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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Glimmers of Hope; Hostage Standoff; Deadly Wildfires; Reverse Racism; Mexico's Meddling

Aired April 10, 2009 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you. Good evening, everybody.

President Obama sees what he calls glimmers of hope for our economy, the president acknowledging, sort of, what I've been saying here for weeks now that our economy is beginning to show signs of stabilizing.

Also, violent weather sweeping across the South and Midwest, bringing deadly tornadoes, hailstorms and fires, at least eight people killed. More severe weather is on the way tonight.

And pirates holding that U.S. ship's captain hostage off the coast of East Africa threatening to kill him after he tried and failed to escape, more U.S. warships on the scene tonight, we'll have the very latest for you.

And former President Vicente Fox of Mexico is back sharply criticizing me and even the United States, the same Vicente Fox who refused to honor his own challenge to debate me. We'll set the record straight here tonight.

Well we begin tonight with the presidential assessment of the state of our economy. It's an assessment that is hardly exuberant. But at least President Obama is not as negative as he has been. Mr. Obama said he sees what he calls glimmers of hope. But even that tepid presidential assessment of the condition of our economy was tempered by cautionary qualifications. President Obama said that our economy remains under what he called severe stress. Candy Crowley has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Spring time in Washington and the president is pretty chipper.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we're starting to see is glimmers of hope across the economy.

CROWLEY: Michael Santoli, senior editor of "Barron's", the Dow Jones business and financial weekly, doesn't think the president is wrong but he puts it differently.

MIKE SANTOLI, BARRON'S SENIOR EDITOR: Well the economy seems to be declining at a slower pace, maybe we're kind of stabilizing a little bit. CROWLEY: Glimmer cited by the president, a big increase in home loan refinancing that puts money in people's wallets and hopefully help stabilize the housing market. A 20 percent increase in the Small Business Administration's loan program that may mean some small businesses stay open and new ones will create jobs. Not to mention Wall Street has been on a tear (ph) since early March.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, guys.

OBAMA: I've said that we're seeing progress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

OBAMA: I've said that we're seeing progress.

CROWLEY: The president is a man who watches his words and for good reason. Some things have not progressed. Some things are not so glimmery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House prices keep going down at a relatively quick pace. That's been the underpinning for many of these problems we've been seeing, obviously. It makes the banks' balance sheets worse.

CROWLEY: And unemployment continues to climb, though looking at the glass half full, it did not rise as much last week as the week before, which adds up to a president who is more careful than chipper.

OBAMA: Now, we have always been very cautious about prognosticating and (INAUDIBLE) the economy is still under severe stress.

CROWLEY: And the problem with glimmers is they can disappear, tentative signs of recovery can merely be bumps along the bottom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Beyond the economic numbers there may be some legislative strategy in the president's words. There is talk that the economy might need more stimulus or more bailout money for the financial industry. If that turns out to be the case, the president will have to convince Congress that the first infusion of taxpayer money is paying dividends and that, clearly, he believes it's beginning to do just that. Lou?

DOBBS: Candy, by comparison to what this president has said in previous weeks, glimmer of hope. All I could think of when I heard him use the expression, glimmers of hope, what do you suppose the outcome of that election would have been on November 4th had he written a book called "Glimmer of Hope"...

CROWLEY: Glimmers of hope...

DOBBS: ... instead of "Audacity of Hope"?

CROWLEY: It's not audacity, that's for sure. But you're right. I mean listen, the difference between even last week at the G-20 and the things that he said about the global economy and now, I mean, glimmer is really looks down right optimistic.

DOBBS: Well, it is -- it is good for him to find some optimism and certainly to, in my judgment, eliminate as much negativity from his remarks as possible. Perhaps not politically adroit, but I think far more beneficial. Thanks very much, Candy Crowley.

Well as you know, I've said throughout there will be no depression and that economic recovery will begin in the latter part of this year. We are pleased to report to you tonight that two new surveys by economists are in agreement. A "Wall Street Journal" survey of economists shows a consensus that this recession will end in September. And the blue chip economic indicator survey showing 86 percent of economists now believe that the recession will end in the second half of this year.

And here are more positive economic indicators that most of the rest of the media is ignoring. Our trade deficit has fallen to the lowest level since November of 1999. Factory orders have risen for the first time in seven months. New home sales are also up, rising unexpectedly. And orders for durable goods have rebounded, rising for the first time in seven months. All of this having a positive effect on the stock market which is up just about 25 percent over the past five weeks.

Turning now to the ongoing dramatic standoff between the Navy and four Somali pirates holding a U.S. ship's captain hostage, that standoff became even more complicated and tense because of several developments tonight. First, the captain managed to jump overboard and to briefly escape the pirates. All that we know is that shots were fired and Captain Richard Phillips was recaptured and is back aboard that life boat.

