Return to Transcripts main page
LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Shift of Power; Credit Card Rip-off
Aired January 12, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, HOST: Thanks, Wolf.
Tonight President Bush and President-elect Obama joining forces to convince Congress to spend even more of your money on bailing out Wall Street and a few other folks, the head of the panel overseeing the bailout is among our guests here tonight.
And tonight some of the financial institutions receiving that bailout money are ripping off consumers, charging outrageous interest rates and fees on credit cards. We'll have that special report that you will only see here.
And tonight a rising number of Californians have had a belly full of living in California, with its budget crisis, its soaring unemployment, and they are simply moving out at an amazing rate. We'll tell you all about that, all of the day's news as well, straight ahead, here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Monday, January 12. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. President-elect Obama today demonstrated there can be more than one president at a time. The president-elect joined forces with President Bush to request the remaining $350 billion of that Wall Street bailout money. At the same time, the president-elect met with the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon to discuss so-called free trade, border security and his pro amnesty agenda. Candy Crowley has our report from Washington.
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are ready to turn the page and write a new chapter in this story.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of all the days of transition, this one felt like the day the balance of power shifted. The day Barack Obama held his maiden foreign policy meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and then got President Bush to ask Congress for the final chunk of money from the Bush bailout plan.
OBAMA: I felt that it would be responsible for me with the first $350 billion already spent to enter into the administration without any potential ammunition, should there be some sort of emergency or weakening of the financial systems. CROWLEY: And the president-elect had his aides leak the news that one of his first executive orders will be to shut down Guantanamo Bay and over at the White House, George Bush held his final news conference.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish him all the best and people say oh that's just a throwaway line. No, it's not a throwaway line. The stakes are high.
CROWLEY: It was as if all the George Bushes showed up at the same time. He was gracious and defensive. There was both melancholy and humor and there were lessons learned.
BUSH: You know the -- President-elect Obama will find this too. He'll get in the oval office and there will be a lot of people that are real critical and harsh, and he'll be disappointed at times by the tone of the rhetoric. And he -- he's going to have to do what he thinks is right.
OBAMA: Change has come to America.
CROWLEY: And for all the history in the making and despite all the urgencies at the time, George Bush predicts that after the swearing in and the lunches and the inaugural parade, there will be times that the incoming president will be no different than the 43 men who preceded him.
BUSH: He'll walk in the oval office, and there will be a moment when the responsibilities of the president land squarely on his shoulders.
CROWLEY: The balance of power shifts.
CROWLEY: In fact, Lou, at this point it is the Obama administration in all but name, as you know, top-level Obama people are now in regular touch with congressional leaders, in particular, to argue for that $350 billion second part of the bailout for financial institutions. Lou.
DOBBS: And, Candy, today the president in that final press conference as president used the expression, I wish him all the best in one form or another, five separate times.
CROWLEY: Yeah, what's that expression? We think he doth protest too much? But I tell you I think this is something they actually have really tried to do within the Bush administration, was try to make this as smooth as possible, recognizing what is out there for Obama to contend with.
And it does seem something -- as you know I talked to him earlier, it seems like something he is very sincere about was saying, listen, we wish him the best because this is an -- not about party, it's about the country. DOBBS: Absolutely. Candy, I want to bring in our colleague senior White House correspondent Ed Henry and national correspondent Jessica Yellin. Thank you both for joining us -- Jessica, the president-elect already facing some opposition from the Democratic leadership in Congress on a host of issues. Where are we headed here?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well look, Democrats will even say among themselves they can't get out of their own way. They are really frustrated over the stimulus. They were not involved in the writing of the stimulus and they have some objections to it, so now what they are trying to do is work with team Obama.
One -- I spoke to Kent Conrad, a senator who was an Obama supporter and has been very critical. He says look, they were burned by the Bush administration too many times. It's hard for them to trust, so they have to talk a lot in the coming weeks and Obama team is working on that.
DOBBS: All right and I suspect we're going to see the Congress act as the Congress should, a co-equal branch of government. Ed, President Bush was a lot more direct and candid today than we've really seen before. The moment is apparently donning on him, if you will.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think that now that he's about a week out from leaving office, he is being a bit more candid. He sees the finish line if you will and so he was a little looser today, as you say, a bit more candid and direct, admitting some mistakes, something he very rarely does.
