Senator Obama know we are not an angry nor depressed nor bitter state. Watch out America, I see our rights being infringed upon even more than they are today."

We'll have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast. And please join me on the radio each afternoon, Monday through Friday at the LOU DOBBS SHOW, go to loudobbs.com to find local listings on the radio.

And former attorney General Alberto Gonzales having trouble finding a job, accord doing to the "New York Times." Law firms that would normally we jumping to hire a former attorney general aren't interested. The inspector general of the Justice Department is investigating Gonzales' conduct in his final months in office. Lawmakers widely critical of Gonzales' sworn testimony on the firing of federal prosecutors, add to that his positions on torture and warrantless wiretaps and during testimony Gonzales telling Congress he "couldn't recall," "didn't know," "didn't remember," or something to that effect more than 70 times.

Up next here, Senator Clinton, Senator Obama blasting each other over whiskey, beer and guns. Who's ahead? Three top political analysts and strategists join me.

And the White House says Europe is guilty of a cop-out on the issue of human rights and a boycott of the Olympics.

And the fight over gun rights on our nation's campuses is intensifying. We'll have that special report, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Senator Obama's critics say his remarks about bitter people and small town America confirm Obama's nothing less than elitist. Obama acknowledges he didn't express himself as well as he should have, but Obama so far hasn't apologized. Lisa Sylvester has our report from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Barack Obama has been working overtime to appear as a man of the people. But comments like this referring to Pennsylvania job losses have critics charging that he's an elitist.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's surprising that they get closer about religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiments as a way to explain their frustrations.

SYLVESTER: A "New York Times" editorial entitled "The Mask Flips" says it echoes a little of Karl Marx. Remember the German philosopher? Religion as the opium of people. The conservative Pennsylvania Family Institute say Obama's comments make it sound like Pennsylvanians can't think for themselves.

MICHAEL GEER, PENNSYLVANIA FAMILY INSTITUTE: A lot of Pennsylvanians felt like he was talking down to us. I would not say the vast majority of people in Pennsylvania who come to decisions on issues like illegal immigration or trade policies are doing so because of some sudden turn or, again, disaffection with government.

SYLVESTER: Here's Obama's explanation ...

OBAMA: So what I was referring to was in no way demeaning a faith that I, myself, embrace. What I was saying is that when economic hardship hits in these communities, what people have is they've got family. They've got their faith.

SYLVESTER: But not everyone is buying it. The grassroots group Numbers USA which lobbies against illegal immigration says religion and concerns over trade, gun control, and illegal immigration are not simply a panacea for the working class.

ROY BECK, NUMBERSUSA: The anti-illegal immigration is not about giving people comfort. It's about a solution. You reduce illegal immigration, you make the economic situation, the job situation better.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Senator Obama is trying to win over Pennsylvanians on the fence, but critics say he just insulted the members of the Democratic Party that he's having the most difficult time attracting.

Lou?

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much. It's an amazing story, an amazing development. Thank you. And we want to point out, we invited Senator Obama to join us on the broadcast here tonight. The senator says he's skinny and he's tough, but apparently very, very busy and couldn't quite find time to join me here to talk to me about the comments.

Joining me now, however, are three people that have the courage to be here. Ben Smith, senior political reporter, Politico.com, Keith Richburg, New York bureau chief, "Washington Post," Democratic strategist, Robert Zimmerman, also a supporter of Hillary Clinton and superdelegate.

Good to have you all here.

Ben Smith, let me tell you I just want to say to anybody in this audience who doesn't know, Politico.com is doing an outstanding job covering the race and you are doing a super job. I want to say that. Get that off my chest.

BEN SMITH, POLITICO.COM: I like that.

DOBBS: I thought you might. Hillary Clinton is making the most obviously of Senator Obama's whatever you want to call it, bitter comment, antipathy comment, disparaging comment. This is -- this is a new ad that she started running in Pennsylvania, and I want to get your reaction to it, folks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama said that people in small towns cling to guns or religion as a way to explain their frustrations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very insulted by Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just shows how out of touch Barack Obama is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not cling to my faith out of frustration and bitterness. I find that my faith is very uplifting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Ben, what do you make of it?

SMITH: Well, you know, today was the day when pundits started saying enough from Hillary. Stop attacking him, he's going to win and he's going to win. The question is, have we had enough? And the answer was no. She went after him really hard today.

DOBBS: The pundits were saying? The little darlings --

SMITH: And Democratic activists were saying it.

DOBBS: Supporters of Barack Obama, is that what you mean?

