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Lou Dobbs Hosts Convention of Independents

Aired September 8, 2008 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Wolf. Tonight, the presidential contest is in a dead heat. Some polls in fact give Senator McCain a clear lead. Independent voters in this country will be deciding just who our next president will be and both of these candidates are struggling to win the support of those Independent voters.
This week, we're holding the first ever televised convention of Independents. We'll be talking about the issues the presidential candidates are ignoring and avoiding, the issues most important to most Americans. Among those issues tonight, our economy, working men and women.

On the brink of disaster, the federal government announcing the biggest institutional bailout in history rescuing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but what about all of those whose homes are being foreclosed upon? Our government seems to be at times utterly broken, unaccountable corporate elites and special interests dictating public policy in Washington.

And much of our national media seems unable to shake liberal bias, many news organizations in this country simply failing to cover this election in a nonpartisan, non-ideological and objective manner. We'll be talking about all of that, discussing those issues and much more here tonight right here at our very first Lou Dobbs Independent Convention. It is now my pleasure to call this convention to order.


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition, "The Lou Dobbs Independent Convention"; news, debate and opinions for Monday, September 8th, live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, on the day of the largest institutional federal bailout in history, this nation faces a crisis of historic proportions. We have in this country a staggering $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Some $16 trillion in national and trade debt, our public school system is failing an entire generation of our students.

This nation is failing to tap urgently needed energy resources and develop alternative energy. All of this, as President Bush and this Congress face record-low approval ratings. Our very survival as a nation may in fact depend on the outcome of this election. The choices of Independent and independently minded voters irrespective of party will determine the outcome of this election. Tonight, we're giving all Independent voters a voice, free of partisanship or hopefully too much blather, with us here in the studio tonight a terrific group of people, our audience of voters, Independents, Republicans and Democrats, all joining us for this very special Independent Convention.

We'll tell you about the critically important issues that the Democratic and Republican Parties are ignoring, avoiding, and we'll be talking about solutions as well with a truly Independent point of view. Tonight, we begin with the issue of our broken government and how to put this government back in the hands of the working men and women of America.

Tomorrow, we'll be focusing on the war on our middle class, our soaring personal national and trade debts, how to restore the balance in our economy, our society and how to preserve our middle class. Wednesday we turn our attention to our border security and illegal immigration crises, and the critically importance of our national sovereignty, securing our borders and ports.

And Thursday we examine the threats to this country's security and sovereignty, the need to put the interests of the American people first and our foreign policy, our international trade policy and domestic policy as well. And at the end of the week, we'll be taking a look at this nation's bright future, how we can end the crisis in our public school system, revive public education in every single neighborhood and community in the country.

We'll be talking about these issues and much more from an Independent and nonpartisan point of view, each and every night this week. We're beginning this convention tonight with one of the biggest challenges to face the nation and the American people. Our utterly broken federal government and how we can go about fixing it.

Joining me now, three of the most distinguished and innovative thinkers on our system of government, Professor Paul Light. He's author of "A Government Ill Executed". Paul is professor of public service at New York University -- good to have you with us, Paul.

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research -- good to have you with us, Dean, and Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, an organization fighting for openness and Democratic accountability in our government -- Joan, great to have you with us.


DOBBS: Let me begin by first -- Dean, let me turn to you. How is it that we have a government, this large, this expansive, that seems utterly incapable of functioning either efficiently, productively or intelligently?

DEAN BAKER, CTR. ECON. AND POLICY RESEARCH: Well, I think it serves the people who have money and power. You know an example I love to use, if you look back to the prescription drug benefit that was -- Medicare prescription drug benefit that was passed in 2003. That was a benefit that served the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance industry very, very well. It served the seniors very poorly, many of them still can't afford their drugs, is a very expensive benefit because Medicare wasn't allowed to negotiate prices down with the prescription drug industry, but the pharmaceutical...

DOBBS: So it works for those who lobby most and spend the most money?

BAKER: Exactly. They do very well.

DOBBS: And we know that lobbyists in this country are spending just about as of this year about $3 billion. We know that that's gone up about 20 percent over course of the past year, Paul. We also know there are what, 17,000 lobbyists actively engaged with our elected officials who are all but ignoring the American people.

PROF. PAUL LIGHT, "A GOVERNMENT ILL EXECUTED": You got it. You know, we have a system of government that's very, very close to stalemate all the time. And lobbyists and other interests really put the pressure on government, not to act more frequently than to do something. They prefer the status quo over change. And that makes it very, very difficult to move forward on some of the solutions to the things you're talking about.