And I think I've had this experience before. Occasionally there's been a chance where I've had some, you know like an off-the- record chat with him over coffee here at the White House and you see him behind closed doors and it's so much different than when you see him giving a public speech. He has so much more trouble doing that.
You see him sometimes privately the way I saw him today, much more direct like that, and you wonder sometimes where was this guy at earlier points in the presidency when sort of some of that candor, some of that directness really could have really helped him in terms of dealing with the war in Iraq, dealing with an issue like the economy, Lou.
DOBBS: Talking today about the rhetoric, particularly in relationship to the president-elect coming into the office, talking about the rhetoric that sometimes is basically he said hurtful, but it was his own rhetoric that set the condition, if you will, I'd like to get your reaction to that, Ed, also yours, Candy Crowley.
HENRY: Well I mean look, he came to office saying he would be a uniter, not a divider. Candy knows that full well from covering him in that first campaign in 2000. It didn't quite work out that way as he acknowledged himself.
There's a lot of blame to go around. He certainly in some cases didn't follow up enough on that. He certainly used the war on terror in some cases to divide the Democrats and Republicans. But on the other hand, clearly Democrats had it out for him on a lot of these issues and didn't want to work with him.
So I mean certainly there's a lot of blame to go around. We hear that every four years. Everybody wants to work together, and then within a few weeks, they start throwing stones again. It's sort of the same old story.
CROWLEY: Well listen, there is plenty -- there are plenty of people who are responsible for this bitter tone and George Bush is certainly one of them, because when he came into office, he turned out to many people's eyes not to be that compassionate conservative he campaigned on. But, rather, that he was moved to the right as they began to look at the second four years so that he became much more conservative people believed and certainly harsher in his language that he seemed to be during the campaign, so he absolutely does bear responsibility for this.
But honestly, I don't think I've ever covered a campaign where the candidates didn't say we are going to work together. We're going to get rid of this partisanship and it doesn't always happen. First 100 days maybe, after that it's anybody's guess.
DOBBS: All right. Well we'll -- we appreciate your guessing along with us, Candy. Thank you very much. Ed, thank you. Jessica, thank you.
On Capitol Hill tonight word that Roland Burris could be sworn in as the junior senator for the state of Illinois as soon as this week. It is a stunning reversal for the Senate majority leader Senator Harry Reid who originally strongly opposed the appointment of Burris, in fact, saying he would not be seated.
The Democratic leadership agreeing to allow Burris to be seated after saying his credentials now comply with Senate rules. Burris himself said he's honored to represent the people of Illinois.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROLAND BURRIS (D-IL), SENATE DESIGNEE: I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve. And I ask for your support and prayers, so that I may work with you. My Senate colleagues and our new president can succeed at the challenges which face our state and our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Top Democrats are now working with the office of Vice President Dick Cheney to determine the exact time and the date of his swearing-in ceremony.
In the war between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli army tonight preparing to sharply escalate the offensive in Gaza. The Israeli army has also mobilized thousands of additional reservists. Almost 1,000 people have been killed in this war, now in its third week, more than 900 of them Palestinians. Israel is trying to stop Hamas from continuing to launch rocket attacks against Israel. Hamas, today, however fired at least 15 more rockets at Israeli targets.
New developments tonight in the story about those pirates who hijacked a supertanker off the coast of East Africa and then set it free after a ransom was paid over the weekend, the pirates received a ransom of $3 million. That ransom was dropped by parachute, but it turns out that at least four of those pirates drowned when they tried to return to Somalia on their small boat. The body of one of those pirates washed ashore. His family says the dead pirate was carrying $153,000 in cash. No word on the rest of the ransom or the other pirates.
Coming up here next, outrage after banks receiving government bailout money are ripping off credit card customers, it's a story you won't see anywhere else but here.
Also tonight, a stunning decision in a bail hearing for accused swindler Bernard Madoff.
And a mystery airplane crashing and the bizarre case of the missing pilot, whose financial company is under investigation. Is there a connection? We'll have that story, a great deal more, next.
DOBBS: Well, a mystery plane crash in Florida tonight that has sparked a major search and rescue operation involving the Navy, the Coast Guard, and local law enforcement. Authorities now say the pilot of a Piper PA-46 abandoned his plane and then parachuted to the ground in an effort to fake his own death. The reason -- the pilot, Marcus Schrenker is under investigation for possible securities fraud.
