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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Obama Invites Professor Gates, Police Sergeant Crowley to White House; Swine Flu Outbreak Worsens; President's Sinking Poll Numbers

Aired July 24, 2009 - 19:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Good evening, everybody. President Obama retreating from his assertion that Cambridge, Massachusetts police acted stupidly when they arrested the black Harvard professor. President Obama acknowledged he contributed to the media frenzy, as he put it, but he made no apologies. We'll have complete coverage.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control now say all children in the United States should have a flu shot as the deadly swine flu outbreak is worsening.

Law enforcement agencies have lost an international manhunt after a U.S. Border Patrol agent was murdered in cold blood on our Southern border.

And three of the best political analysts in the country join me to discuss the president's sinking poll number, the delay in his health care plan, and his clash with police.

But first, the president today trying to defuse that controversy over the arrest of black Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. President Obama acknowledged he could have, as he put it, calibrated his words differently when he said the Cambridge Massachusetts police acted stupidly.

President Obama said he has spoken with the officer who arrested Gates, Sergeant James Crowley, and found him to be an outstanding officer. President Obama, however, did not apologize to the sergeant, nor to the Cambridge police, as police unions now demand. President Obama also talked with Professor Gates. Dan Lothian has our report from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It wasn't quite an apology, but President Obama tried to put out a wildfire that was burning out of control, placing a five-minute phone call to Sergeant James Crowley.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up. I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley, specifically. And I could have calibrated those words differently.

LOTHIAN: Words the president uttered at his Wednesday prime-time press conference.

OBAMA: The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.

LOTHIAN: In his first sit-down television interview, Crowley said he never wanted to take such drastic action.

SGT. JAMES CROWLEY, CAMBRIDGE POLICE: I was continuously telling him to calm down during this whole exchange, because I really didn't want this either. Nonetheless, that's how far Professor Gates pushed it, and provoked, and just wouldn't stop.

LOTHIAN: The president now concedes that his good friend, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., also played a role in how all this played out.

OBAMA: There was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.

LOTHIAN: This came just hours after a group of police officers in Massachusetts made it clear what they wanted to hear from President Obama.

STEVE KILLIAN, CAMBRIDGE POLICE PATROL OFFICERS ASSN.: I think when the time is right, they should make an apology to us. I think the president should make an apology to all law enforcement personnel throughout the entire country, who took offense to this.

LOTHIAN: The president admitted that this controversy was taking attention away from his top domestic priority, health care reform. Beyond smoothing this over with the arresting officer, Mr. Obama said he hopes this becomes a teachable moment.

OBAMA: Where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other, and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: So, the White House says the president did make a phone call to Professor Gates. That it was a positive discussion and that he invited him here to the White House to meet with Sergeant Crowley at some point in the future.

I should point out, Lou, that earlier in the day when the president did also speak with Sergeant Crowley on the phone, they all discussed object how they could get together here at the White House and have a beer.

DOBBS: Dan, the president referring to a teachable moment. When it seems clear that it was a moment in which the president, at least as he expressed himself today, is the one who needs to learn.

LOTHIAN: Well, perhaps this could be a teachable moment for the president as well. Those officers who came to the microphones this morning said that the president did a couple of things. First of all, they thought that when he used the word stupidly that that was the wrong word to use. But they also felt that when he started out those comments the other night by saying he did not have all the facts, that the next thing he should have said is, I have no comment.

DOBBS: Right, Dan, thank you very much. Dan Lothian. We'll see whether or not the lesson holds.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

DOBBS: The black police officer who was with Sergeant Crowley at the time, at home of Professor Henry Louis Gates strongly, strongly defended his colleague. Sergeant Leon Lashley says he fully supports Sergeant Crowley's actions. When he spoke with our Don Lemon in an exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. LEON LASHLEY, CAMBRIDGE POLICE: Every time we get into a situation, we are subject to being second-guessed as to why we did something. Or should we have done something differently? Coming after the scene, that can be done. You can always say, OK, we could have done something better. We could have done it this way. But right there on the spot, that's what happened and from what I've seen - and I was there - he did nothing wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Sergeant Lashley said he supports Sergeant Crowley 100 percent. Don Lemon, by the way, will be joining us here later in the broadcast with a lot more on this controversy; joining us live from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The White House today declared President Obama will continue to promote his health care plan despite the Senate's decision to delay a vote until, at the earliest, this fall. Meanwhile, there are new indications the House of Representatives is struggling to pass any kind of health care legislation.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, however, says he's confident the House will pass legislation before August 1st. He told National Public Radio that House leaders have declared they will have a vote next week.

The showdown over health care, one reason the president's poll numbers are sinking. Another reason is rising concern about the economy, a worsening unemployment rate. Bill Schneider has our report.

