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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Reverend Wright Speaks Out; Supreme Court Upholds Indiana Photo ID Law

Aired April 28, 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 ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.
Tonight, Senator Obama's controversial former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, is on the attack and he is again overshadowing Senator Obama's presidential hopes. We'll examine populism and prejudice and pride on the campaign trail and a critically important ruling by the Supreme Court on our voting system, the justices upholding Indiana's law requiring voters to show photo identification. We'll have a special report.

And Congressman Luis Gutierrez and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are attacking me and Time Warner and CNN, all trying to apparently muzzle my reporting on our illegal immigration crisis. Congressman Gutierrez will be here for what I'm sure will be an interesting discussion, all of that and all the day's news and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Monday, April 28. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Senator Obama's controversial former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright today offered no apologies for making inflammatory, provocative, even anti-American remarks. Instead, Reverend Wright blasted his critics saying his church is under assault from people who he said know nothing about black religious traditions and Senator Obama and other presidential candidates focusing on winning the support of Independent voters and blue-collar voters.

Those voters could determine the outcome of next week's primaries in both Indiana and North Carolina. We have extensive coverage tonight, beginning with Candy Crowley in Wilson, North Carolina. Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, let's face it. There is only one way to say this. For Barack Obama, this is not what he needed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): Sometimes, the best way around something is through it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I repeat again that some of the comments that Reverend Wright have made offend me, and I understand why they've offended the American people. He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign. And so, he may make statements in the future that don't reflect my values or concerns.

CROWLEY: While his former preacher made headlines in Washington, D.C., Barack Obama was in North Carolina, doing a bit of a mea culpa.

OBAMA: There are times where sometimes we get sucked into this whole negative thing. You know, people throw elbows at you; you start feeling like oh I've got to throw an elbow back. But the problem is that it doesn't help you.

CROWLEY: Barack Obama spoke at a town hall meeting in Wilmington, North Carolina, for an hour and a half. They talked global warming, education, trade, health care. Nobody talked about Jeremiah Wright.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not running for office. I am open to being vice president.

CROWLEY: They are not laughing inside the Obama campaign. Though declining to offer a damage assessment, one strategist said, "no one can doubt at this point that Reverend Wright is for Reverend Wright." Wright's many speaking tours is an untimely event for Obama, coming just in the midst of his intense courtship of the white working class vote.

OBAMA: I didn't get in this race to run against Senator Clinton. I ran to run against unemployment. I ran to run against lack of educational opportunity. I ran to run against lack of health care and substandard housing and a war that we should not have fought.

CROWLEY: Obama needs to show strength among blue-collar workers to mute Hillary Clinton's superdelegate argument that he will lose that core constituency in a general election, a constituency presumed the most likely to be turned off by Wright's words. The reemergence of the reverend is exponentially harmful to Obama's mission. It gives Clinton another swing at it, even as she cries foul.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not have stayed in that church under those circumstances, but I regret the efforts by the Republicans to politicize this matter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: And Lou, it will not surprise you to know that the Obama campaign says nobody in that campaign, from the candidate on down, has tried to contact Reverend Wright. Lou?

DOBBS: That's quite a -- that's quite an adroit maneuver by Senator Clinton. She regrets the politicization behind the Republicans of Reverend Wright, but nonetheless, makes it very clear what she would have done had she been in his church.

CROWLEY: It's all about politics, Lou. You know, they speak very well, these politicians. DOBBS: Absolutely. As do you, as always. Thanks for bringing us up to date. Candy Crowley, thank you very much.

New indications today that Senator Clinton may be winning the argument that she is more electable now than Senator Obama; a new Associated Press/Ipsos poll shows Clinton with a clear lead over Senator McCain in a hypothetical contest. That poll gives Senator Clinton 50 percent and McCain only 41 percent. Separately, Senator Obama would be virtually tied with Senator McCain, 46 to 44 percent.

Both Democrats almost even with McCain in the previous poll just three weeks ago before Senator Clinton's convincing, impressive victory in Pennsylvania. The Senator McCain campaign today maintained its offensive against Senator Obama and his links with Reverend Wright. Senator McCain himself today tried to stay away from the controversy. Yesterday, McCain accused Wright of saying that U.S. Marines are no better than murderers Roman Legionnaires. Dana Bash with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A hospital tour as John McCain discussed one of the starkest policy differences with Democrats, health care.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The solution, my friends, isn't a one size fits all big government takeover of health care.

BASH: McCain tried to stick to issues and script a day after straying from his self-described high standard of campaigning. Volunteering controversial quotes, purportedly from Jeremiah Wright, reported on a blog.

MCCAIN: One of them comparing the United States Marine Corps with Roman Legionnaires who were responsible for the death of our savior.

BASH: With a segue to Barack Obama's so-called "bitter" comments about rural voters.

MCCAIN: I can understand why that Americans, when viewing these kinds of comments are angry and upset, just like they viewed Senator Obama's statements about why people turn to their faith and their values.

BASH: McCain insists Obama himself green-lighted that by saying Sunday, Reverend Wright is a legitimate political issue. Still, it's a risky move for someone who repeatedly says this...

