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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

White House Outrage; Which Democratic Presidential Candidate is More Electable?; Record-High Gasoline Prices; U.S.-Trained Mexican Police are Targeted; NAFTA Superhighway; More Recalls from China

Aired May 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, HOST: Wolf, thank you.
Tonight the White House is lashing out at its former press secretary, Scott McClellan, who's authored a new book. We'll have the very latest for you on McClellan's scathing criticism of the Bush White House that he served so diligently and up until now, loyally.

Tonight, gasoline prices are soaring to record highs, setting a record for 21 straight days. What is this doing to American small business people? What is it doing to American workers? We'll have a special report on why nothing is being done about it, and not a single original idea being proffered by presidential candidates, the president or the Congress.

And tonight, we report to you on the out of control drug wars in Mexico. The drug cartels assassinating police officers trained by the United States. Is it a conspiracy?

And Christian conservative Tony Perkins join me. We'll be examining God and politics, the importance of issues in this presidential campaign. All of that, all the day's news and much more straight ahead here tonight.

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

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Tonight we begin with news of a commuter train collision just outside Boston. This has happened in just the past hour. These pictures, live pictures of that collision, two trains both being driven off the tracks. They collided at the Woodland station. There are no reports of any fatalities.

We have no reports on injuries from the scene. Firefighters are apparently trying to free at least two people who are trapped within those trains. Both of these trains derailed after the crash as I said, and that collision occurring just after 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll have updates on this crash as soon as information is available.

Another train crash today in Chicago where 14 people were taken to the hospital after an elevated train there left the tracks. A train operator apparently failed to heed a stop signal. We'll keep you updated on both those stories throughout this hour. Let's turn now to Washington, D.C. where the White House blasted its former press secretary Scott McClellan after his blistering criticism of the Bush administration. In his new book, McClellan accuses President Bush of misleading the nation on the reasons for the war in Iraq. Current and former White House officials launched an all-out counterattack against McClellan questioning his character and his motivation.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party officials tonight are preparing for a vital meeting this week that will decide whether to continue to disenfranchise more than two million voters in Florida and Michigan. We'll have complete coverage for you in this broadcast, and we begin tonight with

Ed Henry, traveling with President Bush in Colorado Springs -- Ed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lou, the White House initially would not comment on this book and former officials were somewhat muted in their responses. But now they're not holding back and it's getting ugly fast.

It was supposed to be a glorious day. President Bush in Colorado delivering the Air Force Academy's commencement.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your parents are proud of you, and so is your commander in chief.

HENRY: Instead it was rainy and bitter cold, matching the first White House reaction to Scott McClellan's explosive new book. It charges the president used propaganda to sell the war in Iraq, which has become a, "serious strategic blunder".

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino issued a written statement declaring the former spokesman is disgruntled about his time in the administration. "For those of us who fully supported him before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled", Perino said. "It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew."

A former Bush aide, Fran Townsend was even harsher charging McClellan was not in a position to know what really happened in the run-up to the war.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, FORMER WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SEC. ADVISER: Oftentimes the press secretary will get briefed after some of these more sensitive meetings. But the press secretary doesn't participate in -- for example, the briefings of the secretary of defense.

HENRY: Another former White House insider Dan Bartlett lashed out at McClellan telling CNN, it's, quote, "total crap to say the media was soft on the administration", claiming again that flawed intelligence was the blame for mistakes leading up to the war. And McClellan's predecessor at the podium, Ari Fleischer, declared if Scott had such deep misgivings, he should not have accepted the press secretary position as a matter of principle. But a former Clinton White House insider said McClellan's account has credibility because his long proximity to Mr. Bush gave him a window on how the war was prosecuted and he may now be having pangs of conscience.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The fact that we went to war based on to some extent propaganda, false premise and it was a terrible mistake of judgment, which I think he's come to the conclusion, as two-thirds of American people have, that it was a bad mistake of judgment on behalf of the president.

HENRY (on camera): I spoke briefly by telephone to Scott McClellan and he stood behind his account. As for the president, aides say the book has been described to him, but they do not expect him to comment on it anytime soon. They say he has far more pressing matters to deal with. Lou?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Ed, thank you.

Ed Henry reporting from Colorado Springs.

On the campaign trail, Senators Clinton and Obama are intensifying their campaigns before the last primaries to be held next week. Senator Clinton is also making a new effort trying to convince superdelegates she's more electable than Senator Obama.

Candy Crowley has our report from Thornton, Colorado.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA: What's your name?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his only stop of the day, Barack Obama paid a leisurely visit to a school in suburban Denver where the Democratic Convention will be held. There were classroom tours and a town hall meeting focused on education. In contrast to the sharp rhetoric of John McCain and the urgency of Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House, the Obama campaign is giving off an aura of suspended animation.