DOBBS: Well, change arrived today in a big way. The two largest agencies, entities, government-sponsored mortgage organizations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailed out by the federal government, the largest institutional bailout in this country's history, 200 billion is the estimate, $5 trillion in mortgages, the liability for which is assumed now by the American taxpayer and the federal government. I mean, this is incredible.

LIGHT: It is an example of a process by which lobbyists and other special interests work the system to their advantage. Nobody gets punished here but the American taxpayer.

DOBBS: Joan, as you have been documenting and investigating for many years at Public Citizen, the corruption, the ineptitude of government is extraordinary, the sway of special interests over our government of whether it be at the legislative, the electoral or the executive level. It is really, if I may, it is third world in many of its dimensions, is it not?

JOAN CLAYBROOK, PRES. PUBLIC CITIZEN: It definitely is. And the big issue here is the money system because lobbyists really only have power and authority because they fund and their employers fund the campaign elections that we have. And this year, you can see it in spades, Obama and McCain have both got bundlers, bundlers put together bundles of money and...

DOBBS: Say it's not so. Say it's not so.

CLAYBROOK: Oh, yes, oh unbelievable amounts. They control the conventions. They have host committees, as they call them. They can give unlimited amounts and don't even have to report until two months after the convention is over. So and then the other major issue, of course, is secrecy.

The government agencies have been so secretive about information about what issues FDA is investigating, about what cars the Department of Transportation is investigating, about even consumer complaints that the Consumer Product Safety Commission are kept secret.

DOBBS: Secrecy in our government and one of the fundamental tenants of any democracy is the rule of the majority, is it not? When is the last time we saw any example in this government of the majority ruling over the direction of public policy? Can you think of a time?


DOBBS: Go ahead, Joan.

CLAYBROOK: Oh, I was going to say I would say that the filibuster has been an example this year of how many important proposals including reducing taxes on oil companies that are making billions and billions of dollars more than even before. The Senate has stopped that because of certain senators who threaten to filibuster.

BAKER: I was actually going to say (INAUDIBLE) was the positive example of President Bush wanted to prioritize Social Security back in 2005 and there was mass opposition against that. I think it was very clear from all the polls and public reaction to it that people wanted to keep the Social Security system as it is and President Bush's proposal went nowhere and that was the case I think when the majority won.

DOBBS: It's quite the counterpoint, isn't it? The idea to privatizing Social Security and if you will, nationalizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so we've got a clear case of a broken government. The solutions, Paul, if there are any that are readily at hand?

LIGHT: You know, we got to work this thing top to bottom. It's not just the money and the campaigns, the fact that 65 percent of all the people that Obama or McCain will appoint to office next year will come from inside the Beltway. It's the fact that we don't invest in delivering services. We don't want to spend money on doing well and it's no surprise the government is broken. We've designed it that way.

DOBBS: We'll be back in just a moment. More on broken government and more solutions, our panel stays with us.

Americans are paying taxes for all of the services the government is unwilling or unable or simply obstinate enough to refuse to provide. And the liberal national media is at it again, displaying outright bias. For the first time there is no veil of objectivity over many news organizations. The national media, is it failing to serve the American people and this presidential campaign? We'll be talking about that and much more here at our Independent Convention, your convention. We continue in one moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Welcome back. This is our Independent Convention. We'll be here Monday through Friday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We hope you'll be joining us throughout the week. Tonight, our broken government is utterly failing the American people. Several government agencies in fact are at the center of scandals now. Many agencies are simply leaderless as top officials are departing the Bush administration; other agencies have been simply leaderless. Louise Schiavone has our report.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) the Air Force, nomination pending; solicitor general, nomination pending; drug enforcement administration chief, nomination pending. From the Federal Reserve to the Pentagon to the Department of State, Transportation, Justice, Labor, Energy and elsewhere, literally hundreds of high-level government jobs are in search of Senate- confirmed executives.

MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS: Those people take their responsibilities very seriously. They have the ability to make decisions. That's why it's so terrible that right and close to the end of the administration so many people have been jumping ship.

SCHIAVONE: This former Carter administration official says her job was contingent upon a promise.

CLAYBROOK: I stayed to the bitter end and I think everyone else should do that as well because that's how the government works best.

SCHIAVONE: Among the hundreds of vacancies pending, 20 nominations before Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden's Senate Foreign Relations Committee; more than 40 nominations before the Committee on Health, Education and Labor. Can Washington in the next three weeks give taxpayers the fully staffed government they've been paying for? History shows that will be unlikely.

Louise Schiavone for CNN, Washington.


DOBBS: Back with us Professor Paul Light, author of "A Government Ill Executed", Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. Paul, I want to turn to you first.