MCCAIN: I've pledged to conduct a respectful campaign and I've urged time after time various entities within the Republican Party to also do that.

BASH: But McCain aides tell CNN they've now made a tactical decision not to, in the words of one adviser, do Obama's work for him by condemning his condemners. A strategy shift made after McCain denounced this North Carolina GOP ad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in his pew.

BASH: But still got hammered by Democrats for not doing more to kill it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Senator McCain made a point of saying today that he does not think that Barack Obama agrees with controversial comments from his former pastor, but he also said that he does not want to be the quote/unquote "referee" for this anymore. And the McCain aides I spoke to say what that means is that while his campaign is not going to run as using Reverend Wright against Barack Obama, he's no longer going to tell others not to. Lou?

DOBBS: Somebody is sorting all of this out for the senator at this point?

BASH: With regard to -- with regard to the Reverend Wright comment...

DOBBS: Well first he says, don't use this kind of campaigning, then he indulges in it himself, then rather high-mindedly says he's not going to do it apparently after doing it today, is that it?

BASH: You pretty much nailed it, Lou. I mean that's exactly what we have seen in terms of the evolution of the way Senator McCain has dealt with this issue and really what struck us, obviously, in listening to what Senator McCain said yesterday, because it was quite different from the kind of things that we had heard just a couple of days ago, where he was really condemning North Carolina Republicans from running that ad, saying he does not want any Republicans to do that.

But you know McCain aides I talked to say on the one hand they feel like they're getting -- there is a double standard. That Barack Obama isn't necessarily being held to the same standard when some surrogates of his say things about McCain...

DOBBS: Oh I think it's quite safe to say now, Dana, that Senator Obama is being held to the same standards. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: But the other political reality -- OK.

DOBBS: No, no, go ahead, please.

BASH: I was just going to say the other political -- sure -- the other political reality that I was just going to say to you is what you were talking about with Candy, is that more and more the McCain campaign just like every Republican sees that if Barack Obama is their opponent, there's no other liability, they think, that is greater for Barack Obama than this, so they want to open the door to using it, no matter what Senator McCain has said in the past.

DOBBS: When you say this, are you referring to Jeremiah Wright or the senator's own self-inflicted wounds from his comments about guns and the First Amendment?

BASH: When I say this I mean Jeremiah Wright. The self- inflicted wounds, as you call it, from his so-called "bitter" comments. That's something that Senator McCain jumped on in a nanosecond, you remember. He never said he wasn't going to use that, but Jeremiah Wright, he has said he stayed away -- would stay away from and he'd not doing it, at least in the past 24 hours or so.

DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much. Dana Bash.

Senator Obama tonight is competing with Senator McCain and Senator Clinton to sell himself as a populist. You remember when populist wasn't a word we heard in this campaign? Obama trying to distance himself now from charges that he's an elitist who is completely out of touch with working men and women in this country. Those charges intensified after the senator declared small town voters were bitter people clinging to guns and religion. Bill Schneider has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Barack Obama has a problem with white, blue-collar voters. In Pennsylvania, whites without a college degree voted for Hillary Clinton by better than two to one. In the Democratic primaries so far this year, those voters have gone for Clinton in 25 states. They've gone for Obama in only three. Obama's aware of the problem.

OBAMA: People said, well, maybe it hasn't -- you know, he hasn't proven that he can win, you know, the white blue-collar vote.

SCHNEIDER: What's their problem with Obama? Is it race or is it class?

STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Some of it is race. Some of it is his life experience and his style, and undoubtedly, some of it's his ideology.

SCHNEIDER: His style?

ROTHENBERG: He talks at 35,000 feet. He's much more of a professor giving a lecture than he is a candidate who's trying to connect with real people.

SCHNEIDER: Why do white working class voters prefer Hillary Clinton?

ROTHENBERG: Hillary's got this tough spider image. And she does pepper her comments more in terms of the little people, more specifics, more about issues.

H. CLINTON: My campaign is about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs!

SCHNEIDER: How much of Obama's problem is race? In Pennsylvania, white non-college Democrats who said race was an important factor in their vote went for Clinton over Obama by four to one. But how many white non-college Democrats said race was important, only one in five. Eighty percent of them said race was not important. They voted for Clinton too, by better than two to one, suggesting that Obama's problem with those white voters is only partly racial. A lot of it is culture.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Obama is an African-American candidate who is being criticized for having elitist cultural values. Notably, it's the elitist problem that looks more serious. Lou?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Thanks very much, Bill -- Bill Schneider reporting.

As presidential candidates argue over issues including class and race and gender, the war in Iraq continues. Insurgents today killed four more of our troops in Baghdad in two separate attacks; 43 of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month; 4,055 of our troops killed since the war began; 29,829 of our troops wounded; 13,309 of them seriously.

Coming up next here, corporate America says it must import the brightest and best foreign workers under the H-1B visa program. Oh really? Bill Tucker will be here with the report. Bill?

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Lou, as it turns out, average and ordinary might be a better moniker for the program. We'll have the details, coming up next, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Bill.