Bill, what do you make of the president's descent to below 50 percent in two polls as of today?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, suddenly the president finds himself being challenged by Republicans and some Democrats. And one reason, just what you said, his approval rating has dropped. In June, our polls of polls show the president with a job approval rating of 62 percent. And now, well, in mid month it was 56. A couple of new polls say below 50. We also have a poll of polls on the president's handling of health care; 47 percent approve of the way he's handling health care. That's nearly 10 points lower than his overall rating. The president is more popular than his policy, which explains why he's spending so much time making his case. Now, what about the president's statement when he said this on Monday?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses and breaking America's economy. And we can't afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: But it is about him. He's got to know the best chance he has of passing health care reform is to make it about him. The public is not sure about the policy. But they do not want to bring the president down. And the more it's about him, the more he's likely to win -- he claims we have to act now because the country's been waiting for health care reform for decades.

Now, here's a Gallup poll just out today. And what it shows is, a total of 71 percent of Americans, the top two figures added together, want Congress to pass health care reform. But only 41 percent demand it be done this year. After waiting for decades, a lot of Americans think they can wait a little longer and get it right.

The urgency is being driven by politics. The first year in office is when a president is best positioned to get things done, like health care.

You know, Lou, a president's job approval number is the Dow Jones industrial average of Washington. When it's high, he has clout. When his numbers drop, he loses power. And the decline in his ratings are a message. He better act now before it's too late, Lou.

DOBBS: He is only now, in these two polls, that is the Zogby poll, which came out today, the Zogby Interactive poll, the Rasmussen Reports poll, in those two polls 48 percent and 49 percent. He's only 7 or 8 points above Bill Clinton in the midst of his descent in 1993.

SCHNEIDER: And that's certainly a warning because everyone knows, certainly his party knows, what happened to them, as well as to President Clinton, in the first two years, because of the failure of health care reform.

One thing a lot of Democrats might want to say, we don't want the same thing to happen to us, and to this president. And they want to show a record of achievement. That could lead some Democrats to support the president. Because the policy, itself, Americans still want health care reform, but the urgency is not as great as the Congress and the president are making out. They want to get it right.

DOBBS: They want to get it right. The president said he's now, quote, unquote, "OK, with a delay". Yet we are a country that he himself acknowledged - a government that he himself acknowledges - that is out of money, a $2 trillion - think about this - a $2 trillion federal budget deficit this year. There is no way in the world that any further expense can be justified for any program.

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's why he's making the argument so strongly that this is a way to bring the deficit down. He says he's not going to sign anything that increases the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office says that's exactly what the congressional plan being considered will do. So the president is demanding that it be deficit neutral.

DOBBS: The clash that -- and the controversy that he created with his statement that the Cambridge police acted stupidly, that appears to be a negative for the president. Would it be likely in your judgment, with your experience, your insight, to further put pressure on his poll numbers?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think most people probably believe -we have no evidence of this, but they probably believe that it was a rash thing for the president to say. I'm not sure that counts nearly as much as important issues like the economy, the health care plan, the real substantive pressures that Americans feel under right now.

DOBBS: All right.

SCHNEIDER: And he also says he was a friend of Gates, so that may allow some people -give some people a reason to make allowances.

DOBBS: All right. We'll see what happens, very quickly. Thanks, Bill Schneider.

In other news tonight, the ousted leftist president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, today arrived at the border of Honduras. He vowed there, to reclaim his position as the leader of Honduras. Zelaya is a close ally of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. He took a symbolic step into Honduras, from Nicaragua. He was surrounded by photographers and reporters. But he didn't go any farther. He said out of the respect of the principles of the Honduran military, which by the way, threatened to arrest him if he did set foot in Honduras.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tonight called Zelaya's actions reckless.

Still to come, much more on the president's role in the showdown over the arrest of a black Harvard professor by Cambridge police.

Also tonight, more than 100 million Americans could contract the deadly swine flu virus over the next two years.

And new information tonight in the investigation into the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent on our border with Mexico.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now for more over the controversy over the arrest of the black Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, "Boston Globe" reporter Tracy Jan; she's been following the story since it broke.

Tracy, it's good to have you with us.

TRACY JAN, "BOSTON GLOBE": Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: The president today talked about -- he referred to a conversation with Sergeant James Crowley. He referred to a conversation with Professor Gates. What do you know about either of those conversations?

JAN: I know he invited them to the White House for beers and to hash things out. I think both men were amenable to that. I know Sergeant Crowley has said that he had a really good conversation with the president. It was nice to hear from him. I feel like it has gone a long way towards making amends with the police as a whole.

Professor Gates actually just sent me a message two minutes ago, by e-mail. He is on his way to California right now. He said he was very pleased also to hear from the president and is agreeable to meeting with Crowley. He said he suggested that first earlier this week, and said it's time to move on.

