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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Attacking Socialism; Presidential Race Poll Numbers Tightening; High Court Rules on Identity Theft; Drug Cartels Reach into the U.S.; Democracy at Risk

Aired October 20, 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: Thank you Wolf. Tonight, Senator Obama trumpeting the endorsement by Colin Powell, but is the Powell endorsement simply another example of group and identity politics? We'll be talking about that.
And tonight, the McCain campaign sharpening its attacks against what it calls Obama's socialist agenda using "Joe the Plumber" as a symbol of McCain's tax-cutting policies. We'll tell you whether "Joe the Plumber" or Colin Powell is the more powerful image.

And tonight, the battle to stop illegal aliens from stealing Americans' identities goes all the way to the Supreme Court. We'll have that special report, all of that, all the day's news and more much tonight from an independent perspective straight ahead.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Monday, October 20th. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening everybody. Two weeks before election day, the race between Senators McCain and Obama is tightening. The latest national poll show Obama's lead has narrowed to about five percent. That compares with an Obama lead of up to 11 percent just a week ago.

Both candidates today using contrasting symbols on the presidential campaign trail. The McCain campaign using plumber Joe Wurzelbacher to press its attack on what it calls Obama's tax and spend policies. The Obama campaign using former Secretary of State Colin Powell who endorsed Obama yesterday, trying to win independent voters.

Obama today also blasted McCain's economic policies with a surge of attack ads in key swing states. Obama raising a record $150 million last month, outspending McCain by a margin of more than four to one. Senator McCain, however, refuses to concede any ground to Obama. His campaign sharpening its attacks on Senator Obama, accusing him of pursuing a socialist agenda.

Senator McCain today declared Obama has a very clear agenda saying Obama wants to redistribute American's wealth. Dana Bash reports from Belton in the key battleground state of Missouri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE) DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Missouri is a state John McCain's advisers told CNN just six weeks ago they hoped to secure and move on. Now it's neck in neck and he's back.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: With your help we're going to win Missouri and bring real change to Washington, D.C.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BASH: McCain aides are taking heart in several national polls showing Obama's wide lead narrowing a bit which advisers attribute to McCain's relentless use of "Joe the Plumber" to hit Obama's tax plan.

MCCAIN: Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on some in order to give checks to others, it's not a tax cut. It's just another government give-away that the liberals have been trying to push on America for a long time.

BASH: And even sharper rhetoric, talk of socialism.

REP. TODD AIKEN (R), MISSOURI: There is a cloud that threatens that American freedom that we all enjoy and that is the creeping socialism that we feel.

BASH: And they're jumping on any opening from camp Obama like Joe Biden warning donors at a weekend fundraiser that America's enemies will quickly test a President Obama.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: "Watch, we're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's going to have to make some really tough, I don't know, what the decision is going to be, but I promise you it will occur."

MCCAIN: We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars.

BASH (on camera): And McCain may close out his campaign talking about something he long ago called out of bounds and vowed not to touch, Obama's relationship with controversial Pastor Jeremiah Wright. A lot of Republicans inside and outside McCain's campaign say Wright should be fair game and now McCain's campaign manager is telling a conservative radio show that their quote/unquote "rethinking their strategy", suggesting that McCain may bring up Wright after all.

Dana Bash, CNN, Belton, Missouri.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: "Joe the Plumber" has become one of the biggest talking points and one of the most powerful symbols in this presidential election campaign. Plumber Joe Wurzelbacher's name came up 26 times in the last presidential debate. Since that debate Democrats and left wing blogs have been systemically and viciously attacking "Joe the Plumber" and his reputation. First let's hear what Senators Biden and Obama had to say about Joe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Do you notice John continues to cling to the notion (INAUDIBLE) the fact this guy, "Joe the Plumber" -- I don't have any "Joe the Plumbers" in my neighborhood that make $250,000 a year and are worried. The "Joe the Plumbers" in my neighborhood, the "Joe the Cops" in my neighborhood, the "Joe the Grocery Store Owners" in my neighborhood, they make like 98 percent of the small businesses, less than $250,000 a year and they're going to do very well under us and they're going to be in real tough shape under John McCain.

OBAMA: He's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he's fighting for.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: How many plumbers do you know making a quarter of a million dollars a year?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Well, and of course, "Joe the Plumber" never said he was making a quarter of a million dollars a year.

On the Internet, lies and rumors are literally everywhere. Politico's -- Politico.com's Ben Smith reported that Joe Wurzelbacher is not registered to vote. Then Smith had to issue a correction saying, yes, he is registered to vote.

