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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Obama Frustrated Over Focus of Democratic Debate; Fighting for Rights of Credit Card Holders; Pope Criticizing America

Aired April 17, 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: Well, thank you.
Tonight, fury in the Obama campaign after last night's "bitter" debate between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. We'll have complete coverage of that.

New developments tonight in a case that's been called one of the worst miscarriages of justice in this country. A Mexican illegal alien drug smuggler pleading guilty to drug smuggling exactly 15 months after two U.S. Border Patrol agents who shot that smuggler started their harsh prison sentences. A leading congressional supporter of those agents, Congressman Ted Poe and the U.S. prosecutor who led the case against the, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, join me.

And new demands tonight for a bill of rights for credit card holders. Those consumers victims of the same predatory lending practices that helped create our housing crisis.

All that, all the day's news and much more, straight ahead here tonight.

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

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Senator Obama today appeared to be angry and bitter after last night's debate with Senator Clinton. Obama said the debate focused on trivia not policy. And Obama indicated he may not take part in any other debates with Senator Clinton.

The Clinton campaign today appeared upbeat after the debate. Senator Clinton pushing her domestic agenda as she intensified her campaign before the primaries in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina.

We have extensive coverage tonight beginning with Suzanne Malveaux in Greenville, North Carolina -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, the lead between these two candidates is negligible in Pennsylvania. Very close here in North Carolina and some other contests here. So what you're seeing from both of these candidates, they are looking at last night's debate and they are trying to take on the perceived weaknesses coming out of that. Obama really swinging hard today. And Senator Clinton pushing -- pulling back a little bit on her punches. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): After a bruising debate in Philadelphia, initially focused on Barack Obama's gaffes and controversies, the senator stopped playing defense.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people.

MALVEAUX: Then Obama went after Hillary Clinton directly.

OBAMA: You know, she was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there. That's all right to kind of twist the knife a little bit.

MALVEAUX: Despite the night's tense exchanges, Obama tried to convince voters he wan unfazed.

OBAMA: You've just kind of let it -- you know.

MALVEAUX: But after an audience member asked Obama what his strategy was after he wasn't her words pummeled in the debate, Obama struck a more strident tone.

OBAMA: If the Republicans come at me, I will come right back at them, and I will come at them hard.

MALVEAUX: During the debate, Clinton insisted questions about Obama's patriotism, his controversial pastor, and his characterization of small-town Pennsylvanians as bitter were all fair game since they addressed Obama's electability. After making her points last night, Senator Clinton made no mention of her fiery exchanges with Obama today.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We really wanted to have a conversation and to talk about some of the issues that families face because...

MALVEAUX: At Haverford College with daughter Chelsea, she talked about fighting breast cancer, reading advice columns and avoiding fashion faux pas. She waxed poetic about her Pennsylvania roots.

CLINTON: I was in Scranton, where my father was born and raised and where my grandfather came as an immigrant when he was 2-years-old.

MALVEAUX: Despite Clinton's admission during the debate that she believes Obama could beat Republican John McCain...

CLINTON: Yes, yes, yes.

MALVEAUX: She is even more determined to explain why he shouldn't, why she would make the better nominee. And for now she's doing that with honey, not vinegar.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: And Lou, since, well, the candidates emerged largely in agreement over the issues of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq as well as refusing tax hikes for the middle class, this really has become a lot more about character, that it's focused on that particular issue. And both of these campaigns are exchanging, putting out e-mails, they're holding conference calls with reporters, both of them accusing the other side of behaving badly -- Lou.

DOBBS: Behaving badly. We should point out that Senator Obama agreed that also Senator Clinton could beat Senator McCain, correct?

MALVEAUX: That's right. They both said that the other one could beat McCain if they had to. Both of them trying to appear kind of above the fray that they will address the party's concerns, a lot of superdelegates quite worried that the party is going to be split. Democrats aren't going to win. So both of them needed to say we'll be on board if the other person gets the nomination.

DOBBS: Meanwhile, it is unlikely that either of these two candidates can win the number of delegates required for that nomination, as it stands now before going into that convention in Denver.

Suzanne, thank you very much. Suzanne Malveaux from what is going to be ground zero next Tuesday, Pennsylvania.

Senator Obama today appeared to be on the defensive during much of that debate but today, he was strongly challenging Senator Clinton on a number of issues.

Joining me now from Philadelphia our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

So Candy, who won the debate? Senator Clinton? Senator Obama?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Listen, let me walk that line here for you, Lou.

DOBBS: Oh no, don't do that.

CROWLEY: I'm sorry to do that for you. But look, I really do think that if you like Barack Obama, you came out of this debate thinking he got picked on about stuff that doesn't matter. And it fits into his storyline. What's his storyline? Listen, the reason big things don't get done is because politics are so small and they focus on petty issues. So it fits into his storyline.

If you're in favor of Hillary Clinton, you look at that and you look at her and what she's saying. She's saying got a lot of baggage, folks. A lot of it isn't out there. The Republicans are going to beat him up while I have baggage that has been thoroughly vetted. I am more electable.

So I think both of them came our of there with a debate that they can force into their campaign some speeches.

DOBBS: And any indication as to how it played with the people who are going to be voting in Pennsylvania come Tuesday?