In your book, you wrote bluntly put the -- and if we may, put up this full screen, "the federal service is suffering its greatest crisis since it was founded in the first moments of the Republic. At best, it is running out of energy at what seems to be an accelerating rate. At worst, it is already unable to faithfully execute all of our laws."

This is -- I mean that describes the federal government in so many aspects. Are we -- it's reasonably to expect any change in direction soon?

LIGHT: Not unless these candidates get serious about it. You know, they don't talk about these issues at all. You've never heard them speak out about the politicization of the Justice Department. They've never condemned the toxic trailers that FEMA bought after Hurricane Katrina.

They don't talk about the poisoned tomatoes. I mean government as a functioning entity just isn't in this campaign. They're making all sorts of promises, but the real question is whether they can honor the promises they make.

DOBBS: Is the federal government simply too large, too complex to be administered as it was 50 years ago?

LIGHT: That's true. I mean, it's grown thicker with needless layers of management over time. We're having trouble recruiting bright, young people in the government. I mean, you look at the nominations process. I mean, it's like New Orleans last week in the middle of a hurricane, so many vacancies.

At the top, you cannot run a government that way. We've got to have some very serious streamlining. We've got to have some investment in making that government work well.

DOBBS: Joan Claybrook, Paul and I both have challenged these two campaigns of Obama and McCain, to make a straightforward simple rule, that anyone serving in your administration, if you are the person elected president will not be allowed to lobby the federal government for a period of five years after leaving government. We haven't heard back. What do you think?

CLAYBROOK: I completely agree with you. Jimmy Carter had some pretty tough standards. Bill Clinton had some tough standards and then eliminated them the day before he left office, so he freed up all of his appointees. I also think as Jimmy Carter required that we ought to make a pledge anyone appointed to public office by the president that they stay until the very end.

You know, the federal government is really complex, but the quality of the people that you appoint as president and that serve you, that really makes a huge difference because they determine most of the rules and how the government works. That's a crucial issue for the next president.

DOBBS: You know, you were talking earlier, Joan, about the fact that both of these candidates, Obama and McCain, one an agent of change, he says, Obama; the other, an agent of reform he says, McCain. Both men are bundling donations. Both have lobbyists integrally involved in their nominations. Why is the national media not focusing on the disconnect between their words, their statements, and the reality?

CLAYBROOK: Well I was going to say that both of them have said the right thing. The question is whether or not their -- the money that they get in this election is going to have an influence on what they do if they're elected, for whichever one is elected. I believe we have to have public funding of elections, both at the congressional level and improve the one for the presidential so the presidential candidates will opt into it.

McCain has opted into it for the general election. Obama has refused to do so although he does it for congressional elections that are publicly funded. We need public...

DOBBS: Why is there not...

CLAYBROOK: ... it's the best deal that the taxpayer will ever get.

DOBBS: Why is there not an outcry over what Obama did? Because McCain lived up to his statement and said he will go with public financing of his campaign, Obama did not. Where's the outrage at Public Citizen, at other organizations in the national media?

CLAYBROOK: Oh, we have criticized them. I will say that the Obama campaign has brought lots and lots of small donors into the system through its outreach through the Internet. But still he turned around on a pledge that he made to take public funding, and we want public funding for all elections because that's what gives freedom to the leaders to not be dependent on what the lobbyists say to them after they're elected.

BAKER: In defense of Obama, I will say it is a little more complicated in the sense that McCain was still going to have the 527 support groups, these independent you know unregulated support groups that would basically...

DOBBS: Are we losing our Independents here?


BAKER: Losing our Independents? Whatever Independents we had, you know, so certainly I believe -- you know I agree completely Obama deserves criticism, but I'd say that I think it's on both sides here. It wasn't as one-sided as that.

DOBBS: Yeah, I think that there's no question, the 527s, first of all, it's unconscionable that they exist under the terms by which they exist for either party, whether -- and you know whether it's swiftboating or, every campaign, every candidate -- let me just see if you agree with this, as we wrap this up -- every presidential candidate should be responsible for his or her public advertising, all of the message that emanate, and anyone else should not be permitted to get into that particular style of campaigning. Do you disagree?

BAKER: The problem is being able to put that into law. I mean you do have constitutional restrictions. It's a very difficult issue.

LIGHT: Well I think there's an island called Washington in which everybody swims together. And eventually, you know, it just blends together so the media and the appointees and everybody is working together against change.

DOBBS: Joan. Joan, you get the last word.

CLAYBROOK: I would say that 50 percent of McCain's bundlers are supplying all of the money for his campaign to date, 50 percent of the money comes from bundlers, much smaller for Obama. But on the other hand, he's also brought in a lot of small donors through the Internet. That's good. But I do agree that we ought to have most of the communications come from the campaigns, but constitutionally, you can't stop the public from doing whatever they want on message.