Elsewhere on Politico, Jonathan Martin reported Wurzelbacher has a tax lien against him for about $1,200 but a court representative says Wurzelbacher may not have known that that lien existed at all. The "Toledo Blade" newspaper reported "Joe the Plumber" isn't licensed. Wurzelbacher says he doesn't need a license.

We contracted the United Association of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry, that's the nation's largest union for the industry thinking they might defend Joe Wurzelbacher but Joe is not a member. In point of fact, the union is supporting Barack Obama because of what it calls his compassion for working people.

Senator Obama today intensified his attack against Senator McCain and his economic policies campaigning in Tampa, Florida. Obama declared his own economic agenda has nothing to do with socialism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It is true that I want to roll back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthiest Americans and go back to the rate that they paid under Bill Clinton.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: John McCain calls that socialism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Obama went on to say the tax rate he is proposing will actually be lower than the tax rates during the Reagan administration. The Obama campaign today celebrating former Secretary of State Colin Powell's endorsement yesterday, of Senator Obama. Obama made the announcement yesterday, however, five former secretaries of state have endorsed Senator McCain -- James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig and George Shultz.

We asked NBC if any of those former secretaries of state had been invited to "Meet the Press" to discuss their endorsement of Senator McCain, however NBC hasn't gotten back to us on that.

New evidence today that the presidential race is tightening. The latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll shows Obama with a lead of five percent over Senator McCain. Some polls last week gave Obama a double digit lead in this race. Bill Schneider has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The presidential race may be tightening up slightly. A new CNN poll by the Opinion Research Corporation shows Barack Obama leading John McCain by give points among likely voters nationwide. Two weeks ago, Obama was eight points ahead. Is anything changing?

Two weeks ago, a solid majority said McCain would carry out the same policies as President Bush. Now they're not so sure. Half say McCain's policies would be different. But would McCain's policies be better than Obama's? That's the choice in this election. Both candidates claim to offer change.

MCCAIN: If I'm elected president I'll fight to take America in a new direction from my first day in office until my last.

OBAMA: It will take a real change in the policies and politics of the last eight years and that's what this election is all about.

SCHNEIDER: But Obama is clearly more credible. Asked, who is more likely to bring needed change, Obama beats McCain by more than 20 points. One of the most important shifts in the poll is in Obama's favor. After the conventions last month, most voters felt McCain was the stronger and more decisive leader. The campaign has shifted that perception.

GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Senator Obama has demonstrated the kind of calm, patient and intellectual steady approach to problem-solving that I think we need in this country.

SCHNEIDER: Obama now edges out McCain as a strong and decisive leader.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: The race may be tightening but the Democrats still have an edge in enthusiasm. After the convention, more Democrats said they were extremely enthusiastic about voting than Republicans by about 10 points. That margin has now doubled to more than 20 points. Lou?

DOBBS: Well that's all fascinating, but let me ask you, Bill, as our senior political analyst here, we have watched Senator Obama put forward a budget that is extraordinary. We're looking at about $200 million in spending it looks like this month, $150 million raised last month, outspending McCain by a margin nationally of at least four to one if not more and certainly it is vastly more than that in the battleground states, endorsements by newspapers running about three to one for Obama, and we've got a race narrowing to just outside the margin of error?

SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

DOBBS: What's going on?

SCHNEIDER: That is a very big surprise. What's going on is that McCain effort to separate himself from Bush may be catching on with some voters. Let me put it this way. Imagine, imagine what this race would look like if Dick Cheney were heading the Republican ticket. You know that's usually what happens after a president has served two terms like Eisenhower, like Bill Clinton.

His vice president runs to succeed him. If Cheney were running I think the election would be not anything close to what we're seeing right now, but McCain is not part of the Bush administration and so he's able to put some distance there. And that -- he may be succeeding a little bit in doing that.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: So you see this as entirely an issue or predominantly an issue as to the fact that Senator McCain has been able to separate himself from Bush?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's a lot of it. There's some racism out there. There's no question about that. I don't think there's a big Bradley effect. I think there some whites who will not vote for an African-American. I think there are some whites who are voting for Obama because he's African-American. But my guess is that whites who won't vote for Obama are already saying that in the polls and that's why the polls -- that's why the race looks so close in the polls.

DOBBS: Well let's talk about that Bradley effect. There was a lot more at work in the Bradley election against.

SCHNEIDER: Oh, yeah...

DOBBS: (INAUDIBLE) than the...

SCHNEIDER: I covered it.

DOBBS: ... so-called Bradley effect. I'm sorry.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, I covered that race.

DOBBS: And you know very well that this nonsense about the Bradley effect is mostly nonsense.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, that's right. It wasn't that people were hiding their views. What happened were two things that were very big. There was a referendum on gun control, which brought an awful lot of people out who rarely vote and they voted against Tom Bradley in that election.