Secondly, more pirate ships are arriving in that area and apparently others are on the way. All holding hostages from previous hijackings and now two more U.S. warships have arrived in the area as well. Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has our report from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More pirate ships are on the move, trying to find their comrades who are locked in a standoff with the U.S. Navy. A defense official says the military has heard communication between pirates that they're searching for the life boat. Who's out there? The official says larger mother ships that the pirates use to launch small skiffs (ph) out to sea and foreign ships that pirates already hijacked and now control. The USS Halyburton (ph) has also arrived in the area. A guided missile frigate equipped with two helicopters. The USS Boxer and its onboard hospital remains a day away. And the USS Bainbridge sits just a few hundred yards away from a life boat like this one where four pirates and Captain Richard Phillips have been stranded for more than two days.

JAMES STAPLES, FRIEND OF CAPT. PHILLIPS: It's a covered boat, so during the day I'm sure it's getting very, very hot in there. There's not a lot of ventilation. There is no sanitation inside that boat.

LAWRENCE: Overnight, Phillips jumped into the water to escape and tried to swim towards the Bainbridge. A defense official says the pirates fired several shots either up in the air or towards the water. Then at least one pirate jumped in after Phillips and brought him back onboard.

(on camera): They were told all of that happened in a matter of seconds. Not enough time for the U.S. Navy to intervene in the dark a few hundred yards away from the life boat. The USS Bainbridge has incredible firepower. But how to use that when the armed pirates are just a few feet away from their hostage?

Chris Lawrence, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: The French Navy today finally moved in to rescue French hostages from a sail boat off the coast of Somalia. Those hostages were captured almost a week ago. One of the five hostages aboard the boat was killed in the rescue operation. The French government reporting that commandos stormed the sail boat after those pirates threatened to execute the hostages.

Turning now to Iraq -- the deadliest attack on our troops in more than a year; a suicide bomb attack in the northern city of Mosul killed five of our soldiers. The attack took place at the headquarters of the Iraqi national police. Eight of our troops have been killed in Iraq already this month following the death of nine of our troops for the entire month of March. That is the lowest monthly total of the entire war. Four thousand, two hundred and seventy-three of our troops killed since this war began; 31,169 of our troops wounded; 13,720 of those troops wounded seriously.

Coming up here next, a bitter fight over charges of reverse racism among firefighters going to the U.S. Supreme Court and tornadoes and wildfires roaring across parts of the southwest, Arkansas and Tennessee, killing at least eight people. We'll have more on that story next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Violent weather sweeping through the South and Midwest tonight, continuing a destructive spring season of weather. In Tennessee a tornado swept through Rutherford County (ph) this afternoon killing two people. Neighborhoods there seriously damaged as you see. And the state of Tennessee remains under a severe thunderstorm watch tonight.

In western Arkansas a tornado there battered several counties over night. Three people in the city of Mina (ph) were killed. All day crews have been working to repair downed power lines to fix gas lines and remove fallen trees.

And in Midwest City Oklahoma tonight, officials say that one of the wildfires there was intentionally set. Several wildfires continue to burn. More fires have been started across Oklahoma and Texas. Those fires fueled by wind and drought.

Wind, high wind gusts hitting up to 76 miles an hour, hurricane strength and the National Weather Service saying that winds that strong unrelated to either tornadoes or thunderstorms are a once in a decade phenomenon. Ed Lavandera has our report from Oklahoma.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Valerie Waxenfelter and her two children were home alone when smoke started filling up her backyard. Her husband, Matt, a navy officer, was deployed to Iraq less than two weeks ago.

VALERIE WAXENFELTER, WILDFIRE VICTIM: Watch -- kept watching out my back window and watching the smoke get heavier and heavier. The next thing I know there is a fireman, a volunteer fireman in my backyard.

LAVANDERA: After violent winds sparked massive wildfires across Oklahoma and Texas, firefighters battled flames in only a few isolated parts of Oklahoma on Friday. The winds have eased, helping calm the fires.

(on camera): Firefighters raced to save what they could. As you can see, many homes came dangerously close to going up in flames. But firefighters describe an eerie scene, describing fireballs flying across the sky landing in neighborhoods like this. And as you can see, not everyone was so lucky.

(voice-over): Chester Lyles returned to his home after evacuating and discovered the two houses next door to his burned to the ground.

CHESTER LYLES, RESIDENT: Amazed -- I mean how it jumped from house-to-house and took my neighbors and left mine, I have no idea. No idea.

