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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Primary Showdown for Democratic Candidates; McCain Seeks Hispanic Vote; Human Smuggling Ring Busted

Aired May 5, 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: Wolf, thank you very much.
Tonight, Senators Clinton and Obama make their final appeals for votes in Indiana and North Carolina. Will Senator Clinton win a game- changing victory? We'll have complete coverage for you.

Also tonight, new questions about one of this century's most outrageous miscarriages of justice, the imprisonment of two former border patrol agents. An appellate court considering that case now for five months. We'll have that special report.

And rising pressure for a credit cardholders' Bill of Rights to stop predatory lending practices, some members of Congress, however, refusing to support the legislation. One of those lawmakers, Congressman Jeb Hensarling is among my guests here tonight. We'll find out what he thinks about that and why, all of that, all the day's news, and much more coming up here straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Monday, May 5. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Senators Clinton and Obama hammering each other's economic policies today in their final push for votes in Indiana and North Carolina. The candidates crisscrossed both states in the final hours of campaigning. The latest CNN poll of polls show Clinton has been picking up last-minute support in both states. Independents can vote in North Carolina and Indiana, and their support could determine the outcome.

We have extensive coverage from the campaign trail, and we begin with Jessica Yellin with the Obama campaign in Indianapolis. Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, with just hours to go until voting begins, the candidates have been making a hard sell to working-class voters, and they're suggesting the other candidate is out of touch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): One day to go and they're making promises.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I've said is let's put in place the second part of the tax stimulus package.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we're going to start creating new jobs, millions of new jobs.

YELLIN: Vowing to do more to help the little guy.

OBAMA: The American people are interested in who's going to be fighting for them?

H. CLINTON: Somebody who understands what you're going through, cares about it, gets it, and will stand up there every day and fight for you.

YELLIN: The keyword is fight, and they're in a fierce one. In this brand new ad, Clinton slams Obama for opposing a gas tax holiday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's attacking Hillary's plan to give you a break on gas prices because he doesn't have one.

YELLIN: The Obama campaign responded with a list of Clinton supporters who are against that gas tax holiday. One called it election-year theatrics. Though voters are focused on pocketbook issues, the candidates are also sparring over foreign policy.

H. CLINTON: When the question was asked, what would the United States do were Iran to launch a nuclear attack on Israel; I said very clearly there would be massive retaliation.

YELLIN: He accuses her of Bush-style saber rattling and calls for more diplomacy.

OBAMA: We should be keeping our nuclear arsenal out of the hands of Iran, which is why I've called consistently for a mix of sanctions, but also carrots and direct talks to get Iran to stand down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And Lou, while the candidates are talking about foreign policy that seems to be a discussion aimed at the superdelegates in Washington because voters here on the streets are much more concerned about economic issues here in Indiana and Senator Clinton is tapping into that. In addition to her gas tax holiday proposal, Lou, she has said she will do what she can to try to break up OPEC, a popular target for voters these days with gas prices reaching yet another record high today. Lou?

DOBBS: I think we're seeing an escalation. What do you think, Jessica?

YELLIN: It sure sounds and looks like that, Lou. Just a few hours until voting, not a surprise we're hearing these words.

DOBBS: Jessica, thank you very much. Jessica Yellin reporting from Indianapolis.

Senator Clinton today declared she has closed the gap with Senator Obama. The latest polls show that she is correct and indicate that Senator Clinton is leading in Indiana and picking up support in North Carolina. Senator Obama is struggling to recover from what has been a difficult two weeks on the campaign trail, beginning with his loss to Senator Clinton in Pennsylvania. Bill Schneider now with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It's late in the game. The clock is running out. Hillary Clinton is still running behind in both popular votes and pledged delegates. What does she need in Indiana and North Carolina?

H. CLINTON: This primary election on Tuesday is a game-changer. This is going to make a huge difference in what happens going forward.

SCHNEIDER: If Barack Obama wins both North Carolina and Indiana, that would be a game-changer, but not the one Clinton is talking about. It would signal that the voters are ready to close the deal. It would also be a game-changer if Clinton wins both North Carolina and Indiana by double-digit margins. Clinton needs big victories because it's so late in the game.

Only 404 pledged delegates remain to be chosen, 187 of them on Tuesday, the biggest single primary day left. Clinton would need to win 70 percent of the remaining pledged delegates to catch up with Obama. That's very unlikely. She stands a better chance of catching up in the total popular vote.

Our estimate is that she would need about 56 percent of the remaining popular vote to catch up with Obama. What does it look like in Indiana and North Carolina? Clinton is picking up late support in both states. Obama is still ahead in North Carolina, but his margin has narrowed to eight points in our poll of polls.

In Indiana, where the race has been tied for the past two weeks, Clinton has pulled four points ahead. In both states, her vote is below 50 percent. It could be a split decision, with modest victories for Obama in North Carolina and Clinton in Indiana. That means the game goes on, possibly into overtime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: If Clinton can't change the game, at a minimum, she wants to keep it going. Well, for how long? The clock has almost run out until the party decides to bring the Florida and Michigan delegates into play, because those reinforcements give her, her last, best hope of winning.