And probably most important, that was one of the first races in California where you could vote absentee ballot without an explanation and the Republican Party did a very shrewd thing, they organized an absentee ballot campaign and we were just astonished to discover that hundreds of thousands of voters in California cast an absentee ballot and overwhelmingly for Deukmejian. The exit polls were right among people who voted on election day Tom Bradley won...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHNEIDER: Hundreds of thousands of people voted by absentee.

DOBBS: And it still infuriates me to this day to watch otherwise, reputable national news organizations continue to talk about the Bradley/Deukmejian election as if the quote/unquote "Bradley effect" were real when it was not. And two, when there are other factors far more compelling and determinant and the issue of racism, which is always implied in that race was utterly wrong. It's amazing.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, that's right. Yeah, it wasn't -- I mean I'm sure it was a factor, but it wasn't the primary factor going on in that race.

DOBBS: No. Absolutely and we appreciate it as always, Bill Schneider, your analysis always insightful.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

DOBBS: Time now for our poll. Whose endorsement is more persuasive to you. Colin Powell or Joe the plumber. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results coming up here later.

Up next, two competing symbols on the presidential campaign trail. "Joe the Plumber" and Colin Powell. Three of the best political analysts tell us which in their judgment is the more powerful.

Governor Palin has the last laugh on "Saturday Night Live", we'll have that story.

And identity theft and illegal aliens, the Supreme Court has been prevailed upon to consider a crime wave affecting millions of Americans. We continue in one moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The Supreme Court today agreed to consider a case of whether illegal aliens who buy fraudulent documents on the black market can be prosecuted for aggravated identity theft. The case centers on an illegal alien who claims he didn't know the fraudulent identification that he was using actually belonged to someone else. The government says just being in possession of the false document is sufficient to warrant prosecution. Lisa Sylvester has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. government has stepped up illegal immigration work site raids. Many of the illegal aliens are caught with fraudulent identification documents. One such man who worked at a steel mill in Illinois said he didn't know that the Social Security number he was using belonged to someone else. His lawyers now argue that he shouldn't have been charged with aggravated identity theft.

KEVIN RUSSELL, ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: You don't know that the false identification number that you're using actually belongs to another person. It's not fair to say that you intentionally stole that person's identity.

SYLVESTER: That case has now landed before the U.S. Supreme Court. Under a federal law that passed after 9/11, a person can be convicted of aggravated identity theft if he or she knowingly transfers, possesses or uses without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person. The case hinges on the word "knowingly".

PROF. PAUL ROTHSTEIN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: It's ambiguous as to what you have to know to be guilty of this. Just know that you're possessing and using the documents or do you have to know that it's identity of another person?

SYLVESTER: The Justice Department declined to comment but in congressional testimony, senior associate deputy attorney general Deborah Rhodes (ph) addressed the impact of identity theft saying quote, "these were not victimless crimes. They were real people whose identities were stolen." Dan Stein with the border security advocacy group called the Federation for American Immigration Reform says an identity thief should not be allowed to escape punishment simply by pleading ignorance.

DAN STEIN, FED. FOR AMER. IMMIG. REFORM: Let's think about this. I have got an ID, it's not my ID. I'm presenting it as my ID. Pretty good assumption I think it belongs to somebody else. It's not rocket science.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Lower courts are divided on this issue. Three federal appeals courts hearing similar cases said you have to know the documents belong to someone else. Three other courts have said you do not. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in March and a decision is expected by the end of June. Lou?

DOBBS: You've got to be kidding. I mean this -- the idea that we're talking about six courts. They split on the idea of whether or not that anyone in the world would not know that the identification was not theirs? How could you otherwise argue -- I mean this is insane.

SYLVESTER: You know what they are essentially saying is that they didn't know that this particular Social Security number was actually assigned to another person. But it's pretty clear here that they had to know that this was a false document, Lou.

DOBBS: Well how about this? As long as they know it's not theirs, implicitly, wouldn't you be responsible to assume that it wouldn't -- that it was someone else's?

SYLVESTER: And that is exactly what the government is saying. And they are saying look, the intention of this law and it was pretty clear what Congress intended was that this was a post 9/11 reform that they wanted to get to the heart of identity theft and that is dealing with these fraudulent documents, Lou.

DOBBS: And how about just common judgment, common sense and good judgment? Thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester.

Well our struggling economy and increased law enforcement efforts driving down the illegal alien population in this country apparently. Mexicans, in particular, living and working in the United States now are sending less money home. Remittance is down so far this year according to the Bank of Mexico. Mexicans both legal and illegal in this country are sending 12 percent less money back in August than a year ago.