LAVANDERA: In Oklahoma, more than 100 homes and businesses were scorched by the fires. But in Texas, the fires proved deadly. Matt Quinn (ph), a former television reporter and his wife were killed when flames swept across their property in Montay County (ph). Residents here say the fires moved at blazing speeds.

LANE POSEY, WILDFIRE VICTIM: We could see it coming. You could see it coming right over there, looked like it was going to go around us, but the wind changed directions out of the west and it come right to us.

LAVANDERA: Valerie Waxenfelter seems unfazed by the loss.

WAXENFELTER: You know my kids, you know they're having a harder time with it than I am, which is understandable. But it's stuff. My kids -- I got them, I'm good.

LAVANDERA: A Navy wife who survived quite a battle of her own.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Midwest City, Oklahoma.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: A violent volcanic eruption overseas tonight from one of Japan's most active volcanoes. The eruption of the Sakurajima (ph) volcano had been predicted. The volcano spewed huge amounts of ash into the sky. No damage or injuries are reported in the eruption. The Sakurajima (ph) volcano has been active since the Eighth Century. The surrounding town with about 7,000 residents records close to almost three inches of ash each and every year. There were no evacuations.

Up next, Mexico's former president praising Mexicans living in the United States illegally and blasting U.S. efforts to secure our border. The former president also had some harsh words about me. I'll respond but gently, sensitively and, of course, with kindness and understanding.

And charges of reverse racism, a city accused of discriminating against white and Latino firefighters. Now the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether racial quotas still have a place in American society. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: An important workplace discrimination lawsuit is headed to the Supreme Court. White and Latino firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, claiming they were denied promotions because of their race. The men had high scores on the city's promotion test. The city threw out those test results because they said black candidates didn't score high enough to qualify for promotion. Ines Ferre has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty New Haven firefighters claim they were denied promotions because of the color of their skin. Nineteen are white, one is Latino. In 2003, they were among 118 firefighters who took qualifying exams for lieutenant and captain vacancies. The results show that none of the 27 African- Americans who took the test qualified for promotion. So the city promoted no one, fearing that if it did, it would be sued for discrimination against minorities.

VICTOR BOLDEN, ATTORNEY, CITY OF NEW HAVEN: And after doing a closer look, the city's Civil Service Board decided this test shouldn't be certified and that the city should go a different way and figure out how we're going to promote individuals to this level.

FERRE: In 2006, a district judge said the city had not discriminated against the firefighters, arguing that because no one was promoted, no one was harmed. A three-panel judge appeals court agreed with that decision then a full appeals court declined to hear the case. Dissenting judges urged the Supreme Court to step in. At question is whether an employer can disregard the results of a promotion exam when the highest scoring candidates are from one racial group.

KAREN TORRE, ATTORNEY FOR FIREFIGHTERS: In a process that was supposed to be merit based, where the question of whether one is to be promoted was to be based strictly on his or her qualifications, abilities and skills turned into a process where the city was looking at the skin color. That is totally contrary to the American value system.

FERRE: The petitioners include the highest scoring candidates in both the lieutenant and captain exams.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FERRE: And the Supreme Court will hear the case on April 22nd. The implications of this are enormous. It could be a landmark test of what constitutes discrimination in the workplace, Lou -- a very big case.

DOBBS: This is astounding that 20 firefighters over -- this has been a six-year-long process, right?

FERRE: It has been so long. First they had to go to court for them to even reveal what the test scores were of these firefighters for them to figure out what they were. Then they had the judge that said that -- she said that this was -- the city didn't have to abide by the test.

DOBBS: I'm going to say the city of New Haven, on so many issues, has become something other than an American city. It is obviously not a meritocracy. It is filled with bureaucracy and seeming incompetence on a host of areas. How in the world can anyone call this justice when a process takes six years to reach the Supreme Court?

FERRE: And what these petitioners are saying is that there is so much politics, local politics that have taken place (INAUDIBLE) we're going to look more into this.

DOBBS: We're going to look into it and I appreciate that and let's hope that some federal authorities look into it, too, because there is something very, very much wrong with the city of New Haven. This is just wrong across every level. We'll leave it to the lawyers and the Supreme Court to decide the legality, but it's wrong. Appreciate it. Ines thanks -- Ines Ferre.

This will be Chief Justice John Roberts' first major case on racial discrimination in employment. In 2007, the Supreme Court limited the ability of school districts to rely on race to determine which schools that students should attend. The court said schools must stop assigning students on a racial basis. The chief justice in his opinion wrote "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Up next here, President Obama rediscovers the language of hope, kind of. And Vice President Biden well somebody says he's a liar and a serial exaggerator. We'll have an assessment from our top political analyst who join us here.