Also, the violent drug cartel on the Mexican side of our southern border is escalating. Americans are at risk, and who cares about that besides us, besides you and a few folks in Washington, but only a few?

And the Supreme Court makes an important ruling that will help secure the integrity of our voting system, much more to be done. We'll have that report and a great deal more. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: When it comes to gasoline, the news just gets worse and worse, the price of gasoline today hitting a new high of $3.60 a gallon. A convoy of truckers today drove into Washington, D.C., to protest high fuel costs. Those truckers circled the National Mall, with their horns blaring, before making their way -- all the way to the Capitol for a rally.

Many truckers forced to pay higher prices for fuel. They say it's just difficult now for them to even stay in business, let alone make their runs. Diesel fuel averaging about $4.25 a gallon now across the country, just a year ago, it was $2.90. It can cost a trucker more than $1,300 to fill the tank in one of those 18-wheelers.

It's more than rising fuel costs costing Americans their jobs. A new study shows what we've been saying here for years big business is simply taking advantage of visa programs for cheap labor. The report shows visa applicants are not the best workers available, as businesses have, many of them argued, but simply ordinary workers with sometimes just average skills taking American jobs and driving wages lower. Bill Tucker has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER (voice-over): Average that is what the H1-B visa program is providing in the way of foreign worker talent, according to a new analysis by a critic of the program. The analysis, called H1-B, still not the best and the brightest uses actual wages paid to visa workers against prevailing wages in a profession and creating a measure it calls the talent measure.

Using the number one to represent average, the median value of talent in all foreign tech workers came in at one. The study's author, University of California Davis Professor Norm Matloff (ph) that a better moniker might be "ordinary talent doing ordinary work", businesses lobbying to expand the program far a simple economic reason, the report says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are mostly average workers and what the business community wants is to increase the supply of workers and keep wages down.

TUCKER: The data suggests business is not seeking a higher level of talent. The Department of Labor uses four levels of classification. The first two require little or no judgment. They're entry-level positions, which is where the vast majority of H1-B workers are concentrated. Very few, only 11 percent, are level four workers are people who quote "plan and conduct work-requiring judgment and independent evaluation."

Matloff's (ph) analysis found that among companies that push the hardest for expanding the H-1B program, there are few level-four workers to be found among their H1-B hires. We contacted representatives from two lobbying groups pushing for expanding the H1- B visa program for comment, Compete America and the National Foundation for American Policy. Both declined to comment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Compete America actually saying that it would not make anyone available for comment because it doesn't like the editorial position of this show. The National Foundation for American Policy said its spokesman, Stuart Anderson (ph), was just out of town, Lou, and not reachable for comment.

DOBBS: There's a brilliant idea. They don't like the editorial position of the show. Here's the editorial position of the show. Bill Gates and all of you playing these little games with those congressmen and senators who just want to kiss your feet when you walk into Washington, D.C., here's the editorial policy of this show and this broadcast and the people who work on it.

We don't really think that that looks so good for you people in Washington, to be slobbering over billionaires who are asking for an unlimited number of H1-B visas no matter what the cost is to American workers. And Bill Gates, specifically for you, we have reserved a chair here at any time for you to come in and explain how you could testify as you did before Capitol Hill when only three percent, three percent of your 900 H1-B visa workers at Microsoft are considered level four and keep giving us those speeches on the best and the brightest, Mr. Gates, because you're just doing it, just doing it beautifully. Except for one thing -- you look like a complete and utter fool and we really don't understand why a man so smart as you would choose to look like a fool, especially in the nation's Capitol.

Bill Tucker, what in the world are they going to do?

TUCKER: I have no -- they're going to want more, they're going to get more, most people will say. Congress will in fact do exactly what they want them to do.

DOBBS: What is it going to take for the American working man and woman in this country to decide that before he or she is a Republican or a Democrat that you're going to insist first on honesty, straight forwardness, and first, the national interests and all of our interest is tied up in succeeding at that. It's remarkable. Bill, thank you very much. Good work.

Arizona's Governor Janet Napolitano today did what she does best. She put together some interesting politics and then vetoed legislation that would have required local police to enforce federal immigration laws. The proposal passed by the legislature would have allowed for federal training for local police and partnerships with federal authorities.

The governor said the law was "too expensive," and I think in one of the most imperious statements I've heard from even a governor such as Janet Napolitano who doesn't think she apparently has many peers. When it comes to political maneuvering, she said, she finds the law unnecessary. Well, it must be nice to have such a CEO of such a state anywhere in this country.

And turning now to Mexican authorities, they're investigating a gruesome case of drug cartel violence in the border city of Tijuana. More than a dozen cartel members were killed there Saturday in gun battles between cartel rivals in the city of Tijuana. And there are reports in this country that a U.S. bank, Wachovia, is now the subject of an investigation into drug money laundering. Louise Schiavone has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Warring drug gangs took their bloody business to the streets of Tijuana, Mexico, this weekend in a running gun battle that left at least 13 people dead and five injured. Mexican authorities say it was one of the bloodiest confrontations in recent memory.

JAMES ROBERTS, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The terrible shoot-out over the weekend is just -- I mean one of the most vivid examples of something that's going on all the time.

