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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

White House Opens New Front in Health Care Battle; Moral Obligation to Provide Health Care?

Aired August 13, 2009 - 19:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.

The Obama White House and powerful special interest groups joining forces -- their plan, to attack opponents of the president's health care proposals, the latest offensive coming as polls now show large numbers of independents deserting President Obama.

A rising number of Americans are fighting back against the Democratic Party's assault. They refused to be silenced or to be marginalized. They are, in fact, demanding the right to be heard at town hall meetings and in a barrage of e-mails targeting members of Congress.

In our "Face Off" debate tonight, we examine the issue of whether the federal government has a moral obligation to provide health care, as many liberals are asserting now.

First, the White House has opened a new front in its campaign to sell the president's plan. White House officials are now calling on Democrats to send out a barrage of e-mails supporting the president's agenda.

White House adviser David Axelrod says those e-mails should debunk what he calls myths and lies. It's the latest in a series of aggressive attempts by this White House to stop the president's health care plan from collapsing altogether.

Dan Lothian has our report from the White House -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, indeed.

The White House, as you know, has been holding these town hall meetings around the country, and then they have also put up this Web site to debunk, as they see it, misleading -- or myth -- myths that are floating around out there.

Well, now comes this e-mail from David -- David Axelrod, who is the senior adviser to the president. And in that e-mail, it reads, in part -- quote -- "Across the country, we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back, even the viral e-mails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions. As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that has actually been proposed." This, again, just showing how the White House is concerned and perhaps even frustrated that their message is getting lost in all the noise.

Take a listen to what Robert Gibbs had to say today at his daily briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he believes very strongly, as we talked about yesterday, that it is important to address misconceptions or misimpressions that have been left out there about the bills. I do believe that the president feels strongly that, when he makes his case, it helps the case for overall health care reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: So, again, the White House believing that these town halls have been effective for the president to get his message across. And that's why you will see the president going to a town hall meeting tomorrow in Montana and then off to Colorado on Saturday -- Lou.

DOBBS: Dan, this -- this -- this sounds awfully like manufacturing. It sounds like AstroTurf on the part of the White House which the very same press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was, well, bemoaning within the past week.

LOTHIAN: Well, listen, the bottom line here is that -- I was talking to a senior administration official about this. And I said, listen, are you really concerned that this could potentially derail health care all of the noise, as they see it, some of the misinformation, as they are calling it, at these town hall meetings out there?

And they said, yes, there is certainly that concern. Obviously, the White House, though, hoping that most Americans will base their support on the facts, and not on any misinformation, as they see it.

So, what they are trying to do is knock it all down. And we are seeing such an aggressive effort here in the last couple of weeks, first of all, with the town hall meetings. And then, you know, I take you back to when the president was in New Hampshire, and he started off his town hall by telling folks that, you know, I want to hear from people who don't agree with me.

And then, at the end, when most of the questions were relatively easy questions, then he started, you know, asking, anybody here disagree with me? They are really trying, at least from the marketing standpoint, try to push to try to get folks to talk about these what they see as myths, so they can correct them. So, that's the big push that we're seeing here at the White House.

DOBBS: Is there some increased difficulty because the president himself has been contradicted by the Congressional Budget Office on three principal assertions in his health care initiatives, that is, that it would be budget-neutral, that efficiencies hey would pay for a substantial portion of whatever legislation resulted, and that the preventative medicine would have a significant reduction on the cost of health care?

And, then finally, as he was calling for a response to those -- quote, unquote -- "misrepresentations" of his critics, he misrepresented the position of the AARP.

LOTHIAN: That's right. The AARP, at that same town hall meeting, pointed out that they -- he was suggesting at least that they were behind and endorsing this -- this bill.

And the AARP flatly has said, listen, while we do support health care reform, we have not endorsed anything at all. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs saying that the president misspoke.

I mean, obviously, a lot of criticism here to what the president is pushing as to whether or not he can really deliver this, based on the criteria, that it will be deficit-neutral. A lot of people don't believe that this will be able to be done, but, you know, the White House still not backing down. They're pushing forward on this.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Despite the -- the outright contradiction by the Congressional Budget Office.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

DOBBS: Not his critics.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

DOBBS: The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency, we should point out

LOTHIAN: That's right. And, you know, some will say, hey, listen, the math just doesn't add up. But, right now, they are still pushing forward and hoping that they can get this done by the end of the year.

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

A powerful coalition of special interest groups today combining to launch a new ad campaign, in support of the president's health proposals, a group called Americans for Stable Quality Care. This is a new group. They are spending $12 million on those ads mostly funded by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

The group also includes organizations such as the American Medical Also, the big labor union, the Service Employees International. And the White House campaign to sell the president's plan appears to be failing, one poll showing President Obama's approval rating has fallen now to a new low. The latest Rasmussen opinion poll gives the president an overall approval rating over of just 47 percent, 52 percent in disapproval of the president's performance.