SMITH: Yes. DOBBS: That's the one thing that really aggravates me. You're a terrific journalist, but I got to say the national media -- and by the way, I mean, we'll get to -- hang on, we'll get to Senator Clinton in a minute.

SMITH: There's a lot of overlap.

DOBBS: But I mean, the reality is the national media continues to report this story as Democratic activists want Senator Clinton to step away. Barack Obama supporters, activists want her.

SMITH: Well, but they're under -- there are neutral --

DOBBS: I don't know of a single prominent neutral who wants her to step out.

SMITH: You got me.

DOBBS: Just thought I'd leave it open there.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If I could point out, I think there's an interesting point here. The Democratic --

DOBBS: I want to get to you on the issue of Senator Clinton.

ZIMMERMAN: I was trying to help out the discussion. I think I'll wait my turn.

DOBBS: No, no.

ZIMMERMAN: OK. But I think the interesting point here is amongst the Democratic Party establishment, the Democratic elite if you will, there's a great fear of having a spirited debate amongst Democratic activists they wanted.

DOBBS: I got to say, as the independent populist here, this is my day.

ZIMMERMAN: Right.

DOBBS: I've never been more proud to be a -- I've never been prouder to be an independent and with all this talk of elite, this is my year!

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: I am a populist. Come on in, the water's fine. We can honestly start talking about the people. We don't need another ivy league, educated knucklehead -- by the way, I guess of these candidates only the four, including Nader, that would only be McCain so -- or whatever.

ZIMMERMAN: That's exactly my point.

DOBBS: To be telling people, I'm ready, this country's got to get ready for a state-school educated, working man or woman who has raised a family, who has achieved and accomplished something. Isn't it sort of silly to sit here in this discussion?

ZIMMERMAN: But, no, that's exactly the point I'm making. You've got the Democratic elite if you will trying to --

DOBBS: Howard Dean!

ZIMMERMAN: I'm talking about Nancy Pelosi as well.

DOBBS: Don't forget Harry Reid, he's elite.

ZIMMERMAN: And my point simply is they want the Democrats to sort of have a group hug to resolve the issue and we need a spirited, aggressive debate. It's long overdue.

SMITH: These people are formally uncommitted but when they lean this way, it's taken the support for Obama.

ZIMMERMAN: It hasn't discouraged the Democratic voters, however.

DOBBS: Let's get right to it. Do you think the Democrats tonight are pretty happy that they have one candidate or two?

KEITH RICHBURG, WASHINGTON POST: I think the Democrat -- I'll speak as somebody from the University of Michigan, a great school. I think the Democratic voters are very happy and they want this thing to continue. Look at the turnout numbers.

DOBBS: Where would they be if it had blown up right now there was no choice. That's my question? What do you think?

RICHBURG: We'll have to wait and see in Pennsylvania if it's a real game changer or not open perhaps down the end further down the road --

DOBBS: I don't think we have to wait and see. Because I was having this discussion with Dana Bash a moment ago. We don't have to wait and see.

RICHBURG: We have to wait until voters vote.

DOBBS: We have the opportunity to wait and see how people in Pennsylvania want to vote.

RICHBURG: Exactly.

DOBBS: Something that's denied us in the great state of Michigan and the state of Florida by the great elitists who have conspired against millions of Democratic voters and the national media is covering it like a bunch of folks caught in a rope a dope.

SMITH: And they have spent a lot of time in the Midwest channeling this show.

ZIMMERMAN: There's a reason they call it a Lou Dobbs voter and that is not by accident. It represents voters coming out to defying the pundits and defying the odds and making it a very aggressive race, it's 50/50.

DOBBS: Do you really believe, we're all familiar with the book, "What's the Matter with Kansas" and how this sort of infiltrated the brains of the elites in the Democratic Party. They can't contend with the fact that there are real people out there hat have real ideas about things, that we live in a nation that, you know, Barack Obama's remark about antipathy against people that don't look like them, this is the most racially, socially, ethnically diverse society on earth. We all look like one another. We've got diversity coast to coast in this country and he's talking like it's 1960. Don't you think?

SMITH: Well, I don't know, the results of this election certainly show that people are voting for people in increasing numbers as we do go along that do look like them. Barack Obama is getting 90 percent of the African-American vote. There are counties in Virginia where Hillary Clinton is getting 85 percent to 90 percent of the white vote. It's not the mid-'60s.

DOBBS: Should he hang it up?

SMITH: No. He's on track to win.

DOBBS: He could not possibly win if what you said is true. He cannot win if what you said is true. That is, if white women are going to vote for a white woman, if a -- if blacks are going to vote for him, if John McCain is going to be the white guy in this thing, he loses. Barack Obama loses.

