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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Tea Party Protests; Debt and Taxes; Pirates Attack Again; New Border Czar; Mexican Truck Program; Free Speech Muzzled
Aired April 15, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening everybody.
Demonstrators pulled (ph) nationwide protests against high taxes and bigger government, many Americans expressing their frustration and anger on this tax day and so-called "tea party".
Also Somali pirates attack another U.S. flag ship. We'll tell you what the Obama administration is doing about the threat of piracy on the high seas.
And protesters stopped former Congressman Tom Tancredo (ph) from giving a speech about our illegal immigration crisis. Those protests at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we'll have a special report and we'll also examine rising concerns about Washington's threat to the constitutional right of states.
And we begin with the anti-tax revolts across this country. There were at least 500 protests called "tea parties" in all 50 states. Many middle class Americans who are struggling to survive the recession joined the demonstrations this tax day and the anti-tax movement is growing stronger amid rising frustration with a tax code that many believe is unfair.
PILGRIM (voice-over): "Tax Day", usually not a good day for many people, but this "Tax Day" a day of outrage. Protests across the country from Texas to Indiana to Pennsylvania were styled to mimic the tax rebellion of the original "Boston Tea Party".
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE)
PILGRIM: People who say they are fed up with being nickeled (ph) and dimed with all kinds of taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are taxes that continually being added to your paycheck, my paycheck, our cell phone bills, everything we touch has a tax on it.
PILGRIM: Much of the organization of the rallies was done by political advocacy groups some online, many of them conservative. And much of the anger today is over the hundreds of billions of dollars in economic stimulus spending passed by Congress this year and the astronomical debt that will be passed on to future generations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your children will be here, your grandchildren, I'm 76. I won't get to see the worst of this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just tired of being taxed out the wazoo (ph) for just spending and spending in Washington that's just unbelievable.
PILGRIM: The White House is holding its own event to counter the discontent. President Obama pointing out he champions lower taxes for middle class Americans.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First we passed a broad and sweeping tax cut for 95 percent of American workers.
PILGRIM: According to the Tax Foundation, a tax advocacy group, this year Americans will spend more on taxes than on food, clothing and housing combined and it doesn't stop there.
MATT MOON, TAX FOUNDATION: There are plenty of other taxes in addition to federal taxes. Americans have an average burden of 28.2 percent of their income when it comes to paying all federal, all state, and all local taxes.
PILGRIM: And as federal taxes are lowered because of the making work pay credit through the stimulus bill, some states have been looking to raise revenues via higher state income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.
PILGRIM: The Tax Foundation points out that higher corporate taxes are not just paid by wealthy companies but businesses pass them on to individuals, in terms of higher prices and job cuts when times are bad. Well, tax protesters today also threw what appeared to be a box of tea bags over the fence that surrounds the White House that sparked a major security alert.
The alert ended after a bomb disposal robot inspected the package. More than 400 -- 500 people took part in a rally in Washington to protest the Obama administration's economic policies. There were similar scenes in Chicago where hundreds of protesters gathered in the City Center chanting anti-tax slogans and protests are continuing in Atlanta tonight.
Here you're looking at live pictures of what's claimed to be one of the largest "tea parties" in the country and thousands of people are there. This rally began just a few moments ago. Well another big "tea party" today, where else? Boston. The site of the country's original "tea party" and several hundred protesters gathered in the downtown area, some were wearing revolutionary war clothing. Mary Snow reports from Boston.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It was billed as a tax revolt but protesters who have been showing up throughout the day here in Boston have been venting their anger about a host of issues from the president's policies to members of Congress, particularly though on spending in the stimulus package they feel that is just too excessive. At this particular event hosted by a conservative radio talk show host, there was even some dressed in colonial garb, hoisting crates of tea into the water to re-enact the original "Boston Tea Party" at there in 1773.
Mary Snow, CNN, Boston.
PILGRIM: Joining me now to put all these protests in perspective is our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Candy, how much of a problem are these anti-tax protests for President Obama and his economic agenda?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well listen it's something that he has to watch. I mean particularly, because looking ahead, there has been talk in Washington. I must say it hasn't come from the administration that in fact he might have to go back and get more money, either for the banking industry or in the form of another stimulus package.
Then that becomes even more money, because, as you saw, these protesters are not just about higher taxes, they are also about all of that spending in Washington. So clearly, it is at least an issue that he is listening to. I think you saw with his coming out today to talk about the tax cuts that he has instituted through his stimulus Bill that they are sensitive to the thought that somehow he's raising taxes.
At this moment, though, I have to tell you that we had a recent CNN poll and people who supported the way President Obama is handling taxes was in the 60 percent range. So right now, he doesn't have to worry. But certainly, moving forward, if he needs more money, and a lot of people think he will eventually have to raise some taxes, this is a group and an issue he has to listen to.