DOBBS: How in the world does the Democratic Party take seriously Chairman Howard Dean of the DNC, when he talks about these two winning, you know, 50 states -- voters in 50 states count, but he's not counting Michigan and Florida?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they don't take him seriously. They think in the end, both candidates say this, they've got to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida, but the rule is, they have to seat them, but they can't allow them to determine the winner, because if they make Hillary Clinton the winner, Obama's going to say the process was rigged, it was unfair, and his supporters will go into very angry mode.

DOBBS: If Senator Clinton wins tomorrow, both Indiana and North Carolina, what happens?

SCHNEIDER: Then we have a crisis in the party, particularly if she wins them by sizable margins. If she wins both states by very respectable margins, close to 10 percent, then what happens? He's still ahead in pledged delegates. She can't catch up. She may begin to catch up in popular votes.

DOBBS: Yeah, but we keep talking about this catch up thing. What's required here are 2,025 delegates...

SCHNEIDER: Without Michigan and Florida.

DOBBS: Right, 2,025 for the nomination. Neither one of them mathematically can approach that.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, what could happen, though, is if she wins both of those by sizable margins, the superdelegates will begin to get very nervous. They've already got the willies about Barack Obama, either they're worried about his appeal to those blue-collar voters and they could start...

DOBBS: Or lack of appeal.

SCHNEIDER: Or lack of appeal -- and they could start going for Hillary Clinton. They could, they still could make her the nominee, but it does create a crisis in the party, because to do that, they'd have to violate the wishes of the pledged delegates where Obama is still ahead.

DOBBS: Is this what we'd call a high-class problem or is it just a problem?

SCHNEIDER: It's a very big problem for the Democratic Party, and you know what they've got to do? They've got to think about whether they want to keep this ridiculous system of a proportional representation that doesn't allow anybody to win. That's the problem.

DOBBS: Well...

SCHNEIDER: Look at the Republicans.

DOBBS: Well, yes, but you know, it is sort of interesting that had we in the Democratic Party a winner takes all, Senator Clinton would be leading in the pledged delegates by about 300.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. I don't think you'd hear many complaints. I didn't hear many complaints when John McCain won winner take all. It doesn't have to be by state. It can be by congressional district.

DOBBS: Well I suspect you'd hear a lot of complaining from the Obama campaign.

SCHNEIDER: You would, but I didn't hear that from Mitt Romney or any of the losing Republicans. Winning is winning.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Oh, those are such sweet words. And we don't have to worry about expectations of margins. I love it. Winning is winning.

SCHNEIDER: Winning is winning.

DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

DOBBS: As the presidential campaign intensifies, the war in Iraq goes on. Insurgents have killed five more of our troops, four Marines and one soldier. Six of our troops have been killed so far this month in Iraq; 4,071 of our troops killed since the war began; 29,911 of our troops wounded; 13,344 of them seriously.

Senator McCain, a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, today focused on domestic issues. The senator intensified his populist push with new Spanish-language television ads. The senator trying to win the support of Hispanic voters. He declared that most Hispanic voters share his view that our borders must be secured first before any changes to immigration laws. Dana Bash has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John McCain's Spanish TV ad can now be found here on his new Spanish- language campaign Web site, launched for Cinco de Mayo.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everything about our Hispanic voters is tailor-made to the Republican message. I'm confident that I will do very well.

BASH: Republican strategists say he has to do very well with Latinos to win in November.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If John McCain can earn closer to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote then he's on his way to residing in the White House. The Hispanic vote is that critical for Republicans.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BASH: That's what helped George W. Bush win re-election. A whopping 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, but that was before a divisive political debate erupted over illegal immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are becoming a bi-lingual nation, and that is not good.

BASH: McCain admits that could drive Hispanics to vote Democrat. MCCAIN: I think the tenor of the debate has harmed our image amongst Hispanics.

BASH: McCain supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants but backed off after conservative outrage almost killed his GOP primary bid.

MCCAIN: I know what the message is. The message is we must secure our borders.

BASH: Now that he's effectively clinched the nomination, a softer tone is back. Suddenly using buzz words again like comprehensive immigration reform and warning against a quote "piecemeal" approach.

MCCAIN: We get in this kind of a circular firing squad on immigration reform in the Congress of the United States, and the lesson I learned from it is we've got to have comprehensive immigration reform.

BASH: But Democrats say he caved to political pressure in the primaries and will push Hispanics to punish him. Some Republicans admit fighting that will be a huge challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's part of the reality of being a Republican. Many Latinos falsely believe that this is not an inclusive party, and I think John McCain has to battle that like every other candidate before him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: McCain advisers insist nothing's changed, that he would still secure the border before doing anything else, but McCain's tone on illegal immigration sounded different, like a classic back to the center approach for the general election. This is especially notable, as you know, Lou, because this issue is not only emotional for John McCain, but it was potentially a fatal issue for him during the Republican primary. Lou?

DOBBS: So he's back now to calling for comprehensive immigration reform?

BASH: That's the term that you heard him use there. It was something that certainly sparked my attention and others in our organization, our producers here. So the first thing I asked a couple of his advisers is, is he changing not just his tune, but his position? And they insist he is not.

