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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Home from North Korea; Summer of Discontent; Health Care that Works?; Your Government at Work; Health Care Being Debated in Town Halls over Recess; Economy Experiencing Jobless Recovery; Halting Population Growth to Stem Environmental Damage

Aired August 5, 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.

Two American journalists released from prison in North Korea are home, but new concerns that their release will make North Korea even more defiant over its nuclear weapons program.

The White House and the Democratic Party lashing out at the rising number of Americans who are now critical of the president's health care proposals. That battle can turn into a summer of discontent. We'll have a special report.

And members of Congress facing new charges of hypocrisy -- spending $200 million on brand-new corporate aircraft for themselves just months after blasting auto company executives for using corporate aircraft -- we'll have that special report.

We begin tonight with the return of two American journalists from captivity in North Korea. President Obama today declared he's extraordinarily relieved at their release. North Korea pardoned them after former President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang.

The journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, flew home to California with President Clinton after spending five months in a North Korean prison. Laura Ling described what happened just before they were set free.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA LING, FREED AMERICAN JOURNALIST: We feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp and then, suddenly, we were told that we were going to a meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Well, Ling said that meeting was with President Clinton. The Obama administration insists it made no deals with Pyongyang to secure their release. Dan Lothian has our report from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm just not going to get into that right now. I don't have anything more to add on this at this time. This was a private mission. DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But, in fact, the government was deeply involved from the start.

AMB. JACK PRITCHARD, PRES., KOREAN ECONOMIC INSTITUTE: It was an official visit. It was sanctioned by the U.S. government. It was brokered behind the scenes by the U.S. government. This is, in name only, a private visit by the president.

LOTHIAN: A senior administration official says planning had been under way for months, but that the game changer came in mid-July, when Laura Ling and Euna Lee told their parents during phone conversations of an offer from the North Koreans. They would be granted amnesty if an envoy, like President Clinton, would travel to Pyongyang to secure their release.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we did is obviously informed Vice President Gore and obviously the State Department of the nature of that call.

LOTHIAN: On the weekend of July 24th, an official says national security adviser, General Jim Jones (ph), spoke with Clinton about his willingness to take on the mission. The former president pressed for two things. Clear communication that the mission would be purely humanitarian and that due diligence by the national security team would guarantee success.

"We were convinced this would be the result, said a senior administration official, and based on that, we could advise President Clinton that his trip was going to be successful."

On Monday, President Clinton flew to North Korea, met with President Kim Jong Il for more than an hour, followed by a two-hour dinner. Then, got what he came for. With the two journalists safely at home, President Obama finally spoke.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank President Bill Clinton. I had a chance to talk to him for the extraordinary humanitarian effort that resulted in the release of the two journalists.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Now, the state-run news agency in Pyongyang claims that former President Clinton apologized for the, quote, "hostile acts committed by the two journalists", but a senior administration official says that that's not the case and Robert Gibbs, a spokesman here at the White House, says it did not happen.

Now President Obama says that he does plan to sit down with former President Clinton to talk about his trip to North Korea and we're also told by a senior administration official that former President Clinton will be debriefed by the national security team. Lou?

DOBBS: And President Clinton showing a lot of class and constraint. He said nothing upon his return, whatsoever. Did he? LOTHIAN: He did not say anything at all. Perhaps he'll talk in the future, but letting today be the day where the family can speak out about enjoying, you know, their relatives who have returned home, talk about their experiences, and for now, he sort of stays in the background a bit.

DOBBS: Dan Lothian, thank you very much, from the White House.

President Obama tonight is facing rising criticism of his domestic agenda, particularly health care. Three Senate Democrats today said Republican opponents of that legislation are concocting what they call phony arguments. But critics are refusing to be intimidated, refusing to be silenced at town hall meetings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill the bill.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: President Obama blasting those critics, saying he will never give in. President Obama even accused cable television hosts of inflaming opposition to health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There are those who want to seek political advantage, they want to oppose these efforts, some of them cause the problems that we got now in the first place, and then suddenly they're blaming other folks for it.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: They don't want to be constructive. They don't want to be constructive. They just want to get in the usual political fights, back and forth. And sometimes that's fed by all the cable chatter on the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: The media, however watching over a president who is facing a tough challenge in confronting those critics. The latest opinion polls indicate the president's health care proposals facing strong opposition -- Bill Schneider with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Where do the people stand on health care reform -- divided. In our new CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, 50 percent favor President Obama's plan; 45 percent oppose it. Politicians pay attention to intensity and opponents of health care reform feel more strongly about it than supporters.