SMITH: Truest in the rural parts of America for better or worse are the ones we're talking about.

RICHBURG: He could end up having trouble, he is having trouble with the white working class vote. He's been getting the elite, well educated, white vote. He's been getting 90 percent of the black vote. He's been getting the young vote in people under 25. Where he's having trouble is that blue-collar union vote, Pennsylvania, people from Michigan, Ohio, parts of Texas.

ZIMMERMAN: I think the issue is much deeper that.

DOBBS: Well, I hope so, because frankly, if it's that simple it's over. In point of fact, if what you say is true numerically, Hillary Clinton is president of the United States.

RICHBURG: She can't get the nomination.

DOBBS: Why?

RICHBURG: Mathematically it's against her. She's in a very deep hole that she's in, unless the superdelegates --

DOBBS: The next default is straightforwardly then John McCain is president of the United States. Because there is no way if what you're saying is the case. But Barack Obama did not get here with that being the instance. SMITH: You know, he did get here having a lot of trouble all along with rural, even states he won, like Missouri, he lost all the rural counties so, you know, he could multiple -- there are lots of different groups within these different groups.

ZIMMERMAN: But we're focusing on the groups and we're not addressing the issues and that's really what's defining the election.

DOBBS: We'll hear your counterargument to that in just a moment.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.

And we'll be figuring out why the Bush administration thinks skipping the opening ceremonies in the Olympic ceremonies is a cop- out. And by the way, it may surprise you but I may agree with him on this one.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We're back with Politico.com's Ben Smith, "Washington Post's" Keith Richburg and Robert Zimmerman, icon of the Democratic Party, supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton.

Senator Clinton has pulled out to a 20-point lead in the most recent poll. As of last week she was dead even with Senator Obama. What do you make of that, if anything?

SMITH: There are two polls out. One has her dead even, one has him -- has him way ahead in Pennsylvania, and one has her way ahead in Pennsylvania. One has them dead even. There's suggestions that she's pulling ahead and everybody there is biting their nails incredibly nervously for the next polls to come out after the whole bitter thing has played itself out and after this ad that we looked at in the last segment.

DOBBS: You said bitter, not Vitter. Another development there and this is setting some people as the Republican senator from Louisiana, David Vitter, implicated in an escort service problem, not unlike that of former Governor Eliot Spitzer, who won't be called to testify, so there's a lot of relief, I'm sure in both the senate and the Republican Party and in quarters of Louisiana.

So, what do we make of these polls? And Obama's standing in them?

RICHBURG: You know, we'll just have to wait as I said, when the voters actually weigh in, because first of all the polls we're seeing now don't take into consideration this comment which just came out over the weekend.

DOBBS: No, this one does. This one does.

RICHBURG: Well, you know, to get a real scientific poll and to see if there's any fallout, I'll say let's wait until the debate happens and when the debate happens he'll have a chance to talk about it some more.

But look, if I can say one other thing about this? If this is coming down to an argument of who is elitist, I think that you know Hillary Clinton has a danger of pushing that button too far. I've heard it today. First day fine, attack him, second day keep attacking him. And she keeps going on on, there's something a little ironic about a senator who made $100 million calling somebody else elitist and saying I'm in touch with the working class.

DOBBS: Are you saying that the Kennedys are elitist who had no role in the liberal, mainstream impulse of the body politic?

RICHBURG: No but what I'm saying is of all the candidates there, I mean Barack Obama probably made the least money and had the most kind of working-class background.

DOBBS: I think when you say something like what he did, that's a viewpoint. And elitism is certainly that as a philosophy toward your fellow Americans. This is an egalitarian society. We have two basic fundamental values in this nation. One is individual liberty and rights. And Senator Obama shouldn't have to be instructed on that issue. And the second value is equality, equality of rights, equality of opportunity, economic, and educational. He shouldn't have to be instructed on that.

RICHBURG: Sure.

DOBBS: But if that can be condensed by the good senator, into a description, as he rendered the people in Pennsylvania, I would suggest he go back to his constitutional scholar work and really bone up on that kind of constitution.

ZIMMERMAN: But this is the point, this is not about the personality. It's about the statement --

DOBBS: I didn't say it was about the personality. I said it's about the philosophy, his perspective and his outlook on his fellow Americans.

ZIMMERMAN: That's my point. When you look at his statements, they are elitist statements and it raises the question about what his real philosophy. For him to try to bring the issue of immigration into this discussion reflecting the anger in small towns or to talk about free trade when he's campaigning across the country against the free trade agreement and advocating the central and the Mexican- American border, it makes you wonder what he stands for and Democrats contrary perhaps to your perspective, Democrats have got to step up and start debating about who is most electable in November. Because either John McCain with his economic record of voting against the minimum wage and voting against tax cuts for the middle -- and switching now and supporting the tax cuts for the very rich, John McCain should not be winning against us on these issues.