OBAMA: All right, everybody. Thank you very much. I'll see you back in August.

CROWLEY: For the second day in a row, Obama did not directly engage John McCain on Iraq. McCain continually suggesting Obama wants to surrender in Iraq without knowing what's happening there is itching for a fight and a headline. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, why is it that Senator Obama wants to sit down with the president of Iran, but hasn't yet sat down with General Petraeus, the leader of our troops in Iraq?

CROWLEY: McCain is getting re-enforcement from the Republican National Committee, which set up a Web site dedicated to clocking how many days have passed since Obama's last and only trip to Iraq. Yesterday, an Obama spokesman called the whole thick a publicity stunt. With the Democratic primary season in its twilight days, the Clinton campaign sent a memo out to superdelegates rearguing her electability claim, made with heightened urgency along the campaign trail in South Dakota and Montana.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have not gone through this exciting unprecedented historical election only to lose. So you have to ask yourself, who is the stronger candidate?

CROWLEY: Tuesday's primaries in South Dakota and Montana are the last of the season, but looming every bit as large as a Saturday meeting of Democratic Party officials who will decide what to do about Florida and Michigan's now discounted primary results.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: According to a DNC memo by the staff, under party rules, Michigan and Florida, who operated outside the primary calendar, will have to be punished by losing about 50 percent of their delegates. Either by giving all the delegates a half a vote, or taking half of the delegates away.

The Clinton campaign says that that particular rule is open for interpretation. Either way, Lou, expect a pretty exciting Saturday.

DOBBS: An exciting Saturday, you called it a discounted election results. It's really disenfranchised voters, a million and three quarters of them in Florida, alone, isn't it?

CROWLEY: Well, absolutely. We're talking about millions of voters here, and that's certainly how the Clinton campaign views it. They say, listen. These voters came out to the polls; they expected their votes to count. We've see demonstrations.

We'll see more demonstrations on Saturday, I can assure you from people who voted for Hillary Clinton saying, look, this is -- this is an important principle here. Every vote should count. We want our votes to count.

DOBBS: And one would think that the Democratic Party would want those votes come November, hardly votes that one imagines that they could hardly expect to count on come November if they remain those Democratic voters in Michigan and Florida disenfranchised. It will be interesting, as you say, to watch what happens with the Rules Committee this Saturday.

Candy, thank you very much -- Candy Crowley.

New developments tonight in the legal battle to have those votes counted in Florida. A federal judge in Tampa today threw out one lawsuit challenging the Democratic Party's refusal to seat the Florida delegation at the convention. The judge said political parties have the right to make their own rules, but another lawsuit, this one by Florida State Senator Steve Geller, a majority leader, is pending in court. He is hoping for a decision in federal court as early as this week.

Voters across the country, many of them are seething with anger over the sky-rocketing price of gasoline. AAA now says gasoline prices have hit new highs for 21 consecutive days. But Washington, D.C., big oil and the presidential candidates, they seem to be too busy blaming someone or each other to do anything original about dealing with this crisis. The presidential candidates simply have apparently no idea in the world what to do.

Carrie Lee has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The summer driving season, refinery shortages, the weak dollar. Speculators. Rising demand in China and India. Supply concerns. All reasons $4 a gallon gasoline is common place, all across the country. About 70 percent of the cost of gas comes from crude oil. And crude is hitting record after record, topping $135 a barrel. Critics say big oil wants to keep supply tight and prices high. Oil companies maintain they want to tap more supply, but their hands are tied.

BOB TIPPEE, OIL & GAS JOURNAL: Crude oil is high because there's not enough supply relative to demand that needs to grow. And as a matter of policy, we have 85 percent of the federal offshore off -- off limits to leasing. So the United States is deliberately holding potential supply off the market.

LEE: Even if more oil would come to market, it has to be refined. It's been 30 years since a new refinery was built in the U.S. A plan to build a new refinery in South Dakota goes to vote next week. Many local residents are fighting against it even though it would bring new jobs. New jobs, perhaps a modest silver lining to high energy prices.

JEFF RUBIN, CIBC WORLD MARKETS: In this kind of world, distance costs money. And yes Chinese steelworkers make a fraction of what Pittsburgh steelworkers make. But there's only an hour and a half labor time in a ton of steel. But when you consider the cost of shipping that ton of steel across the ocean at $130 oil, all of a sudden Chinese steel is more expensive than U.S. steel.