PILGRIM: Yes and Candy, of course, much of the point is that taxes will have to go up eventually if the spending continues at this pace. Candy, another point, conservative groups were very active in organizing these protests. Top Republicans though were conspicuously absent from the demonstrations. What's the take on that?
CROWLEY: I think the take is listen you have 500 rallies across the country, and you know and I know and these elected Republican officials know that you can't quite control who turns up. They didn't want this to turn into something that might embarrass them. As you know, you know fringe groups tend to kind of go toward demonstrations be they from the right or the left.
But I can tell you they're watching very closely because they were supportive of them even though not a number of them have shown up. And what they are looking for are the seeds to somehow rebuild the Republican Party. And if they can do it around the higher taxes, too much spending issue, then that's where they are going to start. So they're watching it very closely and have been supportive of it.
PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much. Candy Crowley. Thanks, Candy.
We would like to know what you think and so here is tonight's poll question. Do you believe that it's time to take a stand against high taxes imposed on Americans by federal, state and local government? Yes or no? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.
Also ahead we'll have more on the on anti-tax revolt. We'll examine another revolt against the federal government and this time it's on the issue of state's rights and three of the nation's leading authorities on our Constitution will join us.
Turning now to the growing crisis over piracy off the coast of East Africa, Somali pirates today opened fire on another U.S. flagship one week after their unsuccessful attempt to seize the "Maersk Alabama" and the Obama administration today announced a new plan to fight piracy on the high seas. Chris Lawrence reports.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Navy SEAL rescue that left three pirates dead did nothing to deter other pirates, so the White House is bringing together the full force of the U.S. government, justice, state, homeland security and Pentagon officials will meet Friday to find some way to stop pirate attacks on American ships.
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me underscore this point. The United States does not make concessions or ransom payments to pirates.
LAWRENCE: On Wednesday, the French Navy tracked down and captured 11 pirates who had just attacked a ship. Another group of pirates fired guns and rockets at this American freighter. The "Liberty Sun's" (ph) crew barricaded themselves in the engine room where one sailor e-mailed his mother.
KATY URBIK, MOTHER OF SAILOR: My heart started pounding. I had this you know is this really happening kind of moment.
LAWRENCE: The "USS Bainbridge" detoured to help but the pirates unsuccessful were gone when it got there. Men claiming to be pirates have said they will now target French and American ships taking revenge for the SEALs killing three of their own. In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs said...
ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I'm very much aware of the comments that were made by the pirates after this event and recognize that as certainly a potential threat.
LAWRENCE: Members of Congress have urged President Obama to take the fight to the pirates' safe havens, saying, quote, "we already know the cities in which they're operating and often, even the names of those organizing the attacks."
LAWRENCE: And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is going to be working with those shipping companies to strengthen their defenses and find ways to track down and freeze the pirates' assets, a lot like they do with terrorists and drug traffickers -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Chris, what about the threats of retaliation by the pirates?
LAWRENCE: Some Somali pirates told some journalists there in Somalia that the attack on the "Liberty" was about revenge, not for ransom. But a defense official told me he questions whether these individual pirates really speak for a larger group with one unified goal. He says it's easy for them to now claim that it wasn't about the ransom after it was unsuccessful and they had to turn away.
PILGRIM: Well that's a fair point. Thanks very much -- Chris Lawrence.
Still to come, the Obama administration may revive the controversial trucking program with Mexico under pressure from the Mexican government. We'll also have new details of the so-called border czar and what, if anything, he'll do to secure our wide-open border with Mexico. We'll have much more on the anti-tax and spending protests across the country, a big crowd gathering in Atlanta tonight. We'll have the very latest on that.
PILGRIM: Colombia's most wanted drug lord is in custody tonight. Daniel Renden Herrera (ph) -- he's known as Don Mario (ph) -- was arrested in northern Colombia. The raid involved 300 law enforcement agents. Renden Herrera (ph) is accused of offering a $1,000 bounty for each police officer killed by his men. Renden Herrera (ph) is wanted in this country on drug trafficking charges and U.S. officials said they would seek his extradition to New York for a trial.
New indications today that Mexico's drug cartels are being forced to move their operations further south away from the border, now Drug Enforcement Administration officials say increased law enforcement in the border area could be responsible. Weapons seizures and gun battles between rival cartels in Guatemala and Honduras indicate that there is some cartel movement southward.
The Obama administration today taking more steps to respond to the cartel violence, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano officially named a border czar. Former federal prosecutor Alan Bersin will coordinate efforts to control cartel violence on this side of the border. Jeanne Meserve reports.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Illegal immigrants and drugs coming north, money and guns moving south... (SHOTS)
MESERVE: ... and violence. These are the issues the new border czar, Alan Bersin, will grapple with.
JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: You need to be able to have someone to help coordinate those efforts and to ensure that everything we are doing is designed to strengthen our security and trade partnership with Mexico.
MESERVE: As attorney general, Janet Reno, southwest border representative during the Clinton administration, immigrant rights advocates say Bersin's hard-knuckle tactics drove illegal aliens to make dangerous desert crossings. Others say Bersin is an excellent pick with a big over-arching challenge in U.S./Mexico relations.
STEWART BAKER, FORMER DHS POLICY CHIEF: Politics on both sides, there will be suspicions about our interests and our motives and there will be suspicions about whether the Mexican government can carry out its promises.
MESERVE: In recent years the number of border patrol agents has doubled, 618 miles of border fence have been built, centers and drones have been deployed. One expert says Bersin needs to take a different approach.
EDWARD ALDEN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: We assume that the solution to every issue on the border is to ramp up enforcement. And we have been ramping up enforcement. We've done it very substantially in the last three, four years and yet the problems continue to get worse.
MESERVE: Bersin has already taken one thing off the table, troops on the border.
ALAN BERSIN, ASST. HOMELAND SECURITY SECY.: We should always be careful to be operating within a very sound constitutional tradition that served us well.
MESERVE: In Washington, special czars have a history of being ineffective but because Bersin is inside the Department of Homeland Security and will report directly to the secretary on a high priority issue, some analysts think he has a better chance of success -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Jeanne Meserve.
Well the Homeland Security Department was under fire today from Republican lawmakers and veteran groups. The American Legion among many in this country angered by a DHS report linking right-wing extremists and military veterans. Now American Legion Commander Daniel Raben (ph) blasted the report as, quote, "politically biased".
House Minority Leader John Boehner said casting veterans as potential terrorists was quote, "offensive and unacceptable". DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said she would meet with the American Legion chief after her return from Mexico.
The Obama administration is reportedly on the verge of reviving the controversial cross border trucking program with Mexico. The president heads to Mexico tomorrow to meet with Mexican officials. Congress halted the initial program in March. Critics said the program threatened national security and American jobs and Mexico retaliated for the cancellation and it placed tariffs on dozens of American products. Bill Tucker reports.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trucks and tariffs are at the heart of trade tensions between the United States and Mexico. Congress created those tensions when it stripped all funding from a program granting full access to our roadways to Mexican trucks and truckers in March. President Obama apparently would like to resolve those tensions by reviving the Mexican cross border trucking program. The Teamsters Union representing employees in transportation and freight opposes any revival.
BRET CALDWELL, TEAMSTERS UNION: The Mexican government has no control over their transportation system. They have no computer databases. They have no drug testing facilities. They have no wage and hour laws. They are just -- every aspect of their system is lower than ours.
TUCKER: Yet a Department of Transportation spokesperson says that the department has submitted a set of principles to the White House regarding the cross border trucking program that are consistent with our obligations under NAFTA and that those principles are currently under review. They've not been made public, but the DOT says the principles will ensure all trucks on the road adhere to the highest standard of safety.
In theory, the program should open up opportunities for American truckers as well, allowing them access to Mexican roads for deliveries. But given the violence at the border these days, few truckers are holding their breath in anticipation, says the head of a group of independent drivers who is against the Mexican pilot program.
TODD SPENCER, OWNER-OPERATOR IND. DRIVERS ASSN.: For some to suggest that there are opportunities for U.S. drivers south of the border, that's sheer lunacy, no right thinking American would take a truck south of the border. The first thing you lose is your cargo. The second thing you lose is your equipment. And the third thing you lose is your life.
TUCKER: Now Teamsters President James Hoffa (ph) sent a letter earlier this week to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressing his anger that instead of our trade representative challenging the legality of the terrorists from Mexico, we are apparently going to work on compromising our safety standards -- the Teamsters, Kitty, not happy.
PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much -- Bill Tucker.
Well up next, the warning that Americans overwhelmingly sent to Washington today that enough is enough and we'll also talk to some of the country's leading legal authorities about today's "tea parties" and the growing movement by states to protect their sovereignty. Also an assault on free speech at the University of North Carolina, a violent protest forced an invited speaker to leave. That's straight ahead.
PILGRIM: Outrage tonight over an assault on a right to free speech. Former Congressman Tom Tancredo was to speak at the University of North Carolina, but instead his speech on illegal immigration was violently overrun by leftist protesters. Lisa Sylvester reports.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Demonstrators gathered to protest a speech by former U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo. He was speaking out against illegal immigration to a crowd of 150 people at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was invited by a newly formed student organization called Youth for Western Civilization that opposes what it calls radical multiculturalism on university campuses.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE)
SYLVESTER: But when the protesters tried to enter the building, security said no, because the room was at capacity. According to campus police, the dissenters continued to push forward and did not leave even after verbal warnings. The police disbursed pepper spray into the air. A security spokesman said one of the officers activated a Taser but it was not directed at any specific person.