DOBBS: It's time to move on, but yet this began with a joint statement from both Professor Gates and the Cambridge Police Department. And the next thing that happened was Professor Gates lashing out, if you will.

JAN: That's right. Professor Gates basically had said the police report that was issued was wrong. And he gave his version of the story, which previously had not been aired. So I feel like that's why he had -- he said what he said.

DOBBS: The police association had demanded an apology from the president. Do you think that demand is still in place?

JAN: I don't think so. I actually -- one of the police union leaders spoke with us earlier today. And he said that the president's call, again, to Sergeant Crowley had gone a long way towards mending that feeling. So I think they're ready to move on as well.

DOBBS: What is the general reaction in the community, particularly in Cambridge, if not Boston proper, to this controversy and the assertion by the president saying that the Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Department acted stupidly?

JAN: Right. I think some residents are very defensive of the Cambridge Police Department. We have talked to some who say they have had good interaction with them. I believe the feelings are somewhat split along racial lines. Some do have problems with their interactions with police, in general, not saying Cambridge specifically. But they have talked to us about previously being profiled. And they're happy this brought it to light on a national, worldwide level, actually, this brought this conversation to such a high profile.

DOBBS: Would you consider this to be an instance of racial profiling?

JAN: I cannot say that. I wasn't there myself. I'm not going to make -

DOBBS: No.

JAN: Go ahead.

DOBBS: No, but I'm just saying, based on what we know, from both individuals, the fact that a neighbor called in a complaint that possibly a home was being broken into, and the police responded, what is the basis for any claim that it's racial profiling?

JAN: Well, from the professor's previous statements, I think there are people that do think that there was. But other folks have called us and strongly defended Sergeant Crowley and saying he was doing what a policeman is supposed to do, responding to a call. And it escalated from his interaction with the professor.

DOBBS: All right. Tracy Jan, thank you very much, from "The Boston Globe".

JAN: Thanks.

DOBBS: I'm going to have a few thoughts about the Gates case and a number of other issues. So please join me on the radio Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show, 2 to 4 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 Radio. In New York City got to LouDobbs.com to get the local listing in your area.

Also, you can follow me on "Lou Dobbs News" on Twitter.com. A few thoughts tonight.

Still ahead, we'll have much more on the firestorm over the president's comments about the Cambridge Police Department. The president now saying he wishes he had recalibrated some words.

OBAMA: I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: What's next, and why World Health Organizations are underreporting swine flu cases even as the number of cases rise, and rise dramatically. That special report is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A major lettuce grower in California has recalled 22,000 cartons of lettuce because it may be contaminated with salmonella. The lettuce was harvested between June 25 and July 2. Sold all across the country, all across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico under the brand Tanimura and Antle. So far, no illnesses have been reported. The company says lettuce bought after July 23rd is OK to eat.

The World Health Organization said the swine flu, today, has spread to almost every country in the world and the number of victims could reach 2 billion. That's 2 billion. But the WHO has stopped asking countries to report swine flu now. They say it's nearly impossible to keep track of the statistics. Among those most vulnerable to this virus, of course, are children. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates up to 40 percent of Americans could contract swine flu over the next two years and several 100,000 could die if vaccines are not successful. The CDC today said all U.S. children from age six months to 18 years should get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. But that vaccine will not prevent swine flu.

DR. SRI EDUPUGANTI, EMORY UNIV. HEALTH SCIENCES: This is definitely a challenge for us. We are in a race against time because we are preparing for the fall and the fall is almost around the corner.

PILGRIM: In a Brevard County, Florida, several summer camps have reported swine flu outbreaks. Debby Thompson of Florida is the mother of an 11-year-old camper who's come down with swine flu.

DEBBIE THOMPSON, MOTHER OF SWINE FLU VICTIM: The coughs turned into a fever of 102, and then with nausea, and great fatigue.

PILGRIM: The Brevard County Health Department are on the watch for more outbreaks.

BARRY INMAN, BREVARD COUNTY HEALTH DEPT. : It usually hits suddenly, though. Usually you have a fever, you have a cough, you have a sore throat, you have malaise, where you are just not feeling very well, that sort of thing.

PILGRIM: U.S. health officials admit they're trying to find the magic vaccine against swine flu.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Trying to find out whether the standard dose given once or twice, versus a higher dose, given once or twice, gives you the level of a response that you know is predictive of protection. Once we find that out, then we'll know what to administer to the people when the decision is made to administer it.