They insist that he has learned a lesson from the debate and from what happened during the primaries, and they insist he would still secure the borders first, but the term "comprehensive immigration reform" isn't a term that I've heard him say much lately at all, which is really what struck me, and again, some others, when we heard him say it here in North Carolina just a short while ago.

DOBBS: Yeah. It's sort of a hard expression to come up with extemporaneously without intent -- comprehensive immigration reform. Well, it will be interesting to see what the next day brings with Senator McCain. Thank you very much. Dana Bash.

Still ahead here, new demands for the immediate release of two former border patrol agents who were given harsh prison sentences. Casey Wian will have our report. Casey?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, supporters of agents Ramos and Compean now in prison say they've tried everything to secure the agents' release. Now they're calling on a higher power. We'll have details coming up.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you. We'll look forward to the report.

And leftist fringe groups apparently trying to take over the May 1st amnesty demonstrations for their own purposes, we'll have a special report and tell you how all that's working out.

And the pro-amnesty lobby won't stop telling all-out lies about my position on our illegal immigration crisis. We'll set the record straight; help them out a bit, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The pro-amnesty lobby at it again, telling all-out lies about my position on illegal immigration and our border security crisis. The latest example of the pro-illegal aliens' movements' lies coming in a letter to the "Wall Street Journal" today. Douglas Rivlin, director of communication for the National Immigration Forum, says quote, "research by attorney Greg Siskind suggests that 96 times Lou Dobbs talked about legal immigration on his nightly CNN show, dating back to 2001, 92 times he painted legal immigration in a negative light."

Well, Mr. Rivlin, here's a little research you might add to your own. The vast majority of Greg Siskind's analysis is based on my justified criticism of abuses in the system for temporary work visas, specifically H1B visas in nearly every case, not legal immigration. As for other cases cited by Mr. Siskind, who, by the way is, as you might guess, an immigration lawyer, we highlighted legitimate concerns about chain migration, terrorism, fraudulent asylum applications, as well.

For the record, I am absolutely supportive of legal immigration. In fact, I favor even higher levels of legal immigration when it suits public policy. Let me repeat -- we are the most welcoming nation in the world for immigrants and I've consistently called for an increase in legal immigration when warranted.

And also for the record, we should point out that the National Immigration Forum is supported by groups such as -- are you ready -- the National Restaurant Association, the American Nursery and Landscape Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, all groups that we should point out, that have a vested interest in importing as much cheap labor into this country as possible, and by the way, the "Wall Street Journal" failed to note that. And, of course, that's understandable, too.

Turning now to the case of imprisoned border patrol agents Ramos and Compean, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments to overturn their convictions some five months ago, and a decision has been awaited of course since. Attorneys expected a decision within two to three months, yet, there is still no ruling from the appellate court.

Tonight, supporters of Ramos and Compean are calling for a national day of prayer for the agents' release. Casey Wian has our story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

WIAN (voice-over): Family members, fellow border patrol agents, and a U.S. Congressman are asking Americans to say a prayer this Sunday for imprisoned former border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: This is a call from our hearts to try to save two men; two brave people who risked their lives for us, who are now languished in prison, whose families are bearing a horrible burden.

MONICA RAMOS, WIFE OF IGNACIO RAMOS: As we pray for my husband, I will start that day off as a single parent, that day, facing with our families, acknowledging motherhood, and it weighs heavy on my heart to know that my husband won't be there with me.

WIAN: Five months ago, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments that the agents' convictions for wounding a drug smuggler, then covering up the shooting, should be thrown out. Defense attorneys say the judge in the case should have allowed testimony about the drug smuggling history of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, the shooting victim. Instead, prosecutors gave Aldrete Davila immunity to testify against the border patrol agents. He has since pled guilty to smuggling drugs while that deal was still in place.

T.J. BONNER, PRES., NAT'L BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: These were good, decent, hard-working, law enforcement officers who are out there doing their job, risking their lives to protect our borders, to protect our country from the scourge of illegal drugs and in thanks now they're spending 11 and 12 years in prison. This is just unfathomable.

WIAN: Ramos and Compean's attorneys also argue the agents should never have been charged under a weapons law intended to target drug traffickers, which resulted in a 10-year mandatory federal prison sentence for the agents. During the December appellate court hearing, one judge said he believes prosecutors quote, "overreacted" while another said prosecution claims that Aldrete Davila was just a low- level drug deal quote "defied common sense in the real world."

(END VIDEOTAPE) WIAN: Now, as you mentioned, Lou, attorneys originally estimated it would take from 60 to 90 days for the three-judge panel to decide this appeal. It has now been more than 150 days. And one person who's involved in this case says the reason it is likely taking so long is that the case -- both cases are very, very complex, and the attorneys for the two agents are alleging so many errors were committed during the original trial that it's taking the judges a long time to address each of those alleged errors. Lou.