SCHIAVONE: A drug enforcement administration official told Congress recently quote, "Mexico produces much of the methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana consumed by Americans. Approximately 90 percent of the cocaine entering the U.S. transits Mexico", end quote. In a 2005 study the DEA estimated Americans spend roughly $65 billion a year on illegal drugs, only one billion of that is seized. Enter the banks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're pretty aware of the know your customer rules. The fact that any deposit in excess of $10,000 has to be declared and examined. And they know very well, actually, where the real risky areas are. And they tend to be the areas that also have the higher profits.

SCHIAVONE: Now the "Wall Street Journal" reports that federal investigators are looking at the relationship of Wachovia Bank and a Mexican exchange house. In particular, the government wants to know more about the deposit of several million dollars from that exchange house into roughly two dozen Wachovia accounts.

Said Wachovia quote "We do not comment on the status or existence of government investigations. Wachovia is committed to maintaining a strong, anti-money-laundering program". End quote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHIAVONE: Lou, there have been no comments on this case from the Justice Department or from the Treasury Department, which told LOU DOBBS TONIGHT that required currency transactions and suspicious activity reports are among the government's most powerful tools against drug-related financial crimes. Lou?

DOBBS: That's why there should be very few questions at this point, after those czars' reports, after all of those investigations into suspicious activity. I mean, Wachovia should be able to straightforwardly say that this did not happen or it did. But that's not what is happening at Wachovia?

SCHIAVONE: No. What they're saying is that no one who is authorized to say so has spoken to the "Wall Street Journal"...

DOBBS: Oh.

SCHIAVONE: ... so right away you know that there are some questions.

DOBBS: Yep, right away. And I did not catch the distinction there in terms -- it's just that they're not going to put forward anybody who does know. I mean that's really ridiculous. Come on, Wachovia. I mean, stand up, talk straight, you know set a trend in this country. We could use a little help here. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it Louise. Louise Schiavone.

By the way, in Chicago, just to compare what happened in Tijuana, before we get up on our high horse here too much, I believe the total number dead is 15 over the past two weeks in Chicago alone with more than 40 people shot. I mean, that's what's going on in some quarters of this country as well as Tijuana, Mexico.

Well, coming up next, an important Supreme Court ruling that could help prevent fraud at the polls. We'll see. We'll have the report.

And unlikely support for charges that the liberal media is biased against Senator Clinton, we'll be talking about that with three of the country's best political analysts.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The Supreme Court today ruled that states have the right to require photo identification in order for anyone to vote. The case centered around the state of Indiana strict state voter ID law. It comes just one week before Indiana's critical Democratic primary. And as Kitty Pilgrim now reports, groups such as the ACLU, they're already howling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Indiana has a voter ID law requiring a voter proves who they are with photo ID when they vote. Today, the Supreme Court said that rule was not a burden and did not violate the constitutional rights of voters.

PROF. MICHAEL PITTS, INDIANA UNIV. SCHOOL OF LAW: The court has a state interest in deterring and preventing in person voter fraud. And so the court said that that was a legitimate state interest and it outweighed the burden on voters, and so the law was upheld.

PILGRIM: The ruling reads -- not only is the risk of voter fraud real, but that it could affect the outcome of a close election. There is no question about the legitimacy or importance of a state's interest in counting only the votes of legitimate voters. Twenty-five states require some ID at the polls. Seven ask for photo ID. And courts have ruled in favor of it in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan. Wayne Turner represents the Indiana county clerk who oversaw the election cited in the court case.

WAYNE TURNER, ATTORNEY: For all the things that we obtain photo ID's for, it is really a minimal burden on voters to produce that kind of proof that they are who they say they are.

PILGRIM: The ACLU and others argue that voter ID laws suppress voting, because not everyone has adequate ID, and the law could disenfranchise disadvantaged and poor voters. Three of the Supreme Court justices basically agreed with that argument, but not the majority.

STEVEN SHAPIRO, ACLU: We're very disappointed. But on the other hand, the decision clearly leaves the door open to future challenges by Indiana residents and voters elsewhere in the country. PILGRIM: But the court clearly states we cannot conclude that the statute imposes excessively burdensome requirements on any class of voters.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now Indiana gives free ID's to people who apply for them. Also anyone without an ID can cast an original ballot and then have 10 days to come up with their documents, Lou, so...

DOBBS: So what is the problem for the ACLU? I mean the idea that voters going to the polls should be able to prove their identity, what in the world is happening in this country where that is a burden?

PILGRIM: Yeah, well this court clearly found it was not a burden...

(CROSSTALK)

PILGRIM: ACLU says some people just don't have this --

DOBBS: Don't have it?

PILGRIM: Don't have it.

DOBBS: Can't be troubled to get it?

PILGRIM: It's hard to defend this.

DOBBS: It's hard to imagine that they could find time to register, isn't it? On what level do we want people to be voting? The parties will be doing everything they can to register voters and help those who have health issues that would keep them at home.

PILGRIM: The ruling clearly said the states have a right to uphold their elections and require documentation.