CROWLEY: You know, not really. I mean I think we just have to sort of look (INAUDIBLE). There was a new Quinnipiac poll out today, it obviously didn't cover the debate, but it did cover the post-bitter small-town remark from Barack Obama and it shows a five-point difference between the two of them, which is a narrowing margin. So how this debate plays into it, you know, it's awfully hard to forecast. We can find anecdotal evidence from both sides. But it's just hard to know the whole picture until Tuesday.

DOBBS: Well, and we will be looking to you amongst out other colleagues here on CNN for precisely those renderings of results come Tuesday.

Candy Crowley, thank you very much.

In last night's debate, Senator Obama said he will, "take no options off the table," to stop Iran from making nuclear weapons. But it is unclear how Senator Obama would achieve that goal particularly as he wants this country to surrender its nuclear weapons. On his campaign Web site, Senator Obama says he will, "set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons."

But Senator Obama does not explain how he would prevent countries such as Iran and radical Islamic terrorist groups from obtaining nuclear weapons in the future once we have given up our weapons. Obama also doesn't consider the possibility that nuclear weapons can deter attacks by enemies armed with even conventional weapons, biological weapons or chemical weapons.

Biological and chemical weapons, by the way, are also considered weapons of mass destruction.

New evidence of the terrorism threat facing this nation today. A suicide bomber killed 50 people in an attack against pro-American tribesman in Iraq. That attack took place at a wake being held in a village 90 miles north of Baghdad. Sixty people were wounded in the attack. The latest in a series of attacks against pro-American tribesman. Security officials say al Qaeda is trying to destroy the American effort to enlist the support of Sunni tribesmen.

These latest attacks pose a new challenge to our policy in Iraq and the military's plan to withdraw more of our troops.

Joining me now with (INAUDIBLE) military analyst, General David Grange.

General, good to have you here. What do you make of this recent attacks and their impact on U.S. policy in Iraq?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think, Lou, it's been proven by the commanders that are doing the reports that al Qaeda is not defeated, though they are in a survival mode, and they can hit in small numbers where and when they can. And they target units like this, groups like this that are supporting in collaboration of the American security process. It will affect troop withdrawals, there's no doubt about it. If security is not maintained, troops will not leave.

DOBBS: They won't leave. The withdrawal of American troops suspended by the president. I -- we're also hearing from Senators Clinton and Obama that they're going to withdraw troops no matter what military commanders in Iraq say.

Your response?

GRANGE: My response is, that's not a very prudent thing for a future commander in chief to state. You can't take your options off the table. You have to have the options if you're going to have some kind of diplomacy effort that you're pushing big time. You got to have a military to back it up. If you have to maintain security in order to have the political process work, you have to have the military to do it. They go together. It's a team.

DOBBS: And what do you say to someone who would say to you, the general staff of the United States military has done such a pathetic job of leading these wonderful young men and women in uniform over the course of what is now a longer time span than that of World War II without securing the objectives? Why should they be listened to?

GRANGE: I think there were some poor leadership. I think the leadership on the ground now has nothing to do with defeating the enemy. It's good leadership. This is a conflict that we don't know who all the enemy are. It is a conflict with the sanctuaries in other countries that we cannot reach out and touch. That affects the outcome of this fight.

DOBBS: General David Grange, as always, thank you for being here.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

DOBBS: Coming up next, much more on the presidential campaign, the political fallout from last night's debate. And stunning new developments in the case of former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean.

Casey Wian will have our report -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the admitted drug smuggler who helped put Ramos and Compean behind bars himself copped a plea today. But he could end up serving less time than the two Border Patrol agents. We'll have details coming up -- Lou.

DOBBS: And apparently more outrage.

Casey, thanks. We'll look forward to that report.

And rising demands tonight for a bill of rights for credit card holders in this country. We'll have the special report, a great deal more.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A stunning new development tonight in the case of imprisoned former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, an illegal drug smuggler, illegal alien drug smuggler and the government's key witness against those agents who wounded him, today pleaded guilty to federal drug smuggling charges.

Casey Wian has the report now from outside the federal courthouse in El Paso, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN (voice over): Osvaldo Aldrete Davila was caught smuggling marijuana in 2005 by former Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean in (INAUDIBLE) Texas. Davila, an illegal alien from Mexico, scuffled with the agents, fled and was shot and wounded before crossing the Rio Grande back into Mexico.

Ramos and Compean received 11 and 12-year prison sentences for shooting multiple times at someone who the government says was unarmed and at previously tried to surrender. Also they did not properly report the shooting. Davila was given immunity by federal prosecutors to testify against the agents. Judge Kathleen Cardone granted a motion from the prosecution to bar jurors from hearing testimony about Davila's drug smuggler history, a key blow to Ramos and Compean's defense.

While under immunity, Davila continued to smuggle drugs into the United States. He's now pled guilty to four felonies that carry a maximum sentence of 40 years and $2 million each.

MONICA RAMOS, WIFE OF IGNACIO RAMOS: We waited for this time. We knew eventually it would come. I guess it's just an additional step right now in vindicating my husband's innocence.

WIAN: Sources close not investigation say Davila is expected to be sentenced to between six and 10 years based on his promised cooperation with federal prosecutors investigating drug trafficking organizations. Neither Davila's defense attorney nor prosecutors would comment.