LEE: But it's not just steel, anything that is transported, food, appliances, clothing is costing consumers more.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEE: So Lou, in Washington and on the campaign trail plenty of talk but still no clear energy policy to curb rising gas prices which is increasingly becoming a burden on the middle class of America.

DOBBS: The middle class, small businesses, I mean what is happening? The pain that is being felt across this country and to hear these three presidential candidates talk about energy policy as if it's some sort of master's degree thesis, some abstraction that isn't relevant to millions of Americans. I mean it's -- well first it's disappointing. It doesn't argue (ph) well for whatever will follow the election of one of these three people.

It's crazy. And people are aware of a very simple straightforward fact. Crude oil has gone up during a course of this administration by six times its price in 2001. That's unconscionable. It is absolutely an issue we have to deal with.

Carrie, thank you very much -- Carrie Lee.

Well there are significant differences in gasoline prices of course around the country. The most expensive gasoline, believe it or not, is in Connecticut and Alaska where it is well above $4 a gallon. But you can still find gasoline for about $3.75 a gallon in both Missouri and Wyoming. That's just about 25 percent higher any way you slice it than just a year ago.

Up next here, open borders groups don't want you to know about a NAFTA superhighway and some of the morons in the mainstream media haven't got a clue but oh do they have a voice. We'll be talking about that.

And violent drug cartels targeting, are they, Mexican police officers who have been trained by the United States. Is this a conspiracy? We'll have that story as well. And a great deal more.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Thousands of people have been killed over the past year by drug cartels. Those drug wars raging along our southern border with Mexico are claiming lives every single week. The United States has helped train some 300 Mexican law enforcement officers. That in an effort to crack down on the escalating violence between the warring drug cartels. Tonight, new reports that some of those law enforcement officials are being assassinated and because they were trained by the United States.

Casey Wian has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mexico's drug cartel wars claimed the lives of seven more law enforcement officers Tuesday. The federal police officers and a suspected drug cartel hit man were killed in a shootout in Culiacan, reported home base of the Sinaloa drug cartel. More than 450 Mexican law enforcement officers have died during President Felipe Calderon's 18-month war on drug traffickers, mostly near the U.S. border.

PROF. GEORGE GRAYSON, COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY: Calderon will have to give the military an ever greater role in this attempt to manage the war on drugs because the police if they're not corrupt can be corrupted. If they happen to be honest, then they're likely targets for assassination.

WIAN: The United States has trained about 300 specially vetted Mexican law enforcement officials, according to the Government Accountability Office. In an effort to develop a Mexican federal investigative force that's less vulnerable to corruption.

"The Dallas Morning News" reports former Mexican federal police chief, Edgar Millan Gomez, who was assassinated this month, received the training. And it was likely a factor in his killing and that of at least two other Mexican police officials. Now the Bush administration is urging Congress to rapidly increase military aid for Calderon's war on drug cartels.

JOHN WALTERS, OFFICE OF NATL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: It's never a losing battle for a democratic society to try to protect its citizens and instill the rule of law. Mexico has to do this. And the future of Mexico and the United States will be radically different for decades to come if he's successful.

WIAN: Mexican drug cartels though clearly wounded remain well financed. The GAO reports they earn as much as $23 billion a year not counting profits from the marijuana cartels grown north of the border. Last year Mexican and U.S. authorities seized an estimated 31 percent of the marijuana destined for the United States. But only 12 percent of the cocaine and less than 5 percent of the heroin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: The GAO says it does not have reliable information on what percentage of Mexican methamphetamine is intercepted before it reaches the United States. But seizures have jumped five-fold since 2000, a clear indication that supplies here are growing as well -- Lou.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And one way we can put this in context. Mexico remains the principle source of all of this country's heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines and that has not changed one iota over the course of the past eight years.

What -- is there any strategy for the United States to add its own military, its own significant law enforcement agency efforts to the war on drugs at the border because this is where most of those illegal drugs are crossing?

WIAN: In fact, Lou, just the opposite is happening as you well know. There have been National Guard troops near the border for some time now supplementing the role of the border patrol and trying to stop drugs from coming across the border. There's only about 1,500 of them left now. Those troops are in the process of being pulled off despite the protest stations of many border governors. Those troops are going to be gone within a couple of months, Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian reporting.

Let's take a look now at the poll question. And the question is straightforwardly: Do you believe elected officials in this country are taking seriously the threat posed by the Mexican drug cartels?

Yes or no? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later.