SYLVESTER: Watch what happens here. Two minutes into Tancredo's talk two women stand up with the banner and disrupt his speech.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Constitution will protect me.
SYLVESTER: Seconds later, someone breaks a window. At that point, Tancredo's speech is called off. He later said that while the protesters had a right to free speech, so did he.
TOM TANCREDO (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: You can do it under the law; you can do it with respect and everybody walks away happy. You know the people who want to be protesting, they get to protest. They can hold up their sign and you know I get to say what I need to say and the people who came to hear me get to hear me.
SYLVESTER: The University's chancellor sent out a letter to students saying quote, "there's a way to protest that respects free speech and allows people with opposing views to be heard. Here that is often meant that groups protesting a speaker have displayed signs or banners silently expressing their opinions while the speaker had his or her say. That didn't happen last night. On behalf of our university community I called Mr. Tancredo today to apologize for how he was treated."
SYLVESTER: There were no injuries and so far no arrests have been made, but an investigation by campus police is under way. And the chancellor says criminal charges will be pursued if they are warranted. The Division of Student Affairs is also investigating student involvement -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Lisa Sylvester.
Well coming up, President Obama tomorrow will make his first official visit to Mexico as Mexico struggles to win the war against violent drug cartels. Also "tea party" protests across the country against high taxes and Washington's role in state and local government. Governor Rick Perry of Texas tonight raising the possibility his state could leave the union. We'll be right back.
PILGRIM: Well, joining me now for more on today's "tea parties", also the growing movement by states to protect their sovereignty, we're joined by three of the country's leading authorities on constitutional law. Nate Persily, professor of law and political science at Columbia University; Professor Persily is also the editor of "Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy".
We have Kevin Gutzman, associate professor of history, Western Connecticut State University; and Professor Gutzman is also the author of "Who Killed the Constitution"; it's coming out in paperback this summer; I'm sure you'll want it for the beach. And Barry Friedman is a professor of law at New York University; and his new book is "The Will of the People" and it's out in September.
Gentlemen, I have a great panel tonight. We can get through a lot. Let's start with the "tea parties". I mean basically people want the federal government, saying they want the federal government off their backs and basically the watch word was taxes, but basically there was a bigger message here. What do you extrapolate from this?
PROF. BARRY FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well some people are angry of course. I mean the federal government taxes and soaks up those taxes and hands them back to the states. But I think the data -- and Nate would know better -- show that a lot of people are perfectly happy with the federal government having these funds, so you have to ask you know how representative are these "tea parties"?
PILGRIM: Professor Gutzman, what is your take on the "tea parties"? PROF. KEVIN GUTZMAN, WESTERN CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY: Well I think there's confusion among the public over the question where the taxes come from. Actually Milton Friedman (ph) showed long ago that it doesn't matter so much overall in the economy whether the government gets its money by taxing or by borrowing. That it still has the effect at suppressing economic growth. And so if people want to reduce the burden of the government on themselves what they have to be concerned with is federal spending not taxing or borrowing.
PROF. NATE PERSILY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, as Candy Crowley said at the beginning of your show that it's strange that there is this intense opposition, because people's attitudes on taxation this year are actually more favorable than they were a year ago. And what you're seeing is that there is real intense opposition as there historically has been in periods of American history, both to the size of the federal government and the fact that it's taking a lot of people's money.
PILGRIM: The stimulus bill and the whole debate over that certainly factors into this. This is a, you know a memory, it still stays strong on that whole debate with all the spending and the lack of opaqueness, transparency in the government. You know, Governor Rick Perry was -- attended a "tea party" rally and he made very strong statements about you know Texas being basically seceding if the federal government doesn't you know straighten out. now the Texas legislators -- legislature is considering a resolution to declare its sovereignty. Let's listen to what Governor Rick Perry had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I believe the federal government has become oppressive. I believe it's become oppressive in its size, its intrusion in the lives of its citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Now this brings up the whole Tenth Amendment issue and the Tenth Amendment -- we should put it up just for our viewers -- reads that "The powers not designated -- delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
So basically states now -- and we're seeing a real ground swell of states saying why do we have so much federal oversight of what we're doing. What do you make of this, Professor Friedman?
FRIEDMAN: Well so, you know the -- you know there have been a lot of these resolutions and again, people in State Legislatures are expressing unhappiness with what it is that the national government is doing. It's sort of ironic if you read the Tenth Amendment carefully, the language that you just had up on the television -- all it really says is everything the federal government doesn't have or the people don't have the states get.