And former President Vicente Fox of Mexico is a serial -- well, he's a serial flea from my dog. We'll be talking about that next. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Mexico's leaders lack nothing in chutzpah. Mexico's former President Vicente Fox on a speaking tour here in the United States promoting globalization and the North American Union. And the former president of Mexico also criticizing U.S. efforts to improve border security, U.S. trade policy, and even criticized me. Casey Wian has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Mexican President Vicente Fox signed copies of his autobiography at the Milken Institute Thursday night, where he spoke in glowing terms of the more than 11 million Mexicans living in the United States.

VICENTE FOX, FORMER PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: I am extremely proud of each and every single one Mexican here in this nation, even if they are documented or undocumented.

WIAN: He sharply criticized U.S. border security efforts.

FOX: We should be building bridges instead of walls. We all know that walls don't work.

WIAN: He warned the United States against isolationism while most of the world embraces globalization.

FOX: It's not that we are seeing the decline of the leader, United States. We're seeing the race of others. But we're seeing the spirit of this nation abandoning its leadership. They are isolating itself.

WIAN: Instead, Fox says the United States should expand the North American Free Trade Agreement and embrace a European Union style partnership with Mexico and Canada. Surprisingly, he didn't mention Mexico's escalating drug war, once during his 35-minute speech. But he was asked about it by an audience member.

FOX: Reduced consumption in the states, drug consumption and things will improve in Mexico. Reduce free distribution and sale of arms, especially those that correspond to the military. But it's a joint responsibility.

WIAN: Then he criticized CNN and Lou Dobbs for enflaming fears about drug cartel violence.

FOX: The Lou Dobbs are of no help to nobody, I mean the way he behaves, the way he uses media to criticize, to discriminate, to attack Mexicans in the United States and his position on this doesn't help at all, even CNN is -- I mean is putting this on such a high spot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Fox went on to say that visitors to Mexico are less likely to be in a drug cartel shooting than they are to be killed in a plane crash or driving on a Los Angeles freeway. He pointed to recent high profile shootings in the United States as evidence that Mexico in his view is no more dangerous than this country. Lou?

DOBBS: Is the man out of his mind? I mean we're talking about 8,000 Mexican citizens killed in the last year in drug cartel violence. We've been reporting on this broadcast for a number of years precisely and you leading that coverage, Casey, on what is happening in Mexico with the drug cartels. And to hear the former president of Mexico speak as he did. It's a gross distortion to the point of being an outright lie.

WIAN: Absolutely, Lou.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: It's incredible.

WIAN: The murder rate in Mexico was nearly twice that of the United States in 2007, according to U.N. figures. And that was before the peak of the drug cartel violence we saw last year. So for him to say that murder rates in the two countries, which he sort of intimated were about the same is an absolute fabrication. It was a really strange speech in a lot of ways.

He talked about former President Bush as his friend but he gave the president a shot, talked about their meeting back in 2001 when they talked about immigration reform and he jokingly called President Bush a windshield cowboy who had his boots on but couldn't ride a horse. It was amazing that he came to this country and was just absolutely critical of U.S. policies and basically took no responsibility for Mexico's role in the drug war, in illegal immigration and many of the other problems that the two countries face.

DOBBS: And he's not alone in that, of course. Vicente Fox after Felipe Calderon, before Fox Carlos Salinas (ph), these -- these have been presidents of an incompetent government, a corrupt government, those who themselves are not corrupt. It is staggering and to have that audience responding with applause.

Who in the world was in that audience that would applaud such ignorance of suggesting that gun trafficking was somehow responsible for what is happening in Mexico or that drug usage in this country. You know these are probably the same snarky (ph) types who you know sort of look down their nose and just say no when Nancy Reagan used that expression to try to curtail drug usage and addiction in this country.

WIAN: And the same people who stood in line to buy his book and get his autograph, Lou.

DOBBS: Amazing. Well and by the way, I should point out Vicente Fox challenged me to a debate, which I accepted, then insisted it be on his home territory (INAUDIBLE) Mexico, which I accepted. We could never pin him down for a date. The man likes honor in his challenges. Obviously, he can correct that at any time.

I'll be delighted to join him. This isn't the first time that he's criticized me, by the way, for my position on illegal immigration and border security. Back in October of 2007, appearing on "LARRY KING LIVE" he challenged me to a debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Do you know of CNN's Lou Dobbs ? Do you know who he is ?

VICENTE FOX, FMR MEXICAN PRESIDENT: Yes, yes, I know him, yes.

KING: You know, he is kind of leading a fight against illegal immigration. Do you take issue with him ?