Opponent also say they're more likely to attend a public forum on the issue. Why are Democrats having so much trouble rallying support? Here's one reason. Solid majorities of Americans say they're satisfied with their health care and their health insurance. A whopping 71 percent are satisfied with both. There, the satisfied majority. How does the satisfied majority feel about health care reform? They're inclined to oppose reform, but may be persuadable.

OBAMA: If we do not act to bring down costs, everybody's health care will be in jeopardy.

SCHNEIDER: Critics warn that reform means too much government control over health care.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The Democrats believe that you've got to change the entire health care system in America, including the so-called government option, which we believe would lead to a government takeover of the health care system in America.

SCHNEIDER: Supporters warn that the status quo means too much control by insurance companies.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Congress and the president will remove the insurance industry from coming between the patient and his or her doctor.

SCHNEIDER: Would Americans rather have the government or insurance companies make difficult health care decisions? They're divided. Democrats prefer government; Republicans prefer insurance companies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Should health care decisions be made by government or by insurance companies? A lot of people hear that question and wonder, yikes. Those are the choices? Lou?

DOBBS: Yikes -- another poll out today from Quinnipiac, Bill, also showing a dramatic shift on the handling of the president's health care proposals from just a month ago. Forty-two percent disapprove; now 52 percent disapprove. That's a dramatic change. What's driving it, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well it certainly is dramatic change and it could reflect an increasing volume of criticism. Though, I should point out that that poll is somewhat more negative than the poll that I reported, which had 45 percent opposition. That was 52, and most other polls are a little bit less negative than that. So we'll have to see if that trend holds up.

But we are hearing that increasing volume of criticism, and let me also point out the one problem that supporters of health care reform have is that intensity problem. We're finding that about 45 percent of Democrats in our poll say they strongly favor the health care reform plan, now going through Congress, whereas when we ask Republicans their view, about 65 percent of Republicans say they strongly oppose it, so there's much more intensity on the negative side.

DOBBS: Is it fair, at this point, to say that despite all of these opinion polls, they're all dealing with one conundrum. That is that there is no real final shaped proposal before us with a -- with detailed parameters and costs.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Therefore, what is all of this disapproval and what is all of this approval about?

SCHNEIDER: There is no one single plan. The president let Congress shape the plan without coming out as the Clinton administration did, with their own -- what was more than 1,000-page plan that had a lot of specifics in it. What's making its way through Congress is just plans being passed and considered by various committees right now. That creates uncertainty and doubt on the part of a lot of Americans.

DOBBS: But people perfectly willing to respond either negatively or positively to something that doesn't exist. Bill thanks -- Bill Schneider.

The White House tonight is organizing its response to protests against the president's health care proposals. The president's political wing, Organizing for America, sent its members an e-mail ahead of a vice president event today, saying, quote, "stand with the vice president and against the angry mobs being directed by Republican operatives in Washington to disrupt events throughout the month of August."

A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, which runs Organizing for America, said the crowds are being transported to the town halls by, quote, "well-funded, highly organized groups run by Republican operatives and funded by the special interests who are desperately trying to stop the agenda for change the president was elected to bring to Washington."

Joining me now for more on all of this, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. Candy, assess, if you will, the administration's position, the Democratic Party's response to what looks to be some considerable opposition to their plans.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: People don't push back hard if things are going swimmingly. And I think those polls reflect what those who are supporting a sort of Obama-style health care reform are looking at. And they're saying, listen, about half the country is against this. So what's happened now when you see the administration's response to its political arm -- also, the health care arm of the SCIU (ph), a big union organization...

DOBBS: The Service Employees Union (ph).

CROWLEY: Yes. Has also put out a big memo to its -- those who are interested in health care, saying, listen, you can be sure to contact friendly members of Congress, tell them you want to come, inoculate your staff, tell them it might get very rowdy. Bring more people than the other side brings. Don't shout them down, but make sure that...

DOBBS: Well they are manufacturing things here? I mean that seems to be the charge. Are we hearing that the Democratic side is manufacturing things along with the Republican side?

CROWLEY: I think what you're hearing is a debate that is now less about policy and more about politics. Who can be louder, who can show up in force. Let's face it -- no matter how many town hall meetings there are, there are small groups of people. The vast number of Americans out there are not going to town hall meetings this summer, so they also have opinions, so this has become theater.

DOBBS: It is theater and where does it lead for the president? It -- where does it lead?