DOBBS: Thank you, Supreme Court, by telling us that states' rights actually still exist, that this is still a federal republic. I mean it's remarkable what we're being granted here in this country. Perhaps it's still even a representative democracy. Who knows?

Thanks very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

This is also the subject of our poll tonight. The question is, do you believe, as the Supreme Court obviously does, that photo identification should be required to vote? Yes or no? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results later.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts.

Al in Ohio said, "Lou, I am so sick of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. I saw enough and heard enough in the past few days to know that I've changed my mind completely about Barack Obama. All of a sudden, Hillary Clinton never looked so good." And Lorraine in New Jersey, "As a black American and a Christian, I wanted to let you know that if my pastor with passion or not cursed in the pulpit and used slander against any, I would not be there. Reverend Wright does not represent the mainstream of black churches. He certainly in no way represents my church."

Andy in Connecticut said, "It angers me to see the Democratic Party shut out millions of voters in Florida and Michigan. Their excuse, they went against the rules. This isn't a grade school softball game, it's an election, and we're adults." Oh, yes, may I add one other descriptive word -- we're Americans.

We'll have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast.

Join me on the radio, please, each afternoon, Monday through Friday for the Lou Dobbs Show. My guests tomorrow include Robert Bryce, the author of Gusher, on this country's energy policy and the impact on all Americans. And machinist union official, Robert Ruche says consolidation in the airline industry will benefit only executives, not employees or passengers. He joins me. And please go to LouDobbs.com to find local listings for the Lou Dobbs Show on the radio.

Up next here, a top Democrat says either Clinton or Obama must get out of the presidential race in June. Three top political analysts and strategists will give us their assessment of the new demand by Howard Dean, the DNC chairman.

Also, Senator Obama's controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, launches a counteroffensive, but it may be an assault on Senator Obama.

And the Bush administration continues to push, you won't believe it, they haven't got that long in office. They're still pushing free trade. Stay with us. We'll have the report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Senator Obama's former pastor, Reverend Wright, today talked before the National Press Club. Reverend Wright didn't apologize for his controversial statements over the past sermons. Instead, Reverend Wright said the African-American church in this country is being attacked by the media. Today's comments come one day after he made several remarks at the NAACP Detroit branch's 53rd Annual Fight for Freedom Dinner.

The president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP and staunch reporter of Reverend Wright, the Reverend Wendell Anthony, joins me now.

Good to have you with us, Reverend.

REV. WENDELL ANTHONY, PRES., NAACP DETROIT: Thank you Mr. Dobbs. Good to be with you.

DOBBS: I have to say, and I haven't talked to Senator Obama, but I've got to believe right now that Senator Obama kind of wishes Reverend Wright would just take a trip, kind of relax, but don't say a whole lot.

ANTHONY: Well, first of all, I think that people need to understand that this was an invitation that was extended by the Detroit branch NAACP. We have hosted President Clinton twice, Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, Vice President Gore, going all the way back to Thurgood Marshall. So we host those kinds of persons.

And Lou, quite frankly, it's important for people to recognize that we are the NAACP, not the RNC or the DNC. And our things was a change is going to come. We just felt that with the current discussion around the church, particularly as a pastor myself, and one who's quite familiar with the works of Dr. Wright and many others, it was very appropriate for us to speak truth to power in a way that was unedited, unsanitized --

DOBBS: Do I understand Reverend Anthony that right now that the NAACP is positioned somewhere politically right between the RNC and the DNC? Is that what you would suggest?

ANTHONY: No, I would simply say that we are not powerful, as you know, and particularly I'm speaking for the Detroit branch. We have Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

DOBBS: Right. Well, let's turn to what Reverend Wright said.

ANTHONY: Yeah.

DOBBS: He said, quote, the recent attack on the black church is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. It is an attack on the black church. How in the world did we get to that point?

ANTHONY: I think, Lou, what he was really saying, and in the full context of that portrayal, when you want to stop gate and channel the work of the church as coming from a pastor, it not only affects him, but it affects all of us in the ministry. People often want to define you and then they can confine you. He has been reduced to a sound byte. You cannot do that for 40 years in five or six instances.

DOBBS: Well, we would agree, would we not, Reverend, that he has not been in any way confined.

ANTHONY: No, not recently, because he's broke that confinement. And I think that's what we were doing last night, to stand up, to articulate that.

You might remember also Lou that in '67, folks didn't like what Martin Luther King was saying about the Vietnam War.

DOBBS: I have a hard time, Reverend -- I have a hard time, you're putting Reverend Wright and Martin Luther King Jr. in the same deal.

ANTHONY: No, but the principal is the same -- DOBBS: I'm not sure, tell me how it is.

ANTHONY: Very specifically, Dr. King spoke out against the Vietnam War, he was ostracized. He was criticized. Most of his friends and a lot of those detractors used that as an occasion to say he was unpatriotic. How could he talk about that? He had no business speaking about that.

DOBBS: So should our reflex then here be, go Reverend Wright, say what you will, it won't have any influence, we will ignore what you say, we will not acquaint or attach any importance to what you've said or to the relationship you've had with Senator Obama? I'm a little confused about what people are asking for here.