FOX: Well, I love to have a debate with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Well now that is an invitation that stirs the blood in the imagination. So, what I thought I'd like to do here tonight is just find out how you feel about the prospect of a debate with the former Mexican president and myself. So, our poll question is simply, "Do you believe I should accept Vicente Fox's challenge to debate him?" Yes or no ?

Well, 95 percent of the audience said I should accept Fox's challenge, so I did. I was going to accept it. I've got to be honest, no matter what the response had been. And as of today, a year-and-a-half later, Vicente Fox has yet to honor his own challenge and debate me. My acceptance stands, I'll be delighted to meet you, Mr. President.

So, let's try it again. Here's the poll question: "Do you believe former President Vicente Fox should honor his challenge and debate me on the issue of illegal immigration?" Yes or no ? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com, we'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Well, Fox has also claimed that Mexicans in this country are discriminated against. He is, as always, flat wrong. Last year the Department of Homeland Security reported 46 percent of all new naturalized citizens in the United States were mostly from Mexico, 46 percent. Thirty-two percent were Asian, 12 percent white, five percent African out of more than a million people naturalized as U.S. citizens. I don't think I see discrimination there against Latinos or Hispanics, do you ? Nor would president Fox if he was an honest man.

President Fox is also backing a North American union. In fact, his support for the North American union dates back to his election in 2000, just days after his victory he talked about his vision for that common tariff and monetary policy, what he called the free flow of labor across North American borders. In 2002, Fox said Mexico's goal was to create an "ensemble of connections and institutions similar to the European Union, with a goal of freedom of movement, of capital, goods, services and persons."

Well, he certainly the got persons down and even to the point of keeping his country 50 percent of the population in poverty and regaling as heroes those who he exports to the United States illegally and who send much of their money back to Mexico, some $25 billion a year.

Well, the Obama administration also, apparently, committed to blaming the United States for Mexico's problems. During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Mexico last month, she said America's "insatiable demand for illegal drugs is fueling Mexico's violence."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), SECRETARY OF STATE: We have accepted that this is a co-responsibility. We know very well that the drug traffickers are motivated by the demand for illegal drugs in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder also blaming Americans for Mexico's drug cartel wars. The attorney general went even further, he claimed restricting our Second Amendment rights in this country would help control drug cartel violence in Mexico.

Mexico and Cuba atop President Obama's list of concerns as he prepares for his trip to Latin America. The American public tonight, they want change. A new poll finds that overwhelming majority of Americans now want troops, large numbers of troops, dispatched to the border with Mexico. The poll also shows that Americans want to change our relationship with Cuba.

Bill Schneider has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Two flash points in Latin America -- Mexico and Cuba. Violence in Mexico is generating pressure for more border security. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: There have been calls to increase National Guard troops on the borders. That's something that we are considering.

SCHNEIDER: So are the American people, 75 percent favor sending U.S. troops to the border. That includes hefty majorities of Democrats as well as Republicans. A consensus is also emerging on Cuba. Congressional black caucus members were in Havana last week to call for change in U.S. policy.

REP EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: We have diluted ourselves into believing that if we isolated Cuba that the government of Fidel Castro would collapse.

SCHNEIDER: Americans have long favored restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. It's now over 70 percent, and, again, sizable majorities of both Republicans as well as Democrats.

The Obama administration is considering lifting restrictions on travel to Cuba by family members.

SEN CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Cuban-Americans and others would like the opportunity to get to that country, to see relatives, to see friends, to begin to open up that process. This is long overdue.

DOBBS: Does the public agree ? Yes, by nearly two-to-one. Change is good some Cuban-American leaders say, but let it start with them.

SEN MEL MARTINEZ (R), FLORIDA: What about change in Havana in the condition of the Cuban government or its people in the way it treats its people ?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Americans want a tougher line on Mexico and a softer line on Cuba. In both cases, try something different for a change - Lou.

DOBBS: Martinez was rather soft in the way he said that, I thought. Why so ?

SCHNEIDER: Well, because there is a lot of pressure coming, and mostly, of course, not just from the Congressional Black Caucus, but also from foreign state senators who are open markets in Cuba. I think there is a widespread view that we've had this embargo for nearly 50 years and it hasn't really worked and there must be another way, other ways of trying to bring pressure on the government in Cuba to change.

DOBBS: And Cuban-Americans ?

SCHNEIDER: Cuban-Americans, the older generation, of course, still ardently anti-Castro, there are a lot of the younger people, but I think they're open to new ideas for trying to change the way we bring pressure on the Cuban government to try to change its ways.

DOBBS: And why is this a priority for the Congressional Black Caucus ?