DOBBS: No, you can't.


DOBBS: But you can sure stop some of these nonprofits from tax exemptions from having the privilege of that public sector (ph), if you will. Thank you very much, Joan. Thank you, Paul. Thank you, Dean. Appreciate it.

Up next here, the liberal media's blatant bias in this presidential campaign. Oops, I said it. I will have upset some of my colleagues in the national media, maybe even some here at CNN. We'll find out. I'll be talking with two of the most prominent media critics in the country, Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post" and CNN, and Ken Auletta of "The New Yorker" about the media elites' role in this election, if there is one, we'll explore that.

And Independent candidates are fighting back against the powerful special interests that control Washington, all of that and a lot more coming up next on our Independent Convention.


DOBBS: Welcome back to CNN's first ever special Independent Convention designed just for you. The House and the Senate returned to Washington, D.C. today, you knew it had to happen sooner or later. They'll be back in session for three weeks before their next vacation.

That means thousands of lobbyists are also back to work in Washington, spending a lot of money, buying influence in our nation's capital, representing powerful special interest groups, instead of the American people who elected those representatives. As Lisa Sylvester now reports, a growing number of Independent candidates are fighting back against a special interest that now control the people's government.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is David Krikorian and I mean running to be our representative in the United States Congress.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): David Krikorian is a small business owner running for Ohio's Second District congressional seat as an Independent. DAVID KRIKORIAN, INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE: I'm not a professional politician. I'm pretty much you know an average guy who has had enough with what passes for leadership in this country. And I wanted to do my part as a patriotic American to bring positive change and some sanity back to our government.

SYLVESTER: Krikorian wants to wrestle power in Washington away from the elite and special interests.

KRIKORIAN: Our government right now is entirely run by political parties. And the political parties are in bed with major corporations and special interest groups in our country. They are not working for the benefit of the American people. That is not right. And that is not America.

SYLVESTER: The lobbying power of corporate America has been growing and crowding out the voice of the little guy.

MASSIE RITSCH, CTR. FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: You look at the companies that account for the most money in politics, it's a "who's who" of major American industry, Wall Street banks, law firms, accounting firms, media companies. This is where the bulk of the money is.

SYLVESTER: And big business gets its way. Tax breaks for big oil, bailouts for banks, and lax regulation of the mortgage industry.


SYLVESTER: And we are seeing how that lax regulation is now playing out, of course, with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and we should tell you, Lou, that these two organizations, these two entities have been really big players when it comes to lobbying in Washington. They have hired an army of lobbyists.

We have got some figures that we want to show you, and keep in mind this is just last year alone. Fannie Mae spent $5.6 million on lobbying, Freddie Mac, $8.5 million on lobbying. And they have also participated in these political conventions, hosting some of those parties, and they have showered these lawmakers with campaign contributions.

We've got a list I think you might be interested in; $1.5 million is how much they have spent so far just this election cycle for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Number one at the list, topping that list is Chris Dodd; he is the chair -- the powerful chair of the Senate Banking Committee that overseas Fannie and Freddie. And number three, very interesting here, we have none other than Senator Barack Obama; he has received the third highest amount in contributions from Fannie and Freddie.

DOBBS: Well what's going on here? I can't believe that. I'm stunned.


SYLVESTER: This is Washington. This is how it works, Lou, as you well know.

DOBBS: I love the fact that second, third and fourth, Kerry, Obama and Clinton.


DOBBS: Running for president seems to be a pretty good deal, doesn't it? I mean that's incredible.

SYLVESTER: And you know Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they are not the only ones. I mean lobbying in Washington is a high art form. We want to show you some other numbers. The amount spent on lobbying in Washington has doubled in the last 10 years, it has doubled.

It was $1.44 billion in 1998. Today, it's $2.81 billion. And I know this will not come as a surprise to you, but the biggest spender when it comes to lobbying, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They spent $380 million in the last 10 years on lobbying.

DOBBS: That's really not surprising. Lisa, thank you, but much of what you've reported there is surprising, it's extraordinary. With over 17,000 lobbyists working to lobby, what, 535 elected officials in Congress, 100 in the Senate, 435 in the House, I mean, it seems there's a lot at stake here.

I wonder business doesn't usually in any form make an investment upon which there isn't a return if it has its way. The returns are pretty dramatic, aren't they?

SYLVESTER: Oh and we have seen this. I mean Dean Baker was referring to -- he referred to the pharmaceuticals, but more recently you saw that with the housing bill. I mean there were some really good little incentives there for banks that we saw in that housing bill. I mean we see it again and again; corporate America gets its way.