President Obama has even less support among Americans not affiliated with either party. The independents in this country give him a disapproval rating of 65 percent. They were once in full support of the president.

Meanwhile, the latest "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows independents are sympathetic to town hall protesters by a margin of 2-1, 35 to 16 percent.

One of the president's closest political allies, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has stepped up his attacks on those town hall protesters. Senator Reid calls the demonstrators evil-mongers.

In an interview with PoliticsDaily, Senator Reid said those -- quote -- "evil-mongers," as he put it, are spreading -- quote -- "lies, innuendo, and rumor."

This is not the first time that Reid has criticized protesters in those town halls. Reid has accused them of using what he called loud and shrill voices to disrupt the meetings.

Well, that leading Republican Senator Chuck Grassley today weighing in. He said the Senate has dropped its controversial end-of- life provisions from the health care legislation. Critics said those measures could have led to so-called death panels and euthanasia.

Defenders say the provisions were simply for counseling services. Senator Grassley, however, who is a member of the gang of six, the folks, bipartisan group, trying to assure that some legislation does result from this -- this initiative on the part of the president, said -- quote -- "We dropped end-of-life provisions from consideration entirely because of the way they could be misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly."

Senator Grassley added, "Maybe others can defend a bill like the Pelosi bill that leaves major issues open to interpretation, but I can't."

People are so angry with the way Congress is handling the health care legislation, they flooded lawmakers with e-mails, so many, in fact, that the House of Representatives' Web site has been overloaded with e-mail traffic. That traffic has made the congressional Web site slow and unresponsive.

Another indication of the outrage over the health care initiatives is the rising number of Americans who are outright challenging our political elite for the first time -- Americans refusing to accept what the White House and the Democratic Party are saying about health care, in effect telling them, don't tread on me.

Lisa Sylvester with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lines are long. The rooms are packed. The constituents are ready to vent.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Hear our voice. Hear our voice.

SYLVESTER: Democrat Ben Cardin has been in Congress for two decades, first as a House member and now a senator. His staff tells us past town hall meetings would draw 100 to 200 people. This one had 1,000 people lining up.

MARK KRESLINS, ATTENDED TOWN HALL MEETING OF MARYLAND SENATOR BEN CARDIN: How are you going to look at my children in their eyes and tell them they're going to have a better future?

SYLVESTER: Across the country, another town hall, another lawmaker, but the story is similar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman...

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... we need you to be a statesman, and not a puppet in your party.

SYLVESTER: It's as if a lid has been popped. The object of frustration for many is health care debate, but that's not the only issue that's brought people out to town hall meetings in large numbers. Rising debt, big bailouts, and lost jobs are also on their minds.

Jean Weiler is from a suburb of Des Moines, who attended the town hall meeting of Republican Senator Charles Grassley.

JEAN WEILER, ATTENDED TOWN HALL OF SENATOR CHARLES GRASSLEY: They're losing our trust. I think this is a good movement that people are making to let them know we want to be heard and we want them to represent us, not their personal preference.

SYLVESTER: A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 23 percent strongly favor Obama's health plan, while 33 percent strongly oppose it.

KEN VOGEL, THEPOLITICO.COM: They are using their displeasure with aspects of this plan to kind of express some of their broader misgivings about the Obama administration and what they see as sort of a big government agenda being driven by the Obama administration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And the people are speaking out, not only at town hall meetings, but also through the Internet. As you mentioned earlier, this afternoon, the House of Representatives' Web site e-mail system has been so jammed, overloaded with those constituent e-mails -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Lisa -- Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

We will have much more on the showdown over health care ahead.

We will have a special report as well on whether doctors really support the president's plan, as -- as he asserts.

And in our "Face Off" debate tonight, we examine whether Americans have a moral right to health care and whether the federal government have a moral responsibility to provide it.

We will also have a report you won't see anywhere else on television on the health care system of Japan.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, we have been reporting throughout on the health care systems of other nations, as we try to bring some comparison for you to consider in what is becoming a national debate on health care, a debate that we haven't had until just very recently.

We are also examining just how satisfied people of various nations are with their public health care systems. And we are also showing you their life expectancy in those nations to compare to that of our own.

Eighty-three percent of Americans are, as we have told you, satisfied with the quality of our health care system. Life expectancy, by the way, in the United States is just over 78 years, below the average of 79 in other developed countries.

In Denmark, if I may point out where we have been, in Denmark, 90 percent are satisfied with their publicly-funded health care system. In Germany, 55 percent of Germans are not happy with their health care system -- life expectancy there just above that of the United States.