PILGRIM: U.S. tests on swine flu vaccine are expected to start shortly. And the estimate is more than 100,000 doses will be available by mid fall. Until then, the CDC advises people to get vaccinated for the seasonal flu.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now medical experts have told us pretty much any flu case during the summer season is swine flu. They expect the seasonal flu to begin again in the fall, and in the United States, sometime in September. Last week, the World Health Organization said countries should absolutely stop counting, reporting swine flu cases. It's simply impossible to keep track of it at this point, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, I have to say that sounds like nonsense. Because they have been asking for reporting throughout. It sounds, frankly, bizarre to say, quit counting because we can't count.

PILGRIM: You know, if you recall the World Health Organization back in the spring was very slow to declare a global pandemic and came under a lot of pressure to do that.

DOBBS: Now they're saying 2 billion people?

PILGRIM: Right. So, they seem to not have a handle on exactly --

DOBBS: What are the doctors saying about this business of not reporting the flu? I mean it sounds, frankly, let's say it very clearly. It sounds like they're trying to avoid a public alarm, but in so doing are creating a lot of questions.

PILGRIM: The test kits doctors have in their offices basically will test for a flu. But it will not be able to differentiate between the two different flues. They have to send that out, that sample out, and they're actually not doing that at this at this point.

DOBBS: Any reason on the part of the doctors? What do they think about this?

PILGRIM: They just assume it's swine flu at this point.

DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much, Kitty.

Up next here, the president's health care plan is in trouble on Capitol Hill. It could be a defining moment for his agenda.

And President Obama tries to defuse the controversy which he, in part, exasperated, of the controversy and the arrest of the black Harvard professor. One of the police officers at the scene strongly defending his colleague.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LASHLEY: I said, oh, here we go again, they're going to have to do -- somebody's pulling out the race card, saying, this is going to be an issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: More on this exclusive interview, here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: President Obama today trying to defuse a controversy to which he contributed, perhaps unintentionally, over the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. The president telephoned Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Sergeant James Crowley. He was the officer who arrested Gates. The president also called Professor Gates. The president saying he believed both men may have overreacted.

One person we haven't heard from until now is the police sergeant who was also at the scene and who is black. Don Lemon talked exclusively with Sergeant Leon Lashley. Don joins us now from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. Good evening to you, Lou.

I want to start with this, this is some breaking news that is just in to CNN. I just reached out to Professor Henry Louis Gates, through e-mail and I asked him, I said, are you OK with all of this, meaning the president speaking out today?

And he said, "Yes, I was very pleased the president called me today and pleased that he propose I meet with Sergeant Crowley at the White House, since I offered to meet with him since last Monday. I'm eager for this to be used as a teaching moment to improve racial relations in America. This is certainly not about me."

Moments after that, Lou, I got a phone call from his attorney, Charles Ogletree, who responded this way when I asked, I said, are you OK with this? And what would you like to say? And he said to me, he goes, "I applaud the president's intervention and I look forward to working this out with all parties amicably." I said, "Are you going to sue?" He said, "It depends on the response from everyone involved and as how we will proceed in all of this."

As you mentioned, Lou, I did speak with one of the guys who was there at the press conference today, and one of the guys, more importantly, who was there when this all went down, a black sergeant, who's been on the force for 26 years. He strongly stood by his colleague and he also talked about what went down that day and some of the disturbing things that he claims he witnessed while this was all going down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (On camera): When you were at the scene, what did you hear him say?

LASHLEY: I heard it coming - you know, this is how a black man -- very loud, very loud, this is how a black man is treated in America. A white woman calls the police and he gets arrested for breaking into his own home.

LEMON: Does that disturb you to hear those words?

LASHLEY: Yes, it does. It really does. LEMON: What did you think at that moment?

LASHLEY: I said, you know, here we go again. We're going to have to do somebody's putting out the race card saying this is going to be an issue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: And that was after the president spoke and the president called and spoke with Sergeant James Crowley. That sergeant's name is Leon Lashley. He was there when the president called, Lou, and he said when Sergeant Crowley said, hey, the president's on the phone, nobody believed him, they thought he was joking and then they realized it was true and they said that they were happy after that, that the president spoke out and they hope that some good comes to this and that they actually get to go to the White House, sit down with everyone and talk it out.

DOBBS: It's a remarkable controversy. Is the -- is there -- did you sense any bad feelings toward President Obama for his remarks? Because, the police association, the police unions have called for an outright apology. What is the emotional sense that you have of what is happening with the Cambridge police department, right now?

LEMON: Lou, there were absolutely some bad feelings. When I got here yesterday, you could feel it. The tension was in the air, the police commissioner told me that morale was very low. When I spoke to these guys today, before the president called, they thought that it was a rush to judgment and he should have waited for all the facts. And one of the Black police officer, a woman police officer, her name is Kelly King, she said, I supported the president. I voted for him, but I don't support him and I won't vote for him now.

I think they may be reconsidering this because they feel that at least now there may be some resolution in all of this. So yeah, there were some bad feelings towards the president. And they said, not only the president, they feel in those initial remarks, did he single out the sergeant, the officers here, but police officers all across the country -- Lou.