DOBBS: Gets its way and I think we should point out that it's sort of interesting that as a condition of the bailout by the federal government of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac today, one of the things they lose, in addition to a lot of other things, including their CEOs, their boards of directors and about 90 percent of the value of their common stock, they lose the ability to lobby the United States Congress. Maybe that's an acknowledgement by this Treasury secretary, this administration that there's just too much lobbying influence on Capitol Hill.

SYLVESTER: Something is wrong. The system is definitely broken, Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester.

That brings us to the subject of tonight's poll; do you believe it's time to ban lobbying by all business interests in this country and special interests as well? We don't want to leave anybody out. Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll have the results upcoming. Next, liberal, national media elites facing new charges of outright open bias in this presidential campaign, I know, you can't imagine that. I'll be joined by two of this country's top media critics, and our democracy at risk, new concerns about the integrity of our electoral system and the risks of election fraud; all of that and much more as we continue with our Independent Convention.



DOBBS: Well, welcome back to our independent convention. We're examining the critical issues facing this country and among those issues, the nation's mainstream media. It is, I think, a fairly safe assertion to put forward that the national media is liberal, it's biased and this year, at least to me, and as an advocacy journal, I can say these sorts of things here on CNN, I think they're missing a lot under the veil of objectivity and the impulses of something less than objective, at least in my view.

To straighten me out, among other things, Howard Kurtz joins us, media reporter for "The Washington Post," host of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES. Howie, great to have you here. And Ken Auletta, columnist, "The New Yorker," author, terrific guy; good to have you.

Let me turn to you first, Howard, just as a matter of straightforward fact, I believe, the fact of my opinion, anyway, I believe that the national media has revealed a lack of objectivity unprecedented in campaign coverage.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN'S RELIABLE SOURCES: If you look at the last year and a half, Lou, I've never seen so much coverage and so much positive coverage of a presidential candidate as Barack Obama has gotten up through the overseas trip where some of the coverage was just gushing. In recent weeks, I think there's been a little more skepticism in the coverage, not because of any ethical re-assessment but because the race has tightened which makes poll-driven journalists wonder well what's he doing wrong. Why isn't he leading this race in a democratic year by ten points?

DOBBS: Ken, do you agree?

KEN AULETTA, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORKER: Yes, and no, I disagree by you with the notion that --

DOBBS: We don't need to go there.

AULETTA: No, we don't. I think the notion that the press is a liberal bias, I don't think that's the operative bias in the press. If you said, do I think most national reporters tend to be more liberal and vote democratic, I think that's true. And we've seen surveys that show that. I don't think the operative bias of the press is liberalism. I think the operative bias is conflict and so when Barack Obama had trouble with Reverend Wright, the so-called liberal press was all over chewing on his leg as they chewed on Hillary Clinton's leg as they did in favor of John Edwards, arguably the most liberal of the democratic candidates. I think the operative bias is we want conflict, we want stories, and that leads to a lot of the democratic press lapses in the campaign.

DOBBS: Well, let's examine your view. One, let's start with the announcement today that MSNBC that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews will no longer be covering politics on that network. And the reason is, ostensibly, at least, I'm going to turn to both of you, because they brought a significant bias to their coverage.

AULETTA: Lou, I would make an argument that all three networks tried to create an identity because they tried to reach a niche. And I think the niche that MSNBC has tried to reach say liberal niche and they went too far. I think Fox is conservative. I think the niche that CNN is trying to reach is a populous niche, exemplified by you.

KURTZ: I'd say the role of Olbermann and Matthews, I've been reporting on this all year and I've been criticizing it all year, they can say whatever they want on their shows. They're commentators. They are opinion guys. They put them in the role of neutral anchors on primary nights and during these conventions was a mistake that MSNBC has belated. And they realize because NBS News people feel that their brand is being tarnished.

DOBBS: MSNBC and NBC as well, don't you think, Howard?

KURTZ: Well, I wouldn't put NBC in the same category but of course it's increasingly hard to make a distinction to say that Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw and David Gregory are all over MSNBC during this political season.

DOBBS: Right and so they had a brain confusion issue. As to your assertion here, the populous, I can't think of another populous on CNN here.

AULETTA: Jack Cafferty.

DOBBS: Jack Cafferty, he's a liberal, he's all for Obama, right?

AULETTA: Jack is a populous, I would argue.

DOBBS: What would you call Obama?

AULETTA: I would call him a liberal.

DOBBS: Okay. At least we can make a distinction.

AULETTA: That's the only thing we agree on.