DOBBS: Well, Casey, this is where I say something like, the opinion you're about to hear is mine and no one else's. The idea that a drug dealer -- an illegal alien drug dealer -- given immunity, was dealing -- smuggling -- drugs, and the prosecutor who sought -- gave this same illegal alien drug smuggler immunity to testify against sworn law enforcement agents of this country is absolutely -- it's insane that it would take this long for any appellate court to rule on it. There is nothing complicated about that. That's pure stupidity.

WIAN: What some of the people involved in this case are saying is that there are 26 specific challenges, 12 by one of the agents, 14 by the other agent and that these judges are having to address in writing each one of these specific concerns. They fully expect that no matter what decision they make it's going to be appealed to the Supreme Court. And like all judges, these federal judges don't want to see their decision overturned by the Supreme Court, so they're trying to be very, very careful here, Lou, but it is obviously incredibly frustrating for the agents and their families.

DOBBS: As it well should be. It should be incredibly frustrating and disgusting to every citizen of this country. The idea that a prosecutor brought charges against a guy that he -- and then -- brought charges against this Aldrete Davila, finally, after knowing that there had been three commissions of crimes by that same person he had given immunity to, as he testified against, U.S. law enforcement agents, what should be the consequence of that?

What should be the consequence of that trial judge applying the weapons law to a law enforcement officer to whom it was never even remotely fantasized as being the subject of that law? I mean this is crazy. Those -- on those two grounds alone, this is straight-forward. It should be overturned.

WIAN: A lot of people agree with you, Lou. A lot of things about this case defy explanation. We're just going to have to keep waiting.

DOBBS: Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I can guarantee you, I've had a belly full, and I cannot believe what they're putting these two agents and their families through. It is absolutely disgusting. It's embarrassing. It's shameful. Casey thanks. Casey Wian.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight -- do you believe it's time for an appellate court to overturn the convictions of those agents? Yes or no. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later. Up next, how dozens of illegal aliens from countries on the FBI's national security watch list are able to obtain New Mexico driver's licenses. We'll have that special report. It will make great sense to you, I'm sure.

And Congress proposing a credit cardholder's Bill of Rights, but a number of Congressmen says that just isn't right. In fact, one Congressman calls it a bill of wrongs. We'll find out why Congressman Jeb Hensarling is defending the credit card companies. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Here we go. The FBI arrested 10 illegal aliens in New Mexico. That in connection with an investigation of a human smuggling ring. Federal authorities say the leaders of that ring brought dozens of illegal aliens into the United States and then helped them obtain driver's licenses using fake documents. As Bill Tucker now reports, many of those illegal aliens are from nations on the national security watch list.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FBI says it's not sure of the size of the smuggling ring discovered in New Mexico, but they believe the ring has been operating for perhaps a year, and that dozens of illegal aliens from countries of quote "special interest" have fake identities obscured by New Mexico driver's licenses. Agents call the security breach a matter of quote "profound concern," admitting that they don't know the real identities of the 10 illegal aliens they arrested last week, adding that the smuggling ring was not run by amateurs.

DARRIN JONES, FBI SPOKESMAN: Clearly, it was an organized group. In this particular situation, we're still looking at it. We know there are links to the East Coast.

TUCKER: New Mexico is among a handful of states that grant driver's licenses to illegal aliens by not requiring proof of lawful status. Maryland and Washington State have similar standards, and so do Maine and Oregon, but Oregon adopts stricter standards this summer and Maine this fall. The failure to have secure standards for driver's licenses creates a vulnerability.

BRIAN ZIMMER, COAL. FOR SECURE DRIVER'S LICENSE: Let me just put it this way -- the green light is on in Mexico, Oregon, Maine, just a couple other states.

TUCKER: The New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles does not see this breach as a state problem. A spokesman issued this statement:

Quote, "The federal government is slowly but surely trying to transfer responsibility for border security in immigration to the state and local level. That's the policy that's not working."

(END VIDEOTAPE) TUCKER: Now the human smuggling ring was exposed by a vigilant DMV worker who alerted authorities when two people appeared to be using fraudulent documents and they were. It was just five years ago in 2003 that Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signed the measure into law allowing illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses in his state. And Lou, ironically, the deciding factor that he cited in signing that measure was public safety.

DOBBS: Oh, Bill Richardson.

TUCKER: Yeah.

DOBBS: This is the man that James Carville called Judas in reference to...

TUCKER: The same guy, yeah.

DOBBS: Yeah. Well, it turns out he just doesn't portray political candidates, doesn't it? Amazing, Bill, thank you very much. Bill Tucker.

The Arizona State Legislature tonight is considering a so-called guest worker program. That's right, I said the state. The measure would allow employers who claim they have a labor shortage to bring workers from Mexico into Arizona. If it were to pass, the Arizona law would still have to be approved by the federal government before it could be enacted.

Gets a little cumbersome, doesn't it? Makes you kind of wonder what they're doing. Well, Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona supports this proposal and he believes -- believes -- he believes the plan would ease the strain on the border. Of course he believes a lot of things that don't make a lot of sense to a lot of people in my opinion, of course. If people, he says, could cross lawfully, the motivation for them to cross illegally would drop. Now, I'd like you to think about what he just said.