Well open borders advocates are refusing to acknowledge rising evidence of plans for a NAFTA superhighway. Many in the mainstream media absolutely refuse to acknowledge the reality. The plans could be a major step toward that North American Union of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

President Bush says opponents of a NAFTA superhighway in his view are laying out a conspiracy. Senator Obama says he sees no evidence of a North American Union. Even some news organizations are criticizing me for raising the issue.

"TIME" magazine journalist Joe Klein accused me of, "spewing false inflammatory nonsense". So we asked Bill Tucker to report on the issue. He found there's plenty of evidence of plans for new transportation links between Mexico and Canada and only in my opinion a fool would refuse to see those links.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There is no NAFTA superhighway. Not officially. Some even call it the invention of the far right wing, but some politicians find the denials almost laughable.

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: The folks in Washington are in denial about the super NAFTA highway or whatever you want to call it. It's the concept that there will be a highway, free trade from Mexico through the central part of the United States all the way to Canada.

TUCKER: In Texas planning a development is under way for what are officially called transportation corridors. The Trans Texas Corridor, I-69, a combination of rail lines, utility lines, car and truck lanes, plan to be as wide as three football fields laid end to end.

It will be financed by a private foreign company. Most likely Spain Centra (ph) who will then own the lease on the road and the revenue generated by the tolls. Texas may use eminent domain to lay claim to some of the land needed to build it. For an imaginary road there's a lot of money and effort involved in some very real opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE) TERRI HALL, TEXASTURF.ORG: There's just no doubt that this is happening. We've been to the public hearings. We've seen the presentations. We've seen the documents. We waded through them and there's a whole lot more groups besides just ours. And we've got Farm Bureau, Sierra Club, a whole host of groups from the left and the right.

TUCKER: In Kansas a resolution opposing the superhighway overwhelmingly passed the State House.

JUDY MORRISON, KANSAS STATE LEGISLATURE: The documentation is there and some of it has been obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, so I think that when you read this it is very hard to believe.

TUCKER: The lawmakers concerned about the impact of increased traffic flowing into Kansas City where an intermodal center known as the Kansas City Smart Port is being developed to capitalize on flow of good from Mexico's Port of Lazaro Cardenas to the nation's heartland.

The Smart Port Web site says it offers quote, "the heart of a rail corridor spanning coast to coast across the U.S. and extending from Canada to Mexico, a NAFTA railway. And what drives it all? Imports, the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a business group, says in the past 10 years imports from and passing through Mexico rose by 326 percent, reaching almost $211 billion last year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: And according to the Texas Department of Transportation, three-quarters of all the traffic from Mexico to the United States comes across the Texas border and all that traffic they say needs to be accommodated somehow and, Lou, it's hard for an imaginary road to accommodate that much real traffic.

DOBBS: It's what happens when you have, let's say, so-called mainstream journalists in what I would call Napoleonic denial. They're laughable. They are so arrogant in their ignorance of these issues and yet the little delititions (ph) step in to it as if they know something.

They think it's like they're political reporting that they can simply bring an impressionistic brush across the sweep and that that will pass for facts. Good job. We'll keep reporting on the NAFTA superhighway so the little darlings can finally figure out what in the heck is going on in this country should they want to.

It's inconvenient to the orthodoxy and the establishment press of course as it is the establishment of political parties who would love to see this accommodation take place irrespective of the discomfort, the dislocation that it would cause American citizens and property owners. Thanks, Bill Tucker.

Well Congressman Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate who has come out against the NAFTA superhighway. In point of fact, he's the only candidate who even acknowledges it exists. Up next, dangerous imports from communist China pouring into this country. Do you believe that this administration will ever figure out that it has a responsibility to the American consumer that frankly is of a greater importance than their relationship with communist China? We'll have that report.

And the role of religion in this presidential campaign. I'll be joined by Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council next. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The Consumer Product Safety Commission today announced another recall of communist Chinese products. This time a recall of Little League batting helmets tainted with lead and hundreds of thousands of counterfeit circuit breakers that pose a fire hazard in addition to the fact that they don't work. Both products manufactured in communist China.

Kitty Pilgrim now reports on our government's failure to even consider protecting American consumers from dangerous imports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just in time for the summer Little League season. A recall of 2,300 Rawlings batting helmets made in China, containing toxic levels of lead paint. Rawlings said they tested for lead and are moving as fast as possible to remove the helmets from the market. Last year there were 25 million toys and sporting good recalls because of lead paint and toxic chemicals. And this year the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled two and a half million children's products this month alone.

DON MAYS, CONSUMERS UNION: The Product Safety Commission which has only about 400 full-time employees doesn't have enough staff to be working the more than 300 ports that we have in this country. So it's impossible to witness all of the stuff coming in and stopping the bad stuff, the counterfeit products, the unsafe products from crossing our border.