DOBBS: Absolutely. The reality for the national media, it seems to me, the way in which we watched for a week, Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska being lily pillared incapable news networks, newspapers, I would include certainly, "The New York Times," "Washington Post," Howard, I wouldn't want to leave anybody out; the "Los Angeles Times." That was an extraordinary period. I would suggest that probably half of the bounce, this extraordinary bounce apparently that McCain has received is attributed to the backlash. AULETTA: Dissect that a second. I don't question that the press made a lot of mistakes in covering Governor Palin. And you're right about that. But I think where you're wrong, is established the press didn't print go with the rumors that Kos spread rumors about her daughter giving birth to the baby and she covered up for the baby.

DOBBS: You don't recall the mainstream media stories of the pregnancy of the 17-year-old of the governor?

AULETTA: Isn't that a legitimate story when you're making an issue of your family?

DOBBS: I don't know, we don't report --

AULETTA: Listen to Howie, he's absolutely right. They announced the campaign announcement.

DOBBS: No, I understand that. Leading up to that announcement were rumors everywhere. The fact is we have a pretty clear standard that was set first by Bill Clinton with great vigor to leave his family out of it. We have violated that. I think it can be argued rather effectively. The mainstream media is moving downscale when it comes to covering that sort of thing.

KURTZ: Well, I want to put in a different category the very legitimate pieces national reporters have gone to Alaska to report on the governor's record, whether she was against the bridge to nowhere. She was for it originally. Now she claims she's against it.

But I must say I've been very troubled by the condescending tone, forget about the rumors. This great debate, how can she be the mother of five children and still aspire to vice presidency? I think a lot of that just was sexism, quite honestly, as well as kind of the bias towards a woman who is a hunter and who is a strong anti-abortion advocate, and that has really troubled me. I think there's a little pulling back, particularly after a successful speech at the Republican convention the other night.

DOBBS: I couldn't agree with you more, Howie. I think there's a realization in the national media, suddenly, over the course of the past several days, that they're a little nonetheless, in playing little games of insinuation and nuance for bias and in this case, liberal, just isn't going to fly because the American people are reacting to it.

AULETTA: The point is that the national media is often of touch, I totally agree with that. That often are.

DOBBS: That's one of the points.

AULETTA: But I think it's legitimate to raise questions about whether McCain vetted this person to be vice president and whether the McCain people put out stories that were false.

DOBBS: And how many stories ran about whether or not McCain had vetted her simply because other news organizations had gone after her like sharks after blood in the water? The fact is they had no evidence whatsoever to what degree the vetting was.

AULETTA: We did. We had -- Rick Davis put out a falsehood. He said that the FBI --

DOBBS: By the way, I'll add to that --

AULETTA: Which one?

DOBBS: The one where he said campaigns weren't about issues.

AULETTA: Yeah, they're about personalities.

DOBBS: Ken Auletta, thank you very much. Howard Kurtz, thank you both. You're terrific.

Up next, not everyone registering to vote in this election is actually eligible to cast a ballot in this country. We'll have that story.

And why again as the liberal national media avoiding them. Three of the nation's most distinguished political analysts join me. We'll be talking about the critical importance of independent voters in this election, the critical importance of independence.

Stay with us. Our independent convention continues.


DOBBS: Welcome back to our first ever independent convention, another CNN first.

Electronic voting and election fraud, two of the biggest threats to this democracy of ours. The number of new registered voters is rising in this country, but there are new concerns that not enough is being done to ensure that these new registrants are actually eligible to vote.

Kitty Pilgrim has our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The right to vote is the most basic right of citizenship, but voter registration is on an honor system. Voters simply check the box. I am a U.S. citizen. I meet the eligibility requirements of my state. Campaign workers often don't check.

In Cleveland, Ohio, election officials are now double-checking more than 51,000 new voter registrations, admitted by community activist group Acorn last month. They noticed that some had the same names but different addresses. Hans Von Spakovsky studies election fraud at the Heritage Foundation and is a former member of the Federal Election Commission.

HANS VON SPAKOVSKY, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Acorn in previous elections has had dozens of its employees indicted and convicted of voter registration fraud. Here we are in the '08 election and it's already happening again.

PILGRIM: Acorn did not respond to our calls. Lori Minnite studies voter registration for Demos, a non-partisan policy organization.

LORI MINNITE, DEMOS: You're putting an intermediary between the voter and election official. And mistakes can be made and the influence to get someone to sign.

PILGRIM: Curtis Gans, director of American University Center for the study of the American Electorate, has a solution.

CURTIS GANS, CTR. FOR STUDY OF AMERICAN ELECTORATE: We will have this dialogue every biennium until we do something that will end it and the thing that we can do that will end it is to create a biometric national I.D.