They get everything else, so there's something ironic about the states stopping -- you know pushing their hands on the table and saying we want everything else that's left over, but it certainly shows a deep sentiment. You know there has always been two strains in American thought. One strain that wants to see a strong federal government and one strain that wants to see state authority and they keep clashing.
PILGRIM: You know, what's really interesting is the Texas resolution would like to prohibit any federal legislation that threatens civil or criminal penalties so the state doesn't comply. That's a real push-back, isn't it Professor Gutzman?
GUTZMAN: Well, it certainly is. And I think the ground of the problem here is that essentially people were sold a different constitution from the one we live under today. People never voluntarily ratified the frame of government that we live with now. In fact, the Tenth Amendment was meant to underscore the idea that federal setting before the amendment was implicit in the Constitution. That was that Congress would have only the enlisted powers in Article I Section 8 and a couple of others elsewhere in the Constitution. And everything else was to be left to the states.
In other words, there was supposed to be a heavy element of federalism. And as you might expect since the Constitution was written nearly after immediately the end of the revolution, people still insisted that local elections for state legislatures should be the most important political activity. And what we've come to have now is a system in which most decisions are made far away and elections made at the local level count for virtually nothing.
PILGRIM: I think you put your finger on this really because many Americans are seeing government as remote and getting bigger and states being basically under the thumb of the federal government. You're also getting a ground swell of popular sentiment.
Professor Persily, what do you think about this really grass roots gut feeling that's going on in the country?
PERSILY: Well, let's say first that the size of the federal government grew exponentially over the last eight years. It's not just since the recession. It's grown in size and spending and the intrusiveness in people's lives. But that is also the result of the fact that we're fighting two wars. We're fighting against pirates. We're trying to get a handle on immigration. We're trying to deal with the banking collapse. There's no surprise that the federal government is growing in capacity and power.
Also, as both my colleagues have said here already, this is an age-old question. We did fight a war over it. The issue of states rights and federalism, but it's also a story of waxing and waning. That, at times, we see the federal government grow, the New Deal, World War II. We see it contract and different politicians have an opportunity to take advantage of that.
PILGRIM: You know, I would like to actually -- since you brought it up, I would like to bring up the issue of the pirates. And it's really such a mesmerizing problem, actually. It's been debated at every kitchen table in the country this week. Professor Gutzman, I understand you have an opinion about how this actually works with the Constitution. Tell me what you think?
GUTZMAN: Well, there certainly is an age-old provision in the Constitution that in case of activity like this, the Congress can issue what are called letters of mark. That is, they can empower private individuals to take action against pirates. And so there's been some discussion in Congress, I know of doing this. And I think that's one solution to the problem we have now.
It seems that these ships are mainly unarmed because of concerns about insurance. And granting the captain's letters of mark would enable them to take defensive measures without having to call down the wrath of the U.S. Navy or certainly to await the U.S Navy's intervention once the captain has been seized.
PILGRIM: I can guarantee that at one dinner table, somewhere across this country, somebody said why are these ships not armed? Professor Friedman?
FRIEDMAN: Oh, I think we've all asked that question, right? And now Kevin maybe has helped us have an answer. The only problem with this, I mean, it's an intriguing idea, is this happened throughout the early wars in the country's history. But when you license people to go out and do this sort of thing, you also get international incidents that follow all of them. So we have a history as well of privateers taking over ships and prizes. And then we've got an international program on our hands.
GUTZMAN: That's why we entered into a convention in 1859 saying we wouldn't do this.
PILGRIM: Professor Persily, thoughts on pirates?
PERSILY: I'm against them as a general rule. There's going to be all types of proposals that I think are made by federal government. As I understand it, this is really just a very difficult problem for conventional navies to fight. And so we'll see maybe some unconventional ways for them to go about it.
PILGRIM: Gentlemen, you have to sort through the big issue tonight. Thank you very much for being with us. Kevin Gutzman, Barry Friedman and Nate Persily, thank you.
Coming up, more on tea parties and the nationwide anti tax and spending revolt. We'll assess the political impact. Also, a discrimination case brought by white and Latino firefighters. It took years to make it to the Supreme Court. We'll tell you why, next.
PILGRIM: More questions tonight about political influence on our judicial system. Those questions center on the case of white and Latino firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. And they claim they were denied promotions because of their race. This case took five years to go through the lower courts and critics want to know if politics played a role in delaying the case. Ines Ferre reports.
INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In July 2004, the firefighters' lawsuit was assigned to federal district judge Mark Kravitz. Kravitz was appointed as a judge by President George W. Bush. Nearly two years later on the eve of final oral arguments, he signed an order transferring the case to another judge.