CROWLEY: Well, part of the problem here is that when you look at it in political terms, what the Democrats have determined is the more on the fringe you can paint these protesters at the town hall meeting, the better it is. Because it looks like the crazies are against it. And what the other side, who is opposed to Obama-style reform is thinking is that listen, the more we disrupt this, the bigger it looks, the more it looks as though opposition is really building up. So these are political aims that they have.

DOBBS: I love the exchange between one reporter and Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary. He was talking about manufactured opposition here and the reporter asked, well, what is the difference between the manufacturing of opposition when it's liberals. And he said, well, the Republicans seem to be bragging about it, is basically the answer. I mean we're having to split some very fine hairs here.

CROWLEY: It depends on which side you're on most of the time.

DOBBS: And if you're in the middle, which is where I live?

CROWLEY: Well, then it's an interesting time, isn't it?

DOBBS: You better believe it. Thanks a lot, Candy. Appreciate it.

Well you can join the debate on how the Obama administration and the Congress are doing. Go to CNN.com to cast your vote on how the president and the Congress are handling the economy, health care, and a number of other important issues, and then you can see the results here on CNN tomorrow evening 8:00 p.m. Eastern on the CNN "National Report Card The Second 100 Days".

Up next, more on the confrontation over the president's health care proposals. Members of Congress appear to have forgotten the showdown over those car company executives. They objected to those car company executives using corporate jets, do you remember? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Well, does Congress get it? Some critics say they don't -- those lawmakers ordering some brand-new corporate jets of their own. How about that? But they're only down about two trillion in the budget this year. We'll be asking questions no one else on television is asking here tonight. We'll find out what we can learn from Canada's health care system. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: As Congress and the president consider an overhaul of the nation's health care system, we continue to ask and answer some of the questions that a lot of folks in Washington aren't asking, nor even considering. Such as, how satisfied are Americans with our health care system and the answer is, as of right now, 83 percent of Americans are satisfied with the quality of the health care that we receive -- that according to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll.

In Denmark, satisfaction, however, is even higher. There, 90 percent are satisfied with their publicly funded system. It is a different story in Germany, 55 percent believe their system needs fundamental reform -- it too a universal national health care system. Critics unhappy with health care in the United States often point to Canada as a model. Canada has a single payer system that covers everyone. And most Canadians are happy with their health care -- Kitty Pilgrim with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the largest survey of health care ever, 92 percent of Canadians say they like their doctors so much they would recommend them to family or friends. In Canada, primary health care physicians are basically family doctors and handle everything through a private practice, physical, mental health, maternity, pediatrics, geriatrics, says an author of 18 books on Canadian health law.

LORNE ROZOVSKY, MEDICAL-LEGAL AUTHOR: This is not socialized medicine. The government does not provide doctors, does not provide hospitals. You go to whatever doctor you want, just as you do here and doctors can either take more patients or not take patients. It's up to them. And the same is true with hospitals.

PILGRIM: All Canadians have health coverage through the government, 70 percent of health care is publicly funded and 30 percent is privately funded. Each province runs its own health care budget, although the federal government supplements some provinces that are not as prosperous as others. It is a very cost-effective system -- only 10 percent of GDP compared to nearly 16 percent of the U.S. economy.

And Canada only spends some $3,895 per person a year, that's about half of the expenditure for the average person in the United States. But less expensive doesn't seem to imply less effective health care. In Canada, male life expectancy is 78 years versus the average of 75 years in the United States. Canada does have its problems, the most frequently cited, long wait times for some treatments.

DR. ROBERT QUELLET, CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: That's our biggest problem in Canada. We have a very good system. We have good quality, but we have wait times. And this is one thing we want to fix in our system, to fix that problem of wait times because it's unacceptable.

PILGRIM: More doctors would help. Canada has a shortage. One doctor for every 526 people compared to one for 418 people in the United States. Doctors are paid considerably less than their U.S. counterparts, but lawsuits are not as common in Canada and guidelines for damages were set back in 1978 by the Canadian Supreme Court. The Canadian Medical Protective Association pays damages and provides legal counsel for doctors who are sued.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, in a recent Canadian poll, 82 percent of Canadians said they believe their health care system is better than the United States. Health care and 70 percent of Canadians think their health care system is working well. Only 12 percent think the Canadian system should be more privately funded. Lou?

DOBBS: So there's actually less satisfaction with the Canadian health care plan in Canada than there is in the United States.

PILGRIM: Well, they like their doctors and they like most of the system. The longest...