If they could cross the border lawfully, the motivation for them to cross illegally would drop. I'm telling you, some of the people in Congress -- I don't know about you, but in my opinion, I have to say, some of our elected officials inspire me with their brilliance. I mean, you can't just come up with a thought like that overnight. Well, time now for some of your thoughts. Graham in Tennessee said. "Lou, I am so tired of hearing that our immigration system is broken. Our immigration system, much like or TV sets, DVD players, automobiles, etc, do not work if they are not turned on. We can make new laws but unless they are enforced they will be broken, too."

An excellent point. And just about everything in Washington, DC, is broken or turned off.

Marcia in Illinois -- "Lou, was Chief Bratton aware," referring to a Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton, "Was Chief Bratton aware it was law day? I assumed his duty was to support law enforcement rather than encourage support for those who don't." Now wait a minute, that's not fair. We're talking about modern political leaders in Los Angeles, amongst the most modern of our cities.

And Charles in Oregon -- "Lou, I watch you on a regular basis. Though I don't always agree with you, I'm glad we have you on the air standing up for all the citizens of our country. Keep punching away."

We'll sure try. We'll have more of your thoughts later. And please join me on the radio in the afternoons Monday through Friday for the "Lou Dobbs Show." Tomorrow, Congresswoman Candace Miller, Anthony Thompson, author of "Releasing Prisoners, Redeeming Communities, Reentry, Race and Politics."

And Roger Simon of Politico and John Fund of the "Wall Street Journal." All of that on the day's two major primaries. Go to loudobbs.com, loudobbsradio.com for local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" on the radio.

Up next here, a leading congressional opponent of the bill of rights for credit cardholders says no, that's really just really a bill of wrongs. The lawmaker is Congressman Jeb Hensarling and we'll have a discussion.

And rising concerns about victims of predatory lending practices by mortgage companies. Perhaps we shouldn't regulate them either. We'll have a special report, war on the middle class.

And will there be a game-changing surprise in tomorrow's Indiana and North Carolina primaries? Three of the best political analysts and strategist will have the answer. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Credit card delinquencies tonight at the highest level in two decades. Congress right now is considering a credit cardholders bill of rights, to try to limit the predatory credit card company practices. My next guest is a leading opponent of that proposal. He's Congressman Jeb Hensarling. He joins us tonight from Capitol Hill. Good to have you with us, congressman.

REP. JEB HENSARLING, (R) TX: Thanks, Lou. Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: I think we ought to just start out right away. Why do you think that a credit card bill of rights would be a, as you put it, a bill of wrongs?

HENSARLING: Well, I don't think a bill would necessarily be a bill of wrongs. I think this bill would be a bill of wrongs, and the reason, Lou, I think it would be a bill of wrongs is because for millions of Americans who are struggling to fill up their gas tank and put food on the table, what this bill could do is actually increase fees, it could lead to annual fees, it could lead to taking away some of its benefits ... DOBBS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, congressman, congressman - OK, the point is to limit fees. The point is to limit the damage that can be done to families.

HENSARLING: That's why we don't want this bill, Lou. That's why we don't want this bill. Right now, if you go back say 10 years ago, a third fewer Americans had access to credit cards. They all had to pay annual fees, and they paid a high interest rate. What's changed? What has changed is the ability of companies in a competitive marketplace to offer some people with good credit records -- half of America pays their credit bills in full on time ...

DOBBS: Congressman ...

HENSARLING: ... and so they get to pay lower rates. What congress is trying to do is essentially take away their ability to price for risk, and it's just not fair to 95 percent of Americans who either pay their bill on time or pay according to the terms of their credit card.

DOBBS: I couldn't agree with you more, because the last thing we would want is for the credit card companies to abuse any more consumers in this country. The idea -- so then you do support Ben Bernanke's call for more regulation of the credit card industry? You're not opposed to regulation of the credit card industry itself, you have no problem with stopping these fees, these bait-and-switch interest rates, ending those practices, do you?

HENSARLING: Well, what I believe, Lou, is ...

DOBBS: No, no, come on. Straight forward. You have no problem with regulation or do you?

HENSARLING: I don't -- I have a problem with some of the regulations that Bernanke has proposed, but not all of them.

DOBBS: Ah. You're a hard man to please. How about the $135 billion in interest? How about the bait-and-switch tactics of these major credit card companies, the usurious interest rates that are beyond any kind of pale of conscious or reason? There is no economic basis for it, congressman. How could you possibly object to it?

HENSARLING: Well, I'm not - If I come to your show and you ask questions, maybe you ought to give me the opportunity to answer your questions.

DOBBS: I'm going to give you ...

HENSARLING: What I believe is there has to be better disclosure. Nobody understands their credit card terms. And so, frankly, there's a problem with disclosure. It comes from the government, it comes from trial lawyers, and it comes from some credit card companies, indeed engaging in unscrupulous practices. So I believe there ought to be regulation, but there ought not be prohibiting the ability of people who have good credit records from paying less from those who don't. DOBBS: Congressman ...

HENSARLING: That's what I'm saying.

DOBBS: At what point is it loan sharking? At what percent interest would you say lone -- loan sharking begins?