SCHNEIDER: That's a mystery. I can't answer that. Why did they go there ? Cuban-Americans are very resentful of that. You know, I'm not sure it is the entire black caucus who supported it, but...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: We know seven members did, right ?

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, seven members did. I don't know the answer to that.

DOBBS: Including the chair, we should say.

SCHNEIDER: Yeah, exactly.

DOBBS: All right, thank you very much, Bill Schneider.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

DOBBS: Up next, the Congressional Black Caucus's meeting with Fidel Castro, one of my next guests calls that trip repulsive. And the Obama administration says to the American people, it's none of your business. We'll tell you about transparency and accountability, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A startling lack of transparency tonight from the Obama administration, which promised transparency in its administration. The Obama White House refusing to release the results of so-called "stress tests" on 19 of the nation's largest banks, this despite the fact that the government and Federal Reserve have committed about $13 trillion of taxpayer money to support our banks and our economy.

Louise Schiavone with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the carpet, the 19 largest banks in the country. The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve are eight weeks into an examination of how much bad economic news these institutions can withstand before the bottom falls out of their operations. The administration says despite glimmers of hope in the overall economy, there will be no details yet.

OBAMA: We have always been very cautious about prognosticating and that's not going to change just because it's Easter. The economy is still under severe stress.

SCHIAVONE: Beyond hints like this however, so-called "stress test" results from individual banks don't have to be made public and they will not be until the Treasury Department figures out a way to do it without spooking the market in particular and the economy in general.

PETER MORICI, UNIV OF MARYLAND: These stress tests likely reveal that some of our banks will be in trouble if housing prices fell another 20 percent, but it's absurd to ask that question. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, people lose confidence in the banks and then housing prices fall. It's a great way to cause a panic.

SCHIAVONE: But in a nation where many feel burned by bailout politics and where most elected a president who pledged transparency, the challenge is how to proceed.

JAMES WIENER, OLIVER WYMAN CONSULTING: It's a very complicated issue. The net is that if these banks need more capital, the Obama administration will probably be forced to be more transparent around the results of the stress tests for the individual banks that are taking more public capital.

SCHIAVONE: Analysts agree there will be few, if any, clear winners in the stress test evaluation and that all banks will have to demonstrate that they're purging the balance sheets of bad assets and are well on the road to solvency.

(on camera): Financial institutions yearning for the condition less bailout of the last Congress are more committed than ever to recovering without the heavily conditioned federal help of the new era, but some banks won't be able to avoid it.

Louise Schiavone, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Join me now, three of my favorite political analysts, all CNN contributors -- Republican strategist, Ed Rollins who served as White House political director and chairman of the Mike Huckabee presidential campaign. Syndicated columnist, professor at Lehman College, Miguel Perez, and Democratic strategist, national committeeman, Robert Zimmerman.

Good to see you all. Let's start with the banks. I thought the Obama administration was about transparency, accountability. Ooh, not so much, huh ?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, it'll -- trust me, you're going to see...

DOBBS: I'm not going to trust you, Robert.

(CROSSTALK)

ZIMMERMAN: Don't trust me, but the reality is, as Louise Schiavone's piece points out, ultimately the information will be made public. I think there is a concern about how to make it public without causing...

DOBBS: How about this ? How about this ? We tell the American people this condescending patronizing arrogance on the part of this Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary and this president who promised transparency, there is not -- you know, there isn't a sell by date, but we've already gone past the date when it's appropriate. It's time to be straight up and square with the American people who can handle it.

We're a big, big nation with smart, smart people.

ZIMMERMAN: And we've never had more transparency in our federal government, whether it's regarding the issue of how our stimulus money is being spent or how the earmarks are appropriated...

DOBBS: I'm sorry.

ZIMMERMAN: And when it comes to this issue, I believe we're going...

DOBBS: I'm sorry, Elizabeth Warren, Professor Warren, the chairman of the congressional oversight of TARP, can't even get the secretary of the Treasury to respond to her. My god, Robert, that's the fact.

ZIMMERMAN: Lou, I'm sure that, in fact, Secretary Geithner is going to respond to her. He's only been in office perhaps a month- and-a-half...

DOBBS: You're sure ? You're sure ?

ZIMMERMAN: I think you have to understand the administration...

DOBBS: ...$700 billion in taxpayer money is out there now. But, we're having too much fun and let's not crowd out our friends and colleagues.

Ed Rollins, you know, I didn't think much of the bush White House, I'm starting not to think much of this one.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think the bottom line here is that it's an easy thing to do. And you got to live up to your commitments. He's lived up to many other commitments, but this one is very important. The vast majority of Americans today are very concerned about where their money is going. They don't know if this money is being spent well and the fact that it's going to come out six months from now doesn't matter. He said it would be out today, promised to put everything on the Internet, should be on the Internet, should be disclosed. Should be on the front page of the "New York Times."