JOHN GIBSON, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: I can't make any comment one way or the other...

WIAN: Federal prosecutors admitted to an appeal's court that Davila told some lies on the stand. He is suing the Border Patrol for $5 million because he was shot. Two sources tell LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, prosecutors have offered to pay Davila's medical expenses, but nothing more. Davila's civil attorney denies that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Now family members and other supporters of the Border Patrol agents believed Davila's guilty plea is part of an effort to keep him from being -- questioned about his testimony in the Ramos and Compean case. Davila is scheduled to be formally sentenced on July 16 -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, now, let's repeat that. To stop him from being questioned in regard to Ramos and Compean in that prosecution?

WIAN: Absolutely, because there are people who are -- you know, family members, supporters of Ramos and Compean who believe that Davila perjure himself on the witness stand in his testimony during their trial. They believe that the government falsely portrayed him as a low-level drug mule who was just doing one drug run instead of the other two they knew about. They believe that the government does not want Davila to be questioned at length in public about these claims -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, in that case, perhaps the judge there should make certain that she ensures that will not happen and certainly would ensure, one would hope, in the interest of justice, that this drug dealer, this illegal alien drug smuggler, who testified against these agents, certainly serves a longer sentence than the agents who've been convicted on what is, obviously, an extraordinary circumstances when they're -- when his evidence was suppressed by both the prosecutor and the judge in the Ramos and Compean trial.

WIAN: You wonder about that, Lou, because this is the same judge who presided over the Ramos and Compean trial, the same judge who prevented the drug smuggler's history from being introduced into evidence in the trial and preventing the jury from hearing about that.

DOBBS: Well, one would hope that the U.S. attorney would be -- Michael Mukasey would be -- the U.S. attorney general -- would be watching over this because he's a man who says he's interested in justice and not politics. It's about time this came -- this case became more about justice rather than politics.

Thank you very much. We appreciate it. Casey Wian reporting from El Paso.

Congressman Ted Poe has been leading extensive efforts to have Ramos and Compean released from prison and their names cleared. He'll be joining me here later on in the broadcast, as will Johnny Sutton. He's the U.S. attorney who led the prosecution of agents Ramos and Compean. He joins me as well.

And that brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Do you believe Ramos and Compean should be freed immediately now that Osvaldo Adrete Davila has admitted he is a professional drug smuggler?

Yes or now, we'd like to hear from you on this. Cast your vote at Loudobbs.com. We'll have the results upcoming.

Up next, senators Clinton and Obama facing off. But who won the debate last night? We'll be talking with three of the best political minds.

And credit card companies targeting millions of middle-class families. Tonight, a battle in Congress over what the government should be doing to help consumers. A bill of rights, maybe? That report and a great deal more coming right up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Some members of Congress tonight are fighting for what they call a credit card holders' bill of rights. Millions of American consumers are relying on credit cards more than ever to pay for even basic products. The proposed legislation would protect consumers from abusive credit card practices such as soaring interest rates and fees.

Lisa Sylvester has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Millions of middle-class consumers are being assaulted with so-called fixed rate credit card offers, only to find out later the rate doubles or triples.

Steven Autrey testified to a House committee that his 9.9 percent credit card rate shot up to more than 15 percent despite on-time payments.

STEVEN AUTREY, CONSUMER: We get a slick gloss envelope in the mail and it says "fixed." I assume fixed means fixed. I didn't know fixed is until they feel like they could change it.

SYLVESTER: Senator Ron Wyden on Capitol Hill showed one credit card agreement 42 pages long.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Forty-two pages, larded up with every conceivable kind of legal mumbo jumbo.

SYLVESTER: Lawmakers say credit card companies are applying higher interest rates to existing debt, even hiking interest rates to card holders who pay on time. They're debating a credit card holders' bill of right.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Card holders or consumers should not be trapped by high interest rate increases to which they did not agree.

SYLVESTER: Congressman Jeb Hensarling is among those opposing the legislation. He agrees with banking groups that the legislation could lead to higher rates for all customers and make it more difficult for consumers to qualify for a card.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: I fear for 95 percent of America, it may prove to be a credit card holders' bill of wrongs.

SYLVESTER: Some lenders such as Citibank, Chase and Capital One have already voluntarily agreed to end some of the more egregious practices like charging interest on balances already paid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Now some lawmakers accused the credit card industry of doing the same thing as mortgage companies, offering teaser rates to people and then later raising the rates on them and making credit offers to people with shaky credit, then they get in over their heads, and that includes credit card offers to college students, even high school students who don't have any income -- Lou?

DOBBS: Well, to satisfy what the credit card companies are doing. What I'm troubled by is that the senators and congressmen aren't naming names in every case. We need to be naming names about who is conducting this kind of practices, observing these predatory practices on consumers. So we're going to put that on our Web site. We're going to begin that tonight. It's got to stop.

And I'd like to invite Congressman Hensarling to come on this show and explain how responsible business practices and regulated lending practices are not in the interest of the public because Congressman, you're out of your cotton-picking mind to suggest something like that. It flies in the face of just two things: one, facts, and two, experience.

Please join us here. I'd like to talk to you about it.