ANTHONY: Absolutely not. What we should be saying is that the right of the church to speak truth to power is still intact, whether that's Barack Obama's former pastor, whether that's Martin Luther King, Wendell Anthony or Lou Dobbs.

What we should be focusing in on is just because a minister has articulated his grievance relative to measuring against the work of god and the words of god, in terms of working against war, working to bring about national health care, talking about issues of poverty.

You just talked about truckers coming into Washington, protesting the high cost of gas. Should they not speak about that? Should teachers not speak about education? Should farmers not speak about the high cost of --

DOBBS: Do you think -- do you believe a preacher should be suggesting that the white government is inflicting AIDS on its black citizens? Do you think that that should be the case? Do you think that there should be such words uttered from the pulpit? I'd love to hear this from you. Do you think the words G.D. the United States should ever escape the lips of a pastor on a pulpit?

ANTHONY: I'm so glad you asked that question, Lou, because consistent with biblical history, when you look at history, when you read it, he was not saying that like you're on a street corner, he was talking about the historicity of the church.

DOBBS: I know the context.

ANTHONY: About how god has damned nations and people when they have gone against the will of god.

DOBBS: And he was referring -- and at that point he was referring to what?

ANTHONY: He was referring to the comments that an ambassador had made concerning what was going on in Iran.

DOBBS: And his view was? And his view was?

ANTHONY: From his view, from what I understand was that by virtue of innocent people being killed in an unjust war, then god has a problem with that. Whether that is Iraq, America, Germany or other nations.

DOBBS: He was saying ...

ANTHONY: The issue is injustice versus justice. And I simply say that it's about speaking truth to power, it's about representing all people, and that's all Dr. Wright is attempting to do.

DOBBS: That's all Reverend Wright's attempting to do?

ANTHONY: Absolutely, speaking the truth to power and allowing folks to make a judgment.

See, the difference between being a pastor and one who speaks from a political pulpit is that you have a calling that responds to the questions and the responses of god. Other folk have a calling that responds to the questions of the world and man.

DOBBS: I understand -- Reverend, if I may. I understand the difference between those callings. What I do not understand is how a Christian preacher can simply ignore the spirit, if you will -- and I don't -- I know you're suggesting it's a black church tradition, but I'm kind of lost what happened to Jesus Christ, forgiveness, love thy fellow ...

ANTHONY: You should have been at the Freedom Fight dinner last night. You would have heard all of that. As a matter of fact, you had heard the full context of that sermon that you are referencing ...

DOBBS: Explain Jeremiah Wright to me in that context in all of those statements and all of those sermons.

ANTHONY: Let's look at his church. It's an integrated church. Let's look at his denomination.

DOBBS: Let's hear his words.

ANTHONY: And when you hear the words, the words are not just coming from the likes of Jeremiah Wright. You can walk into any African-American church and some white churches that are preaching the liberating gospel of Christ and get the same kind of thing --

DOBBS: Reverend, what if I told to you - what if I said to you, you and me, we're just Americans, we sit here, we believe in god and we say to one another, I want to hear something from the pulpit.

ANTHONY: Yes, sir.

DOBBS: What if I told you that I couldn't stomach hearing that come from anybody about a country that makes all of this possible?

ANTHONY: Well, one of the reasons that he volunteered to go into the military and serve --

DOBBS: No, no, no, Reverend, I've got to insist -- no.

ANTHONY: -- to make sure that was possible. This isn't what you're concerned about.

DOBBS: No, this isn't it. I'm asking you a very specific question and you're avoiding it.

ANTHONY: What's your question?

DOBBS: The question is, how could he possibly, how could we in this country possibly endorse those kinds of hateful statements from the pulpit of any church, black, white, Hispanic, you name the church, temple, synagogue, mosque, how could those words be legitimized, validated coming from the pulpit of any church talking about love, equality, and forgiveness?

ANTHONY: If those words were hateful, if they were designed to beat people down as opposed to lifting people up, if they were designed not to point to truth --

DOBBS: Are you talking about just the people in that church?

ANTHONY: No, I'm talking about people worldwide --

DOBBS: How could you not, reverend, you're an absolutely very able fellow. How in the world could you justify those kind of comments coming from any church, at any time, coming from the lips of any man or woman in this country?

ANTHONY: It's not a question of justifying the comments, it's a question of not accepting the predicament and the policies of any government that finds itself killing innocent people, not providing health care, not providing adequate --

DOBBS: Well, you're support basically is based on agreement, then --

ANTHONY: Pardon me?

DOBBS: Your support for Reverend Wright, then, is based on agreement with what he has basically said from his own pulpit.

ANTHONY: My support of Reverend Wright and all those who preach the prophetic gospel of Christ is that it must be based on truth, it must be liberating, it must lift people up and not put people down. And if you listen to the full text of what Jeremiah --

DOBBS: I have, I have. And I have it.

ANTHONY: That's why, I believe, when you talk about truckers coming in and protesting that, when you talk about the unfairness of immigration, then I know that people if listen to the full context of Lou Dobbs, they'll get exactly what he's saying. You're not a person that spews hate. You're trying to bring about understanding. I get your understanding, get his understanding.