In German, 55 percent of Germans are not happy with their health care system. And their life expectancy is 79.8 years, almost two years ahead of that of the United States. Fifty-seven percent of the British believes their system needs an overhaul, life expectancy there, 78.9 years.

In Canada, 70 percent of Canadians say their health care system is working well, and life expectancy almost 81 years. Eighty-four percent of the French, they're happy about their health care system, life expectancy 81 years.

Forty-six percent of the folks in the Netherlands say the Dutch system does need a change. Life expectancy there is 80 years. Switzerland's health care system ranked seventh in a survey of 32 developed nations, life expectancy almost 82 years.

Spain, as we reported to you last night, ranked 17 in the same survey. Life expectancy is 81 years. Tonight, we report on Japan. The health care system there is acknowledged to be one of the best -- life expectancy the highest in the world. Everyone in Japan is covered with private and public funding. A Japanese government survey finds, however, only 51 percent are satisfied with their health care. Life expectancy, as I said, the highest of the 32 developed nations, nearly 83 years.

Kitty Pilgrim has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Japanese citizens go to the doctor an average of 15 times a year. Insurance covers everyone for everything. After a fractional co-payment, the visits are basically free. Even for the elderly, long-term care in nursing homes, even home care, is covered. The Japanese have a life expectancy of nearly 83 years, compared to 78 in the United States.

Gerard Anderson of Johns Hopkins was in Japan to study the health care system earlier this year.

GERARD ANDERSON, PROFESSOR OF HEALTH POLICY AND MANAGEMENT/PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL HEALTH, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: When they go to the doctor, it's a -- it's a free service. They might pay a few yen, a few -- a few dollars for the care, but, pretty much, it's a free service. They can go to any doctor. They can go to any specialist that they choose. There is no gatekeeper. There's no telling them that they have to go to this doctor.

PILGRIM: There are about 5,000 insurance plans in Japan, all with practically identical coverage. About one-third of the population pay for health care through salary contributions, 4.5 percent, matched by the employer, for a total of 9 percent of salary going to health insurance.

People who are self-employed or with smaller companies also contribute through earnings. Coverage for public officials is identical. The government picks up the tab for people who do not work and those over the age of 70.

Japan spends 8.1 percent of GDP on health care, compared to 16 percent of GDP in the United States, total annual spending, $2,581 per capita, compared to $7,290 in the United States.

There is a single reason why Japan can pay for such extensive benefits, according to Mei Cheng of Princeton, who specializes in Asian health care systems.

TSUNG-MEI CHENG, ASIAN HEALTH CARE POLICY EXPERT: The government sets the fees. And then there's only one fee schedule for the whole country, so everyone -- all the providers, doctors and hospitals, live within that set of fees. And this is, in fact, the perhaps most powerful cost-containment tool for the health system in Japan.

PILGRIM: Twenty-two percent of the population is over the age of 65. The birth rate is negative. In that respect, Japan is expected to struggle to provide generous coverage with fewer people in their working years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Well, the Japanese economy has struggled over the last 15 years with its own banking crisis and its recession. So, the Japanese health care system will continue to be under financial pressure. Growth in the economy has not kept up with the growth in health spending.

Japan has a shrinking population. So, the funding base for health care is getting smaller every year -- Lou.

DOBBS: And, of course, so is the demand on the health care system, right?

PILGRIM: Right. That's right.

DOBBS: Right.

Well, it's fascinating. I mean, that is quite a life expectancy. I mean, that's a...

PILGRIM: Yes.

DOBBS: That's huge.

PILGRIM: That's attributable to low obesity rates and also lifestyle, too. So, the health care system is excellent, but you also have a big lifestyle difference between Western nations and the Japanese.

DOBBS: So, they have chosen to be active and not fat. Is that correct?

(LAUGHTER)

PILGRIM: It seems like it, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Well, perhaps there's a little message there. And I don't know why you're looking at me as you say that.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Kitty, thanks a lot -- Kitty Pilgrim.

Well, most other countries require a much higher rate of taxation than the United States to pay for those public health care systems. Only one of the nine countries that we have examined so far has a lower tax rate than the United States. The maximum personal income tax rate in this country is of course 35 percent.

Canada's 29 percent. And, in France, the rate is much higher, 40 percent. The United Kingdom tax rate, a maximum as well of 40 percent. In Japan, the highest tax rate there 40 percent, but local taxes raise that to almost 50 percent. In Switzerland, the overall income tax rate can be as high as 41.5 percent. Spain's highest income tax rate is 43 percent. The highest tax rate in Germany, 45 percent.

The Netherlands, the income tax rate for the Dutch, 52 percent. In Denmark, the top tax rate 59 percent.