He's 38 years old. He's also the head of Heritage and Icon Wealth Management (ph) in Indianapolis. He apparently was flying from Anderson, Indiana to Destin, Florida, when he told air traffic controllers that his windshield had exploded and that he was bleeding profusely. Authorities then say Schrenker put the aircraft on auto pilot, bailed out.
The plane eventually crashed in the Florida panhandle near Destin. No one was injured luckily in this crash. Schrenker later approached police officers in Alabama who were unaware of that crash, showed them his driver's license and told them he was in a canoeing accident. This gets complicated, doesn't it?
Well the officers then dropped him off at a nearby motel. And when the officers heard about the crash, they returned to the motel and discovered he had checked in under a false name then disappeared. The search for Mr. Schrenker continues tonight.
Well dangerous weather raging across the country this evening. More snow and plummeting temperatures on the way, a major highway in New Hampshire closed for five hours Sunday after a massive pileup. More than 50 cars and a bus carrying Boy Scouts were involved in that pileup. Ten people were hospitalized, but there were no fatalities or life-threatening injuries fortunately.
Well health officials in Minnesota tonight have discovered salmonella in peanut butter. An Ohio distributor is recalling its King Nut and Parnell's Pride brands of peanut butter after a container tested positive for salmonella. Officials now say this case is linked to the strain that has sickened nearly 400 people in 42 states. The brands are distributed to nursing homes, to hospitals, schools and restaurants in nine states. But are not sold in grocery stores and, of course, it does not explain what is going on in 33 other states.
Well disgraced financier Bernard Madoff remains under house arrest tonight after a federal judge refused to revoke his bail and put him in jail. Madoff is accused of defrauding his investors in what turns out to have been a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. The judge today ruled he can stay in his apartment in New York City.
Prosecutors wanted him in jail. They argue that Madoff violated the terms of his bail, mailing at least $1 million worth of assets to friends and family after he was arrested. The judge, however, keeps him free.
Rising anger tonight over the government's failure to bail out middle class Americans struggling with massive credit card debt. The banks received billions of taxpayer dollars and interest rates now at record lows, but as Ines Ferre reports, credit card companies are squeezing middle class families with outrageous interest rates and fees.
INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Miguel Baltiera says his bank will not reduce his interest rate of 28 percent on a credit card balance of $5,500. He says the bank raised the rate when he missed a payment and has rebuffed his repeated requests to lower it.
MIGUEL BALTIERA, CREDIT CARD CUSTOMER: I also pay my mortgage on time and my mortgage insurance. My income has also gone up substantially in the last four years, but still they won't budge.
FERRE: Even though banks and financial institutions received 350 billion taxpayer dollars in emergency financial aid, for consumers like Baltiera, the cost of credit is still high.
BALTIERA: (INAUDIBLE) an obvious exploitation that's taking place here where they are not willing to work with me or probably other people who are in the same situation.
FERRE: The research and advocacy group Demos estimates about one-third of credit card customers who carry a balance pay interest rates exceeding 20 percent. It says penalty fees are being applied more aggressively, with companies quicker to find customers at risk, increasing their interest rate to anywhere from 20 to 30 percent.
CALEB GIBSON, DEMOS: It makes it harder and harder for families to pay off their cards and to get out from under this debt which then, of course, reflects poorly on their credit score and the situation just gets worse.
FERRE: Credit card companies have been lobbying Washington for years to keep regulation at bay. In the first three quarters of 2008, finance companies and credit agencies spent more than $24 million lobbying Congress.
LINDA SHERRY, CONSUMER ACTION: It has a lot to do with the huge profits and the huge deep pockets of the credit card companies. It also has to do with an attitude that has been prevalent in Congress and in the present administration that's basically, you know, hands off business.
FERRE: Federal Reserve rules to prohibit companies from increasing interest rates on previous balances won't go into effect until July 2010, leaving credit companies free to keep applying fees and higher rates until then.
FERRE: And as early as this week, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is introducing new legislation that would require credit card companies to, among other things, give advance notice on increasing rates, but neither this bill nor existing federal rules put any cap on the interest rate companies are allowed to charge consumers. Lou.