DOBBS: I'm sorry -- go ahead.

PILGRIM: The biggest problem there is the wait time that they have to wait longer for their operations.

DOBBS: Right and obviously a number of Canadians come to the United States for procedures of all sorts. That's also an issue. They also have a fallback system, if you will. But interestingly, that ratio of doctors to the general population, one to 500 -- and I think you said 18 -- something in that order...

PILGRIM: Yeah.

DOBBS: ... that's far worse, 20 percent worse than the U.S.

PILGRIM: It's worse than the United States. They have a very big shortage of doctors, and that's a big problem and that's what causes some of the wait time -- that's the big issue. DOBBS: As everyone is struggling here for solutions and improvements in this system, all of these issues have to be confronted, one would think, by both the proponents and opponents of what is going on in Washington, D.C. These -- all of these are critically important issues.

PILGRIM: Yeah, Canada is trying to train more doctors and they're doing incentives to train. Everyone's grappling with how to fix the systems that they have, Lou.

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

Well we continue our look at health care systems and other nations tomorrow night. We'll be examining the quality of health care in the united kingdom.

Up next here, our economy could see recovery, soon. Also ahead, could the August recess sideline the president's agenda? That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate here tonight. And remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial. Let the record show no hands went up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: And not as many hands, apparently, will be going up in Congress should that question be asked of them. When Congress was asking and blasting the auto CEOs for using private jets, but they're down about two trillion right now on Capitol Hill and they're getting new corporate jets. Imagine that. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The House of Representatives has authorized the Air Force to spend $200 million to buy three corporate jets although the Air Force wanted only one. The Gulf Stream 550 luxury jets will be used to transport top officials and members of Congress. Lisa Sylvester has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember this -- the CEOs of the big three automakers exchanged jets for cars after they were attacked for using company planes to get to congressional hearings in Washington. Lawmakers said it didn't look good that they were flying in style, asking for bailout money.

REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK: Couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it.

SYLVESTER: Good question. A question Congress might ask itself as it faces a rising budget deficit. Lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee signed off to spend nearly $200 million to buy three new Gulf Stream jets as part of the defense appropriations bill. Those private planes are to be assigned to the Air Force units that about 20 percent of the time shuttle congressional members around the country and the world. Taxpayer watchdog Pete Sepp thinks it's ridiculous.

PETE SEPP, NATL. TAXPAYERS UNION: Apparently, Congress has created its own "cash for clunkers" program. Turn in your old jets and taxpayers will buy you new ones.

SYLVESTER: A congressional staffer familiar with the situation defended the decision by the House Appropriations Committee, saying that the squadron passenger airlift planes are outdated. Quote, "they have to replace a bunch of them, five to six of them. The decision was made to replace three this year instead of spacing them out." But Pentagon officials didn't ask for three Gulf Streams. They asked for only one.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We make it a point of asking for those things we need and nothing more.

SYLVESTER: The Pentagon frowns upon Congress adding to their inventory above what they've asked for, because Congress just considers the price of the plane, but not the operational costs of the crews, maintenance, and service.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: In addition to the three Gulf Stream planes, Congressional House Appropriators also agreed to provide the Air Force with five new C-40's (ph) the military equivalent of the 737 passenger plane. The Pentagon wanted only three. Now, we don't know which lawmaker asked for these additional planes.

With an earmark that type of information has to be disclosed, but this was not considered an earmark, but an expansion of an existing budget program. So, Lou, we just don't know who is behind this request. Lou?

DOBBS: Well, I think we can begin by just asking, simply, who is the speaker of the House and who is the majority leader of the Senate? Would that be a reasonable starting point?

SYLVESTER: Yes, and to be completely fair, most of the rank and file members of Congress are not flying in style in these luxury. But you hit it right on the head. It is the elite in Washington -- the leaders of -- in Congress and you mentioned some of them, but those are the folks who are generally flying in style here.

DOBBS: All right, Lisa, thank you very much -- Lisa Sylvester. I'm sure they're going to be reviewing all of that videotape of those auto company executives. Thanks very much.

Up next here, another look at tonight's top stories -- among those stories, the tearful homecoming of two American journalists set free by North Korea. Our "Face Off" debate tonight, what may be turning into a summer of discontent over the president's health care agenda. What's next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Controversy continues tonight over a poster from an unknown source, turning up all around the country now, depicting President Obama as the Batman villain, Joker along with the caption, "socialism". The poster drew blistering criticism from the left, particularly in Los Angeles, when it first showed up.