HENSARLING: I think as long as you know the terms and agree to the terms ...

DOBBS: I'm not being hypothetical or abstract or philosophical, I'm asking you a straight-forward question. At what point should someone go to jail for usurious rates in this country?

HENSARLING: I think as long as you agree to the terms, then you shouldn't.

DOBBS: Oh ...

HENSARLING: It has to do ...

DOBBS: So if somebody switches the interest rate on you without your understanding it and your knowledge, do you think somebody ought to go to jail then?

HENSARLING: If somebody did not disclose that, if they engaged in fraud or deception, the answer is yes, but again ...

DOBBS: How about predatory lending?

HENSARLING: Well, there's a lot of predatory lending, and there's ...

DOBBS: Yes, there is, and we need to shut them down, don't we?

HENSARLING: Lou, what you're proposing here is what they tried in the United Kingdom just a couple of years ago, and that is to take the ability of companies to risk base price away, and guess what? Two of the three largest cardholders went to annual fees. Fifteen had huge increases ...

DOBBS: I've got to ask this question.

HENSARLING: Absolutely.

DOBBS: I have to ask this question. You are aware we had usury laws in this country for a century, right?

HENSARLING: Oh, I'm familiar with ...

DOBBS: And you are aware that we didn't change those usury laws until the credit card companies demanded that we do so, right?

HENSARLING: Well, Lou, if you're trying to roll the clock back to a time ... DOBBS: No, I'm not trying to do anything. I'm trying to get a straight answer out of a congressman, that's all I am trying to do is get a straight answer out of a congressman.

HENSARLING: Well, the answer ...

DOBBS: You are aware that the reason there are usury ...

HENSARLING: ... usury laws.

DOBBS: Huh?

HENSARLING: Yeah, I'm aware there's usury laws.

DOBBS: And you're aware we rolled those back to suit the credit card companies?

HENSARLING: Yeah. You sent people to pay day lenders and sent them to pawn shops when they should have been able to get credit cards, Lou.

DOBBS: No, we didn't. We made a bunch of banks a lot of money and made master cards, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, a lot of money. Now we're saying it's time to put the usury rates back into place. What do you think?

HENSARLING: I think it's a terrible idea.

DOBBS: I knew you would.

HENSARLING: Once again, Lou, you've taken the credit cards away from hard-working -- no, I'm not here to defend credit card companies. I'm here to defend freedom.

DOBBS: Why not?

HENSARLING: I'm here to defend opportunity for hard-working Americans to be able to get a credit card and pay a lower fee if they're lower risk.

DOBBS: Congressman, I'm saying if a working man or woman in this country in our middle class gets any more defense from folks like you, they can kiss it all good-bye, because basically, they haven't got the $3 billion, almost $3 billion a year to lobby you all in Washington, DC. So they cannot -- kind of get squeezed out.

HENSARLING: You need to do your homework!

DOBBS: I've done a lot of homework.

HENSARLING: See what happened in the United Kingdom when people had to go and pay annual fees and higher interest rates ...

DOBBS: Want to do comparative economics with me, congressman?

HENSARLING: Absolutely. Sixty percent fewer people got access to credit cards.

DOBBS: Who wrote the bankruptcy law of 2005, congressman? Who wrote the bankruptcy law of 2005?

HENSARLING: Why don't you tell us?

DOBBS: I'll tell you straight up, the lobbyists for the credit card companies and financial institutions and the Republican leadership of Congress ought to be ashamed to its socks, and that's a fact. And to have you all sitting there telling the American people what is their right? My gosh. Congressman, you can do better than that.

HENSARLING: Well, Lou, you're the one who invited me on. I just accepted. Again, you need to look at your economics. There's people who are going to be denied credit cards if we do what you want them to do. When people are struggling to fill up their gas tank and send kids to college, they shouldn't have their credit cards taken away.

DOBBS: I can't believe you're sitting there with a grin on your face saying that, congressman.

HENSARLING: You've got a competitive marketplace. I defend the free market system and you don't.

DOBBS: I'm sorry, help me out, Mr. Free Trader. Help me out. How many credit card companies dominate the credit card market in this country? How many?

HENSARLING: Depends on what you call domination. There are 10 major companies.

DOBBS: Right.

HENSARLING: But you get 6,000, 6,000 different credit cards now.

DOBBS: So 10 basic companies. What's that called in economics, congressman? It's called an olangopoly, isn't it? That's not exactly a free market. So I take it since you're so proud of free trade, you're going to break them up, is that it?

HENSARLING: No, because I believe there is effective competition between 6,000 different credit cards ...

DOBBS: As long as you believe -- give me a break.

HENSARLING: Where else do you have ...

DOBBS: Why don't you have the guts to say straight forward to those credit card companies, you're not going to screw the American consumer? Why don't you have that much courage?

HENSARLING: Lou, again, if they are engaged in improper disclosure, if they're engaged in fraudulent practices, they ought to go to jail.

DOBBS: Congressman, how would you know? How would you know?

HENSARLING: The regulations are fine there.

DOBBS: Who's doing the regulating?