There are signs here illegal aliens are entering the country. Apprehensions at the busiest crossings are down. The border patrol says Tucson (INAUDIBLE) arrests have fallen 16 percent this year. And many illegal aliens are also apparently returning home.

The Center for Immigration Studies estimating the illegal population has fallen 11 percent over the past year. Many leaving apparently because of increased enforcement effort such as workplace raids, although rising unemployment may be having significantly more influence on those hasty departures. Even with the decline there are up to 20 million illegal aliens still living in this country.

Well new concerns tonight that Mexico's violent drug cartel is becoming even more brazen on our side of the border. The latest incident, the kidnapping of that 6-year-old Las Vegas boy by suspected members of a Mexican drug cartel. Cole Puffinburger is safe tonight. He was released unharmed over the weekend but authorities are still looking for his kidnappers. Casey Wian has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A happy ending for the father of 6-year-old Cole Puffinburger.

ROBERT PUFFINBURGER, KIDNAPPED BOY'S FATHER: Thank so much for helping me find my son.

WIAN: But just the beginning for Las Vegas police and federal authorities who are now searching for the suspected Mexican drug cartel members who kidnapped Cole last week.

CAPT. VINCE CANNITO, LAS VEGAS POLICE: The remainder of the investigation shifts and our focus now goes on to the drug dealing, to potential extortion issues, as well as other issues.

WIAN: Throughout the southwest, federal and local law enforcement agencies are battling a rampant rise in kidnappings and other violence linked to Mexican drug traffickers. Last month, the Phoenix Police Department launched a 10-man anti-kidnapping unit specifically to deal with cross-border kidnapping rings.

LT. LORI BURGETT, PHOENIX POLICE: Certainly the trend that we're seeing is the violence that's associated in Mexico, is definitely coming up here and they're participating in it because they're making a huge amount of profit.

WIAN: In San Diego, the FBI reports the number of Americans kidnapped and taken across the border to Mexico jumped from 10 in 2005 to 26 last year. In August, FBI Director Robert Mueller said "alien smuggling operations are turning to kidnapping and extortion to boost their revenue." Documentary filmmaker Rusty Fleming says 50 suspected cartel kidnappings have occurred in El Paso this year.

RUSTY FLEMING, PRODUCER, "DRUG WARS": Previously it was a sense of these cartels are never going to act out within our borders the way they do in Mexico. But they're starting to do that now and I think we should take that threat very seriously.

WIAN: Friday, drug czar John Walters issued this warning about Mexican drug cartels. "They come across and kidnap, murder and carry out assassinations. They do not respect the border."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Authorities say most cross-border kidnappings have involved victims with direct ties to the drug cartels or people with business interests in Mexico. The abduction of a 6-year-old boy more than 300 miles north of the border is clearly an escalation of the drug cartel threat.

Late this afternoon, Lou, the FBI announced the arrest of another person in connection with the case, the girlfriend of Cole's grandfather, the man police say owes money to Mexican drug traffickers. She was arrested in southern California and is being held as a material witness. Lou?

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much. Casey Wian.

Up next here, charges filed in the California voter registration fraud investigation. We'll have that story. And this time it's not ACORN. And new evidence of just how vulnerable e-voting machines are to hacking. That story is next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The owner of a firm hired to register California voters has been arrested on voter registration fraud charges. California authorities alleging that Mark Jacoby registered himself to vote twice. Jacoby's company was hired by the Republican Party to register new voters. Jacoby's attorney calls the charges baseless. Earlier this year, Jacoby's company was accused of tricking new voters into registering as Republicans.

The Jacoby case comes as federal authorities continue their investigation into thousands of questionable voter registration forms submitted by the left wing activist group, ACORN. It's not only voter registration fraud threatening the integrity of our upcoming election. Disturbing new results tonight from court ordered tests of New Jersey's electronic voting machines. Those tests found the machines highly vulnerable to hackers. The machines can be successfully altered in fact in just minutes. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) close and lock the back door...

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is the video of Princeton computer scientists hacking a New Jersey voting machine. The exact Sequoia model to be used in the election in two weeks. This video is a record of the official test. The lock is picked in seconds.

A protective panel for the computer circuit board is unscrewed. The computer chip is pried away with a screwdriver in a little more than three minutes. The fraudulent computer chip is put in to fix the election in less than four minutes. And the machine reassembled in seven minutes total.

PROF. ANDREW APPEL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: From the outside of the voting machine, neither the voters nor the election officials can tell from the outside whether the voting machine has been hacked. There's no paper ballots to recount.