DOBBS: Well this is a Democratic-led Congress. We have a Democratic of course president-elect. These are folks who said they were going to do something. They are playing patty cake with the credit card companies and they are permitting -- they're presiding over the absolute, outright rip-off of the American consumer. Is there any chance we're going to see this change?
FERRE: Well they are hoping that this bill will go through the House and the Senate, but it's -- there's a lot of lobbying efforts that are in play here. There's a lot of...
DOBBS: People are being bought off is I think the way that I would say it. You can't -- you will call it lobbying. Let me tell you what it is. Folks, this is an absolute buyoff. It is disgusting what we are watching happening in Congress and the Fed not making its rules -- it's new rules which are a move in the right direction, effective until, as you reported, July of 2010. Thank you very much, Ines.
DOBBS: Ines Ferre. Well an overwhelming majority of Americans have a negative view of credit card companies. In a new poll 92 percent say the industry should be more closely regulated. But as Ines just reported, new rules to protect consumers from credit card abuses won't be in effect until 2010.
Well we'd like to know what you think. Here is our poll question tonight. Do you believe it is time for a national usury law that would cap interest rates? We'd like to hear you from. Yes or no. Go to loudobbs.com. We'll let you know later here in the broadcast the results.
Up next, President Bush and President-elect Obama joining forces, they want more bailout money so the president has some ammunition when he takes office on January 20th. Professor Elizabeth Warren, the chairman of the Bailout Oversight Panel joins us here next.
And people are fleeing California. We'll tell you why. A story you'll only see here on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: The state of California is facing a mass exodus. The combination of the Golden State's budgetary mess, its soaring unemployment, illegal immigration, and tough business climate has many of its residents saying enough is enough. They're moving out. Casey Wian has our story from Los Angeles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This won't be your last visit to California.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll be back.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Perhaps. California's image has been tarnished by a crippling economic crisis that has people fleeing. State government is barely functioning. Instead of singing California's praises, Governor Schwarzenegger's tune has changed.
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We're heading toward a financial Armageddon.
WIAN: Here's why, California's unemployment rate has soared to 8.4 percent. Since 2006 job losses have grown in 23 of 24 consecutive months. The number of unemployed has nearly doubled, exceeding 1.5 million. More jobs are at risk from the state's $40-plus billion budget deficit.
For months the governor and state lawmakers have been unable to reach a budget deal. Now they are threatening to issue IOUs instead of tax refund checks next month. From July of 2007 through July of last year 135,000 residents moved out of California, more than any other state. And economic conditions have worsened since then.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wagons are headed east. Unfortunately we have people fleeing the state because they made regulations so much; they've raised taxes so much we've seen just an out migration of folks moving to states where they can make a living for their families a little easier. And this is a dangerous spot we're in and what I've been telling people is California is under water and if we don't do something about it we're going to fall off into the ocean.
WIAN: Climbing the prospects for recovery California ranks 49th out of 50 states in business survivability according to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. Another recent study found 23 percent of Californians are illiterate, the nation's highest rate, one reason high levels of both legal and illegal immigration. In 2008, while 135,000 Californians left the state, 242,000 foreign immigrants arrived.
WIAN: Congressman Nunez (ph) like many Californians is fed up with the state's elected leadership. He's proposing a ballot initiative that would dismantle the state legislature and replace it with a part-time nonpartisan citizen legislature. He also wants a taxpayer bill of rights to control spending, the growth of state government, and end budget gridlock. Lou.
DOBBS: Well isn't that what a government is for?
WIAN: You would think so, but it's certainly not functioning the way it's supposed to here in California and you know the sharks are just in a feeding frenzy. The state of Arizona just announced late last week that they are forming a commission to go after businesses in California to get them to move to Arizona.
We've also had some news out that the state of California is going to cut more than 2,000 positions from the University of California system. So that doesn't bode well for the future, Lou.
DOBBS: Well just to get this clear, 135,000 residents are leaving.
DOBBS: And 242,000 immigrants -- I presume that's legal or illegal, I don't know which, coming in. Are we saying that it's a net loss of 135 or are we saying it's a net gain of 107?
WIAN: It's a net gain in terms of the people who are moving in and the people who are moving out. Of course the people who are moving in are lower educated. They have trouble with the English language often.
They have more children. They present more costs to the state of California than those who are leaving the state. And the other thing we should point out is that these numbers are only through July of last year. The economic conditions have deteriorated far further since then. So I imagine when the new numbers come out in a few months we're going to see that the exodus has accelerated, Lou.