HENSARLING: To outlaw the practice to where a company and individual say this is the credit card I want and you're taking that opportunity away from them. That's not fair. That's not the American way.

DOBBS: And congressman, you are reaching -- and you are putting your arm around those credit card companies and putting your other hand in the pocket of the American consumer.

HENSARLING: I'm putting my arm around the American consumer, who has an opportunity to get credit.

DOBBS: That's a chilly grip you've got there, congressman.

HENSARLING: And you're trying to take it away from them to outlaw these practices again.

DOBBS: Give us some more of the free trade talk before we wrap up. I guess that's ...

HENSARLING: I'm sorry, was that a question?

DOBBS: No that, was just a request, and it's one I've reconsidered. Congressman, thanks for being with us.

HENSARLING: You're welcome, Lou.

DOBBS: Up next, Senator Clinton picking up late support in both North Carolina and Indiana, three of the best political analysts in the country join me. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Turning now to three of the country's best political analysts, all LOU DOBBS TONIGHT contributors including Republican strategist, former White House political director under President Reagan, Ed Rollins, who served most recently as campaign chairman for Governor Mike Huckabee. Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, "New York Daily News," Michael Goodwin, Democratic strategist, committeeman, superdelegate, a Senator Clinton supporter, Robert Zimmerman. What an interesting -- my, gosh, what an introduction! I think we're just going to put that up with a little badge under each of you. OK, is it going to be a game-changer, yes or no, in both Indiana and North Carolina, Robert Zimmerman?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Yes.

DOBBS: All right! Do you believe him, Michael Goodwin?

MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": No. I think she will win Indiana, as she's supposed to and he will win North Carolina like he's supposed to.

DOBBS: I like your version better. It's more interesting.

ZIMMERMAN: Let me try to expand on it for a moment. Look, the issue here is define running against expectations. Now, I know, I know, Lou, it's not your favorite approach, but let's be realistic about this. This is not just for delegates. It's for superdelegates. That's why tomorrow is so critical. Hillary Clinton has to, especially in a state that borders on Illinois, where 30 percent of the media market is reached by Chicago. She's got to exceed expectations there. She's got to make North Carolina close.

DOBBS: OK. She's got to make North Carolina close ...

ZIMMERMAN: And she has to win Indiana.

DOBBS: I either want Senator Clinton to win both or Obama to win both. Now, if Senator Obama wins both?

GOODWIN: Lights out, she's over. It's a game-changer.

DOBBS: That's a game-changer. So what do you expect to happen?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think they'll split.

DOBBS: Oh, gosh.

ROLLINS: I think the war goes on.

DOBBS: I love the war going on I just thought it'd be more interesting if we had one ...

GOODWIN: Well, nothing really changes. Nothing really changes, except time is running out on her.

ZIMMERMAN: I must say, it depends upon the margin. If she can bring -- and i believe she can make North Carolina under five percent.

DOBBS: Do you realize, you guys, you're making Senator McCain one man on his side of the aisle, he's starting to look like the most interesting candidate tonight.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, if that's the case, I think you need to get another perspective here.

DOBBS: Help me out.

ZIMMERMAN: When you have record turnout in all of these democratic contests, record fund-raising, you're seeing a reactivism among Democrats of the grassroots. We haven't had that in a generation.

ROLLINS: Let me set the record straight. You're fighting tomorrow in two states, Indiana that 59 percent went for George bush in 2004. It will be our state again. North Carolina was 56 percent for George Bush in 2004. You're fighting for delegates. You're not fighting for states that you're going to win --

ZIMMERMAN: No question about it. You're totally correct.

DOBBS: Is it possible that the Democratic Party has gone and done it again, as the saying goes, in seven of the last 10 elections? The Democrats have lost. Are you once again pushing in your primaries to a more extreme -- and I'm talking about extreme in the political spectrum sense, to a liberal position or a liberal candidate in either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton, is that possible?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, one of the few benefits of being a Democratic national committeeman, if they don't suffer from overconfidence, so ...

DOBBS: You have used that line.

ZIMMERMAN: I like that line.

DOBBS: You have used that line ...

ZIMMERMAN: One too many times, obviously. Point, simply, Lou, is that ultimately, this is going to be a situation where if the Democrats don't go to the center -- and I think they have to -- and reach working -- have a populist message ...

DOBBS: What is go to the center mean?

ROLLINS: How do you go to the center when you have the most liberal senator in his two years in the United States Senate, he is the most liberal record of anybody, exceeding Hillary Clinton who's had one of the most liberal records, how do you then go to the center? You tried that with John Kerry ...

ZIMMERMAN: I'll tell you why they are in the center, because John McCain is running with one of the most extreme fringe presidents in the country's history.

DOBBS: Right-wing fringe?

ZIMMERMAN: Right-wing, fringe, you know it. So by comparison, we are in the center and by reality and economics, Democrats are in the center.

ROLLINS: When you were in the center with Bill Clinton, you won two races by pluralities. You have not been in the center in other modern history except for the governor, one of which was a disaster and the other ...