PILGRIM: China also shipped counterfeit circuit breakers to an American supplier, Specialty Lamp International (ph). The fake devices are virtually identical to the genuine product but the knockoff pose a fire hazard in homes. The company did not respond to calls.

Bush administration officials are going through the charade of tougher enforcement with few results. The Chinese still have not given the go-ahead for a dozen or so FDA officials that were supposed to be stationed in China and some question what good a dozen inspectors would be with $300 billion worth of food and product imported from China last year.

TOM BUIS, NATIONAL FARMERS UNION: They would have to be superheroes to be able to cover all of the products being shipped into the United States. PILGRIM: But five months after the Chinese signed two agreements to improve the safety of export of food, feed, drugs and medical devices, the details are still not worked out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: AHS Secretary Leavitt says he is optimistic the Chinese government will approve the opening of three FDA offices in China some time soon. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says if recalls continue at the current rate, it will be a 70 percent increase over last year. Lou?

DOBBS: Secretary Leavitt says he's optimistic.

PILGRIM: That's what he said. And it's been an ongoing discussion, but there's no approval...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Three offices in China...

PILGRIM: In China.

DOBBS: ... for 11 inspectors for $300 billion worth of products.

PILGRIM: The numbers don't quite work, do they?

DOBBS: They don't seem to work maybe just for all of us. I'm sure they work for Washington because they think we're a bunch of idiots. How big a fool do you suppose Secretary Leavitt is to think that we're this stupid?

PILGRIM: He says that the Chinese manufacturers should be held more accountable and he would like them to put the FDA certification, the Chinese government to put the FDA certification on to say they meet FDA standards which is his general approach to the problem.

DOBBS: That's brilliant. That goes along with this administration's request that Wall Street regulate itself. When does George Bush leave office?

PILGRIM: The good news is that there is legislation coming through that may tighten up standards for American manufacturers.

DOBBS: I heard this nonsense before. Thanks for trying to boost my spirits any way. We all appreciate it. The American consumer, you're on your own. We're on our own in this country. This government is completely indifferent to the welfare and people and safety of the consumer. It's disgusting.

Kitty, thank you very much -- Kitty Pilgrim.

Let's look now at some of your thoughts.

Karen in Michigan wrote in to say: "Dear Lou, the only globalizing I'm seeing is the shipping of U.S. jobs to lower wage countries so corporations can make bigger profits. I have yet to hear any middle class individual that I know say wow this is great. I am so glad we live in this era of the global economy."

Tony in California: "Thank you, Lou, for exposing the greed that goes on with politicians, corporations, and self interest groups. I am registered Democrat but I'll switch to Independent. Stay on them Lou."

Welcome aboard. You bet we will.

Skip in Virginia said: "Lou, I agree with you over 90 percent of the time on the issues you talk about. I am going to stay a Democrat and keep fighting to get my party back on the right track, but with the way it looks now, I'll be voting Independent in this presidential election."

We'll have more of your thoughts here later. Please join me on the radio Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show." Among my guests tomorrow, talking politics and the election with Jim Geraghty contributor to the National Review and the National Review Online, David Lightman who's covered every presidential campaign since 1980 and go to loudobbs.com and loudobbsradio.com to get the listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show," loudobbsradio.com.

Up next, new information on the train crash outside Boston. We'll have the latest for you on that.

Also ahead, God and politics on the presidential campaign trail. I'll be joined by the influential conservative Christian Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and later three top political analysts and strategists join me for an assessment of the day's public news.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We want to update you on that commuter train collision that happened just outside Boston about an hour and a half ago. Two green line commuter trains colliding at the Woodland station outside of Boston, officials now say there are multiple injuries. That's all they're saying. Firefighters are still trying to free the number that are trapped. The number could be two people. We understand rescuers have already removed at least one casualty from the wreckage. The operator of one of those trains is apparently still trapped. He's reported to be in serious condition. We'll have updates for you on the collision, the crash and derailment as news comes in.

Turning now to politics and the presidential campaign trail, joining me now, Republican strategist Ed Rollins, Ed serving as White House political director under President Reagan, serving as campaign chairman for Governor Mike Huckabee's campaign; Pulitzer Prize winging columnist for the "New York Daily News" Michael Goodwin and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman who is also a Democratic National Committeeman and a Senator Clinton supporter.

Welcome all of you.

Let's -- I don't even know where to begin. There is just one disappointment after another emanating from each of these camps for this independent populous.