DOBBS: You've got a new found fighting spirit. You're going past Senator Barack Obama and straight to Senator McCain. That's good for the perspective, is it not? You were about to say? RICHBURG: I was about to say, if Obama is the nominee and this comes down to Obama versus McCain, if this election in November is about the big issues which is Iraq and the economy, you know, McCain's on the defensive. If it's not, if it's on wedge issues, gods, guns, and gays, because of these comments.

ZIMMERMAN: I couldn't disagree with you more, it's about credibility.

SMITH: He's in a difference place from John Kerry, who you know by his own account was a religious man and not expressly a religious man and not comfortable talking at great length about his religion. With the issue of god, it's flipped here. You have Democrats who are more publicly devote.

ZIMMERMAN: And it's about credibility. That's what it will come down in this election. For Barack Obama to come back on track he has to step up and apologize for his statements and understand how divisive they were and start focusing consistently on a real message and real issues.

SMITH: And you can recover.

DOBBS: The last word.

RICHBURG: I was just going to say, this reminds me of a comment that Howard Dean made once where he said, I want to be the candidate of the guys that drive pickup trucks and have guns on the back and he got hammered for that statement as being elitist. I mean it sounds very similar to that. Democrats don't always step up --

DOBBS: It seems to be honest.

RICHBURG: They always trip over the whole question of how do you appeal to ...

DOBBS: Do you know what? The man or woman who loves this country and their fellow countrymen, that love should not have to be interpreted, deflected, reflected, refracted. You should be straightforward. It should be compelling. It should be honest and it should be an embrace that is constant. And I don't see any -- any other way to look at it. Do you, really?

RICHBURG: I thought he was answering a question as to why he's not doing better with those voters. And I thought he was trying to express some empathy with them, staying I feel their pain, they are bitter because their factory are closed.

DOBBS: When empathy turns to an insult, I think you're about done at attempts at empathy. Thank you very much, we appreciate it, gentlemen. Ben, thank you. Keith, thank you.

RICHBURG: Thank you.

DOBBS: Thank you, sir. We'll get to your candidate tomorrow.

ZIMMERMAN: I have no doubt.

DOBBS: Up at the top of the hour, "THE ELECTION CENTER" and Campbell Brown.

Campbell, tell us all about it.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Lou.

Coming up at the top of the hour, a political firestorm; you've been talking about it and so will we. Barack Obama keeps trying to explain why he's neither elitist or out of touch for calling rural Pennsylvania voters bitter.

We're also going to follow-up on the compassion forum, Democratic candidates talking about faith and religion, also their answer to the question of when life begins.

Plus, new developments in the Texas polygamy raid. I'll ask the state's attorney general why people looked the other way there for so long. We'll have the latest on that as well.

Lou?

DOBBS: Campbell, thank you very much.

Tonight we want to recognize an example of America's bright future. High school senior Spencer Harjung won the American Legion National oratorical contest and the scholarship -- the college scholarship that goes with it. His speech, our fallible framers. Harjung spoke about how the founding fathers were good men but not perfect men and about how this country is every citizen's responsibility.

SPENCER HARJUNG, WINNER, AMERICAN LEGION SPEECH CONTEST: Patriotic rhetoric is not what has made America great. And America is not inherently great. America was made great by a handful of people, and in order to stay that way, America needs the help of every citizen.

DOBBS: Congratulations, Mr. Harjung, wise words from an impressive young man. Our congratulations to Spencer and the American legion for recognizing him.

Up next, leave the Olympics out of it. How the United States says it will deal with communist China's performance on human rights.

And students fighting to bear arms on campus, a special report here next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, the Bush administration saying it's a cop-out for European countries to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics over the issue of human rights. National security adviser Stephen Hadley stepping into the controversy saying the kind of quiet diplomacy, as he put it, that the United States is practicing is a better way to pressure communist China. Hadley says President Bush has no reason not to go to the Olympics, in fact.

Kitty Pilgrim has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: National security adviser Stephen Hadley said the president prefers quiet diplomacy for China rather than a boycott of the Olympic ceremonies. On a Sunday talk show he said, "I think unfortunately a lot of countries say, well, if we say that we are not going to the opening ceremonies we've checked the box on Tibet. That's a cop-out." Human rights activists say President Bush's approach is wrong.

SHARON HOM, HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA: This is not against quiet diplomacy. But while you're engaged in quiet diplomacy. There needs to be some very strong public messages sent.