PILGRIM: Could a hacker do it? Yes. These photos in the report show unattended voting machines at four different polling places in Princeton, New Jersey on June 1st and June 2nd, 2008, before the June 3rd primary election. In this official hack, New Jersey state officials and representatives from Sequoia, the manufacturer were present to witness the entire process, but tried to block the release of the report to the public. It was finally ordered released on Friday by a New Jersey court.

PROF. PENNY VENETIS, RUTGERS SCHOOL OF LAW: The state has used tax dollars to fight us instead of sitting down at a table and trying with us and with our experts to try and figure out what is the best way to safeguard the votes of the citizens of New Jersey. PILGRIM: The Sequoia machines are used in most polling places in New Jersey and other key battleground states. In New Jersey it's too late to switch to another system.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now the secretary of state in New Jersey, Nina Wells, cites another report that disputes the Princeton findings. She says the test is misleading because it was done in artificial laboratory conditions. She says the Princeton team had access to the source. Code of the machines were equipped with tamper-proof seals, but the scientists dismissed that. They say the seals on the machines in New Jersey are often missing and easily broken. Sequoia, however, did not return our calls -- Lou.

DOBBS: You mean to say somebody in authority actually is arguing with this?

PILGRIM: Yes. Oh, they are very much arguing with this. And actually Nina Wells, the secretary of state says New Jersey has the highest confidence in voting systems. This is when...

DOBBS: Is she out of her mind? I mean that's unbelievable.

PILGRIM: It is unbelievable.

DOBBS: Where is the governor on this?

PILGRIM: You know, apparently Nina Wells is in charge of the election. I don't know...

DOBBS: Right, but she -- the governor has some responsibility there too.

PILGRIM: One would think so, yes. It's too late actually for the court to reverse the voting process at this point. There's been...

DOBBS: Well I'm sure that...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: I'm sure that Secretary of State Wells made sure that there was at least a verifiable paper trail so there could be a recount or if there were any irregularity at all.

PILGRIM: There's no paper trail on these New Jersey machines, Lou.

DOBBS: Oh, well Secretary State Wells, I'm glad you have the highest confidence in your ridiculous system and I'm sure that the citizens of New Jersey are eternally grateful. Where do we find these people?

PILGRIM: It's a mess.

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

Time for your thoughts.

Grace in Washington said, "Thank you Mr. Dobbs! I found your defense of "Joe the Plumber" to be admirable. This man was not asking for all the attention he has received; yet the media and the Democratic Party appears to be trying to destroy this man who represents what I consider a true American. I want to thank you for your independent and fair coverage of this issue." Well, I sure try.

And Janice in Alabama, "Thank you for your comments about Joe the Plumber. Someone needs to speak positive about the normal working people out here." It's pretty easy to do since working men and women are the foundation of this country and the American dream. We need to preserve it as best we possibly can.

We'll have more of your thoughts later in the broadcast. Each of you whose email is read here receives a copy of my new book, the paper back "Independence Day Awakening the American Spirit" how pretty that paperback is.

Coming up, an urgent new warning about the rising military threat now from communist China, a top issue for the next president, like it or not. I'll be joined by the leading authority on China's military.

And competing visions on the campaign trail, competing symbols of the candidate's policies and positions. Three of the best political analysts join me.

And Governor Sarah Palin joins the fun and her critics on "Saturday Night Live." We'll tell you all about it. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Governor Palin this weekend proved she can take a joke appearing on "Saturday Night Live." Governor Palin was there to see Tina Fey doing her now famous Palin impression, face to face. Palin also play along with the executive producer Lorne Michaels and frequent guest host Alec Baldwin parodying the shows anti-Palin views.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Lorne, I need to talk to you. You can't let Tina go out there with that woman. She goes against everything we stand for. Good lord -- they call her -- what's that name, Kara -- what is that.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: They call her caribou Barbie.

BALDWIN: Caribou Barbie. Thank you Tina.

LORNE MICHAELS: Alec, this is Governor Palin.

PALIN: Hi there. BALDWIN: I see. Forgive me but I feel I must say this. You are way hotter in person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Governor Palin also laughing and dancing along with Amy Polar's rap about her campaign, the liberal media, her husband, Todd Palin hunting and gun rights among other topics of significant importance, I might add. Palin's appearance got the biggest ratings for "Saturday Night Live" in 14 years. An estimated 17 million people watched "Saturday Night Live."

Joining me now, three of the sharpest political analysts in the country, all CNN contributors, Republican strategist, Ed Rollins former Huckabee campaign, Pulitzer Price winning columnist Michael Goodwin, "New York Daily News," Democratic strategist, Democratic National Committeeman, Robert Zimmerman. Good to have you with us.