The president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable saying, quote, "depicting the president as a demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery. It is mean spirited and dangerous". Look at it however, alongside the same treatment of President Bush from last year's "Vanity Fair," the June 2008 edition titled "George W. Bush Comic Book Villain". Outrage was constrained is one way to put it.

Turning now to our "Face Off" debate -- all members of Congress will soon be on recess. We'll hear what their constituents think of the president's health care plans and economic policies. Will the August recess help or hurt the president's agenda? Joining me now, Mark Tapscott (ph) -- he is editorial page editor for "The Washington Examiner". He says the August recess is a real crossroads for this administration -- great to have you with us, Mark.

And Michael Crowley, senior editor for the "New Republic," who says the August recess could possibly help the president's agenda.

Let's start with you, Mark. Is it a problem?

MARK TAPSCOTT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, I think it's a very definite potential problem, because what we have seen here in the last two days is President Obama, who presented himself to the country as a consensus builder, in fact, putting himself at crossways with what appeared to be an emerging and strong majority against his signature program.

Saying that people who oppose you are part of the mob is not a winning strategy.

DOBBS: What do you think, Michael?

MIKE CROWLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, "NEW REPUBLIC": Well, I don't see the emerging majority of opposition. The CNN poll that just came out today shows that 50 percent of the country supports the plan, 45 percent opposes-- 33 percent oppose it intensely, but about 23 percent support it intensely. It's definitely not a broad consensus at this point.

You don't have a majority of opposition. And it's easy for opponents to shout at town halls, create drama, but I don't think that's necessarily representative of where the entire country is right now. It's still kind of up in the air.

DOBBS: And being up in the air, is there any danger here, and let me turn to you again, first, Mark, is there any danger here for the national interest, if you will, to rush through a health care bill that is not intensely debated, that is not scrutinized, and does not have substantial public hearings, so there is a broad public education along with it and a consensus.

TAPSCOTT: Yes, yes, and yes, Lou. You're exactly right.

It's never a good idea with any major piece of legislation to rush it through, particularly not when it affects so directly virtually every person in the country.

And I have to disagree with Michael. It's very clear that in the last six weeks, something has happened in the way of a ground shift of public opinion.

As people have focused on the details of this proposal, they've become very concerned about it, and they're very worried about what might happen to their insurance, their private insurance, which your own poll showed nearly 80 percent of people are very satisfied with it.

DOBBS: Is that a tremendous problem for the administration?

When I say a problem for the administration, I don't mean simply in getting through some sort of legislation. I'm talking about this moving it through in some sort of accelerated basis. There's some deadline here that has not really been explained, at least, in my opinion, adequately, to say there's some reason it has to be passed within three months.

Could you clear that up for us?

CROWLEY: I do think it has been a problem for the administration that there's a perception out there that they are trying to rush this, although, Obama can't win in some ways here, because people are saying, well, you don't have a plan yet, where are the details? And then they're saying, you're trying to rush it.

Actually, he wanted the House and Senate both to have voted on this plan by now, and couldn't get it done because this thing has slowed down. At then at the same time, people are saying, you're rushing it.

It's going to take a long time. This process has been playing out, there have been a lot of hearings.

But I agree. I think that's one reason why this recess, if Obama plays it right -- and it will be tricky, don't get me wrong -- could be a net plus. Let people have their say. Let people say, we went and to our congressman. We yelled at him. He knows what we think.

And go back to Washington with our ideas and take them back to your committee. And the public will have an opportunity to have input in this process in these coming months. That's democracy, that's how it should work.

So it's just as well that it's slowed down. DOBBS: But that isn't, gentleman, what's on the table here. It's precisely the inverse of that.

TAPSCOTT: Yes.

DOBBS: And it seems unclear. You've got Senator James DeMint saying, Mark, on one hand, this is his Waterloo if he doesn't get it through. You've got the president, and you're putting this in the framework of a political game, if you will, why he can't get what he wants.

We're sort of getting lost in these extremes of partisan and ideological views that really have nothing to do with what in the -- what is best for this country. And neither side seems to be talking in those terms.

TAPSCOTT: Lou, I think there are three basic mistakes that the administration made.

Number one, they tried to go for too much in terms of their agenda. Number two, they tried to rush it and they still are rushing it. And number three, and most important, and most immediately, they've (inaudible) anti-public sentiment, calling people an angry mob.

I agree with Mike. If they stepped back and listened, they probably could pull this thing out. But they clearly have made a decision that they're not.