Tomorrow, we continue our reporting on health care systems of nations all around the world. Despite lower-than-average spending in Australia, life expectancy there is more than 81 years. It is the third highest life expectancy among the 30 developed nations.

We will have much more on Australia's health care system. Join us for that here tomorrow evening.

And for more of my thoughts on the president's health care proposal, the national health care debate, turn into "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 Radio in New York. Go to LouDobbs.com get the local radio listings in your area for my show.

And, if you missed today's show, please subscribe to my podcast. Today, I talked with the author of the important new book "Bailout Nation," Barry Ritholtz. He shared with us this great line: George W. Bush came into office a social conservative, and left office a conservative socialist.

You can hear more of that interview and a lot more. Just subscribe down to one of the podcasts at LouDobbs.com. And, please, follow me on Twitter as well on LouDobbsNews on Twitter.com.

Up next: why doctors are divided over the president's health care proposals. Does the federal government have a moral obligation to provide Americans health care at all costs? That is the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.

And Nevada using California's budget problems and crisis to boost its own economy -- American competitiveness at its best. We will have a special report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: California and Nevada are the two of the states hardest hit by this recession. Now Nevada is taking dramatic measures trying to create jobs and to shore up its economy, at the expense of California. It's using California's budget crisis and economic crisis to poach business.

Casey Wian has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC) CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A so-called flash mob breaks out in dance in front of a landmark Hollywood theater to deliver a message.

They were hired by the Nevada Development Authority. And goodbye is exactly what Nevada hopes local businesses will say to California. The Silver State is trying to cash in on California's budget crisis, higher taxes, severe cuts in education spending, and government bureaucracy. Nevada business recruiters are running these ads on dozens of California TV stations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Just taking a little break from the state senate here in Sacramento. Hard work. Always looking out for you small-business owners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: They tell you they are working on a new plan just for you.

NARRATOR: Don't wait until they put lipstick on that pig. Give the Nevada Development Authority a call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: The Development Authority says its phone started ringing the day its campaign debuted last week.

SOMER HOLLINGSWORTH, PRESIDENT & CEO, NEVADA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Well, the business people have had it. And they -- they just -- I mean, they're pay their taxes. They want to get their money's worth. They want to make sure that they have successful years year after year after year.

WIAN: Not so fast, say California business groups. Nevada has plenty of its own troubles, including the nation's highest home foreclosure rate.

ALLAN ZAREMBERG, PRESIDENT, CALIFORNIA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Nevada really an economy that's in trouble, or they wouldn't be here trying to steal our business.

WIAN: The California Chamber president says he sees no need for a retaliatory ad campaign, but couldn't resist dismissing Nevada as a one-injury state. Nevada has been trying to poach California businesses for years through various Golden State crises, but this is Nevada's most aggressive effort to date.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: We love you.

NARRATOR: Get the money off your back. Relocate your business to Las Vegas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: The California Chamber of Commerce says it is trying to persuade state lawmakers here to make sure those temporary tax hikes recently passed don't become permanent. Unless that happens, it says it believes there's little risk that significant numbers of California businesses will cross the state line -- Lou.

DOBBS: Either way, I mean, do we have any indication as to how real this threat is? I have got to say, the -- the chimp is absolutely memorable. That will be in the minds of small-business people in California, no matter what anybody in California says.

WIAN: Absolutely.

You know, this is an image that I think a lot of people, as you say, are going to remember. It's a little too early to tell. This campaign has only been going on for about a week. Nevada Development Authority says they have managed to convince about 65 businesses, which is not a huge number, over the last couple of years to move to Nevada.

But all Nevada needs, because of its relatively smaller size, is a couple of businesses to jump ship, and it will make a dent in their economy -- Lou.

DOBBS: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: Well, that's a terrific campaign, a fascinating story.

Thank you very much, Casey -- Casey Wian.

Up next here, new questions about whether the doctors in this country, do they really support the Democratic Party's health care plan? Are they in President Obama's camp or not?

And in our "Face Off" debate tonight, we examine controversial assertions, primarily by liberals, that the government has a moral obligation to provide health care to all Americans.

And thousand of firefighters battling what are out-of-control wildfires -- that's right -- in California. We will have the very latest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, part of the big news in the health care battle was when the American Medical Association decided to support the president's proposals.

But many doctors inside the association are opposed. And they say, in fact, the AMA is acting to protect revenue, and not the interests of most doctors or their patients.

Ines Ferre with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a recent town hall meeting, President Obama touted the American Medical Association's support for the House health care reform bill.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have the American Medical Association on board.

(APPLAUSE)

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The largest organization of physicians and doctors is getting heat for endorsing the bill from outside doctors and even its own members. The AMA says it represents about 240,000 of the roughly 920,000 doctors in the state.