GILBERTO GARCIA, CIVIL AND CRIMINAL ATTORNEY: What occurred here was a rarity that prior to oral argument on summary judgment motion, there is a transfer of one judge to another.
FERRE: Kravitz's office told us that judges do not speak publicly about why a case was transferred. Judge Janet Arterton, a Clinton appointee, was assigned to the case. She cited with the city of New Haven deciding there was no racial discrimination "because all the test results were discarded and nobody was promoted."
The firefighters took their case to the second court of appeals where last year a three-judge panel upheld the decision. That panel included Sonia Sotomayor, often mentioned in legal circles as a possible Supreme Court nominee. In a one paragraph summary, the panel affirmed the opinion of the lower court. In a dissenting summary, Judge Jose Cabranes, joined by give other judges, said the court had failed to grapple with questions of exceptional importance.
JOHN WILLIAMS, EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY: Judge Cabranes and his colleagues made it very clear that in fact the issues were way too important to be handled in a summary fashion like this and that indeed the summary matter in which it was handled was sort of the legal equivalent of sweeping something under the rug that shouldn't have been swept under the rug, regardless of where you come down on it.
FERRE: The dissenting judges recommended that the Supreme Court hear the appeal, which it will next week.
FERRE: And the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder recently filed a brief with the Supreme Court, siding with the city of New Haven but saying that the case should be sent back to the district court for further fact-finding, Kitty.
PILGRIM: You know, suddenly a lot of attention on this, a lot of briefs filed, right?
FERRE: It's a hot topic. And it's more than 25 briefs that were filed either in favor of the petitioners or the respondents.
PILGRIM: All right, well we'll keep posted. Thanks very much, Ines Ferre.
A reminder tonight to vote in tonight's poll. Do you believe it's time to take a stand on high taxes imposed on Americans by federal, state and local government? That's a yes or no vote here. Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.
Coming up, the political impact of today's nationwide tea party. Is anyone listening to frustrated Americans? Also, President Obama heads to Mexico to discuss the deadly drug violence threatening this country. And we'll discuss those stories and more with three of the country's best political minds.
PILGRIM: Joining me now are three of the best political analysts in the country. They are all CNN contributors. We're joined by Republican strategist and former White House political director Ed Rollins. Columnist for the "New York Daily News" and the host of the morning show on WWRL, Errol Louis. And Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman.
Gentlemen, nice to be with you on this tax day. Let's talk about these tea parties. Ed, we saw basically a ground swell. It's being characterized as a ground swell of protests about taxes. Some say it's not a grass roots movement. It's artificial, it's astroturf. What's your view of what is going on?
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First, I'm not a tea drinker. If this was scotch, I'd be a little bit more. It's a very serious movement. It's not orchestrated. It's in its infancy and I think it's been amazing over the last few weeks how it has grown. It's been the attention of all of the media today. And I think a lot of people are not as concerned about their taxes as they are how are we going to pay for all these spending programs? And obviously, there's going to be more taxes coming. And I think that's the issue here, is it's sort of your way of saying Congress, pay attention.
PILGRIM: And you know, it is this broader issue about spending in the stimulus bill, of course, brought all of this to the fore when people look at these numbers mounting and really no transparency on the stimulus bill.
You know, it is -- because it's on tax day and people are paying their taxes, I think there's a little bit of an edge here about taxes. And now we have Grover Norquist with the No New Taxes pledge talking about the president, touting his policies of having resulted in tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans. Let's listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON NORQUIST, CREATOR, NO NEW TAXES PLEDGE: When you take a dollar from people who earned it and give it to people who didn't, you did not increase the number of dollars, you didn't increase income, you didn't increase jobs, you didn't increase wealth, you certainly didn't increase opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: You know, I mean, there's a certain amount of pushback on social engineering. They're saying some social engineering with tax cuts. Robert, your thoughts. ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the facts never get in the way of Grover Norquist's comments. And he's been using the same right wing talking points for 30 years.
Bottom line is today, President Obama did point out that his program put in place effective now, tax cuts for 95 percent of working families. Those tax cuts alone will create a million jobs. But the more important point to me is not this debate over whether today's protests were partisan inspired or not. That's really irrelevant but that the populous is standing with President Obama and the administration.
Poll after poll shows, in most recent "New York Times"/CBS poll showed 63 percent of America supports the Obama administration's approach to the economy versus Republican Congress. "USA Today" pointed out in their Gallup poll that in fact the country understands the need for big government and stands with that on a temporary basis.
PILGRIM: Do you agree with that, Errol?
ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Yes, I mean listen, this isn't 1980. This isn't 1979, where you have top income marginal tax rates around 70 percent, 65 percent. This is not something that I think people feel acutely. I think this question of spending though, it is a debate. It is a debate worth having because there actually are a lot of people.