DOBBS: All right Casey thank you very much. Casey Wian.
Well time now for some of your thoughts. Joyce in Pennsylvania said "We don't need politicians in our government. We need businessmen who have proven they can run a successful business. These politicians don't know how to run this country. Just look at the mess we're in".
Thomas in California said "Why have we not heard from the politicians, industry or labor the theme 'buy American'? It seems to me that if you want to stimulate the economy and create jobs that would certainly be one way." It may be in point of fact the only way.
And Lee in Tennessee said "California is not the place to be so we loaded up the truck and deserted Beverly." We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at loudobbs.com.
Up next, the pro-amnesty open borders lobby is stepping up its assault on the men and women who are trying to enforce our immigration laws. We'll have that special report.
And President-elect Obama well meeting with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico today. They didn't talk about -- well they didn't talk about NAFTA. I wonder what they talked about besides amnesty and well open borders.
And new outrage of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's mismanagement of the bailout and he wants more of your money. The head of the panel overseeing that bailout is Professor Elizabeth Warren of Harvard University. She's our guest here next.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion
DOBBS: President Bush and President-elect Obama tonight, working together, trying to persuade Congress to release the second $350 billion of bailout money. One of the strongest critics in the way in which Congress, the president, and the Treasury Department have overseen the program is Professor Elizabeth Warren, leading the congressionally appointed panel that oversees that bailout. She's also a professor at Harvard Law School. Good to have you with us, Professor Warren.
ELIZABETH WARREN, BAILOUT OVERSIGHT PANEL CHMN.: Always good to be here, Lou.
DOBBS: We're three months into the bailout. Your first report is not exactly one that inspires confidence in our government, saying that the Treasury Department basically hasn't done what they are supposed to with the money, and nobody knows what they are doing with it. What -- what in your judgment should we be doing now?
WARREN: Well, I think that we have to demand some real accountability, some real transparency in the program, and that they tell us an overall strategy of what they are trying to do here so we can evaluate it and see if we're behind that or if we're not behind that. I don't think that's unreasonable for $350 billion.
DOBBS: Your panel asked 44 questions of the Treasury Department.
DOBBS: They answered -- is this correct -- only 19 of them?
DOBBS: I mean, what's the deal? I mean, Hank Paulson -- I've been calling for his firing for more than the past year and a half. But the idea that no one is responding to a lawfully constituted body such as yours in the Treasury Department -- are these people just arrogant, are they stupid? What are they? Or both?
WARREN: I think the problem is that they see much of what oversight is about as not really their problem. They -- they are going to go out, they are going to work out what they think is the right way to spend the money, and the notion that that should engage a conversation with the rest of us and that we really should have some accountability for that money and we really should have some transparency on how that money is moving around, it just doesn't seem to be at the top of their priority list at this time.
DOBBS: You know, one starts to wonder about why anyone cares what their priorities are, because they have been absolutely, as best one can tell, utterly incompetent. But since Congress has not demanded accountability, since they have basically avoided the accountability required by your panel and established by Congress, I don't know where we're headed. And I would like your thoughts on this.
I mean, now, President Bush and the president-elect have combined to ask for the extra, the additional $350 billion of the original $700 billion. Why in the world should the American people tolerate that money going forward into the hands of the Treasury Department, whether it be for Obama's use or Bush's use?
WARREN: Well, you know, I think this really is the heart of the issue. Things have changed. A month ago, people were saying, well, you know, they got the money. I don't know. It all looks too complicated. Nobody was pushing them for hard questions.
We came out with that first report. We hit them with a lot of questions. They gave us their answers on December 30th to some of the questions. We came out with a second report, and frankly, we called them on it, Lou. We put a grid on our Web site that lists every question that we asked, what the response was from Treasury, and then our comment if there was one.
And, you know, there's been a lot of pushback. A lot of pushback from people like you, from people like the people who watch this television program. And folks are saying this is not OK. And that, at least at some level, is starting to change the world a little bit.
You notice that the request this time was accompanied by a letter from Larry Summers saying, well, we're going to be real interested now in transparency and accountability. You notice that Barney Frank has said I want to pass a law that says they only get this money if they do transparency, accountability, explain what's going on here.