Governor Palin saving Saturday Night Live, there's some iron in that, isn't there?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think Tina Fey helped a little bit here. Lorne Michaels helped too.

DOBBS: Tina Fey didn't have an act.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He thinks Joe Biden, by himself, would have drawn biggest crowd of any of the three debates.

DOBBS: I do have to say it was -- I thought she was a good sport and I thought that "Saturday Night Live" stayed with its DNA, if you will, and continued to work her over for crying out loud.

You mentioned Joe Biden. Let's -- this is one of the most bizarre -- Joe Biden has the capacity to be a little bizarre. This weekend he warned some donors that America's enemies will quickly cast a new president Obama. Here's what he said. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here. If you don't remember anything else I said. Watch we'll have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy, gird your loins, think about it literally. Think about it. This is more than just a capital crisis. This is more than just markets." What in the world was that?

ZIMMERMAN: The truth. Maybe that's why it's so shocking. And looking at it analytically, this is an issue that's on everyone's mind and it's been --

DOBBS: That he'll be tested because he's a 47-year-old senator?

ZIMMERMAN: Every new president, we suspect, especially in this climate is going to be tested so the question is, which candidate can best meet that standard?

DOBBS: We're going to have a new world. We're going to talk with everybody. There won't be a problem.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm just giving you the analysis.

DOBBS: What about Colin Powell and Joe Biden is telling us to look out! The next thing we know, who knows what's going to happen.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: You know what's really amazing Lou is that the Democrats seem to tell the truth mostly to fundraisers. I mean, I don't know why Biden -- if Biden believes it why doesn't he say it on the stump. That's a very important point he's making. Why doesn't he say it to the public? Why just to contributors to the cause? That I find that mostly offensive.

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The biggest test he'll have is finding the Oval Office which he's never been in the White House or the Oval Office before so that will take a week or two.

DOBBS: Who? Barack Obama or Joe Biden?

ROLLINS: Barack Obama. I'm sure Joe Biden has been in there begging for something.

DOBBS: I'm sure he'll get plenty of help.

ROLLINS: The bottom line here, I think he's given one of the real tests here. Are you ready to elect a guy that's very inexperienced, a guy that's basically been in the senate for three years. And Joe's counter to that I'm sure is, it's a good thing he has me, I've been around for 36 years.

ZIMMERMAN: Far be it from me to engage in talking points.

DOBBS: Thank god. I might have to cut you off.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm well aware of that. But I think the issue of who is best prepared to lead, who has the steadiness to lead, or it was addressed very effectively over the weekend by Colin Powell. That will have an important impact when we get done with all the side chatter about Joe Biden.

DOBBS: What is this stuff about Colin Powell two weeks before the election? What took him to long to come out if he believes this? If he's that excited about Obama, a couple things occur to me. One is, why was Obama against the war if he has such respect for Colin Powell because Colin Powell lays out the foundation without whom, frankly, I wouldn't have been one to buy into the weapons of mass destruction. He was persuasive in February of 2003 when he was at the United Nations. I'm confused about the roles here. Can somebody help me out?

ROLLINS: The good thing is it makes Robert feel better about his choice, that Colin Powell, a Republican for about ten years, a Rockefeller Republicans, basically said, your guy who's been in the United States Senate for three years is tested and ready to be a world leader. So that makes it all right. GOODWIN: The other thing too and this has sort of stuck with me with Joe Biden. One of the ways that Obama ran against Hillary Clinton was that she voted for the war. She had lousy judgment. Of course, Biden voted for the war and he then selects him as his running mate. Now Colin Powell has become his character witness and Obama says, Colin Powell will be one of my advisers. I'm not really sure what that war vote is about in terms of Obama's view of the president.

ZIMMERMAN: Let me get you straight. I think it's really to Powell's credit he waited this long, he waited through the debates. He waited to see how the campaign --

DOBBS: He waited for everything but the election.

ZIMMERMAN: Well that's what he should do, in my opinion. To make a thoughtful analysis, he waited until he saw both candidates in full action.

DOBBS: So you mean all those other people who endorse Obama before Powell, were being thoughtless and careless?

ZIMMERMAN: No, just more thoughtful as a former secretary of state.

ROLLINS: He could have called his friend of 20 years, John McCain, who supported him in the gulf war which Joe Biden didn't and all the rest of it and said, by the way, John, our 20 year friendship and what have you and the fact that I think you're a great man and I contributed to you in two, I'm not going to support you and not only that, I'm going on "MEET THE PRESS" and tell the world I'm not supporting you. But I think that was gutless. I think it's fine for him to pick whoever he wants but at the end of the day it won't make much difference.