Lisa, thank you very much. Outstanding report. Lisa Sylvester.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Gary in Washington wrote in about our poll question last night, asking if you care what the leaders of the Catholic Church have to say about illegal immigration or any other political issue in this country.

"The Catholic Church," he wrote, "has no right to dictate their views. They need to respect our laws and the separation of church and state. It's the tax payers paying for illegals, not the church."

Carl in Illinois said: "Dear Lou, I couldn't care less what the Catholic Church has to say about illegal immigration. They are for illegal immigration so I say let the Catholics pay for it. Once the burden of illegal aliens is put on them let's see how long they are for amnesty. Keep up the good fight."

We certainly will, and you, too.

Jan in California said: "I do not care what the Catholic Church thinks and by the way, I feel if the churches want to get involved with politics, they should be taxed like anyone else."

And Rachel in Arizona: "I am a Catholic but I wonder why the Pope doesn't scold the Mexican government about their mistreatment of their people rather than scold us because we want illegals to obey our laws."

We'll have more of your thoughts here later.

And please join me on the radio each afternoon, Monday through Friday, for "The Lou Dobbs Show." Go to Loudobbs.com, there will be the local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" to tell you how to get it on the radio.

Up next, Senator Obama says he was treated unfairly in last night's presidential debate. Does this sound familiar? Sounds a lot like Senator Clinton after the last one. Three top political analysts will join us. And the prosecutor who led the investigation into the 1993 World Trade Center bombings joins me to discuss Senator Obama's possible links with a former member of a terrorist group and other issues.

Stunning new developments tonight in the case that led to the imprisonment of those two Border Patrol agents and the prosecutor who led the prosecution of Ramos and Compean, U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton and a leading congressional supporter of those agents, Congressman Ted Poe, will be among my guests.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Pope Benedict XVI tonight on the second day of his visit to this country, continuing to criticize the United States and Americans. The Pope today blasted U.S. bishops for the way they handled the scandal of sex over child abuse in the Catholic Church. But the Pope then suggested part of that blame for that scandal lies in the nature of American society.

Pope Benedict said, "What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?"

That was not his only direct criticism of the United States today. The Pope also said he detects anger and alienation, increasing violence, and what he called a growing forgetfulness of God.

Well, joining me now, three of the best political analysts in the country. We'll find out how the pope is doing. We'll be talking with LOU DOBBS TONIGHT contributor, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist from the "New York Daily News," Michael Goodwin, Democratic strategist, Julie Roginsky, and New York bureau chief, "Washington Post," Keith Richburg.

Good to have you all here. Well Julie, let me start, how's the pope doing? Could he insult anybody else?

(LAUGHTER)

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't want to insult His Holiness and I know he's infallible, but on this one I got to be honest, there's a big gap for me between watching violence on TV and molesting little kids.

DOBBS: Yeah.

ROGINSKY: So, I don't where exactly he's coming up with that, but he's the pope and I'm not going to criticize him.

(LAUGHTER)

All right, Keith, he seems to have no reluctance criticizing us? Do you have some forbearance here, or would you think that he's exactly correct in his assessment?

KEITH RICHBURG, WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, again, I'm not going to go criticizing the pope because I know where that will lead, straight down. But, you know, you can watch violence on television in Italy or any place else in the world these days. I don't think it's a uniquely American phenomenon.

DOBBS: Right.

Well Michael, I don't want to put you in jeopardy of either perdition or hell, itself. So, I will gamble this, may I?

MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Go right ahead.

DOBBS: The idea that the pope would come here and criticize the United States this way, I think is, first of all, bad manners. And I don't care in you're infallible or not. So that's bad manners, and No. 2, it's absolutely, out of all proportion with the world scale. This is the most welcoming, nation, the most generous nation on the face of the earth and for this pope to have this attitude and to make these comments, is in my opinion, absolutely repugnant.

GOODWIN: Well, so I think...

DOBBS: So, I'm on my way to Hell before you.

GOODWIN: I'll get out of your way. Yesterday, I believe, the pope did say very nice things about America, about its history of welcoming people and I...

DOBBS: So, we should have made it a one-day visit.

GOODWIN: Well, I think he's getting even today. But, I think also, it's important to remember who the audience is. And obviously the audience, the prime audience, is the Catholic church and the members, many of whom, I think, are looking for strong leadership in the church or...

DOBBS: Couldn't he have sent out an e-mail to the church membership if he wanted to do that? Because he's being covered on every cable channel, all electronic news, print -- I mean, come on.

GOODWIN: Well, but that's going to be covered around the world. There are 65 million Catholics in the United States, so almost 20 percent of the population of the United States is catholic. And the pope, I think, is really trying to reach them all with a forceful message about what the church stands for, the morality behind the church. So, I think that's what he came here to do.

ROGINSKY: I'm going to join you in hell, I'm going to just say this. He's the pope and the buck stops with him. He's the head of the church and if there is a sex -- child molestation scandal that's been going on and it was going on for quite a long time and the Catholic church knew about it and didn't do anything about it, ultimately it was up to him and his predecessor to have done something about it. So, for him to criticize I think is a little hypocritical.