PILGRIM: Some states are taking precautions. The U.S. Supreme Court just upheld Indiana's right to vote. Arizona, Lou, requires prove of citizenship. You know there is really no time to check these documents. Voter registration is open. There are eight states where you can vote and register on the exact same day.

DOBBS: It's insane what has happened in this country in my opinion where there's no requirement for proof of citizenship. It's a pretty straightforward matter. We have made voting simply too easy for understandable civil rights concerns in some cases but until others, we have erred too far in making this great privilege of ours to vote simply -- we've debased it in many cases.

PILGRIM: It's very worrisome. It's a right. But it's the honor system is something that could be reexamined as we go forward.

DOBBS: All right. Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much.

A reminder to vote in our poll tonight. You don't have to be registered. Do you believe it's time to ban lobbying by all business interests and special interests in this country? Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up in a few moments.

And up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE ELECTION CENTER" with Campbell Brown.

Campbell, tell us what you're working on.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, we've got an exclusive coming up here in just a few moments.

Tonight, many evangelical voters, as you know, are on fire about the prospect of Sarah Palin becoming vice president. They see Palin as one of their own. But neither Palin nor the McCain campaign is talking much about what exactly she believes. We're taking you to Alaska, you'll hear exclusively from ministers from two of the churches she has attended. We'll talk about her faith and faith in this campaign generally. We'll bring you facts tonight; no bias, no bull.

That's coming up next in "THE ELECTION CENTER."


DOBBS: Look forward to it. Thank you very much, Campbell.

And a reminder to join me on the radio, Monday through Friday, for the Lou Dobbs Show. Tomorrow's guests include Kevin Chavous, he's attorney, author and education reformer, and Mark Krikorian, author of the new case against immigration both legal and illegal. Go to to get your local listings for the Lou Dobbs Show. Please join me there.

And also up next here, why the democratic and republican presidential still aren't talking about many of the issues that matter most to the American people. I'll be joined by three of the best political analysts.

Stay with us. Our independent convention is just warming up.


DOBBS: Welcome back to our independent convention. Joining me are Michael Goodwin, CNN contributor, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, "New York Daily News;" Michael, good to have you here. Robert Zimmerman, democratic strategist, democratic national committeeman, Obama supporter and CNN contributor. Great to have you with us, Robert, as always. And republican strategist Bay Buchanan. Bay, thanks for being with us here.


DOBBS: Bay, let's start with you. You republicans have had something like a ten-point bounce or an 11-point swing. Something like that. You have to be ecstatic.

BUCHANAN: We are. We are absolutely thrilled to death, Lou. I tell you, it addresses the issue you are addressing. She has enormous appeal across the country. She is visiting the independents and moving them towards us.

DOBBS: Bay, you mean it wasn't -- it wasn't John McCain's speech?

BUCHANAN: You know, I'll tell you what you hear about her is when you think of independents, you know they're working people, hard working throughout and feel very frustrated about Washington as you have reported for what? Years now. But what is she doing? She is one of them. She's got a terrific record for reform up there in Alaska, has taken on the big powerhouses and corporations as well as in their own party. She vetoes the pork.

DOBBS: You're making Robert Zimmerman very anxious here. You are squirming already. ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I can't tell you. I've never seen Bay more radiant and she has been terrific on this topic but you know Bay, she talks about opposing pork yet she hired a lobbyist to bring in the pork for her state. She talks about opposing the bridge to nowhere but she was for it campaigning for it.

DOBBS: A little resident like Obama being for it before he against for it?

ZIMMERMAN: The record sounds familiar. She spoke beautifully at the convention for children of special needs yet when she was governor, she cut the budget for education for children by special needs by 60 percent.

BUCHANAN: That's completely false has been retracted by the paper that put it out.

DOBBS: Robert, you are in a different partisan trouble.

BUCHANAN: It is increased, Robert, and also, I just want you to know, as mayor is one thing, but as a governor, there's no question she took a look at the big picture and she has become a true reformer. She has used that veto pen more than any governor prior to her.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Will you charge her for this?

DOBBS: I'm counting on Robert to straighten it out here.

ZIMMERMAN: We'll do dinner to discuss the budget in Alaska over the education. Not holding to that.

DOBBS: Michael, you get the last word before break and set all of the records straight.

GOODWIN: Look. I went to both conventions. I thought both campaigns had pretty good conventions. Obviously, Sarah Palin stole the show in the republican and sort of changed the race.

I would make one point to independent voters, Lou. I urge all independent voters, don't give it up yet. Hold out. Hold out. Make the candidates, you know, do a better job, address the issue that you think is addressed.

Right now the polls show 10 percent undecided. I think it should be closer to 20. I'd say people should be undecided for just about two more months.