Some critics say that it receives little from member dues and much of its revenues from the copy rights of billing codes used by doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, something that is protected in the House health care bill, according to Dr. Daniel Palestrat. He said that he left the AMA because it didn't represent physicians.

DR. DANIEL PALESTRANT: Recognizing that the bill didn't include any of the major issues that physician looks for, the AMA really ultimately made a decision to do what was in the best interest of its own business model.

And that was protecting its licensing revenue, protecting its insurance company clients, and looking at what is going to be the next stage of the AMA, which in all likelihood won't be a physician advocacy agency. It's clearly transforming itself into something else.

FERRE: The AMA says how it makes its money has nothing to do with the desire to provide health care for all.

DR. NANCY NEILSEN, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: It's about freeing doctors to help patients make the best decisions possible, without, frankly, government interference or what we've had to date, which is health insurance plan interference. That's what the goals are. The rest is really, frankly, probably not more than a simple distraction.

FERRE: Physicians have repeated that they want health care reform to put limits on malpractice awards, insurance reform, and transparency in billing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FERRE: And in a recent online survey conducted by Dr. Palestrant, an overwhelming majority of the 4,000 doctors who responded, 94 percent say they do not support the House health care bill -- Lou?

DOBBS: That's strange, isn't it? The AMA obviously sharply divided within itself, other physician groups also under considerable pressure here. I suppose we'll have to wait and see if the AMA itself reacts, right?

FERR: That's right. They are saying that they are looking out for the interest of physicians, of doctors and patients, and others are saying that they are really looking out for their revenue stream.

DOBBS: The billing code is a fascinating aspect of this, isn't it?

FERRE: It is. And on that has been controversial, actually, for years now, that they oversee the billing codes.

DOBBS: And make money?

FINNEY: And make money off the copyright off of it, yes.

DOBBS: Fascinating. All right, thank you very much. Inez Ferre.

Well, supporters of the president's health care plan are arguing that the government has a moral responsibility to provide health care for all Americans. But does it? That is the subject of tonight's face off debate.

Joining me now is Reverend Adam Hamilton. He is a senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas. Reverend Hamilton says the government should be providing affordable health care for everyone.

Reverend, great to have you with us.

REV. ADAM HAMILTON, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION: Thank you very much, it's an honor.

DOBBS: And Bishop Harry Jackson who is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. He says that there should be no government intervention in health care whatsoever.

Bishop, good to have you with us. We appreciate it.

BISHOP HARRY JACKSON, HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH: Good to be with you.

DOBBS: Reverend Hamilton, let's begin with you, if I may, as we get this debate started. Why do you believe that the federal government has a moral responsibility to provide health care for everyone?

HAMILTON: I think it has a moral obligation to make accessible, affordable health care to everyone. Not everyone may take advantage of that, but it has an obligation for that. And I think part of the role of government is to offer the safety net needed for the most vulnerable of people in the country. So when I think of the most vulnerable of people, I'm not thinking about people who choose not to work, but people who are the working poor for whom giving up the equivalent of a house payment to be able to provide health insurance for their family is simply not possible.

And I have been with people in my congregation who had to choose between making the mortgage payment or deciding to pay for their health insurance, and they choose the mortgage payment, or for people out of work, and certainly right now in this economic crisis, people who have been out of work for some time and their COBRA has run out.

And I think we have to ask the question, what happens with these folks.

DOBBS: I'm really asking the basis for your statement that the federal government has a moral obligation.

HAMILTON: I guess the question is --

DOBBS: That's the question. Leonard, that's the question.

HAMILTON: Right. And so what constitutes a moral obligation, though? And a moral obligation is, in my mind, related to justice. So we look in the scriptures and we hear -- from a Christian perspective, we look in the scriptures, we find hundreds of calls for justice.

DOBBS: All right.

HAMILTON: And when we think of justice, it's ensuring the rights of those that can't speak up for themselves and don't have access to...

DOBBS: Bishop Jackson, we just heard where Reverend Hamilton is coming from. Your view?

JACKSON: I believe, Lou, that we have a great health care system. A few years ago I was given a 15 percent chance of living, had cancer of the esophagus. And had I been denied or delayed treatment, Lou, I wouldn't be alive today.

So one of the problems of this moral morass we're in is if you raise the cost of health care by broadening out all of the people that are going to need to get these services, what you may do is say that you're not going to get to certain people, that people that have urgent situations aren't going to get treated.

We're going to be like some of the government that you overlooked or looked over and talked about. Also, I think --

DOBBS: We overlooked a couple, too, but we'll get back to them.