DOBBS: I'm sure trying understand his understanding.

ANTHONY: Visit the Trinity the United Church of Christ. DOBBS: I'll take it up on you.

ANTHONY: All right. And if you come to Detroit, visit Fellowship Chapel United Church of Christ.

DOBBS: You've got a deal, Reverend. We appreciate it. We tried. Take care.

ANTHONY: All right. Bye.

DOBBS: Why the chairman of the Democratic Party says one of the candidates has to drop out, and what Senator John McCain is saying about Reverend Wright.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Some breaking news tonight. At least one person, we're told now, is dead, more than 200 others injured after tornadoes cut through central and southeastern Virginia.

These pictures you're looking at now are live, coming into us, this, the damage at Suffolk, Virginia. And that is near Norfolk, Virginia. As you're looking at the devastation here, they're expecting now, we're told, they're hoping that the injuries can be held at 200, but they're fearful that not only will the number of people injured rise, but so will the number of people dead. As you look at this incredible devastation, it's easy to understand why emergency authorities believe that we could see the death toll rise as a result of these tornadoes, which hit Suffolk near Norfolk.

We're told, actually, too, that at the naval air -- the naval base at Norfolk, between two piers, one tornado went right between those two piers. We don't know what the damage was there, but it obviously devastating as we look at these live pictures, Suffolk, Virginia. One person confirmed dead, more than 200 people injured.

We will have, of course, all of the video and the reports from the scene just as soon as possible. And we will keep you updated on developments there is in Suffolk, Virginia, where at least a number of tornadoes cut through that community.

Joining me now, we're going to turn to politics. Joining me now, three of the best political analysts in the country; LOU DOBBS TONIGHT contributor, Ed Rollins, Republican strategist; Ed recently served as chairman of Mike Huckabee's campaign, former White House director under Ronald Reagan; Pulitzer-prize winning columnist, "New York Daily News," CNN contributor, Michael Goodwin, and Democratic strategist, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT contributor, Robert Zimmerman, also superdelegate supporting Senator Hillary Clinton.

Did you by any chance read Michael Goodwin's column today?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I read Michael Goodwin's column every day. DOBBS: Didn't you find it just a bouquet to Senator Clinton? Weren't you impressed?

ZIMMERMAN: He always has objective and tough analysis, and sometimes I agree with him, but always he's insightful and always he gets the story.

DOBBS: So you agreed with everything that Michael said today?

ZIMMERMAN: If I did he'd be very disappointed. I think the reality is Hillary Clinton is showing the kind of toughness you need as a candidate to be able to compete in November.

DOBBS: The math that Michael Goodwin in his "Daily News" column brought forward, it looks pretty irresistible.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, look, she's clearly the underdog, but she's clearly gaining a lot of momentum. And Governor Easley's endorsement from North Carolina today was a major, major statement of support for her.

DOBBS: Well as a Republican here, let me ask you. Do you think Governor Easley's endorsement will be of significance to Senator Clinton in that race in North Carolina?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Only if it affects some of the 20 percent of the state that are African-American voters, and 90 percent don't vote for Obama. If 90 percent vote for Obama, it makes it very difficult for anybody else to win that race.

DOBBS: So what are we going to see? We've seen the Gallup daily tracking poll now move up to even between Senators Obama and Senators Clinton. That, we haven't seen for a while. It is clear that there is something happening in those poll numbers to the benefit of Senator Clinton. Michael, what is it?

ZIMMERMAN: Look, she's got the momentum. The problem is that ...

DOBBS: There, somebody said. Senator Clinton has the momentum.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: No question. And she is coming on like gang busters. She's being very tough about this, demand for a debate, the Lincoln -- she just wants to get him on the stage again, because debates don't work for him and it's a way of getting a big audience for her while she has the momentum.

DOBBS: How much is the Clinton campaign paying Reverend Wright to stay out there giving speeches?

ZIMMERMAN: I know the easy answer, but the truth is, ultimately, obviously, it's a tremendous distraction for Senator Obama and for his message. And in fairness to Senator Obama, he's denounced Reverend Wright's comments as being divisive. But the point is it does not help the Democratic Party, and much more important to me, it doesn't help the dialogue of race relations either. DOBBS: I've got to say something. I'm getting kind of tired of this being called a race story right now. Because Reverend Wright, the fact that he's preaching in a black church and he's black, the candidate that extensively he supported or still supports is black. I mean, that really doesn't have much to do with what, it seems to me, has run up afoul here. Whether it's the comments about "bitter," redneck -- I'm quoting, basically -- redneck voters in Pennsylvania, who don't have the sense to make a judgment without being nativist fools, that kind of elitism. All of this doesn't seem to me to have much to do with race.

ROLLINS: What's happened is Barack Obama came on the scene very quickly and his ability to raise money, his ability to turn on young people early on, a lot of people put a lot of things in their head about what kind of candidate he is. Now they're discovering, he's inexperienced, he's not a very good campaigner. Obviously, he doesn't understand large regions of the country, and I think to a certain extent, he has a friend and a former pastor that basically is doing him no favors. And I think to a certain extent, we've talked about momentum. She's had momentum a period of time, he's had momentum. He has, in the last three or four weeks, probably had as bad a campaign as anybody's ever had.