DOBBS: Yeah, it seems to me that one is going to reach to the level that he did, you have to have some moral standing for it and what has been happening to the church, and I'll speak only of the Catholic church in this country for the last decade, its seems to leave open his standing, cleaning up his own house. I don't know if there's a scriptural reference there, but it seems to me that glass houses, stones, whatever it may be, it's just bad manners. We can always go back to that one.

Let's talk about bad manners. Julie, the debate last night.

(LAUGHTER)

What was my friend Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos doing? They were so unkind to those two U.S. senators.

ROGINSKY: Well, I think -- I'm shocked and shocked that the news media would be a little tough for a change. I'm glad they are because this is the kind of stuff...

DOBBS: I got to say it, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are getting criticized everywhere.

ROGINSKY: I don't think they should be.

DOBBS: There's not a tinker's darn worth of difference between these candidates in terms of public policy. I think they did exactly the right thing, going after the personality, their nature, their statements and their foibles.

ROGINSKY: You know, I am so sick of nitpicking. I want to know what these guys are going to get more money to the middle class pocket, what they're going to get our soldiers out of Iraq. I'm tired of hearing about who they're friends with or whether it's Weather Underground, whether they dodged sniper fire in Bosnia, let's get on with it. Let's talk about stuff that matters to people. I don't think it matters to people.

GOODWIN: Well, see that's where I disagree because I believe all these issues all matter. I mean, Obama calls them want to hear about it all. Obama calls them "wedge issues." That means things he doesn't really care, but other people do. Wedge issues are successful because people care about then and I think a lot of people care about Barack Obama's associations, they care about Reverend Wright, how many times Obama heard Wright say things, which he still won't answer that question. So, Obama could make a lot of this stuff go away just by answering the questions.

We still don't know what he heard Wright say that cause him to rescind the invitation from his campaign announcement. I think that's a legitimate issue. The Farrakhan thing that Hillary Clinton brought up is a legitimate issue. I think these are real issues, they're in the about the war, but they are about character, they're about integrity and credibility. They matter.

RICHBURG: You know, I spent a long time overseas as a correspondent and I look at elections here and elections overseas and I say this is the silliest way we have in the world to pick the leader of the free world. We've got troops in Iraq, we've got a war going south in Afghanistan, we've got a housing crisis that's effecting markets globally, and we spend the first 45 minutes of a debate talking about these things that, to me, are just kind of silly issues. I mean...

DOBBS: Let's do this then, because we're talking about 45 minutes of a debate. How many months has the campaign been going on?

ROGINSKY: My entire life.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: OK, all right, so we're talking -- we're watching ABC get criticized for 45 months of a debate, for 15 months not one of you or anyone else watching this broadcast can tell me how much Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, or Senator McCain understands about the United States relationship with Russia and the nuclear weapons and what should be the path of those weapons in both cases. No one in this campaign has talked about it specifically what they're going to do in public education.

They've got a bunch of blather up on the cases of both Obama and Clinton on their Web site. It is blather. It is inconclusive. It's not remedial. I mean, we can go through this, what are we going to do about public infrastructure? What are we going to do about, honestly, about border security? How is it that these three senators can excuse themselves from being a part of war on drugs that has left millions of young Americans addicted and they're lives destroyed and they continue to want borders open? I think there's a special place reserved in Hell for journalists who don't press these issues.

And it's not a game, folks, it's not a game. We're going to be putting -- God help us, we're going to put one of these people into the White House. And if any one of you can tell me you're comfortable with one of them, you know, all I can say is praise be and hallelujah to you, because I am not.

ROGINSKY: But, you know what, Lou, ultimately, what we've got here is this character issue stuff that you were referring to, you know, it's great, I'm so happy that George Bush is the kind of president that people wanted to have a beer with eight years ago. Is he the kind of president that's been good for this country? No. I'm tired of the character issue stuff. And I agree with you, let's talk about these issues. Let's have a debate where we stop play gotcha on character issues, so-called, and start talking about the fact that you're absolutely right, there are issues that we have to talk about, to leave that to the last 15 minutes of a debate. I love Charlie Gibson, I think he's a great anchor, but I mean, this was not the right move to make, these wedge issues.

GOODWIN: I actually thought the questions in the beginning were very legitimate. And I think it's an important window into how Obama thinks, who his friends are and what he's about...

DOBBS: and if you don't believe that, check the "New York Daily News," Michael Goodwin's column, today.

GOODWIN: The other issue, though, on Iran, I thought was particularly interesting, also. Now, here's Obama criticizing Jimmy Carter for wanting to meet with Hamas, and which he did today. But, Obama, himself, wants to meet with Ahmadinejad and that is the prime -- one of the prime sponsors of Hamas. So, what is the difference?

ROGINSKY: The distinction, though, he said Hamas as not a nation, he said Hamas was a -- I mean...

GOODWIN: Terrorist organization.

ROGINSKY: Well, that's true, but he made -- he did make that distinction...

DOBBS: I think you get the last word no matter what.

(LAUGHTER)

RICHBURG: Personally, I don't think you can call the government of Iran a terrorist organization, it's a government.

GOODWIN: We actually have done that. We have done that.

RICHBURG: The European Union has -- the European countries have embassies there, so you know, all I'm saying is, look, this is a big election about big issues on the table. If it's going to be like the past, are we going to decide it because John Kerry looks silly wind surfing or Mike Dukakis looks silly in a tank or because Al Gore huffed inside a debate...