JACKSON: Forgive me for that. But the reality, then, is that my life worth less because I'm worth more in terms of net worth? Do we have the ability to say I'm going to get every homeless person health care even if it means you're going to have other people die?

The government is going to have other people figure it out, and I believe historically the church has been the people who have decided that they are going to create hospitals, care for the sick and the needy and the poor, and the government is not known to manage things well, Lou.

So I'm concerned that if we change these things, delay, denial means death.

And I also want to get, if we get the time, into the issue of paid abortions, which will make it go up by 33 percent.

DOBBS: Let's get into that in just a moment. I want to let Reverend Hamilton respond.

HAMILTON: First of all, Lou, you've been highlighting countries over the last few episodes where they have health coverage available for more people than we have here in the United States, more folks who currently have no health care here.

And that's not raised the price of health care insurance. It's actually lowered the price of health care coverage and what's spent per person.

I think it's possible for us to maintain our current plan for those of us who are happy with it. I have good health insurance. I'm happy with that.

What I'm concerned about, and I know Bishop Jackson has to be concerned with the people in his congregation as well, you know, 15 percent of the population for whom they don't have that access. What about those folks? And the scriptures call on us to speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves.

And so I think we have to figure out, somehow we have to solve this problem. However it's solved, it's probably a combination of private and public.

JACKSON: But it doesn't mean endorsing this particular plan. The problem is we're steamrolling a plan that has not been thought out. Its implementation is horrible, and we need to slow our roll, analyze this thing, and do something that is responsible and moral.

DOBBS: Let's get to the issue -- I'm sorry.

HAMILTON: I was going to say, to Bishop Jackson's point, we haven't -- I'm not endorsing the current plan either. I'm endorsing the idea behind having accessible health care coverage for everyone.

DOBBS: I think we can all sign up for the idea that it should be something better. From there, there seems to be absolutely no evidence of any kind empirically to support any kind of proposition in any stage of legislation either in the House or in the minds of those in leadership of the Congress or the White House as to what that might be.

We have approval and disapproval ratings and the public opinion polls, and we don't even have a plan before us. This is as Bishop Jackson points out.

Let me to the point that he raised. And Alexander -- I'm sorry, reverend, what is the morality here of federal funding here for abortion?

HAMILTON: First of all, Alexander was the secretary of the treasury, so maybe --

DOBBS: I did an association.

HAMILTON: But when it comes to abortion, first of all, I also with Bishop Jackson consider myself pro-life. I would not support public funding going to abortion.

But everything I'm hearing from both sides is saying that's not going to be a part of this.

DOBBS: Do you believe -- let me ask you this as a reverend. Do you really believe what you're hearing from either side on this? I want a real straightforward answer from a Christian good fearing man. Do you really believe what you're hearing from either side?

HAMILTON: I think there are folks who are trying to speak the truth in the midst of it. But there's so much heat and --

DOBBS: Do you go straight to heaven when you equivocate, or do you find yourself a Purgatory or something fancy like that?

Bishop Jackson, you get the next one.

JACKSON: OK. Well, I believe that we really need to watch the advocates of this program. It's clearly been politicized.

And Lou, it's almost like a sophisticated shell game. Folks are saying we want to do the best for the public, but you don't get to read the details or understand the details. And there are many nuances of this moral approach that we don't understand about.

And I go back to the fact that I would not be here, Lou -- I had a 15 percent chance of living only, had the greatest health care in the world. Why do we jeopardize the care from the world's best doctors at a plan we don't even know what it is?

DOBBS: I'm sorry, go ahead, you get the last word.

HAMILTON: I was going to say, Lou, that's wonderful that Mr. Jackson had health insurance coverage so that he could still be here. But what about the people who don't.

DOBBS: That's the only outcome we want, I'll guarantee you.

HAMILTON: Exactly.

DOBBS: I'm sorry, your point?

HAMILTON: My point is that we would hope that -- what about the 15 percent of the population who don't have access to affordable care? They wouldn't be standing here with Bishop Jackson.

DOBBS: Then it becomes what about the number of people who, as Bishop Jackson is saying, who, under rationing, because there is a limitation to resources, would be denied health care?

This becomes a circular argument I think. I understand your moral position, and I think that each of us is sympathetic to it. The moral quandary, obviously we're going to have to explore that. But we've got a lot of government exploration to do and a lot of government issues to overcome.

Thank you very much. I hope you both will come back as we discuss this issue in the day and weeks ahead.

HAMILTON: Thank you, Lou.

JACKSON: Thank, Lou.

DOBBS: And Bishop Jackson, we're awful delighted that the result was, as Reverend Hamilton put it, extraordinary positive.

JACKSON: Thank you.