DOBBS: You get the last word, Mike.

CROWLEY: Let me just say, the question of a political game, it's not. It's hugely important.

And another way Obama can save this month is, again, bring it back to what matters to people. And I think what has been lost, and the White House admits they're not driving this home to people, is why the status quo isn't working for America, and why people who may be comfortable with their insurance now may not be able to count on the current system being for them, both economically or in terms of having coverage down the road.

This is a way to get it out of the process of Washington, the committees, the quarreling chairman, and remind people fundamentally why we have to do this.

Obama's been trying to do it. He hasn't broken through with a clear enough message yet. But he's out of Washington, he's going to Montana, campaign style. This is where he's in his element.

DOBBS: Again, you put it in political terms, he's in his element, and I guess the rest of us are supposed to say, hoorah. But the reality is, we still -- as you point out, we are one, two days away from when he wanted this thing packaged up and ready for signature. And the fundamental question you're posing hasn't yet been answered. CROWLEY: Are we better off? I think there's a lot of evidence to say that we would be better off departing from our current system, that the current system threatens to bankrupt the country and increase the numbers of uninsured. I think that that's the core of this.

There are, of course, politics around it. That's the main thing to remember.

DOBBS: Mark Tapscott, Michael Crowley, thank you very much, both of you. Appreciate it.

TAPSCOTT: My pleasure.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

DOBBS: More on our top stories tonight, let's turn to Brooke Baldwin who was the latest for us -- Brooke?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Lou.

The Obama administration this evening saying that North Korea's decision to release two American journalists is not linked to nuclear negotiations.

Those journalists, both Laura Ling and Euna Lee returned to a joyous welcome in California this morning. North Korea released them after former president Bill Clinton met with leader Kim Jong-il. It was the first top meeting with North Korea in nearly a decade.

New concerns tonight about the military threat to this country from Russia, a senior U.S. defense official saying two Russian submarines have been cruising just off the Atlantic off the coast of the United States in international waters.

It has been years since Russia conducted submarine patrols near our coast. American officials say our military is fully aware of the Russian Navy's activities. Russia, by the way, has also increased long-range bomber patrols near Alaska.

And in Virginia, a federal jury convicted former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson on 11 out of 16 counts of corruption. The verdict comes four years after federal agents seized $90,000 in cash from Jefferson's freezer.

The 62-year-old Democrat was also found guilty of accepting more than $400,000 in bribes and seeking millions of dollars for brokering business deals in Africa.

And those are some of the headlines for us tonight. Lou, back over to you.

DOBBS: Brooke, thank you so much.

Still ahead, are big families a threat to our environment? That's exactly what a new report says. We'll have a special report on that. And as a candidate, President Obama pledged not to raise taxes for most Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I can make a firm pledge, under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Is that so? We're about to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now, three of the country's leading economic thinkers, and my favorite thinkers -- in Rochester, David Cay Johnston, professor at the Syracuse Law School, also columnist for "Tax Notes." Good to see you, David.

And Professor Adam Lerrick, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the chairman and managing partner of Bedford Oak Advisers Harvey Eisen. Harvey good to see you as well.

Let me start out with you, professor, are we going to see a recovery this year?

ADAM LERRICK, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Probably not. And when we do see it, it's going to be very, very slow. We're going to see a recovery where the economic growth will be positive, maybe 1 percent, maybe 1.5 percent, but unemployment's going to continue to rise.

We're not going to see a really rapid recovery, and unemployment's going to keep rising for at least another year.

DOBBS: And the markets, Harvey?

HARVEY EISEN, BEDFORD OAK ADVISERS: You mean he's right?

DOBBS: I don't know, he's giving us answer. If you want to respond to the answer and rebut, that's your entire privilege.

EISEN: You know, it's an interesting approach. The markets, as you know, are on a tear. And the markets believe that everything's wonderful and great and we're never going to have a downtick. And I'm just totally staggered and amazed by it, Lou.

DOBBS: And sound a little skeptical about it all, for some reason.

EISEN: Well, the point is, is that there's this concept now that things are OK, but they're not going to get too OK. And historically, when most people say that, they tend to get either more OK or bad.

DOBBS: All right. Let's go to David K. Johnson. David, this president suddenly is talking about -- you know, he's sending out a lot of signals, including his top two economic advisers, Treasury Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, to say that middle class tax cut may not be a fantasy after all. What do you think?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, COLUMNIST, "TAX NOTES": Yes, they've put out some feelers about that. But first of all, I think that, essentially, your first guest is right. It's going to be quite a while. We've hit a low. It doesn't appear to be getting a lot worse.