DOBBS: I want to share that right-wing extreme comments, that right-wing extreme senator you're talking about, John McCain. Here's what he had to say today about illegal immigration. This right-wing ...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We get in this kind of a circular firing squad on immigration reform in the Congress of the United States, and the lesson I learned from it is we've got to have comprehensive immigration reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROLLINS: As the architect of the McCain-Kennedy bill, every other republican running for president was on the opposite side of where he was.

DOBBS: Right.

ROLLINS: He basically ducked and dodged it throughout the primary, and now he's basically saying, everybody else raised the issue and everybody else was too controversial. The truth of the matter, he's running away from his own party. His own party, basically, is the one that wants strong immigration reform.

DOBBS: Right. And Senator McCain is one who said, I'm like an idiot, I thought he was telling the truth. He said security first, and now he's talking comprehensive immigration reform. I mean, it's -- he's not even blushing.

GOODWIN: Well, and he says the lesson I learned. I think he learned the wrong lesson. It's the second time he's said he's learned a lesson. The first time he said that I learned security first is what people want. Now he's gone around again. So he's flip-flopping on his flip-flop.

DOBBS: Does that please you?

ZIMMERMAN: I think I saw that movie once before, actually in 2004. But the point here is, he was for it before he was against it. Now he's against it, now he's for it again. My point is John McCain demonstrates whether it's this issue or whether he's now for the Bush tax cuts that he was opposed to, he consistently has been taking the Straight Talk Express as fully taken a detour.

DOBBS: We're going to be right back. And when we do, we'll be talking about whatever Michael Goodwin was about to say. We'll be back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We're back with Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, and Robert Zimmerman. It looks to me like the American people are well and truly -- how would I say it -- foiled by these three candidates on the issue of illegal immigration and border security. It seems that Senator McCain's conversion was so transitory -- it was breathtaking how quickly he came back to comprehensive immigration reform. What are the American people going to do, just to say, finally, the heck with all three of them?

ZIMMERMAN: I think they're going to have to rally with their House and Senate members again to kill any proposed comprehensive immigration reform. The three presidential candidates have shown bipartisan hypocrisy in terms of their support for this bill and sacrificing as their first priority border security.

DOBBS: How do these three people running for president, talking about change, talking about serving the nation, how do they sleep at night? They know what the situation is on our borders. They know that Mexico is the primary source of methamphetamines, marijuana, cocaine and heroin entering this country and they pander and they salute every special interest that they can, principally corporate American on the issue.

GOODWIN: You would think, Lou, in a recession or close to one we're having now the downward pressure on wages is a good, strong reason to block illegal immigrants. In fact, there's already some proof that Mexican illegal immigrants are sending back less money which probably means fewer workers. Some going back. There's some ...

DOBBS: But that's not a solution.

GOODWIN: But the enforcement measures are beginning to kind of stem the tide of the growth at least which is an improvement over where we were headed with the bill that would have made everybody legal.

ROLLINS: It's a great injustice being done to the American Mexican community and it is like McCain today basically before a group of them. As if they all want immigration. They suffer greatly. Those who came here legally, those, many who have low income jobs screwed by the 20 million here illegally.

DOBBS: The Pew Hispanic Center documents that. It doesn't matter.

ROLLINS: True.

DOBBS: Because this socioethnocentric interest advocacy groups -- the MALDEFs, the LULAC, La Raza, the race for crying out loud. I mean, this nonsense goes on and on. They are a cottage industry all unto themselves. They have no other purpose. They achieve nothing.

GOODWIN: And if you just look at the economy, Lou, in terms of the immigration, I mean, people don't want to talk about immigration and the economy in the same breath, as though the two are separate issues. The Democrats want to sort of open the borders; Republicans want to shut them. And neither one talks of it in terms of the economy. So it's almost parallel universes, what the candidates are talking about, and what the real long-range solutions to America's problems are.

DOBBS: Will America ever get the candidates it deserves? Will this nation ever get what it needs from both political parties, or are we going to see the kabuki dance go on?

ZIMMERMAN: We have seen our candidates in the past rise to the occasion. We've seen our country...

DOBBS: When was the last time? ZIMMERMAN: I think Ronald Reagan reflected leadership at a critical time in this country.

DOBBS: Quick, say Bill Clinton before Senator Clinton gets on the phone.

ZIMMERMAN: I was going to get there. Bill Clinton, too.

GOODWIN: Well, look, I think this is a -- we do get the candidates we deserve, because people don't vote in enough numbers and they don't pay attention.

ROLLINS: And part of it is the idiotic process that we have. We have some very significant candidates who are basically beaten out by either money or resources or the idiotic primary process we run.

ZIMMERMAN: You know, I think the other point to remember is that work begins on election day. It's not just the votes you cast. That's not when the job is done. That's when the real work for the voter begins. Holding their public officials accountable.

ROLLINS: That will be the day.

DOBBS: We have to think about this a bit. Join us tomorrow evening as we come back with the answers.

We do have one answer for you tonight, our poll. 98 percent of you say it's time for an appellate court to overturn the convictions of former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. Just as we complain about the electoral and legislative systems, we have to bring the judiciary into it, as well.

Thank you for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. "THE ELECTION CENTER" with Campbell Brown begins now -- Campbell.

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