DOBBS: We're going to decide it by the American people making a judgment that none of us is smart enough to make. Not one of us is the smart as all of us, and we give all of us a shot on Election Day to make that determination. And you know what? No matter what, you know, it tends to work out pretty well over time. Perhaps not as well as we want, not as well as we must have it in the future, but it's what we've got, it's the best there is, so let's...

RICHBURG: Let's hope.

DOBBS: Cross our fingers. Thank you, folks, appreciate it.

Up next, an Mexican illegal alien drug smuggler pleading guilty to, well, smuggling drugs, and to smuggling drugs while he was testifying against two former border patrol agents. A leading supporter of those agents, Congressman Ted Poe, and the prosecutor of their case, U.S. attorney, Johnny Sutton, join me here, next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, we reported earlier to you on the guilty plea of the drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, the key government witness against former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. U.S Attorney Johnny Sutton is the man who lead the prosecution of those two former agents and he brought the case against Davila. Joining us tonight from Austin, Texas.

Good to have you with us.

JOHNNY SUTTON, U.S. ATTORNEY: Hey Lou, thanks for having me on.

DOBBS: This guilty plea, today, is striking. It is also revelatory. What's your reaction?

SUTTON: Well, it's something we've been working towards for many years. Unfortunately we would have liked to have put Aldrete in prison several years ago when he ran his first load of dope. Unfortunately Compean and Ramos instead of doing what they were supposed to do, which is to follow the law, decided to shot them and then cover it up and destroyed evidence and, you know, basically, virtually destroyed any attempt to be able to prosecute him for that first load. I said from the beginning that I always would prosecute Aldrete, didn't have immunity for any other crimes and that as soon as we had a provable case with competent admissible evidence, we would do it and my team worked very hare along with the DEA to work up a case and today he pled guilty to all of the charges that we charged him with.

DOBBS: Any plea bargain?

SUTTON: No, he plead straight up to the indictment, plea to all counts and the sentencing hearing will be later this summer, but he plead to all the accounts as they were just in the indictment.

DOBBS: You and the judge decided to secure the fact and seal the fact that this man, while testifying against two U.S. federal law enforcement agents, was committing crimes against the United States. Why?

SUTTON: Yeah, what you're referring to is what been come to know as the "October load." Basically, during the trial, the defense attorneys wanted to confront Aldrete with that. My prosecutors -- my career prosecutors objected to that, made arguments, obviously the jury knew that Aldrete was a drug dealer, they knew he was an illegal alien, so they had all that information in front of them...

DOBBS: Whoa, Mr. Sutton, your prosecutors said that he had one load, was al low-level drug smuggler, and was in no way involved in a drug smuggling "ring."

SUTTON: Yeah, no, my prosecutors never said that. You know, that might have come up on cross-examination.

DOBBS: Yes, it did.

SUTTON: But, I guess what I'd say to you is that those are rulings that are made in court every day. There's a lot of stuff that we wanted to get in evidence that we weren't allowed to and a lot of things the defense attorneys want to talk about, they were not...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: One of the things I'd like to ask you is, as a prosecutor of two U.S. federal agents, how in the world you would be comfortable sealing evidence that would, in point of fact, undermine the testimony, the credibility and the trustworthiness of your own witness and how you and your prosecutors could take the word of such a person against two sworn agents of the United States government?

SUTTON: That's a great question. I think it's important that your listeners understand the facts. And when we say "sealed," it was sealed so the criminals, the cartel and the public, wouldn't know that we were investigating Aldrete, because obviously, when we heard that he may have run a second load, we wanted to hold him accountable for that.

Now, of course, the defense attorneys knew all about it, the judge knew all about it, my prosecutors did and that is what they were arguing at trial. Some people said there's a cover-up, that we suppressed that evidence. We argue about it, the defense attorneys knew about it. They obviously wanted to bring it in, my prosecutors thought it wasn't relevant. The jury knew the guy was a dope dealer, they knew he was an illegal alien and the judge ruled in our favor and that's the central issue on the appeal. It's in front of the Appellate Courts, now, and at some point in the future we'll find out whether that was a mistake.

DOBBS: Well, as you know, Mr. Sutton, I think it was a huge mistake. And I think it was, absolutely, frankly, outside the bounds to do that to two sworn agents of the United States government. The idea that Aldrete Davila sued the United States government for his injuries, while, with your immunity, his blessing across the border, he was continuing to transport drugs while United States agents, Ramos and Compean, were under trial -- in trial for this, for these -- for a crime against this man, I mean, I just cannot get there. I cannot even imagine what went through your mind.

SUTTON: Well, let me help you and your listeners get there, because, I mean, I guess, what I was -- obviously, Aldrete's a criminal, I mean, he's a dope dealer, he's a illegal alien, he's the kind of guy I prosecute day in and day out. The problem is, just because he's a criminal, just because he commits crimes doesn't mean that prosecutors look the other way when federal agents shoot unarmed people, cover it up, destroy evidence, file false reports and lie about it.

DOBBS: Your only evidence against the man is this testimony of a drug dealer who's violating U.S. law by crossing the border, violating U.S. law repeatedly by bringing death dealing drugs into this country. I mean, my gosh, he's not exactly what I'd call a choir boy.