DOBBS: All right, Don, thank you very much. Don Lemon, appreciate it.

This controversy is the subject of our "Face-Off debate." Now joining me, radio talk show host, Joe Madison, WOL in Washington of SIRIUS/XM Radio. Radio talk show host Andrew Wilkow, also SIRIUS/XM.

Gentlemen, great to have you with us.

Andrew, let me start with you. It sounds like the president, who, I don't think anyone would argue, misspoke. Let's keep it as gentle as we can, misspoke. But, it sounds like he's trying to reconcile a mess to which he acknowledges today that he contributed to. That's a positive, isn't it?

ANDREW WILKOW, SIRIUS/XM RADIO: I'm kind of shocked that a guy with such great oratory skills, being a congressional law professors would claim guilty until proven innocent. I mean, "I don' t have all the facts, but the police acted stupidly?" Come on. There's not enough minutia for the president to deal with that he had to step into this one?

DOBBS: Joe Madison, your thoughts? We're sitting here -- the president, today, acknowledging -- he said it sort of interestingly. He continues to believe that Professor Gates did not effectively behave well. I didn't hear him say that the first time. Did you?

JOE MADISON, WOL IN WASHINGTON, D.C.: No, he didn't say it the first time. He clarified it, I think, in Cleveland. But, I think your notes will show when I talked to your produce earlier today, even before the president went into the press room, that this is a learning moment.

The president clearly blew it. Gates probably overreacted. I may have done the same if I had a cold and had gotten off a long flight from China. I think, for example, when I looked at the law in Massachusetts, the police really would not have had a case if he -- if they had not dropped the case on disorderly conduct, because according to a '76 decision, no matter how verbally abusive a person might be, you cannot find them guilty of disorderly conduct.

So, all the way around, three people made mistakes. And the one thing I do applaud the president, is that he now has come forth and says, let's defuse it. So the question is, where do we go as a people, as a country from here. And don't let this one incident -- and I'll conclude with this, absolve the problem of racial profiling, nationwide.

DOBBS: Yeah, you know, Joe's just gone to an issue that is difficult here, because on its face, Andrew, is this racial profiling and what debt do we owe the president of the United States for there being a very close national media examination of the events that happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts?

WILKOW: You know -- we hear the Democrats saying that the stimulus money is going to keep cops on the streets during Election Day. They talked about cops this and cops that. And his immediate reaction is to throw the cops under the bus. To me, this sounds like a way of, you know, boosting the stock of "Race Baiting Incorporated."

I mean, we elected the first Black president. The NAACP is passing climate change resolutions. And you know, it seems like we're -- for some people, they're never going to get -- as long as there is money and attention and votes invested in race baiting, the race baiting is going to continue. This seems to be the natural instinct of a community organizer that, well, it's got to be the cops, got to be the cops, they acted stupidly. I don't know what really happened, but I know the cops are the bad guys, here.

MADISON: Well, I am one who has been profiled probably more times than you have, Andrew, and so has my son. And the point I'm making is that we're not baiting anybody. What we're asking is that we stop the profiling... WILKOW: Well, wait a second. Come on, you're shouting...

MADISON: And I'm not -- excuse me, I didn't interrupt you.

WILKOW: OK, yes, sir.

MADISON: And with all due respect, and I'm not suggesting that this was profiling. What I am suggesting is that two grown men probably got overanxious and excited at each other and neither could find the way to step back. And I think that's really what happened here, and I applaud the president for trying to defuse it. And that's what we've got to do...

WILKOW: But, why did he get involved in the first place? Why was the president of the United States even involved in the first place?

MADISON: Well, because he was -- look, because he was asked a direct question. And I agree, and the president obviously went back the next day in the Oval Office and said, uh-oh, I didn't use the right words. But, you know, if he had been asked a question about Afghanistan or a question about something else and if he didn't answer it directly, we would have criticized him for avoiding it. So, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

WILKOW: No, no, Afghanistan is not a question of innocent until proven guilty. He could have clearly said, you know, that's for the mayor of Cambridge to deal with or the police chief of Cambridge to deal with. There was no reason for him to step into this. This has nothing to do with the president of the United States. For him to forwardly admit that he doesn't know and then lay guilt at the feet of a police officer, to me, seems ridiculous for a constitutional law professor.

MADISON: Well, look Andrew, if that's the case, then neither the sergeant nor Professor Gates ought to accept an invitation to the White House.

WILKOW: Well, I mean...

MADISON: So, I mean, come one man.

DOBBS: I don't understand how that follow, Joe.