DOBBS: Do you think this is about race right now?

GOODWIN: Look anytime - yes. I mean I think it's perceived about being about race.

DOBBS: That's not what I asked. What I asked is these ridiculous comments, in my opinion, and very injurious comments by Senator Obama, were not about race. Reverend Wright's comments were not to me about race, all of the stuff that provocative anti-American inflammatory, that wasn't about race. So I'm a little -- I'm becoming a little -- what should I say, resistant to the idea that this is a race issue.

GOODWIN: Well, I think -- let's separate Wright, for example, from Obama for a minute. Because I think Reverend Wright is preaching black liberation theology. I think that's the proper term for it. That is clearly about race. It's afro-centric. It's very much about ...

DOBBS: That may be his motivation but the words are what I'm talking about.

GOODWIN: I think you have to appeal to the mainstream America, which is not black. And I think most Americans are looking at this as a very kind of Chicago experience that they don't share or understand. So to that extent, it is limiting.

DOBBS: Theological theatrics, we'll see where they lead in just a moment when we come back with our panel. They'll tell us where we're headed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: At the top of the hour, Senator Barack Obama's former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, in his own words. After weeks of laying low, he's now defending remarks that became controversial and going after his critics. We'll listen. And I'll ask Obama's campaign chief strategist just how much damage Wright could really do.

We'll see you in a few minutes. Lou Dobbs returns in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We're back with Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, Robert Zimmerman.

Race; Ed, has this gotten so ugly that it is --

ROLLINS: Here's what happened. Barack Obama had an opportunity to be the first African-American ever elected president, because there were an awful lot of people who weren't threatened by him, whites and others, who thought he was a different -- thought of Jesse Jackson. He was not scary. He was not a Sharpton, that he could be responsible. Wright has now made a lot of people wonder about, what's in his soul and his mind. And if people are frightened of him or think that he's going to turn out to be like Sharpton or some of these other guys, then I think to a certain extent, there'll be a lot of whites who won't vote for him.

DOBBS: That's the second time - Reverend Wendell was also talking about fear. I hear a lot about fear in this. I don't see fear. I see just plainly rejection on a number of levels but nothing racial. This has been just horribly awkward. It has been the ultimate in disastrous self-inflicted wounds, wounds that are - I mean the result of revelatory statements about how he feels about his fellow Americans but I don't see it as racial.

GOODWIN: Well, I think everything is racial in this. Obama tried to get the country beyond that, post racial. He cited his own ancestry as biracial. And I think for 60 days, he basically did that.

DOBBS: I must tell you straight up, he had me sold. He had me sold.

GOODWIN: Yes. But it's all come apart now.

ZIMMERMAN: He made a very good attempt, and he has personally risen above the racial divide. The problem is not just Reverend Wright, but the problem is his own campaign staff's comments, from his chief spokesperson, saying that the white working class are not pivotal in this election, to put down their relevance. Or his campaign manager saying that the racist vote is going for John McCain. Those are not the comments that reflect what Obama's message is, and that's the travesty of this campaign.

DOBBS: It almost seems as if he's a different man at this point than he was five or six weeks ago. ROLLINS: I think he's been battered and bruised. I think this campaign is a long, hard process, and it's a testing ground. And he was untested before, and he could be all things to all people. Now, people are starting to find out more and more about him, and I think to a certain extent...

DOBBS: I've got to say, I'm dizzy with John McCain. This man needs to figure out who he is. I mean, I don't know how long the man has on this Earth, but at the age of 71, you ought to know who you are. He's reversed course on whether this is a political issue, it's not an issue. I mean, what is he doing there, Michael?

GOODWIN: Well, he had this long period of time where he sort of had time to work out all the kinks in his own machinery and his own campaign. I don't think he's done it. He's had some good days, but he just had a lot of days that are nothing burgers. And these comments, he just seems to be speaking in monotones and very slowly...

ZIMMERMAN: He knows just who he is, Michael. Forgive me for being the cynic on this panel. He knows just who he is. He's another politician seeking (ph) to exploit every opportunity, whether it's reversing his position on tax cuts, whether it's chasing Reverend Hagee for support, whether it's now saying he's going to in fact embrace the issue of Reverend Wright...

GOODWIN: Unlike Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton.

ZIMMERMAN: I will stand by them both proudly in terms of their integrity...

DOBBS: Oh my gosh. Thank goodness we have partisanship with which to float our boats.

(CROSSTALK)

GOODWIN: Lou, can I...

DOBBS: No, you may not. Just straightforwardly, you can't. We're out of time. And I just want to declare again for the record, I am an independent populist and proudly so. Especially at the conclusion of...

ROLLINS: I'm a thinking Republican.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: 92 percent of you say as the Supreme Court does, that photo identification should be required to vote.

We thank you for being with us tonight. "THE ELECTION CENTER" with Campbell Brown starts right now - Campbell.