DOBBS: How about Joe the Plumber? Would you rather have Joe the Plumber or would you rather have Colin Powell, Michael, endorsing you if you were running for the president of the United States, would you rather have that symbol or a symbol of a guy that's been inside Washington for 20 years now?

GOODWIN: I think for John McCain at this point, Joe the Plumber is more important for Barack Obama, Colin Powell is more important.

DOBBS: So they both win. Basically we're forecasting a draw on November 4th, is that right?

GOODWIN: I do think that McCain has a lot more work to do to build on the Joe the Plumber.

DOBBS: A lot more work. My, gosh, what do you think? Is this thing going to narrow further or how's it going to break? We saw it narrow to 5 in the national polls but the battleground states are still tough for him, for McCain.

GOODWIN: And the problem for McCain, of course, is that he has to win virtually every battleground state. If he loses one or two ... DOBBS: I know the problem, but what's he going to do about it and can he get it done?

ROLLINS: It's very, very difficult. He's being outspent in places like North Carolina. On your show or someone did, three to one on a CNN show today I heard today the buys are eight to one against him and obviously, there's great resources out there and gigantic enthusiasm for Obama. He had 100,000 in St. Louis, Missouri, 75,000 in Kansas City. Those are gigantic crowds.

DOBBS: I was trying to think. Have you ever heard of crowd that is big?

ROLLINS: There have never been crowds that big. The biggest crowd Ronald Reagan ever had at the peak of his popularity was 50,000 people, in the kick-off of the second campaign. There's never been in my mind at least in this country crowds that big.

DOBBS: You get the last 30 seconds.

ZIMMERMAN: OK. The answer to your question. Neither McCain or Obama are going to win unless they have both people like Colin Powell and the working middle class like Joe the Plumber. That's going to be the challenge. I think Obama is on his way to putting that together.

ROLLINS: You need a Joe the Plumber?

ZIMMERMAN: And we have him, and you see by the polls the middle class is coming together.

DOBBS: And that, as they say, is a wrap for this evening, thanks very much, gentlemen. Appreciate your analysis.

Up next the rising military threat from communist China. That's right. That's an issue. Richard Fisher is the author of the new book "China's Military Modernization." Mr. Fisher says China is rapidly expanding its military strength. How should the United States respond? Well certainly better than this president has. He'll be my guest here next.

And the news on the economy is not all bad. I've been telling you from the outset of the crisis, we won't have a recession. We're going to have a special report for you tonight on good news for you, your family and this economy. You see it's still America despite the idiots in Washington who keep trying to talk both our country and our economy down. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson today laying out details of the federal government's $250 billion plan to recapitalize many of the nation's banks. Secretary Paulson said, quote, a broad group of banks of all sizes, end quote, is interested in receiving government investment funds. Well, imagine that! You don't say? That, from the treasury. Gasoline prices have falling every day for the past month and prices are now down dramatically from the record of $4.11 set back in July. And as Bill Tucker reports that is good news for American families and our economy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gasoline prices are down 30 percent from their peak in mid July after peaking at $4.11 for unleaded regular. A gallon now sells for $2.92, according to the AAA. Some economists note the savings amounts to about $125 to $150 billion tax break for consumers.

NIGEL GAULT, INS GLOBAL INSIGHT: For sure there are some chunk of this saving, the savings at the pump, consumers are going to actually save to try to start rebuilding their wealth. They're not going to go out and spend all of it.

TUCKER: If consumers can manage to hang on to those savings, a rise in the personal savings rate would be welcome news. An increase in savings would mean less reliance on debt, helping to put the economy on a sounder footing to recover from the current financial crisis.

ED LAZEAR, PRES. COUNCIL OF ECON. ADVISERS: This is an amazingly resilient economy. We've seen shock after shock, housing market, oil prices going up, going up to near $150 a barrel this summer. We've seen credit markets tighten. All of those things are very difficult to get through and yet, the economy has gotten through it.

TUCKER: And it seems the international markets are acknowledging that reality.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: That belief is reflected in the strengthening of the U.S. dollar, the dollar growing stronger because investors believe the American economy will be quicker to recover than economies overseas, Lou.

DOBBS: All of them are wonderful people in Washington, D.C. keep talking about the crisis and snapping their fingers as if they're trying to keep pink elephants at bay. It looks like the panic is subsiding and it seems like the leaders in Washington want to keep clucking on as if people were still panicked.

The leaders remain somewhat panicked and dramatic and annoyingly, well -- they're just sort of yellow bellies the way to put it.