Now, I'm not saying any of that is perfect. But what I am saying is the world doesn't look the way it does or the way it did when no one was asking the hard questions.
DOBBS: I commend you, Professor Warren. I commend your panel and I commend Barney Frank, who has been from the outset I think asking many of the right questions.
What I have a little trouble with is we aren't getting any answers. We're not getting answers from the -- this has nothing to do with you, but we're not getting answers from the Federal Reserve chairman about what he's done with $2.5 trillion, to whom that money has been loaned. We're not getting answers from the Treasury secretary. We have a president and a president-elect asking Congress to say trust me, again. And it's about time that there be true accountability, and I hope that we are not going to see the Democratic leadership, whether in the person of Barney Frank, the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, or Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, cave into the nonsense, because the American people deserve far better than what we're getting here, and this Congress, this president and we'll soon see about the president-elect have yet to deal with the (inaudible) root of the problem, which is the housing crisis itself.
WARREN: You know, this was a big part of our report. One of the points we made -- and we featured it up front -- is that we asked what they are doing, as is clearly the intent of Congress, to do something about the housing crisis. And basically they said, oh, well, there's a hope for a homeowners program and there are these other programs.
And the bottom line is, they haven't spent one penny of this $350 billion on relief, on some kind of program, some kind of effective program to deal with the housing crisis. And so we've really tried to call them on that.
You know, Lou, I figure we have got just two tools here. One is to keep asking the hard questions -- and I mean just keep hammering on it -- and the second is to start doing our own independent investigations, and that's where this panel is headed.
DOBBS: All right. Well, professor Elizabeth Warren, we thank you for being here.
WARREN: Thank you.
DOBBS: Thank you so much for all you're doing.
Up next here, top Democrats backing down, clearing Roland Burris to become the junior senator from Illinois. The Senate majority leader apparently having a significant reversal of mind on the issue. We'll be talking about that and more with three of the best political analysts in the country. And the president-elect meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. We'll tell you what they talked about, as best we understand it, next.
DOBBS: President-elect Obama today, meeting with the president of Mexico in Washington, one week before the president elect takes office. The president elect believes U.S. relations with Mexico should be stronger, both the president elect and President Calderon, determined to push their pro-amnesty agenda down the throats of the American people. Lisa Sylvester with the report. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Both men smiled for the cameras and promised to be good neighbors. President-elect Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon lunched together, part of a long-standing tradition for incoming presidents.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: My administration will be ready on day one to work to build a stronger relationship with Mexico.
SYLVESTER: Their talk focused on a range of issues. Immigration, with Mr. Obama saying he wants a comprehensive and thoughtful strategy and security along the border where drug cartels are vying for control of key smuggling routes. President Calderon is expected to ask the United States to continue to provide funding to the Mexican government to fight drug trafficking between the two countries.
PRES. FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICO: We need to combat together this common problem, our fight against organized crime with all our efforts, combined with the capabilities of our government.
SYLVESTER: The two leaders didn't reveal how they will proceed on one contentious issue, trade. On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama had called for a renegotiation of NAFTA.
MAURICIO CARDENAS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: That's certainly the elephant in the room, because we know the discussion in the campaign about the renegotiation of NAFTA, it's always in Mexico there are many concerns about that. And it's fundamental for Mexico's growth, free access to the U.S. market, and any change is going to be very disruptive.
SYLVESTER: Despite Mr. Obama's interest in strengthening ties. Mexico is unlikely to be a focus point for the incoming administration, with war in Iraq and the Middle East garnering most of the attention.
SYLVESTER: President-elect Obama is under enormous pressure to put Americans to work. So proposals like comprehensive reform could be a tough sell in congress and if the economy continues to sour, we expect more people will look at owe became why's camp page pledge to renegotiate NAFTA and expect him to follow through. Lou.
DOBBS: For the Brookings Institution, credit to them for saying exactly how it is. Mexico has had free access to the U.S. market. That's going to be a significant issue or should be a significant issue for all of our principal trading partners, and it's interesting with all that has preceded this, Lisa, that the two -- one head of state and one to-be head of state, didn't talk about NAFTA, after so much of it, as you pointed out, was made of the on the campaign trail.
SYLVESTER: A lot of eyes will be watching to see what exactly Obama does. I've made some calls and people are looking to see if Obama renegotiates NAFTA, they are not all that optimistic.