DOBBS: Brooke Baldwin has an update on other stories we're following tonight -- Brooke?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we want to show you some video that is, quite frankly, tough to watch here. This is new amateur video of the midair collision over the Hudson River.

What it does is you can see it captures that moment when the small plane colliding with a sightseeing helicopter. Five Italian tourists and the pilot in that chopper were killed. Three people in the airplane also died in the crash.

Investigators are hoping now that this new video will help explain just show how the accident happened.

Quite a scene in California, massive wildfires burning in northern California this evening. Firefighters still battling the fast-moving fire near the Santa Cruz Mountains. The blaze, which started last night, has now charred 2,300 acres. It's about 3.5 square miles.

New questions this evening about a possible conflicts of interest for the pick of the surgeon general. She's Dr. Regina Benjamin. She was paid $10,000 to sit on a panel at the company. A spokesman for the department of health and human services says Dr. Benjamin will resign from those boards when she's confirmed by the Senate.

And, Lou, some of the stories we have our eyes on for you.

DOBBS: Appreciate it very much, Brooke Baldwin.

Coming up here next, a frustrated public reacting as Democrats are trying to take a new approach in managing the health care message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FINNEY: It's pathetic. You know, I've watched the Congress and I wonder how some of the people have been elected when you hear and see what they say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: We'll have a lot more on this intensifying health care debate, including the political extremes, the left, the right driving much of this debate. And what are independents saying about all of that? More importantly, what are they doing about it? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Joining me now in Washington, D.C., the political editor of the "Washington Examiner" Chris Stirewalt. Good to have you with us, Chris.

Here in New York, "New York Daily News" columnist and CNN contributor Errol Louis. Errol, great to see you again.

And former director of communications for the Democratic National Committee, Karen Finney. Karen, thank you for being here.

Let's start with the new Rasmussen poll showing 47 percent approval, the lowest approval rating for President Obama. Your reaction, Karen?

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER DNC DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: The president came in with pretty high approval ratings and I think he had a lot of political capital, and he's been willing to spend that on trying to solve the problems that we face.

He's had a lot of fronts that he's trying to move between foreign police, domestic policy, the economy, health care reform. And one of the things that I think is most important, though, is if you look at the numbers about shares my values and honest and trustworthiness, those numbers remain quite high.

And I think that's very important because people may disagree with the way he's handling certain things, but the fact that they still trust him and trust his judgment I think is important.

DOBBS: Errol, what do you think?

ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": That sounds about right to me, actually.

The performance, when you say performance, I tend to think of it as this argument, is this debate being conducted in an effective and efficacious manner, and I wouldn't say that it is. There too much that is just too vague. We don't know.

We have the principles that the president likes. We have a whole lot of bills floating around. We don't know when or if they will be reconciled into one bill that we can pick through and vote up or down on. So there's a lot to be disgusted with about what is coming out of Washington these days.

DOBBS: Chris?

CHRIS STIREWALT, POLITICAL EDITOR, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I think the biggest problem for the president right now is that people don't think that he's brought change to Washington. The poll numbers that should be most alarming for the administration are double digit losses and the question of is different than other politicians.

He needs to recapture that notion that he is a breath of fresh air.

DOBBS: These polls are showing that independents are deserting the president both in terms of approval rating, in terms of health care. And we're seeing independents side with the protesters in these town hall by a two to one margin. What's that about?

FINNEY: I think it's a little hyperbolic to say that they are abandoning the president. And to say that you, sympathize with the protestors --

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: It's 65 percent of the unaffiliated -- I'm sorry. I used shorthand and said independent.

FINNEY: Well, again, speaking to what we're seeing at the town halls, I think that some people believe -- I believe people should have the right to go and speak out and ask questions.

But that's not what we've been seeing. What we're seeing is people organizing against letting the questions asked and asked. And I wonder if we'd ask that question if we're talking about, when they say they sympathize with the protestors, are they sympathizing with the people who are asking the questions, or are they sympathizing with the people who are actually creating -- causing violence and hate speech, which I think is the absolutely destructive to the process and un-American.

DOBBS: Do you think they are also evil mongers? Is that the latest from Senator Reid? We've gone from un-American now to evil mongers. FINNEY: Our American values say that we believe in free speech. We believe in --

DOBBS: Then why is everybody trying to constrain expression?

FINNEY: Because what we're seeing is, I believe that tyranny is when you organize for the purpose of being disruptive, or when you use hate speech like "I want to drive a stake through Howard Dean's heart."

DOBBS: Really? Did I say I wanted to do that through Howard Dean's heart?

FINNEY: I heart that on your radio program.

DOBBS: You heard me make a reference to Bram Stoker, an allusion to Howard Dean and, as a matter of fact, I was --

FINNEY: That is a convenient correction, Mr. Dobbs. But you called him a blood sucking liberal.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: But how does your saying things like that --

DOBBS: Excuse me. Excuse me. If you will permit me, I called him a blood sucking leftist because of the approach he took.