Nobody really covers this is in the media because it's kind of a passive, inherently felt thing by most Americans that we value our air traffic controllers and our national highways and our navy and all of the other things that taxes pay for. The country from my point of view asks me to do very little. They ask me to pay my taxes once a year. There's not really much else that they ask me to do. And I'm happy to do it. And I think a lot of people feel that way.
So when we get past that and try and find out what this disaffected core really wants, then I think you start looking to something kind of interesting about where this might lead.
ROLLINS: The statistics are very carefully. The same things that the polls said when we're out of this economic thing by three to one margins, they wanted us to go back.
ROLLINS: The concern today though is when you're spending trillions of dollars more than you have and it's not taking from one taxpayer and giving to another, it's taking from the Chinese. You're borrowing from another country. And we basically now are spending 50 or 60 percent more than we're taking in with a pattern going down the road here. That's a very dangerous place to go, Democrat or Republican.
PILGRIM: Part of the -- in covering the protests today, part of the discussion is how much burden this will put on future generations, how much debt this will create and what this is going to do to taxes further along the road.
You know, I would actually like to bring up what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. He talked about president's tax cuts for the majority of Americans. Let's listen to what he had to say first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The only thing I find amusing, is the -- as I said and the president said, the largest tax -- the tax cut that covers the most number of people in the history of this country, was proposed, and signed by this president. I think that's important for people all over this country to understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Now one of the things I want to bring out is that some people say these are tax credits in many cases, Robert.
ZIMMERMAN: The point simply is this. We understand, and no one is feeling comfortable, or secure about the level of spending that has to go on. This is a bipartisan point. Ed's point is exactly on target. Neither party, no American is in fact pleased to see the government have to spend this kind of money. But where is the stimulus going to come from, to make sure the bank is engaged in loans and help business move forward? Help develop new jobs. Obviously the government growth we're facing is a necessity, but it's got to be short term.
ROLLINS: The reality is this is not a tax cut and it's certainly not the biggest tax cut. The largest number of people may have received a credit or a sum of money coming back to them. But it's not money they paid in in most cases. So it's not a tax cut. Most of these people haven't paid taxes. This is redistribution either from those who have paid it or borrowing money. And I think to a certain extent, it's detrimental. And two years from now, are you going to do it again and again and again? Or is it a one-time deal?
PILGRIM: Any last thoughts on taxes?
LOUIS: The thought is, the theory if it works is that it is going to be strictly temporary, that it's not supposed to last more than 24, 36 months. If the economy doesn't recover. If it turns out the Kanesians are wrong. If it turns out that some other remedy is needed, we'll know in short order, I think.
PILGRIM: I'd like to actually change topic. And President Obama plans to travel to Mexico tomorrow. We do have a new border czar, and I'd like to get your thoughts on whether we need a border czar, should there be more bureaucracy on this border issue? Will this be an effective measure? Robert, what are your thoughts?
ZIMMERMAN: I'm always concerned when we have the government appoint yet another czar to a position. This man has a very fine representation as highly respected, but the more important point here is making sure that the Obama administration makes border and port security a top priority. I understand of course the economy has to remain a top -- a critical, essential priority for our government.
But that shouldn't stop us from focusing on border and port security. Hopefully, this czar will play a critical role in doing so.
PILGRIM: What do you think?
LOUIS: To the extent that this administration is committed to comprehensive immigration reform, it wasn't clear that they were going to be, but now they said that they are. I think they get the message that it has to be borders first. I mean, if we've learned anything over the last year or so, we know that that's what the American people want, borders first. So this would be the logical place to start.
ROLLINS: The secretary of homeland security who basically has this responsibility, she has immigration and border control under her. We need to enforce the laws that are there today. We need to basically live up to the Congress's pass a build defense, which they're not going to do. This not campaign, this White House is getting too many czars and there's a real overlapping of responsibility.
PILGRIM: Do you believe there are too many czars? I mean, 9t's been a big topic of discussion on this broadcast.
ZIMMERMAN: It's a concern of mine because I think in many ways it undercuts the proper authority levels in government. But, you know, I'm more concerned about homeland security putting out reports about right wing extremists and left wing extremists. To me, the Bush administration should never commission such a report and the Obama administration never should have released it.
PILGRIM: You know what, Robert, we're going to get to that in just about two more minutes. And I'm glad you brought it up. So we'll be right back with that. We'll be back with our panel in just a minute. First coming up at the top of the hour, "NO BIAS, NO BULL" with Roland Martin, who's in for Campbell Brown -- Roland?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Kitty. Tonight, we're also talking about a story you've been covering, the tea parties or anti- tax protests taking place across the nation. We're going to take you live to one going on right now in Atlanta. And I'll talk to former Republican Congressman Dick Armey about the protest.