And when it recovers, we'll have a real problem with creating jobs, because of the issues that you and I have talked about many times on off-shoring and government policies that discourage jobs.

The president will have a very tough time trying to pass through any kind of a tax increase that goes to people under a quarter of a million dollars. And you'll notice he backed away when the Democrats proposed a small surcharge on people actually above $300,000 to pay for his health care plan.

DOBBS: I noticed that, but we don't, even in these responses, we don't have a clearer idea of what he's talking about. There are a number of pieces of legislation floating around. As I said to Bill Snyder earlier on this broadcast, we've got opinion poll after opinion poll reacting, most of them negatively, to his health care plans.

But the truth is, whether you oppose or support them, we don't know, really, what they are -- David?

JOHNSTON: Well, no. And they haven't laid out, clearly, what their health care plan is, except for one key feature. Instead of going to the most efficient system, the kind that all of our competitors have variations have variations of, which is universal coverage, instead they are trying to piggy back this public option on.

And if you run two systems, one, this incredibly inefficient health care system we have that's based on insurance, and then a public option, a universal system, you're going to have higher costs. You're running these two parallel programs.

And clearly, they made a decision early on they were not going to try to going for full-blown health care.

Little fact, Lou --

DOBBS: Full-blown universal coverage health care, right?

JOHNSTON: Say it again?

DOBBS: You were talking about full-blown universal coverage, single-payer health care?

JOHNSTON: That's correct. And in Canada, the politician who got the Canadian system, in a poll, overwhelmingly was chosen as the most important person who's ever lived in Canada.

DOBBS: Perhaps, but as we reported tonight, they have a less satisfaction with their health care system than we do ours.

Health care -- the president is now, professor, the president is now saying that we need to fix health care to fix the economy. Had we known that, could we have avoided, simply, a stimulus package? I mean, things seem to be a bit out of sequence.

JOHNSTON: Lou, he's exactly right about that. We are spending one out of every six dollars in our economy on health care. That's like -- health care is like fixing up your car. It's diverting money from all these other needs that we have.

DOBBS: OK.

LERRICK: Lou, that's not accurate. Health care reform, you may be in favor of it, may be opposed to it, but it's not going to stimulate the economy.

What's going on now is the president is using the crisis to try to push through social choices and try to use the crisis to eliminate debate and eliminate opposition.

You may like health care reform, you may like alternative energy, but that's not going to stimulate the economy, because that's not going to raise U.S. productivity.

DOBBS: And what will stimulate this economy?

LERRICK: Well, what's going to stimulate the economy is the massive monetary expansion that we've seen over the last year and a half, and which some economists expect to continue to go on for another next 18 months.

DOBBS: We're in for $13 trillion. The cumulative total of all the bailouts, we're told by the special inspector general for the TARP program, arises to $23.7 trillion, as he is quick to point out. That isn't a total in the taxpayer -- indeed be held accountable for all of that. That's just what's likely and possible out there.

These numbers are so amazing here, Harvey. What stimulus could there possibly be beyond a $2 trillion deficit, all of the money that's being spent on bailouts, all of the money that's been spent under TARP, by the Federal Reserve, the Treasury. My god, where does it end?

EISEN: I don't know where it ends, but I know it's going to end, because I know how the movie ends, I just don't know when.

And right now, what you have is this enormous monetary stimulation and this enormous ease. And you know what, history tells you how that ends.

The consequences of that are very simple. Somewhere down the road you get rising inflation, and somewhere down the road you get rising interest rates.

And you think $23 trillion is about. How about instead of being at 4 percent, it's at 14 percent like it was 20 years ago?

DOBBS: All right, Harvey Izen, thank you very much. Professor Lark, thank you. David K. Johnson, thank you. Appreciate it, gentleman.

Up next, forget hybrid cars and recycling. Why controlling the population may save the environment. That's a new report. We'll have that story here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: New evidence tonight on the negative impact of overpopulation on the environment. Researchers say there is a much better way to reduce our carbon footprint than driving hybrid cars, using energy-saving bulbs, and recycling. Just have fewer children.

Casey Wian with the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From the tabloid exploits of "Jon and Kate Plus 8" and octomom Nadya Suleman, to the wholesome image of the Duggers and their 18 children, Americans seem obsessed with super- sized families.