DOBBS: Well, perhaps we have seen this movie before. Perhaps we haven't. We'll soon get a sense what direction we're headed in. Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much.
Federal prosecutors of immigration crimes in this country are on the rise. A new report suggesting the increased focus may be keeping prosecutors from investigating other crimes. But law enforcement officials say that is simply not the case.
Bill Tucker has the report.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Department of Justice has stepped up enforcement of immigration law. Last year, justice prosecuted more than 79,000 immigration cases, versus 17,000 in 2002, according to the transactional records clearing house at Syracuse University. The government shows the government is more focused on immigration violations than other crimes. The numbers mean justice is doing its job.
JULIE MYERS, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS SOLUTIONS: These are the laws that congress has passed, and every country has the right to determine who can come into this country and under what terms. It's only appropriate that we enforce the laws both at the border and in the interior of the United States.
TUCKER: A spokesman for the Department of Justice says the increased enforcement reflects more funding and additional resources from congress for increased immigration enforcement. "The department has answered the call of congress in the states along the southwest border to pursue immigration enforcement aggressively." Last year, the department hired 50 new prosecutors along the southwest border, specifically to handle immigration-related offenses. Not surprisingly, that's just where the biggest increases in immigration- related prosecutions.
REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: The people I represent in southeast Texas are so concerned about the lack of security that they talk about that almost more than any other subject. It brings in all kinds of illegal conduct.
TUCKER: Advocates for enforcement of immigration law applaud the efforts.
STEVE CAMAROTA, CTR. FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: There is no evidence that consistently enforcing our immigration laws at the border is crowding out other cases it appears that federal enforcement is doing a lot more.
TUCKER: And justice agrees.
TUCKER: The department notes that there have been other increases, such as the doubling of FBI intelligence analysts between 2001 and 2008. The increased number of joint terrorism task forces, and a 70 percent increase in weapons prosecutions, and, Lou, the crime rate is at a 30-year low.
DOBBS: So what was "The New York Times" reporting?
TUCKER: They took the information and reported it as they wanted to report it. Apparently ignored some of the responses from the department of justice that they kindly forwarded to me today.
DOBBS: So, in other words, "The New York Times," as usual, did its pro-illegal immigration nonsense under the guise of journalism?
TUCKER: Yes, exactly that. Prosecuting illegal alien offenses was a waste of time. Clearly a pro-amnesty agenda.
DOBBS: Make no mistake about it. "The New York Times" has as an editorial policy a pro-illegal immigrant position, pro-ethnocentric activist position, and a pro-U.S. chamber of commerce position on illegal immigration and open borders and it goes into the so-called objective news hole of "The New York Times," which, by the way, may be contributing to the fact that fewer people are reading "The New York Times" and fewer people are advertising in it. It's a disgrace, because they are better than this.
Coming up here next, President Bush and President-elect Obama is teaming up to convince congress to give another $350 billion in bailout money.
And is congress accepting Roland Burris? Very soon we'll be talking about that and more with our political analysts, next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Joining me now, three of the country's best analysts, all CNN contributors. Republican strategist, former white house political director, and chairman of the Mike Huckabee presidential campaign, Ed Rollins, New York Daily News columnist, Pulitzer-prize winning Michael Goodwin and syndicated columnist, journalism professor at Layman College, Miguel Perez. Thank you all for being with us.
What a surprise to find the Caroline Kennedy suddenly is getting bathed in -- well, some sort of anointment water of some kind. The Associated Press talked to all of her friends and guess what? Her friends like her. "The Daily News" decides they -- everybody's very impressed with Caroline Kennedy. What's going on here, Miguel?
MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't know. We spoke about this on the program last week. Just sort of celebrity politics that's going on now days. And Bloomberg supporting her. He came in because he was a celebrity millionaire. He became mayor overnight. Hillary Clinton, becoming our senator, coming from another state. We have celebrity politicians now days. And people think that they should run the country when they haven't proven themselves to have the experience to be politicians. MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Fortunately and unfortunately, this comes down to one person. Governor David Paterson has the appointment authority.
DOBBS: And I'm optimistic that he will not appointment Caroline Kennedy who I think will what I can't figure out is what happened to the Schlossberg part of her name. What the heck was that all about? Let's turn to Felipe Cauldron of Mexico and President-elect Obama meeting today. They forgot to talk about NASA.