MADISON: Well, what I'm trying to say, if Andrew is saying, he shouldn't get in it, then maybe the president should come back on and say, you know, I saw Andrew on Lou Dobbs' show, and he's right, I should ought to stay out of it. I'm sorry, I even invited them to the White House. What he's trying to do is defuse a debate -- and quite honestly, we know in part for political purposes so we can start talking about health care.

DOBBS: By the way, and I'm not sure he wants us talking about health care, either, but maybe something else.

(LAUGHTER) WILKOW: I'll talk about health care.

DOBBS: Let's stick with this, if we may, because he talked about a teachable experience, which to me, frankly, sounds like an arrogant piece of condescension to all parties involved, on the part of the White House. I understand they got to spin this out. But, the teachable moment is here for a president who, you know, Andrew put it eloquently, he through the police under the bus.

It was a teachable moment for Professor Gates, who was arrogant, and frankly, aggressive with a police officer, and for Sergeant Crowley, who, teaching as he does, racial profiling with a tremendous record and as you articulated it, Joe, couldn't p find a way out of this mess. So, those are the teachable moments. For the nation, it should be -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

MADISON: No, the only reason I'm interrupting...

DOBBS: And by the way, you're interrupting me as you shamed Andrew for doing.

MADISON: I know, I know, I know.

DOBBS: Say you're sorry, Joe.

MADISON: Go ahead.

DOBBS: No, you go ahead.

MADISON: No, I was going to say, we don't know, because when I interviewed Professor Gates -- and I'll take him for his word, like you are taking the police officer for his word -- Professor Gates told my audience that Sergeant Crowley was arrogant and that's what started it.

DOBBS: Oh yeah, by the way, however you want to characterize Sergeant Crowley, what I didn't take one person's word over the other. But, what I did listen to was telling us, here on CNN, that sergeant Crowley was a rogue officer, which on its face is not borne out by the eyewitnesses there, including a Black sergeant, who was there at the house, nor a Hispanic officer, who was there at the house, at the same time.

But I want to say this, Andrew, I'm delighted to spend some time with you.

WILKOW: I had fun.

DOBBS: Joe, I am delighted to spend more time with you, even if you interrupt me.

MADISON: Well, thank you. We share in that responsibility.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Don't interrupt me, don't interrupt me. Joe Madison, Andrew Wilkow, thank you both for being with here.

Up next, we'll have more one the Gates arrest controversy. Also, an open and bitter battle between the White House and Congress over health care. Is it failing health care? We'll be talking about that with three of the country's best political thinkers.

And a U.S. Border Patrol agent has shot and killed, murdered on patrol, protecting the people and the border of the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now, three of my favorite political analyst, columnist, "New York Daily News," CNN contributor, Errol Louis; editor-at-large, CNN political analyst, "Time" magazine, Mark Halperin; former special assistant to former President George Bush, and former Vice President Dick Cheney, Ron Christie.

Thank you all for being here. Let me start, if I may, with you, Ron. The president seems to be bringing a teachable moment out of what was a controversy, up until about an hour ago -- or is it, in fact, a controversy that will continue beyond the teachable moment, so called?

RON CHRISTIE, CHRISTIE STRATEGIES: Well, I think this is going to be a story that's going to live on for a little while. I think in the short term, it's going to die down, but for the first time, people have looked at President Obama and the Teflon seems to be a little bit removed from him. And I think the president, I think, was very arrogant in the way that he said that the police department acted stupidly. The first thing you learn in law school is that you should never assume fact's not in evidence. The president made an assumption, he shouldn't have done it. He's the president of the United States...

DOBBS: He knew better than that, right? He said he didn't know the facts, but here's the judgment.

CHRISTIE: It's going to be something. And the last thing I would say is that for a president who campaigned to be post-racial and he wanted to move beyond race, he said he was too busy to wade into Tehran, when the Iranian students were protesting, but he immediately jumped in and said, oh, I have an opinion, here. I think it's going to follow him.

DOBBS: Errol?

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: A mistake, I think, no doubt as he, himself, acknowledged. I would have loved to have been there he walked into the briefing room to sort of dial himself back...

DOBBS: I would have wanted to be in the room before...

LOUIS: Yeah. Well, apparently he realized he had made a serious mistake and the distraction of it, really, was crippling almost, in a way. I mean, because we're not talking about the previous hour that preceded that had remark where he was laying out his hopes and his agenda and his rationale for health care reform, which is very much in danger and he needed and wants the nation's focus on...

DOBBS: And how was this day any different from any previous day, and in that respect?

LOUIS: Well, you know, I mean, if he can get himself back on track, he'll have a chance at his health care reform, but right now, a very unwelcome distraction. He cannot be the explainer-in-chief on race. I mean, that has been clear all along and he really put us right in the middle of it.

DOBBS: He confirmed it this week.

LOUIS: Indeed.

DOBBS: Mark?

MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE: I think the teachable moment and the person who's going to learn the first lesson, if he's lucky, is the president, because he cannot do all the things that Ron said, in particular. He cannot go out in front of reporters and wade in on an issue when he admits he doesn't know the facts, whether it involves race or not. This is a huge distraction for them. It will continue into next week. This president does not like what I call the freak show. He does not like the talk radio, 24-hour cable dynamic.

DOBBS: Tell me about it.

HALPERIN: He likes to say he can rise above it and he often does. This was a case, sometime between this morning, when Robert Gibbs said "we're done talking about this," and the afternoon when the president come out and talked about it, when the president had to realize, you can't always transcend it, sometimes you have to give. And that's what he did. I think it probably dies, unless there are new facts, by early next week.

DOBBS: Dying along with it, Ron Christie, his health care initiative, which, by the way, the national media, much of it liberal, styles his reform, which last I looked, was a positive and supportive description, rather than an objective and neutral word.

CHRISTIE: Sure, well, I think the president's health care initiative is on major life support, right now. The president has gone out and campaigned to the American people and said, we're going to have a bill that is not going to raise the deficit by one penny. The Congressional Budget Office has proven that's not true.

The president said he was very much for reforming the system, but the bill making its way through Congress, right now, has very little in the way of systematic and structural reform, doesn't reduce the cost of the health care delivery system and again, it doesn't ensure all American, which he said was his goal. So, I think he's in deep trouble on this one.

LOUIS: Well see, I mean, one thing about the current situation is you have a detailed critique of a nonexistent bill and so the president, it has...

DOBBS: Why in the world are they trying to pass a nonexistent bill?

LOUIS: Well, he's trying to get a bill so that they can get something done. I mean, look, the real dynamic here, I think, is he wants something passed before the end of the year, but really what that means is not so much the calendar year, but the midterm election season, when it heats up in earnest, will be very difficult to get anybody to take any chances.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: ...pushing this into the middle of next year?

LOUIS: Well no, I mean, listen, I've been saying, I don't know other people, I've been saying all along, what he doesn't get in the way of major reform on climate, on health care, what he doesn't get before the 2010 elections really heat up, he very possibly won't get it all, because 2011 signals the re-election season.

HALPERIN: There's two parts to his challenge: the inside game, Congress, and particularly within his own party, and the outside game of public opinion.

In the press conference, he did not make progress, as best I could tell, with either of those two audit dens. He is -- got to get, I think, past the point by saying, I'm -- sort of like that provision, I sort of don't like this provision or that provision. He's got to, I think, if he has a chance, he's going to have to get people in a room and say this is now what I'm for, can we pass this?

DOBBS: For the first time, two polls today, that is, Zogby's interactive poll and Rasmussen Reports poll, shows the president's approval rating below 50 percent. With the incident in -- with the Cambridge police department, he's facing some interesting headwinds, I think is the expression.

HALPERIN: I don't think those polls have him at the right place. I think he's higher. But the trend is certainly down and particularly people looking to him in terms of health care. He is going to have to succeed, I think, again, first in Washington in the inside game to get public opinion back up. I don't think he can rally public opinion, right now, just from a standing start.

CHRISTIE: I think Mark's right on that and I think the president's numbers are going down because he has so personally involved himself in the health care debate. He's made this health care issue about him. People always liked the president for his outstanding personality for what they perceive. Now, they're looking at the president in a policy issue area, and they don't like it.

LOUIS: As it heats up, he's already put out the call to Obama supporters to get a million names on a signature on a petition and so forth, and start putting pressure, the way Reagan used to do, on a recalcitrant Congress. That will, I predict, include Democrats as well as Republicans. The word is he's going into anybody's district he needs to. The battle hasn't really yet been joined on this, but he's going to have to whip his own party into line.

DOBBS: We'll see what happens starting, well, about Monday, I guess. Thanks very much, we appreciate it.

Up next, important new information about murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, murdered while protecting our border with Mexico.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A U.S. Border Patrol agent was murdered last night while protecting the people and the border of the United States. Border Patrol agent, Robert Rosas, is the first agent to be killed in the line of duty this year. The shooting took place in a remote mountain area in San Diego County which is, of course, right on the border. Casey Wian has the report from Campo, California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): About a mile over this hill is the United States border with Mexico. It was here that border parole agent Robert Rosas was shot several times and killed Thursday night while pursuing a group of suspected drug smugglers or smugglers of illegal immigrants.

RICHARD BARLOW, BORDER PATROL SECTOR CHIEF: Approximately 9:00 out in the east county in, Campo area, Border Patrol agent, Robert Rosas, was murdered by assailants at the international border.

WIAN: The Border Patrol would not allow us closer to the scene of the shooting because federal and local law enforcement agents were still investigating.