Also ahead, the crew of the cargo ship Alabama, they're on their way home, a week after their ship was attacked by U.S. pirates. We'll have the latest on that, plus we'll preview the president's trip to Mexico and get a closer look at the chaos being caused by that country's violent and deadly drug cartels -- Kitty?
PILGRIM: We look forward to it, thanks very much, Roland Martin.
Still ahead, more on those right wing groups. We'll be right back with that. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
PILGRIM: We're back with our panel, Ed Rollins, Errol Louis and Robert Zimmerman. Robert, we just broke off. You were talking about the Department of Homeland Security issuing a warning law enforcement officials about a rise in what they're calling right wing extremists. And they're drawing some weird parallels. Economic recession, first black president, unhappy war veteran and connecting dots. What's your thoughts on that?
ZIMMERMAN: Also, the Department of Homeland Security had commissioned a report focusing on the growth of right wing extremists and left wing extremists. And the Bush administration was wrong to take that position to the report. And the Obama administration was entirely wrong to release it.
Extremists are not defined by philosophy, they are defined by their murderous tactics. And we're talking about people who are essentially murderers and terrorists and it's not about philosophy. It's about their behavior. And that should be focus. It was entirely off base and I think very, I think misleading and very defamatory to start dealing with liberal or conservative philosophy.
PILGRIM: We have just a few seconds left and I really would love to get to the whole issue on pirates which has been really consuming the country this week. Ed, thoughts and what's happening here and what should be done?
ROLLINS: We can't allow it to continue. Arm the ships either with private contractors who can shoot like Navy seals or what have you. But I think the bottom line, the president did the right thing last week, the Navy seals did. You have to stop it. We can't have international traffic held up by these people.
PILGRIM: You know, we had our constitutional scholars on earlier in the show talking about letters of mark and saying that this was a legitimate tradition. What do you think of that?
ROLLINS: Well, we used to hang them. But at the end of the day, I think if you leave a few in the water as we did last week, it will diminish them.
PILGRIM: Errol, your thoughts on this?
LOUIS: The other side is of course is that falls under what's called universal jurisdiction. Any country anywhere in the world can bring these people to trial. And international effort to do something akin to that to do enforcement, but also to make clear there will be no safe haven anywhere in the world, I think starts to put the movement on it you need. The United States to do it alone is probably not the right way to go.
PILGRIM: You know, it's often so also hard to get the political will on an international group to get a common few point.
ZIMMERMAN: Even the French are fighting back. How much more proof do we need of an international response to pirates? Even the French are stepping up.
LOUIS: We've got a bunch of well-paid diplomats not far from here at the United Nations. We have to put them to work.
PILGRIM: Do you think that it's the responsibility of the shipping companies to protect their employees?
ROLLINS: I personally think that they ought to basically have whatever insurance waivers that they need, that they can put arms on a ship. They do it on most ships. They are worried about insurance. They need to protect themselves.
PILGRIM: It certainly seems to be an economic consideration and it is a problem that has been somewhat overlooked for the past decade or so. Errol?
LOUIS: The people I've interviewed say that this has been steadily building for 10 years. That a lot of this chaos has been going off not only this particular coast but in the straits of Malacca and the straits of Singapore and until we look at it for what it is, which is an ongoing problem that has been kind of below the surface, so to speak, we're finally I think going to be in a position, now, to do something about it.
PILGRIM: Robert, do you think Obama has been strong enough on this issue?
ZIMMERMAN: I think he's handled it really masterfully, both in terms of giving the order and being low keyed in his response by giving the commanders in the field, giving directives to the navy and navy seals to take action when called for. I think he really handled it masterfully as president. And I think going forward, I think he's showing very shred presidential leadership by building international support to deal with this aggressively.
PILGRIM: Robert Zimmerman, Errol Louis, Ed Rollins, thank you very much.
Tonight's poll results, 91 percent of you believe it is time to take a stand against high taxes imposed on Americans by federal, state and local governments.
We do have time for some of your thoughts. So Janis in New York wrote to us: "Hi, Lou, there's only one clear choice for the new border czar it's Sheriff Joe Arpaio."
And Rick in Arizona wrote to us, "Dear Lou, tell me something. When did the people become the enemy? Thanks for all you do."
And Teresa in Washington: "Lou, I would have participated in the tea party by sending tea bags but I couldn't afford the tea bags. My economy is not working."
And Kyle in North Carolina wrote to us: "I wait every day to see your show, Lou. Maybe our lawmakers need to do the same to know what is important to Americans, thanks for the truth." We love hearing from you, send us your thoughts. Go to LouDobbs.com. And thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow. For all of us here, thanks for watching, good night from New York.
"NO BIAS, NO BULL" starts now. And in for Campbell Brown is Roland Martin.