PEREZ: I'm surprised -- not surprised. President Obama spoke up. President-elect Obama spoke a lot about NASA. I never believed he meant it. There was pressure in his primaries in the competition with Hillary Clinton appealing to the unions in this country. I don't think he'll do anything about NAFTA. I'm not surprised he didn't raise the issue.
DOBBS: What about quote/unquote comprehensive immigration reform and amnesty.
PEREZ: I'm hoping he does something about that. I'm hoping it's somewhat what McCain had proposed. Secure the borders because it's the only way to get through congress.
GOODWIN: I was struck by your report on immigration. That's the first thing they've done that they said they would do on immigration. After the bill failed, Chertoff and the others said we've got to secure the borders first. I think by belatedly enforcing the laws that are 20 years old, better late than never, but still, how many illegal immigrants have come in under George Bush is a disgrace.
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Maybe I'm cynical after spending 40 years around the United States congress. Authorizing it and appropriating money to do it are two different things. I don't think there's any pressure today to secure the borders. There'll be an effort that president-elect and John McCain will probably need to legalize a lot of the illegals or give them a path of citizenship. But basically to spend resources that are limit in this point in time to secure that boarder be low priority. It should be the highest priority.
DOBBS: We'll be back with the panel in a moment. We'll be talking about the sincerity of the commitment and whether or not Barack Obama has won at all to secure borders. But first, coming at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown, "NO BIAS, NO BULL."
Campbell, what are you working on?
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Lou. A no bias no bull look at President Bush's final news conference. He was defensive and sarcastic at times. Others, he was serious, sincere, reflective. Really a remarkable display of emotion. Take a good long look and have reaction from some of the smartest political minds around. Also, Roland Burris gets to declare victory. We'll have the latest on when he gets to become the junior senator from Illinois. Plus, why Barack Obama's victory meant that Tracy Morgan got to do the talking instead of Tina Fey at last night's Golden Globe Awards, Lou?
DOBBS: Thank you very much. A reminder to join me on the radio Monday through Friday. Arnold Shapiro, executive producer of "Homeland Security USA." Get the local listings if your area for the show. Coming up next, more from the panel and the result of our poll up next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Back with Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, and Miguel Perez.
Let's start out with the president today waxing nostalgic saying basically they made a big mistake because he put all of that political capital in to social security instead of comprehensive immigration reform. How's he feeling in the last week?
ROLLINS: Idiotic press conference. The president is entitled to say to the American public thank you for the eight years of service and he's not going to convince somebody that he's a job well done. That's not coming. 51 months of job growth sitting here with 75-year worst recession in history shows how out of touch he is. And I think it was a sad day. You saw the best and the worst of George Bush's personality and it almost looks pathetic.
DOBBS: Here's another one I would like to -- George Bush talking about -- here's a republican president conflating anti-immigration reviews and anti-illegal immigration views and attacking his own party. This is a guy who ran up $6 trillion in extra trade debt rising to the bailout faster than the national debt and he wants to call that protectionism to look for reciprocal and mutual and balanced trade. Listen to the president here.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: I am concerned about protectionism. In tough economic times, the temptation is to say, let's throw up barriers, protect our own, not compete.
GOODWIN: Politics ain't beanbag. George Bush is turning Washington over to democrats. He did that. He destroyed the Republican Party. Republican Party knows tend to follow the president more than democrats. The republicans have followed George Bush right over a cliff.
DOBBS: And a cliff he doesn't even know his party members are sitting as debris at the bottom of the cliff.
PEREZ: As the president would say, we "misunderestimated" his administration. Looking back, we won't have too many fond memories of the Bush administration. There are polls showing that people are not going to miss him. He has the audacity to come out in a press conference and pretend like he really had a wonderful presidency.
ROLLINS: He apologized today for the mission accomplished and mission accomplished means it democrats are taking over the entire office. DOBBS: Roland, thank you very much. Appreciate it very much, Michael. Miguel, appreciate it.
Tonight's poll results speaking of polls, Miguel, 97 percent of you say it's time for a national user law that would cap credit card interest rate and other rates. We thank you for being with us tonight.
Please join us here tomorrow for all of us. We thank you for watching. Good night from New York.
Campbell Brown, "NO BIAS NO BULL" starts right now.