DOBBS: Miguel ?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: When you look at this from the perspective of the American people, the taxpayers, and they know, believe me, Lou, they know how much we have to answer to the banks when we borrow money from the banks. And for the government to be protecting the banks in any way after they borrowed money from us, it's absurd. And the American people definitely want that clarity, they want that transparency. DOBBS: Well, we also now have a new initiative for this president who doesn't have enough challenges, apparently, facing him. He wants to take on comprehensive immigration reform.

Robert, these folks are just, you know, it's amazing to me.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, the importance -- well, the good news is that their priorities remain energy, health care and getting this economy back on track, economy being No. 1 and I think that's important. But they really have done is just begin the process of setting up a structure to begin the process of hopefully addressing first and foremost border and port security. And I'm going to tell you something, if they don't make that first priority, then the congressional leadership I've spoken to, there will be no immigration reform.

DOBBS: Well, I cannot -- I can see zero possibility of that happening when you have a secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, I thought Michael Chernoff, the Republican head of Homeland Security, was an absolute oaf and useless. She may be an aggressively useless secretary. I mean she is already -- she is issuing work pieces to people picked up in workplace raids. I mean what are we doing here ?

ROLLINS: Well, the problem is we're spending all this money on stimulus; we're trying to create jobs. We could build a fence. If they would build a fence, I think lots of Republicans, lots of conservatives would be willing to look at other elements of a bill. But we don't believe -- we don't believe if we legalize the individuals who are here illegally at this point in time they will ever shut that border and I think to a certain extent, you've got to have -- and I don't think they're going to, I think they're basically going to have a comprehensive bill and the bill will give a path to the citizenship of no other...

PEREZ: That will be a prescription for failure for another amnesty down the line and I don't think the American people will go for that. I really think that we need -- I am all for a comprehensive reform plan, but it has to establish that from now on no more illegal immigrants will come into the country.

DOBBS: Just like they did in 1986. We're going to be back with Miguel and our panel in just a moment, but first, at the top of the hour, NO BIAS, NO BULL, Roland Martin in for Campbell Brown.

Roland, what do you got ?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, could the powers holding American Captain Richard Phillips be joining forces with other outlaws on the high seas ? And are they planning a showdown with American warships ? We'll have the latest on the hostage drama in the Indian Ocean.

Plus all the details on Captain Phillips' daring midnight escape attempt. We'll also be joined by a panel of experts who will give us their assessment of what the United States can really do now and whether it's time for strikes on the pirates' homeland of Somalia. That's all at the top of the hour -- Lou.

DOBBS: Isn't it amazing, Roland, to think we're talking about four pirates in a 20-foot boat with one hostage, three U.S. warships and I mean this thing has reached a level that is almost unfathomable and unimaginable.

MARTIN: And this is simply one effort and there are other ships that have been hijacked.

DOBBS: All right, Roland, look forward to it. Thank you.

MARTIN: Thanks.

DOBBS: Roland Martin.

A Florida woman gave police an extremely accurate report of a break in at her home, that because she was watching it happen live on her Web cam. Jeanne Thomas watching from her office when she saw men ransacking her home. She immediately called the police department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE THOMAS, BURGLARIZED: This is crazy, they've got things in their hands.

911 OPERATOR: Ma'am, it's OK. Officers are surrounding your house. They're not going to get away with anything.

THOMAS: (crying) (INAUDIBLE)

911 OPERATOR: Ma'am, I need you to calm down, OK.

THOMAS: I'm sorry, I've just been robbed of everything.

911 OPERATOR: No, you haven't, because your items are still going to be in that house.

THOMAS: No, but they robbed me before, that's why I have the video camera.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Well, police quickly responded, they arrested all four suspects. I don't know about you, as I watch that unfold, I didn't think there was a way in the world that police or the sheriff's office there in Florida could get there in time. They did. They got all four suspects, recovered $3,000 worth of Thomas' possessions. She spent $250, by the way, on the Web cam. She says it was a bargain.

More with our political panel in one moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: We're back with our panel now. Miguel, you have very strong feelings about Cuba and the Obama administration's decision, apparently, to lift that -- those sanctions. PEREZ: Well, I hope they don't totally lift the sanctions, Lou. I was born in Cuba, so I have very strong feelings, but you know, without negotiating, without preconditions, without using the embargo that we do have for four decades now as some leverage to get something in return from the dictatorship in Cuba. I mean, we can't just go there and say, as Reprehensive Barbara Lee just did, that we should establish relationships and then worried about the details of what that means what follow...