SUTTON: And I'm not calling him one. I mean, Lou, the hilarious part about this is that -- I'm in the business...

DOBBS: I'm waiting for something hilarious about it. SUTTON: I'm in the business of putting types like Aldrete in prison and we made a good step today, he was convicted of all accounts. Since Compean and Ramos were tried, my prosecutors have put over -- prosecuted over 10,000 defendants, 90 percent are drugs and illegal immigrants, that's what we do...

DOBBS: You and I have talked for some number of years about this. You and I, both, understand the facts of this case. But surely, surely, Mr. Sutton, you understand that the distinction here is you went after two U.S. law enforcement agents on the word of a scumbag.

SUTTON: No, we didn't, Lou and let me tell you, I mean, the most damning...

DOBBS: Well, who else...

SUTTON: The most damning evidence against agents Compean and Ramos were their lies, were their cover-ups, was the conspiracy entered into with other agents to destroy evidence, that killed their credibility in front of the jury. Both agents testified in front of the jury -- everybody knew that Aldrete was a doper, everybody knew that he was, you know, a scumbag mule. Those agents weren't credible, it was a lot of evidence besides Aldrete...

DOBBS: On cross-examination, did the jury understand that Davila was, in point of fact, a professional dug dealer and smuggler and a total scumbag?

SUTTON: They certainly knew that he...

DOBBS: Did you portray him as a one-time offender, a low-level -- with low-level involvement in that drug distribution ring?

SUTTON: I mean, I guess when I say a trial is, the jury knew that he had ran a huge load of dope. They knew he was an illegal alien, they knew that that kind of stuff happens on the border, that he was a bad guy, they knew that he was the kind of guy we'd put in prison. And you know, I've never defended Aldrete, I mean, I'm happy, today, that he's convicted and...

DOBBS: Well, you did. You did defend him. You kept the reality of his record from that jury making a determination about the fate of two U.S. law enforcement officers.

SUTTON: Well, first of all, he had no record. DEA had no record...

DOBBS: I didn't say he wasn't good at what he did, Mr. Sutton. I didn't say he wasn't good at what he did, did I?

SUTTON: Well, what we put in front of the jury the information that was admissible at the trial. And that's the way we run. I mean, there's a lot of stuff that I would have loved to have gotten in evidence against Compean and Ramos, but I couldn't. The judge said, it's not relevant, it's highly prejudicial. That's why we have trials to make these determinations. The jury knew this guy was a dope deal. And the hilarious -- the sick -- the sad part...

DOBBS: Do you think your prosecution will be upheld by the Appellate Court?

SUTTON: You know, I have no idea, that's up to those courts. I know the Fifth Circuit is very experienced judges and there's no way to predict what they'll do. I'm sure that they'll tell us in their good time.

DOBBS: All right. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, thank you for being here.

SUTTON: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Up next, I'll be joined by Congressman Ted Poe, he's one leading the fight to free Ramos and Compean from prison.

And Senator Obama defending his relationship with a terrorist? That's the charge from Andrew McCarthy, the author of an important new book, "Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad." He'll be here to talk about that and the treat still posed to this county by radical Islamists. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Now, we've just been reporting to you the guilty plea of drug smuggle, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, the key government witness against former Border Patrol agents, Ramos and Compean. Congressman Teds Poe, among those leading extensive efforts to have those two agents released from prison, their names cleared. He joins me now.

Congressman, I just talked with Johnny Sutton, I know you heard that, I just talked with reporters out of El Paso. What in the world is going on in Texas? This doesn't make a lick of sense to me?

REP TED POE (R), TEXAS: It doesn't make a lick of sense and this drug dealer was portrayed to the jury as a mule that, for a couple of hundred bucks, brought a load of drugs to help his poor, sick mother back in Mexico, which was a whole lie. And the jury though he was a small-time dealer. The U.S. Attorney's Office knew that he was major player, they kept that from the jury. The star witness, not only lied, but was misrespected to the jury. The jury should have known about his background and it's very unfortunate that they hid this truth from the jury...

DOBBS: Let me say before you go further, because I should have pointed out, that Congressman Poe, is a former judge, former prosecutor and knows whereof he speaks. I need to remind our viewers of that fact. Will this play at all into the doggone appeal that's going on in the Fifth Circuit right now for Ramos and Compean?

POE: I certainly hope so. It may not be as important to the judges on appeal, as maybe we would think, but it shows that the guy was a criminal, a drug dealer, he lied to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and misrepresented -- he was misrepresented to American public when he testified, and so he's going to go to prison, he will get less time than both the border agents are already serving, but it will play in the fact that...

DOBBS: Do you think that's already baked into this deal? Johnny Sutton told me there hadn't been a plea deal.

POE: Well, the sentence range is up to 10 years in prison, which is less than either one of the border agents got. So, I think that he will get less time than they got. But, the Court of Appeals, the Fifth Circuit of Appeals, I think, at the end of the day, will reverse its case mainly because the U.S. Attorney's Office misled the jury, hid the evidence from the jury that this guy was a major drug dealer.