But there's what some might consider a dark side beyond the allegations of infidelity and exploitation. Just those 40 reality TV offspring are likely to be responsible for nearly 400,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas causing carbon dioxide emissions.

A newly released Oregon State University study suggests having multiple children may be the most environmentally damaging of all human activities.

PROF. PAUL MURTAUGH, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY: The urge to reproduce is very strong. And people react very strongly when you point out possible negative impacts of reproduction or growing population. So it is a very touchy area that really hasn't been talked about much.

WIAN: The researchers found that by making all of the following environmentally friendly lifestyle changes -- buying a car with 50 percent better gas mileage, driving 33 percent less, switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and windows, replacing an old refrigerator, and recycling household trash, an American could reduce CO2 emissions by 486 metric tons over a lifetime.

But by simply having one less child, the study concludes, the same American would save more than 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, almost 20 times the reduction of living greener.

MURTAUGH: We do not advocate particular policies of restrictions on reproductive freedom, and all we have done is some fairly complicated arithmetic to quantify the impact of a person's choice to reproduce.

WIAN: Such as the anticipated environmental impact of each child's future of offspring.

So while China remains the biggest source of carbon emissions in the world, the report concludes that the negative environmental impact of each additional child in the United States is nearly seven times that of each child in China because of higher U.S. birth rates and longevity and higher per capita emissions.

Ben Zuckerman is a UCLA professor and former board member of the Sierra Club. He says environmental groups have long ignored the threat of population growth.

PROF. BEN ZUCKERMAN, UCLA: The mainstream environmental movement has entirely dropped the ball on this issue. And I think that's really been a disaster for our country.

WIAN: He points to books advocating greener living.

ZUCKERMAN: They list literally hundreds of sort of trivial ways in which one can reduce one's environmental impact on the earth, but they don't even mention population.

WIAN: The Sierra Club declined to speak with us about the impact of population, as did other environmental groups.

The Oregon State researchers say it's important to continue efforts to reduce everyone's so-called carbon footprint, but they conclude that "Clearly the potential savings from reduced preproduction are huge compared to the savings that can be achieved by changes in lifestyle."

In other words, according to EPA figures, having a child in the United States, over time, theoretically produces the greenhouse gas equivalent of burning more than 1 million gallons of gasoline.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: UCLA's Zuckerman says the U.S. government could and should be doing more to encourage limited preproduction and population growth, including controlling immigration, educating the public about the impact of multiple child families, and perhaps even structuring child tax credits to reduce tax breaks for larger families -- Lou?

DOBBS: That's astonishing, Casey. One child, 486 metric tons?

WIAN: Actually, one child over time, over several generations, considering the fact that that child's likely to reproduce, it's over 9,000 metric tons, Lou. It is incredible the amount of environmental impact that overpopulation is having on this planet.

And these scientists are saying it's really getting close to the breaking point. It is going to take a long time to turn this around. They still need to do the recycling and all that, because those are easier fixes.

But for political reasons and behavioral reasons, and religious reasons, changing people's reproductive behavior is much tougher. DOBBS: That is just extraordinary to think that would all add up to 486,000 tons. I mean to me that's -- metric tons -- that's insane. And then to talk about 9,000 to limit reproduction. Those are extraordinary ratios. One wouldn't think either was possible.

I appreciate it. Thank you very much, an amazing report. Casey Wian.

DOBBS: At the top of the hour, Campbell Brown -- Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Lou.

We are also tonight focusing on the homecoming of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. It has certainly put President Bill Clinton back in the rock star spotlight. We'll look at whether anybody else even had a hope of pulling this off and what it may mean for Clinton's future.

Also ahead, more of my exclusive interview with Whoopi Goldberg. She shares her thoughts on her career, on young Hollywood, on the cost of fame. We've got that and the mash-up of all of the top stories at the top of the hour -- Lou?

DOBBS: Thanks very much, Campbell. We'll be right back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Time now for some of your thoughts. Gregory in Texas said, "Thank you for at least attempting to get some answers. All I want is the truth, and it seems harder and harder to get from our elected officials. Thanks again."

Sheryl in South Carolina, "Borrowing a couple of words from president Obama -- if any member of Congress votes for the health care bill without reading it, he or she is acting stupidly."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts to loudobbstonight.com. Each you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book "Independence Day." And I'll have a few thoughts on all of the issues we've reported here tonight on the radio Monday through Friday for the "Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

And please follow me on Lou Dobbs News on Twitter.com.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. For all of thank you for watching. Goodnight from New York.

Next, Campbell Brown.

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