TUCKER: People underestimate the can-do of the American people and the American economy and the fact that they lose sight of all the positives in the economy. 96 percent of mortgages are paid on time and working fine. There are people carrying the economy forward in a positive way. DOBBS: When I said weeks ago, I said there will not be a depression. And people said, how can you say that? I can say it simply because this is a different world than 1930. It is quite a different system and it is still, thank goodness, people who are capable of rising to challenges. And this challenge, while it's making -- it's difficult and painful for many Americans, this is not going to get appreciably worse so long as we can ignore some of the weak-kneed leadership coming from Washington, D.C., both in corporate America and in politics and government. Thanks, Bill. Bill Tucker.

At the top of the hour, Campbell Brown.

Campbell, what are you working on?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well Lou, we are now. We are 15 days from the election and only now is Joe Biden letting reporters see his medical records. He did have some very serious problems in the past. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent, is going to have a detailed look for us tonight.

We're also going to talk about the big news over the weekend, Colin Powell's pretty devastating takedown of both John McCain and Sarah Palin. He had some very strong words for the Republican Party.

We're going to talk about what that'll mean for the campaign and then just for fun of course take another look at Sarah Palin's appearance on "Saturday Night Live." Did you see it, Lou?

DOBBS: I did indeed and it was, I thought it was worth the highest ratings I think in 14 years for "Saturday Night Live."

BROWN: That's what I hear.

DOBBS: Isn't it amazing you get the governor from Alaska to boost your show like that? Thanks very much. I appreciate it Campbell.

Up next the modernization of China's military, critical issue for the next occupant of the White House and this nation. I'll be joined by a leading expert on China's military here next. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Communist China continues to modernize its military. Joining me now is Richard Fisher. He is the vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, author of the important new book "China's Military Modernization."

Good to have you with us, Rick.

Let's turn to something that you wrote here, which is on China's anti-Democratic, anti-American foreign policy. You write, "There is a clear danger that China's gathering of a globally capable military will be wedded to an anti-Democratic and even anti-American foreign policy agenda." This is obviously already underway. Do you think this will be one of the foremost challenges facing the next president?

RICHARD FISHER, INTL. ASSESSMENT & STRATEGY CTR.: Absolutely. I don't know whether China will supply Joe Biden's first crisis that he has mentioned in his speech but this must be a paramount concern for the next president. The next president must make decisions to maintain our strategic superiority or it could be lost going into the 2020s and 2030s.

DOBBS: We have been reporting here for years on the number of front companies that are conducting espionage on behalf of the People's Republic of China, on the escalating efforts by the Chinese to steal American technology and military secrets. You're right. "It is time to view China's conduct of cyber warfare and espionage against the United States as the equivalent of an undeclared war." Rather than ask you what we should be doing let's suspect that nothing will be done until there is a new watchman in the White House. What should be done then?

FISHER: The next president must really step up not just empowering and giving the tools that the FBI needs to arrest this espionage but he should also be speaking to Chinese-Americans, other Asian-American groups and asking for their assistance. Chinese- Americans make enormous contributions to this country. We can ask them to report and help us stop this espionage because China targets this community.

DOBBS: What about United States intelligence agencies? What about the Pentagon? What about the State Department? What about the administration? What you say is all well and good as one would expect of any citizen irrespective of national origin. But this government has been absolutely loathed to respond intelligently and robustly to what you demonstrate as a very sinister, serious challenge to this country's interests.

FISHER: It's very disconcerting. Just last September 27th, we had an incident where China's manned spaceship passed 45 kilometers in front and below the International Space Station. The administration has said nothing about this. At the time that this happened, the Chinese had a micro satellite spinning around their space station that they later said went out of control. But they regained control.

DOBBS: Rick Fisher thank you very much for being here. The book is "China's Military Modernization" and we commend it to you highly.

FISHER: Thank you.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Important new book and much required reading.

Up next the results of our poll, more of your thoughts. Stay with us. We're coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: And tonight's poll results, 56 percent of you say Colin Powell's endorsement is more persuasive to you than Joe the Plumber. Joe the Plumber, 44 percent. Not bad.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Isaac in Georgia, "I'm a regular viewer of LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. Keep up the good work and keep fighting for the middle class. You're the only journalist who's been fighting against globalization and the selling of U.S. assets and intellectual property for the last decade." Thank you.

Joe in Utah, "Hi Lou. Thanks for keeping us informed on the real news. I think you're one of the few to give us an honest look at things."

And Lloyd in California, "Well Lou, it's now official. I'm an independent and proud of it. Now let's go after those incompetent idiots in charge of our country and sort out how we can make it better. Look forward to helping any way I can." I share the feeling and delighted to have you aboard as an independent. Send us your thoughts at loudobbs.com.

Thanks for being with us. Join us here tomorrow. Good night from New York.

Campbell Brown starting right now. Campbell?

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