DOBBS: You know, this -- is there such a thing as fraud when the U.S. attorney brings a case? Because, I mean, these people lied. They lied in front of that jury, they lied, apparently, to the investigators from the Department of Homeland Security. Then, the inspector general, as you well know, for the Department of Homeland Security, lied to the United States Congress, including you.

POE: That's right.

DOBBS: I mean, this smells to high Heaven.

POE: It does. And it looks, in my opinion, it looks politically corrupt to do this. And so...

DOBBS: Congressman, should we have a federal investigation of the prosecution, of the Department of Homeland Security, of this entire situation. I mean, I even talked to the sector chief of the Border Patrol. He didn't even have any regard for his own agents. I don't even know what planet he was from.

POE: Well, I hope Congress continues to investigate this case and there'll be congressional hearings. We'll air all this out and see what the political motive or the motive was to trying the wrong people the first time. They should have tried the drug dealer the first time. The whole case was based on the drug dealer's testimony. He's the only one that said he didn't have a gun. He's the only one that they could rely on. And now we know he's a known liar and a known drug dealer. And it's unfortunate the whole U.S. attorney's case was based on this purpose -- this person who presented fraud to the jury when he testified.

DOBBS: Well, Congressman, thank you for being here. Thank you for all your efforts that you do in leading the efforts to free Ramos and Compean. We appreciate it. Thank you, sir.

POE: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Congressman Ted Poe.

A reminder now to vote in our poll, tonight. The question is, do you believe Ramos and Compean should be freed immediately now that Osvaldo Aldrete Davila has admitted he is a professional drug smuggler? Yes or now. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com we'll have those results, upcoming. And still ahead, I'll be talking with the author of an important new book, Senator's Obama's relationship with a suspected terrorist, part of the sub-motif, as it's called. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Senator Obama, today, is defending his relationship with a former member of a terrorist group known as the "Weather Underground," a man named Bill Ayers, a leader in that group that bombed government buildings back in the '60s and '70s. My guest tonight says Ayers, who hosted Senator Obama at his home in the 1990s, was strictly a terrorist who had bombed the Pentagon in 1972. Andrew McCarthy is also a former federal prosecutor who, in fact, led the investigation into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He is also the author of the important new book, "Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad."

Andy, good to have you with us.

ANDREW MCCARTHY, AUTHOR, "WILLFUL BLINDNESS": Lou, great to be here.

DOBBS: Bill Ayers, we're hearing today from Mayor Daley that he also knows Ayres and he's just a fine fellow and no problem, don't be -- please don't be discomforted by Senator Obama's relationship with him.

MCCARTHY: Look, of all the people who've ever bombed the Pentagon and the State Department and the New York City police headquarters, I'm sure he's one of the best. But I -- my sense is that regular Americans aren't going to see it that way.

DOBBS: Senator Obama, you are declaring rather straight forwardly, is denying some relatively close relationships that he is suggesting are not -- are distant.

MCCARTHY: Yeah, well he's denying the relationship, but I think more importantly what he's trying to obfuscate is that there's a trajectory to all of this and there's a theme that runs through it and whether its some of the statements made by his wife or Reverend Wright or Bernadine Dohrn and Ayers, the fact is he's comfortable...

Bernadine Dohrn being Ayers' wife.

The other Weather Underground terrorist who was Ayers' wife. But, he's comfortable with people who hate this country. And I think when he talks about and makes the theme of his campaign "Change," and since he hasn't really explained to us much about the change, we're entitled to infer, from the people he's comfortable with, who are social revolutionaries, the kind of change he wants to make in America.

DOBBS: You're including, obviously, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

MCCARTHY: Of course, right. DOBBS: And -- and Ayers (ph). Others?

MCCARTHY: Well, there's Rashid Khalidi, who was a recipient of some of the largess that Obama controlled when he was on the Woods Board. He is somebody who was --

DOBBS: He was on the board with Ayers (ph)?

MCCARTHY: Yes, when Obama was on the Woods Board with Ayers, they gave grants to Rashid Khalidi, and his work. Now, he has denied being a member of the PLO. But there's no question he's an apologist for Palestinian terrorism, including suicide attacks against Israeli soldiers.

DOBBS: Let's talk about your book, as well. And that is a memoir of the jihad.

There is a reluctance, and as you suggest in the book straightforwardly, to come to terms with the reality that we are in a conflict with a competing ideology.

MCCARTHY: Yes. We would rather think that this is basically a marginal fringe group of lunatics who have highjacked an otherwise peaceful religion. And, boy, I wish that was true.

But the fact remains that what the ideology that we're up against, which is the ideology that fuels all the terrorism, is an ideology of long-standing 14th century --

DOBBS: Radical Islam.

MCCARTHY: Yes, radical Islam, which has demanded the fuelty (ph) of rich and poor, educated and uneducated. I don't think we should underestimate the power of it.

DOBBS: Andrew McCarthy. "Willful Blindness: A Memoir of The Jihad."

Thanks, a very important book. We can't recommend it highly enough.

MCCARTHY: Well thank you.

DOBBS: Good to have you with us, Andy.

In tonight's poll, I know you are waiting for these results -- 97 percent of you say Ramos and Compean should be freed immediately now that Osvaldo Aldrete Davila has admitted he is a professional drug smuggler.

We thank you for being us with tonight. Please join us here tomorrow.

For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.

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

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