Where would you like to begin, Ed? What gives you the greatest hope that we'll see a great campaign and election of a visionary leader for the 21st century?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The tell-all books are starting to come out of the White House tells me they're close to the end of the administration. That's the story everyone is talking about. To a certain extend, what I have never been able to understand as a former White House person, why don't they have a confidentiality agreement. Why do you let people sit in meetings all day knowing full well someone's going to offer them some money.

DOBBS: If a person would violate -- I mean this man Scott McClellan didn't walk out as a matter of principle and disagreement with this president or White House. This seems to be another disloyal act for what purpose I don't understand.

ROLLINS: I have not read the book. In fairness to the writer, I should not comment but he basically said that it was bad intelligence. We've known that. If that's the best defense you have, that's not very good. You should have fired the person that gave you the bad intelligence.

DOBBS: And not a freedom metal?

ROLLINS: Not a freedom metal. The other thing that I find astonishing and I'll stop here, when a press secretary is not in the room for major meetings is the day he ought to walk out.

DOBBS: If he felt the day I can understand why he bothered to stick around to write a tell-all book unless it's amusing to him.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I think the news for the campaign is how bad does this hurt John McCain because I think it is a reminder of the war, the origins of the war, it takes us back to the beginnings of it rather than the issue of the surge working and getting better.

DOBBS: You know what, Michael? I got to say I heard a number of people say this on the radio, a number of people I was talking with. My thought on this is we're right now at 19 deaths in Iraq. This will be one of the lowest monthly totals. It's already the lowest month for violence in four years. This is not being reported by mainstream media. I don't know to what degree that helps or hurts John McCain.

I'm an Independent but I see two candidates for the Democratic Party invested in failure and he's the only candidate invested in what passes for success which would be continued low violence. That could be an interesting algorithm for this campaign if this kind of improvement -- I won't call it progress but improvement were to persist to be sustained through the end of this year. GOODWIN: No question about it. I think that McCain has ridden the roller coaster around as Iraq goes down, so does his campaign. The question here is how does it reflect on him being still identified as the third Bush term, which is the phrase --

DOBBS: That will be nonsense for whichever candidate does -- that will --

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes.

DOBBS: I don't think that will stick well because if I may, again, I can't believe I'm saying this about a candidate that I find objectionable in so many of his policies but the reality is that he authored in part the surge strategy. He staked his career on it and right now it appears to be working. That can only be to his benefit.

GOODWIN: I don't disagree with that all. This brings us back to it. We have Scott McClellan, an insider, saying Bush essentially was deceiving the American people. It was a propaganda campaign. I don't think that helps the Republican candidate in any situation.

ZIMMERMAN: We don't have to go back in time. We need to look at Iraq as it stands as a reality. The bottom line is that we have two Democratic candidates. Not invested in failure. They're invested in changing the direction. They're investing in withdrawing troops over a time period.

DOBBS: I missed that pardon.

ZIMMERMAN: Let me explain it then.

DOBBS: What's Senator Obama's time frame?

ZIMMERMAN: They talked about a year's period to withdraw troops. This is not news. The news is the fact that we try to talk about the surge as being a success. Even our own military tells us Iraq reconciliation which was the goal of the surge has not really progressed at all. So our soldiers are performing but our civilian leadership has failed through a negligent policy built upon lies and false assumptions.

ROLLINS: The real news is we all thought as smart as we think we are that the war was going to --

DOBBS: By the way, I'm starting to think I'm a lot less intelligent.

ROLLINS: That's positive for all of us. We were all convinced six months ago that if we were still in this war that this would be the major issue of this campaign. It is now not a major issue. Both sides are -- both teams have opposite positions. There's no clear answers to either side. There's nothing that's going to push voters one way or the other I don't think. They at the end of the day we're talking about --

DOBBS: I would be able to do just that if I may when we come back. We'll pick up with Mr. Zimmerman's rejection of whatever position it is that you hold.

ZIMMERMAN: Great admiration for his position.

DOBBS: We'll be back in a moment and we'll be talking about the truth as it unfolds on the campaign trail and also talking god and politics with influential Christian conservative Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council here next. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We're back with Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin and Robert Zimmerman who wants to reject straightforwardly whatever it is that Ed Rollins said.

ZIMMERMAN: I always admire everything Ed Rollins says but we have different perspectives. There's no question that Iraq is not the front and center issue over the economy and gas prices. But I think what's important to remember is when you have 67 percent of the American people saying that this war has been a tragic miscalculation and John McCain stands for the Bush policies versus the Democratic position, whether it's Clinton or Obama who want to change direction, that will resonate with people because they see what this war is costing our soldiers, costing our young people and costing our country economically.