DARYL REED, BORDER PATROL SPOKESMAN: They were tracking a group and the group broke up and so, the agents broke up to follow them. They lost contact with him, and unfortunately by the time they found him, he had suffered from some -- from multiple gunshot wounds, and I believe he was pronounced dead on the scene.

WIAN: Border Patrol sources tell LOU DOBBS TONIGHT the suspected shooter or shooters fled across the border. U.S. officials have requested and are receiving assistance from the Mexican government. A cross-border manhunt has so far yielded no suspects. The FBI said they have evidence one of the suspects was bleeding and wounded.

KEITH SLOTTER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: We'd also like to seek the public's assistance for any information that individuals may have that would be helpful to the investigation in bringing those to justice who are responsible.

WIAN: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a statement saying:

"This act of violence will not stand, nor will any act of violence against the Border Patrol. I have directed that the full resources of the Department assist in the investigation to find and bring to justice those responsible for this inexcusable crime."

Agent Robert Rosas was 30 years old, a three-year veteran of the Border Patrol. He leaves behind a wife and two infant children. He's the first Border Patrol agent killed this year and the 40th since 1989.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the murder of agent Rosas -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much. Casey Wian reporting from Campo, California.

Up at the top of the hour, Rick Sanchez sitting in for Campbell Brown.

Rick, tell us all about it.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hey Lou, always good to see you. We're going to have the story on what's going on with Professor Gates and what the president said that he probably wishes he hasn't said. And have you seen this picture? This is a picture that came out the other day and it shows the Professor Gates there, but as it pans out, you see that officer right there, that African-American officer? And I know a lot of people were wondering, well, I wonder what he saw. I wonder what his reaction is. I wonder what story he would tell? Well, we've got a story tonight and you're going to be hearing it.

And then there's this story, there's this 74-year-old minister who has really just done some things that are just beyond the pale, Lou. This guy has said it's OK with him if he has -- sleeps with 8- year-olds. I mean, this is -- this is -- I had an interview with him, and unlike you, who's always so incredibly kind to me, I mean, the conversations you and I are always genuine, this guy yells at me, he calls me the anti-Christ. I mean, he goes on and on. I mean, you got to hear this. It's my interview with Tony Alamo and it's kind of a head turner.

Lou, back to you.

DOBBS: Well, Rick, what do you call him?

SANCHEZ: What do I call him?

DOBBS: Besides sick?

SANCHEZ: I would -- I would call him convicted and probably spending the rest of his life in prison, because that's what a jury decided today.

DOBBS: Rick, thanks a lot.

SANCHEZ: All right, my friend.

DOBBS: Our salute to our men and women in uniform is next, here -- "Heroes."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, in "Heroes," we honor Army Special Kyle Dunigan. Specialist Dunigan rescued two of his fellow wounded soldiers while under enemy fire. He was awarded the Bronze Star. Brooke Baldwin has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Specialist Kyle Dunigan, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

SPC KYLE DUNIGAN, U.S. ARMY: We don't just conduct PTs (ph), we learn how to lead PTs, instruct it, like we walk each other through the different exercises.

BALDWIN: Dunigan is in leadership training, the warrior leaders course, his first step in becoming a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army. Nearly one year ago, he returned from his first deployment as a combat medic.

DUNIGAN: We were in southern Iraq, going off to Baghdad, running like logistical convoys. So, we moved food, moved water, we moved fuel, building materials.

BALDWIN: in august of 2007, two months into his tour, insurgents attacked one of his convoys.

DUNIGAN: We were -- had just delivered one of our logistical convoys up to a base called Balad.

BALDWIN: A convoy of 50 military and contracted civilian vehicles.

DUNIGAN: I mean, you never see it coming. Sometimes you have no idea. Out of nowhere, you know, an attack kicks off, there's insurgents conducting a conflict attack on our convoy.

BALDWIN: The trucks were stopped at a highway overpass and exposed to enemy fire.

DUNIGAN: I was riding with the lieutenant at the time. So, we -- we moved to the front of the convoy to try to figure out what was going on.

BALDWIN: Two vehicles were hit, one by a roadside bomb, the other by an explosively formed projectile.

DUNIGAN: There was two wounded in action, and then there was the one KAA that was dead before I got there.

BALDWIN: Under small-arms fire, Dunigan treated his wounded soldiers while coordinating a MedEvac rescue.

DUNIGAN: I thought, OK, everything I'm training for is for this moment, right here.

BALDWIN: he was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his bravery.

DUNIGAN: We're just doing what we're supposed to do and we're just trying to help everyone.

BALDWIN: Brooke Baldwin, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Our thanks to Specialist Dunigan and all our brave men and women that serve this nation in uniform.

Up next, Rick Sanchez in for Campbell Brown.

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