DOBBS: It is interesting you say that because I think it's a little hard for anyone to say with any great confidence that any of these polls are completely accurate whether it's a CNN poll, the CBS poll, whatever the poll may be but we see a trend and remarkable for first time, first time McCain is on the -- is above the equation leading in this thing across the board. I mean, that's --

GOODWIN: And Electoral College is very close. DOBBS: You mean this thing is going to be decided in the states in the Electoral College?

GOODWIN: That's right and I think independent voters in those states should be independent and should not give it up yet.

DOBBS: I don't think you even have to say that to most independent voters in this country because what we are seeing is looking around the studio; I want you to declare your independence. Don't tread on me. Live free or die. We the people. The fact of the matter is independent Americans are saying to both parties, don't take me for granted. Don't take me for a fool because we're not going to play your stupid game and you're going to have to deliver and the little dance where you don't talk about illegal immigration, where you don't talk about what you're going to do with public education, 53 trillion in unfunded liabilities. That's just some of the stuff we're to be talking about here next with the political analysts.

Stay with us. We continue our independent convention. Stay independent.


DOBBS: It's a long time since most of you've seen that don't tread on me flag. I love that. I love all of the -- actually, since I love this country, I love everything about our founding and that's one of the -- if that isn't a war cry for an independent in country, whether republican or democrat, independently minded American.

Our poll results, 98 percent of you say it's time to ban lobbying by all business interests in this country. I was going to ask the studio audience what you think but it's about 98 percent in here, too, right? Great Americans all right here in the studio with us.

Speaking of great Americans, back with me now, Michael Goodwin, Robert Zimmerman and Bay Buchanan.

Let me turn, first, to the issues that are not being discussed by John McCain or Barack Obama, amongst them, Bay Buchanan, national sovereignty, national security, border security, port security, illegal immigration. What in the world do these people take us for fools, Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain to think they'll dance this stuff?

BUCHANAN: Well, there's no question, Lou, that John McCain is really does very well on national security in the polls and he really owns that issue and has it. So I think you will see Barack is going to have to address it but it is not one of the top two issues right now and unfortunately, in my opinion.

And as for immigration, Lou, you are not going to see it touched.

ZIMMERMAN: That is an issue that truly defines the future of our nation and nation's role in the world and I think Barack Obama has addressed it aggressively. And what's most impressive to me and what's impressive to me is that you now see Prime Minister Maliki supporting the time line of Obama and President Bush. We have to bring the war in Iraq to an end and focus on fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. The only one not calling for a time line out of Iraq is John McCain.

BUCHANAN: You know, that's a good few minutes, Robert. But it doesn't -- doesn't sell, Robert. It doesn't sell worth a hoot. Everybody knows that John McCain knows this issue and feels deeply about it. His whole career is focused on national security. I may disagree with some of what he supports but he is committed to it, knowledgeable it and smokes Obama coming to national security.

DOBBS: Michael?

GOODWIN: Lou, I think one of the more telling signs of what's wrong with this campaign happened today with the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where both of the candidates put out kind of wishy- washy statements saying, well, I guess it's OK, what else can they do, I'll study it.

Neither one of them had any real opinion on this. Neither one of them was ahead of the curve on this. This is the most fundamental issue...

DOBBS: None of their advisers on economics?

GOODWIN: That's right. And this is an issue that cuts to every American household.

DOBBS: What should concern every American, in my opinion, in this country -- and we were talking about this, whether it's Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the stock market, free trade -- is that neither one of these principal candidates, Republican or Democrat -- and I'm watching Bay and Robert get ready to go nuts -- neither one of them convey an understanding of economics or economic policy that should give any American in my opinion any kind of comfort level at all.

All right, have at me, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm not having at you, Lou. I think Democrats have not clearly defined their role the way Clinton did in '92 and Reagan did in 1980. But I think Obama's position is a clear one, and that focusing on tax cuts for middle-income people, middle-income families.

BUCHANAN: And Lou, there's no question, you've hit a point here, but both parties are part and parcel to the trade policies that have sent our jobs overseas. And I don't think you're going to see much until you hear more and more from the people.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And we are going to hear more from the people, right, Michael Goodwin?

GOODWIN: Absolutely. I hope so.

DOBBS: And we appreciate you being with us here tonight. We're going to have an Independent Convention that runs all week. You know, those other guys, Republicans, the Democrats, they could do three or four days. We're doing five. We thank you for being with us. Please stay with us tomorrow. More of what you didn't hear from these candidates so far. Maybe they'll start talking about the issues that matter most to you, such as the economy, education, the list goes on.

For all of us here, thank you for watching. Join us tomorrow. Good night from New York. "The Election Center" with Campbell Brown begins right now -- Campbell.