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: Oh, excuse me, leftist, not liberal.

DOBBS: I don't see where in the constitution that you have a right not to be offended.

FINNEY: My question to you...

DOBBS: I'm sorry, you do have a right not to be offended?

FINNEY: My question to you though is --

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Evil mongers, un-American. You want to worry about language? Let's hear about Ed Shultz today. Roll what Ed Shultz had to say today. Are you familiar?

FINNEY: Yes, I am.

DOBBS: Actually, he said it Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHULTZ: Sometimes I think they want Obama to get shot. I do. I really think that there are conservative broadcasters in this country who would love to see Obama taken out. They fear socialism. They fear Marxism. They fear that the United States of America won't be the United States of America anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FINNEY: I don't totally agree with everything that Ed said. I'm not as far to the left as Ed is.

DOBBS: No. But you are an ideologue.

FINNEY: I am not.

DOBBS: You are pursuing an agenda.

FINNEY: Absolutely not.

DOBBS: And you're being rude.

DOBBS: Let's go to Errol and get your thoughts.

(CROSSTALK)

LOUIS: Let me say that my friend Ed Shultz has put his finger on something that is important, which is that there is a lot -- day in and day out --

DOBBS: He's put his finger on something important?

LOUIS: Yes. There are people, Lou, and I don't want to call any names, but there are broadcasters out there who have been saying day after day after day that White House is preparing is concentration camps, that there are death panels s.

DOBBS: If anyone is saying that, we should be saying their names. Who are they?

LOUIS: Michael savage. You hear similar kind of talk from Rush Limbaugh.

DOBBS: Not similar. You used very specific language. Who used that language?

LOUIS: Death panels, all over the place. All over the place. I mean all over the place. Seriously. On your station, Lou.

DOBBS: You said concentration camps.

LOUIS: They have described them in detail, that order is going to come.

DOBBS: Answer the question.

LOUIS: And when you see somebody show up --

DOBBS: Has anyone done what Ed Shultz said? Has anyone done that? This is beyond the pale of ideology.

LOUIS: I think there are people who are doing the exact equivalent, or the radio, the media equivalent of fulminating, sowing discord, and in effect placing almost, metaphorically, a loaded gun on the table and then walking out of the room.

DOBBS: My god, to even use that metaphor. I have to be honest with you, you and I have known each other for a long time. That is a patently ideological --

LOUIS: Lou, wait.

DOBBS: Go ahead, Chris, I don't -- we don't want to leave Chris out of this debate.

STIREWALT: I think what is illustrated here is that --

(CROSSTALK)

STIREWALT: No. The only thing I see here is nobody is talking about health care anymore. We are talking about the mob. We're talking about the president.

DOBBS: The Congress wasn't either, Chris, in all honesty.

STIREWALT: Exactly. But I think the point here is that White House has lost control of this discussion. Congress has lost control of the discussion.

They didn't put any -- they didn't put a final idea forward, a proposal to the American people, which is understandable. The president wanted one done by August so there would be something to talk about. They failed in that goal and right now people are understandably upset.

The anger, the discussion, the outrage that we hear, I think, is illustrative of the fact that the Democratic majority has done a good job of selling this thing to the American people and now they're attacking the people who are upset about it.

FINNEY: I obviously take issue with that. We're not attacking people that are upset. We're suggesting that at these town halls --

DOBBS: You take exception to what?

FINNEY: People that come to the town halls --

DOBBS: We don't care what you're taking exception to.

FINNEY: Then why are you having me on the show to talk about health care reform?

DOBBS: I'd love to hear you talk about it. But you started talking to me about something I said on radio about Howard Dean. What's that got to do with it?

FINNEY: That's exactly my point, Lou. What does that have to do with it?

DOBBS: We appreciate you bringing up those points to us. Errol, thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

LOUIS: When people are bringing guns to town hall meetings, and it's happened more than once, that is a problem.

FINNEY: You think it's appropriate to bring guns to town hall meetings?

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: You are doing everything can you to absolutely distort an event that occurred that was absolutely benign. A man was making a point. He happens to live in a state in which guns are permitted to be carried. It's open carry. It's a constitutional right.

Now you not only went to constrain freedom of speech and freedom of expression, you want to attack the Second Amendment and distort it into something sinister when you're sitting here talking in language that I frankly, Errol, I think is highly irresponsible.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Join me on the radio 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon. Go to loudobbs.com and get the local listings in your area for the show. And some daily podcasts and, of course, we'll be talking about evil mongerers tomorrow.

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

Sitting in for Campbell Brown, John Roberts.