DOBBS: I think what will cost the Republican, their standard bearer, John McCain is against the G.I. bill legislation that would give outside veterans an opportunity for a college education and rejecting it from this White House and Senator McCain because you only have to be in the military three years. That's two tours in Iraq. I think it is absolutely disgusting that this White House and Senator McCain are opposing that legislation.

ZIMMERMAN: When you see Democrats use the phrase a continuation of the Bush administration, here's another example where John McCain is ignoring his own colleagues.

ROLLINS: You made the point. When Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid became - you can get me much cheaper. When they took office, they were going bring troops home immediately. They had sort of the drop the guns and run strategy. Every Democrat started running a year ago we'll bring troops home immediately. The first day I'm in office we're bringing them home. Now we're talking about a year or maybe two years, whatever it takes. I think that's major change. I think to a certain extent it's --

DOBBS: The American people are quite aware, I believe, or becoming so, that there is not a dime's worth of difference between the Republican Party, the Democratic Party and they're supported by the same folks on Wall Street as their primary source of capital between this candidate, John McCain, and Senator Obama.

ZIMMERMAN: And Senator Clinton. There's a tremendous issue. Likewise changing direction in Iraq is a major issue. They both have a different position. Likewise on tax cuts for the very rich. John McCain is supporting the Bush administration's policies ... DOBBS: Wait a minute. I mean Obama and Clinton are both raising taxes through their programs. It will take a fortune to support them. You and I both know that there's not a single proposal by one of the three candidates on major programs that is supportable by the current budget or taxing the brains out of the American people, which would be the likely result.

ROLLINS: A majority of Republicans voted for the veterans benefits.

DOBBS: Let me raise my hand here just to make it clear. I would like to see the tax increases to eliminate the budget deficit and to pay for what we already spent. It seems to me only fair that when we're in war, we sacrifice and show the burden for that and in particularly in terms of taxes.

GOODWIN: We shut the press up.

DOBBS: You get the last word.

GOODWIN: I think --

DOBBS: Ed Rollins insisted.

GOODWIN: He's a kind man. Robert usually takes my last word. I do think that by the weekend the big news will be the Democrats and I think the McClellan book will be a short lived thing.

DOBBS: You think at the Rules Committee meeting on Saturday it will be a big deal in the news media.

GOODWIN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Let me write this down.

GOODWIN: I think the fall campaign begins next week.

DOBBS: There you are. We just happen to have a primary Sunday and Tuesday. I love the way you mark that calendar. All right.

Michael Goodwin, Ed Rollins, thank you very much for moderating.

Thank you, Robert Zimmerman, for everything.

Up at the top of the hour, the "ELECTION CENTER" with Campbell Brown.

Campbell, what are you working on?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: In the "ELECTION CENTER" tonight, Lou, we're going to continue with the conversation you've been having over the firestorm over Scott McClellan's new book. The White House has unleashed a furious assault on McClellan's credibility hitting from him now every angle. We'll hear from some of his critics including his former boss and the man he replaced. Plus, two of the best White House reporters who dealt with McClellan face to face at the White House. We'll have all that at the top of the hour.

See you then, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Campbell.

Up next, to politics and religion. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council joins me next. Stay with us. What is god's role in the presidential contest? We'll find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The pastor problems of the presidential candidates, the appeal to religious voters, just two of the factors bringing the issue of god and politics to the forefront in this presidential campaign.

I'm joined now by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and co-author of the book "Personal Faith and Public Policy, The Seven Urgent Issues That We as People of Faith Need to Come Together and Solve."

I thought I had long subtitles.

That was a pretty good one, Tony. Good to have you here.

TONY PERKINS, PRES., FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Thanks, Lou. Good to be with you.

DOBBS: What's going on? God, religion, has taken -- I mean a very prominent position in this presidential race.

PERKINS: It's amazing. To some degree I think it's positive that we're actually talking about faith in the public square. What's interesting is how the tables have turned. I mean you have the Democratic candidates who in times past have been hostile toward religion and the public square. Have all of the appearances of having gotten religion. The Republicans have become agnostic and run off with the church organist. It's a wild thing.

DOBBS: It is peculiar. I guess you would be excepting Governor Mike Huckabee there. There's a case of a minister running for office.

PERKINS: But isn't it interesting how when he brought his faith into the debate, even looking back at Christmas when he did that advertisement or that commercial where there was a book shelf in the back that looked like a cross. Barack Obama recently in Kentucky before the primary there very blatant behind a pulpit with a cross behind him, a real cross, not much was said about it.

DOBBS: I didn't see much of anything said about it. When Huckabee did it, you would have thought it was a conspiracy to install theology in Washington D.C.