PILGRIM: Some in congress say China has given the United States reasons other than Tibet and Darfur for taking a stand against China.

REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R), MICHIGAN: They're actively engaged in industrial espionage against the United States. They are engaged in cyber-operations and warfare against our pentagon and military installations. They have taken a comprehensive approach to basically engaging in cold war activities again the United States of America.

PILGRIM: Presidential candidates have made their positions clear on boycotting the Olympic ceremonies.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president should be looking for and using the pressure of his not attending the opening ceremonies as a means to exert some leverage on the Chinese government.

PILGRIM: Senator John McCain said if he were president he would boycott the opening ceremonies in Beijing and he calls on the president to, "Evaluate his participation in the ceremonies surrounding the Olympics and based on Chinese actions decide whether it is appropriate to attend."

Senator Barack Obama agreed, the president should not attend, but added that he should wait to make a final decision until closer to the August 8th opening of the Beijing games.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, the fact that the president is announcing early on that he intends to go squanders an opportunity to pressure China. Also, President Bush will make history as the first sitting U.S. president to attend the Olympics on foreign soil.

Lou?

DOBBS: Well, I've got to part company with the olive tree presidential candidates and some other people in this regard. The idea that issues as important as Darfur, Tibet and human rights in China, that something can be expressed as a refusal to attend the opening of the ceremonies trivializes the importance of human rights in all of those places and, frankly, it's a mockery of the fact that this administration has failed in its quiet diplomacy and whatever other forms of diplomacy it's undertaken in all of those issues.

The United States and this administration should be deeply and profoundly embarrassed by what we have tolerated in our dealings with China, their conduct in bring breaking in our high-tech companies, to go after protesters and dissidents. What they've done in Darfur with our full knowledge, Tibet, this administration has much to apologize. And what -- for, and what I would not want is for anyone to think that somehow President Bush not attending the opening of the Olympics in Beijing would somehow square all that up. It would not.

It is, one hopes, an opportunity for us to begin to act as a great nation instead of some sort of a junior commercial partner. But, of course, that won't be happening on this particular presidential watch.

Kitty, thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

When we come back, college students battle over the right to carry guns on campus. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: College campuses are in the fight over the Second Amendment in this country. Students at some college say they should be allowed to carry guns onto campus. Those students say recent shootings make it absolutely necessary to protect themselves. Critics, however, say there's no place for guns on our campuses. Kelli Arena has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What will it take to stop the next campus gunman? The answer for a growing number of students is this.

MICHAEL FLITCRAFT, CONCEALED WEAPONS PROPONENT: Would you rather just sit there and cower underneath the desk while someone executes you, or would you rather have a chance to defend your life? That's what it really boils down to.

ARENA: Michael Flitcraft is a student in Ohio. Ohio is one of eight states currently considering legislation to allow guns on college campuses, but supporters know they have an uphill battle. Flitcraft is licensed to carry a concealed weapon on the street, but can't bring it to school.

FLITCRAFT: To me, it makes no sense that I can defend myself legally over there, but I'm a felon if I step on the grass over here.

ARENA: Utah, Colorado, and Virginia already allow guns on campus, though it's up to school officials to set policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see carrying a concealed firearm is a kind of life insurance policy.

ARENA: Still, most students aren't convinced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it's completely absurd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It shocks me. It kind of scares me a little bit.

ARENA: Since 1966, there have been about a dozen campus shootings. As tragic as they were, experts contend the campuses are still among the safest places for young adults.

GENE FERRARA, UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI POLICE CHIEF: I don't think the answer to bullets flying is to send more bullets flying.

ARENA: University of Cincinnati security chief Gene Ferrara thinks the idea is a recipe for disaster.

FERRARA: When someone is shooting, the officer responds to the scene. There's a person there with a gun in their hand. Now, is that the bad guy, or is that a citizen who's trying to help out?

ARENA: But Michael Flitcraft says he won't give up.

FLITCRAFT: I do see in the future eventually -- it might take 10 or 15 years for it to happen -- but people being able to defend their lives on campus.

ARENA: Kelli Arena, CNN, Cincinnati, Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: And time for one last e-mail. Kathy in Indiana wrote in to say that, "Now that Obama has shown his true feelings about the middle class, gun owners and average people, I think it's time he step down and let Hillary reunite the Democratic Party."

Send us your thoughts at loudobbs.com. We thank you for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow when Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, supporter, strong supporter of Senator Barack Obama, joins me.

For all of us here, we thank you for watching. Good night from New York. "THE ELECTION CENTER" with Campbell Brown begins right now -- Campbell.

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