DOBBS: I don't remember Lee or the black caucus believing this discussion anyway.

PEREZ: It's absurd to me. I mean, you know, Reagan, when he went to China, he had credibility, he was a Republican reaching out to the left. Here is the extreme left wing of United States going to Cuba, it doesn't have credibility at all.

DOBBS: Let me ask quickly about Joe Biden. Karl Rove says he's a liar. Where do you come down on this, Mr. Republican ?

ROLLINS: Historically, he's been an embellisher. I think "liar" is a very strong word and I wouldn't us that against a vice president, but I think he has a tendency to exaggerate. I would bet the ranch he had never been in a room with the president by himself.

DOBBS: Mr. Democrat ?

ZIMMERMAN: Not only do I take Joe Biden at his word, the idea that we're even discussing anything that Karl Rove says as having any credibility, a man who was the architect of the destruction of the Republican Party, not to mention the politicalization and criminalization of the Department of Justice and, of course, one of the great leaders of the strategy for the failed Iraq war. The idea that Karl Rove is even in the political fray is probably the next best thing to having Rush Limbaugh on the fray for Democrats.

ROLLINS: That's a little embellished, Robert.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Could it be that you're both right ? I want to thank all three of you for being with us. As always, good to have you with is.

Coming up next, the results of our poll and "Heroes," our salute to the men and women who serve this nation in uniform. The story of a combat medic's bravery under fire. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: And now, "Heroes," our weekly tribute to the men and women who serve this nation in uniform. Tonight we honor Petty Officer Joshua Chiarini, a combat medic who was awarded the Silver Star for his remarkable courage and heroism while serving in Iraq. Philippa Holland has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHILIPPA HOLLAND, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are many calls on the battlefield, yet none so urgent as "corpsman up." It means a Marine is down.

Petty Officer Joshua Chiarini is one of the corpsmen. In three deployments to Iraq he did not lose a single Marine. Chiarini says he owes that that success to one thing.

PETTY OFFICER JOSHUA CHIARINI, U.S. NAVY: As a corpsman, you got to be always flexible, you know, you're the role of a medical provider twin but also might need to step into the role as a rifleman, you know, so save one of your Marines.

HOLLAND: During a 2006 deployment in Al Anbar province, Doc Chiarini traveled with a Marine convoy. A roadside bomb forced the lead vehicle off the road.

CHIARINI: As I'm watching this, I'm on the radio, I'm looking forward at them, I see them all climb out and then all of a sudden, as soon as they stepped out of the vehicle, there was a massive secondary explosion that was twice as big as the first one and they all disappeared in a giant firewall. And I'm like, my heart just dropped.

HOLLAND: Chiarini grabbed his rifle and medical kit and dashed more than a hundred yards dodging enemy bullets to the wounded Marines and their interpreter.

CHIARINI: I started taking fire from different sides of the road, but to me, I didn't know I was getting shot at, like I was just running, like, all I could think about was getting to my guys and it's like running the longest run of your life.

The dreaded sound, you hear "corpsman up."

HOLLAND: Chiarini moved each wounded man to safety, treating them with one hand and returning fir with the other.

CHIARINI: I felt like all the other corpsmen that had gone in before me in the past had their hands on my shoulders while I worked, and you know, God was looking down on me and taking care of me that day.

HOLLAND: Chiarini now wears a Silver Star for his heroism. He knows what the medal signifies.

CHIARINI: Freedom is not free, I mean, the price is paid in blood, unfortunately. The real heroes are the ones who haven't come back or who gave all and sacrificed all and they're the ones that are still over there fighting, right now. And my heart goes out to them, you know, be safe, brothers.

HOLLAND: Philippa Holland, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Thanks to the Petty Officer Chiarini and all of our brave men and women in uniform.

Tonight's poll results, 96 percent of you say former President Vicente Fox of Mexico, should honor his challenge and debate me on the issue of illegal immigration. And we'd be delighted, Mr. President, to have you right here, anytime -- in fact, anyplace.

Let's take a look now at some of your thoughts. Roberto in Nebraska said, "In addition to a rigorously enforced E-Verify system for employers, we desperately need an I-Verify system for our lawmakers to verify their intelligence or lack thereof."

Audrey in Delaware said, "Here we go again. I will never understand why our leaders don't push for own laws to be obeyed. American citizens are owed an explanation why any non-citizen should get a free ride."

Please send us your thoughts to loudobbs.com. And join me on the radio, Mondays through Fridays for the LOU DOBBS SHOW, go to Lou Dobbs radio for the listings in you area.

Thanks for being with us, tonight. NO BIAS, NO BULL starts right now. In for Campbell Brown, Roland Martin.