PERKINS: There's a double standard when it's on the right side when the Republicans --

DOBBS: You really think so?

PERKINS: I think there's a fear on the right when Christians entered the Republican side and began talking about faith that somehow they mean what they say and they're going to somehow their policies are going to be impacted by their faith. There's not that fear on the left.

DOBBS: To draw the straight line to reference your title that their personal faith will become public policy.

PERKINS: Absolutely but there's middle steps in there. First it's personal application. That's what we talk about in the book how we as Christians need to be part of the solution and not pointing out just problems. It does lead to public policy because we live collectively in society.

DOBBS: John Hagee, the pastor problems, Reverend Wright, I mean, how do you sort that out? Let's start with Reverend Wright with Barack Obama. Do you find it interesting we don't even hear anything in mainstream media about Reverend Wright at all. Is that a closed issue?

PERKINS: I think it comes back in the general election. There's a big difference between John Hagee and John McCain and Barack Obama and Reverend Wright. Barack Obama himself said that Reverend Wright was his spiritual mentor and was under his teaching for 20 years. Those inside churches understand you go to church to be impacted by what you hear. John McCain was not a member of John Hagee's congregation. He was not a spiritual mentor to him. I think John McCain mishandled that situation.

DOBBS: That was a crazy deal. He and Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, they had just reconciled what had been I think about a ten-year running dispute between the Catholic Church and Hagee. All of the -- I think vial things he said about the Catholic Church and I've been critical of them for a number of issues but I mean what Hagee was saying was absolutely --

PERKINS: It was a positive development in terms of them resolving that aspect. The latest issue is what actually caused John McCain to throw John Hagee off the bus.

DOBBS: It's amazing on the presidential campaign trail people are being thrown off the bus, under the bus. I mean it doesn't matter right or left.

PERKINS: It kind of weaved a bit and Hagee fell off. The interfaith alliance brought up that issue of the Jewish nation.

DOBBS: The interfaith alliance is what?

PERKINS: They have connections to the Democratic Party. They were started with seed money from Democratic Party. Obviously there's political connection there is the situation. DOBBS: Evangelical Democrats?

PERKINS: I don't know about that. There are some of them out there that's true.

DOBBS: I couldn't resist the attempt at --

PERKINS: My co-author, Harry Jacks, is an Evangelical African- American Democrat. There is room for us to work together on many issues.

DOBBS: And a good guy. We'll be right back. I'll be talking with Tony Perkins about god and the public square. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We're back with Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian. Those groups, evangelicals, appear not to be connecting at all with John McCain. How big of a problem for him?

PERKINS: It's an issue of intensity. I think there's an idea that there's going to be an anti-Democratic vote. That it's going to go to John McCain. What I'm hearing, I travel the country, people are saying what are we going to do? In terms of they have no clue. Where as four years ago, what are we going to do to get George Bush reelected? I think there's an intensity issue that the McCain camp has overlooked.

DOBBS: What you're saying is you don't think evangelicals are going to turn out for John McCain?

PERKINS: I think there's a -- when you look back over the last two years, in 2006, big turn for the Republicans. They lose the majority. There were issues: the spending issues, the scandal issues, the failure to follow through on promises.

DOBBS: Is there anything that John McCain can do to attract the evangelical vote?

PERKINS: Well first, he's got to talk about their issues, first. I think that will be a step in the right direction.

But I think there's a problem for all Republicans running.

DOBBS: (INAUDIBLE) -- suggest throwing Pastor Hagee off a bus? Is that a problem for evangelicals?

PERKINS: I don't think you're going to see too many evangelicals lining up to endorse him after that. I think he's got a challenge.

DOBBS: Do you think that you're going to support him in the end, when you vote?

PERKINS: Well, I like John McCain. I think he is right on the majority of the issues. I know his record. The problem is, most social conservatives don't know his records. Unless he talks about them, they're not going to know.

DOBBS: Tony Perkins, Family Research Council.

Good to have you here.

PERKINS: Thanks, Lou. Good to be with you.

DOBBS: Thank you, Tony.

The results of our poll now -- 98 percent of you say elected officials in the United States are not taking seriously the threat posed by the Mexican drug cartels.

And finally tonight I'm proud to announce a new edition to the Dobbs family. My daughter-in-law Michelle (ph), my son, Jason, welcoming a new baby daughter. Malia (ph) May Dobbs, a healthy 7 pounds, 9 ounces, born at 3:00 p.m. Eastern this afternoon. Daughter, mother, father, and sister -- Malia Maria (ph) -- all doing well.

And -- welcomed.

Thanks for being with us tonight. For all of us here good night from New York.

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

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