Return to Transcripts main page

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Democrats Divided; "You Lie"; Health Care in Argentina

Aired September 10, 2009 - 19:00   ET

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


KITTY PILGRIM, GUEST HOST: Thanks, Wolf.

Tonight after President Obama's address to Congress, top Democrats signal their willingness to drop a government-run health care insurance option. Also Congressman Joe Wilson apologizes for calling the president a liar, but the president's claim about illegal immigrants and the health care plan may not be accurate. We'll examine the issue. And a lawmaker resigns after he's caught on tape bragging in graphic detail about having sex with two women.

Good evening, everybody. New signs tonight that the Democratic divide over health care may be narrowing -- now the president's speech last night may have brought Democrats closer together on the president's plan. The sticking point is the public option. And many sensed wiggle room from the president and other senior Democrats on the issue. The Republicans tonight, however, remain unmoved. Our coverage begins tonight with Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the president's speech was meant to bridge the health care divide in his own party, listen in. It may have had an effect.

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: All the stars are aligned. I mean if we can't do this now, then when the hell are we going to be able to do it? You know I want to help this president make history.

BASH: Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern describes himself this way.

MCGOVERN: I'm a proud liberal Democrat.

BASH: He strongly supports a government run health care option but says the president's address helps convince him to be willing to compromise.

MCGOVERN: We need meaningful health care reform and it may not be everything I want. I mean I'm a single payer person, but at the end of the day if it moves the ball forward, then I think it's going to be worth supporting.

BASH: To be sure some liberal Democrats are still firmly entrenched.

REP. LYNN WOOLSEY (D), CALIFORNIA: We don't have health care reform unless we have a public option.

BASH: But the House speaker even softened her stance -- this often repeated line in the sand...

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option.

BASH: Now noticeably absent.

PELOSI: This is about a goal. It's not about provisions. As long as our goal of affordability and accessibility and quality, then we'll go forward with that bill.

BASH: That's a tell-tale sign that liberal Democrats are now more accepting of this reality. Any health care bill must be conservative enough to pass the much more moderate Senate. In fact Pelosi even signaled the House now will not act until it is clear what the Senate Finance Committee will produce. Their proposal now has no public option and on other issues the Democratic chairman boasted the president's new plan tracks with theirs.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: Very close to being in sync here and that's confidence building.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: The president's health care plan really depends on what a rather large group of moderate Senate Democrats can accept and that's why the president invited 17 of them to the White House this afternoon. And Kitty, we caught up with them as they returned by bus here to Capitol Hill. One Democratic senator told us that he pushed the president on a so-called trigger.

That is a public plan would only take effect in several years and only if other insurance reforms don't work. Several senators we talked to told us the president in this private meeting just this afternoon made abundantly clear he is willing to negotiate -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Very interesting developments -- thanks very much, Dana Bash. Well Washington is still buzzing tonight over that jarring moment during the president's speech last night. Republican Congressman Joe Wilson shouted "you lie" when President Obama said his health care plan would not provide coverage for illegal immigrants. Now Wilson apologized for the remarks shortly after the speech. Suzanne Malveaux has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(APPLAUSE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama accepted Congressman Joe Wilson's apology.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm a big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation and I'm appreciative of that. MALVEAUX: Mr. Obama never directly talked to Wilson but rather received the apology through his chief of staff. The fallout from the tense moment gave the president the opportunity to present himself as above the fray.

OBAMA: We have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name calling, without the assumption of the worst in other people's motives. We are all Americans. We all want to do best for our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lie!

(SOUNDS)

MALVEAUX: The congressman's outburst came after a month of emotional town hall meetings surrounding health care reform.

OBAMA: The time for bickering is over.

MALVEAUX: The president's speech was supposed to lower the temperature but some Republicans said it only stoked their anger.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I've never heard a more partisan speech by a president in that House chamber. The terminologies used like partisan spectacle, unyielding ideological, bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Obama also said the media just can't resist controversy.

OBAMA: The media can always be helpful by not giving all of the attention to the loudest or shrillest voices and try to stay a little bit more focused on the issues at hand.

MALVEAUX: The issue at hand health care reform.

OBAMA: We have talked this issue to death. Year after year, decade after decade, and the time for talk is winding down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And Kitty, the talk continues at the White House. As Dana had mentioned, the president hosting about 17 moderate Democrats to talk about health care reform moving forward, also the White House this evening, Kitty, saying that the president will make what they're calling a major announcement on the financial crisis -- this at Federal Hall in New York City on Monday -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux.

Well Congressman Wilson's outburst does, however, draw attention to the president's remarks and in his speech the president said quote "the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally." But as Lisa Sylvester now reports, there is more to the president's claim -- Lisa. LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kitty. Well it's H.R. 3200 and Section 246 explicitly in black and white it states that people who are not lawfully present are not eligible to receive the health care benefits. But Republicans say there is a catch -- that there is no enforcement mechanism whatsoever in this House bill to make sure illegal immigrants do not participate in the health care program.

Representative John Boehner and others they came out today and they're pointing to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service and to put that into context. This is an independent -- it's a bipartisan research office that is used by all the members of Congress and it concluded "H.R. 3200 does not contain any restrictions on non citizens whether legally or illegally present or in the United States temporarily or permanently from participating in the exchange."

Now, to take you back, we need to go back a little bit to back in July. Representative Dean Heller, he introduced an amendment in the House Ways and Means Committee that would have required -- it would have specified and required that people who are applying for these health care subsidies to make sure that they are screened through a program called a Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program, also known as SAVE.

That is a system that is currently being used. It's used to verify eligibility for other social services programs to make sure that illegal aliens are not receiving this benefit. Steve Camarota is with the Center for Immigration Studies and he's among those who is concerned because there is no provision in there. No enforcement mechanism to make sure that illegal aliens do not receive these health care benefits.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: If you want to sign up for food stamps or cash assistance welfare and programs of that kind, we run your names through these data bases through what's called the SAVE program and that way it's supposed to weed out illegal immigrants. That's not being done here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: So what Republicans are saying is that there is a lot more to this story. That when Democrats say and they point to this provision 246 and they say hey it is right there in black and white that illegal immigrants would not be eligible to receive this, they say, yeah, but the Congressional Research Service has determined that they would be able to receive it and on top of that, Republicans had tried to through this Heller amendment to put in place the enforcement mechanism and that was voted down along party lines 26-15 -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Very interesting. Thanks very much -- Lisa Sylvester.

Well coming up, we will have much more on the impact of the president's address on health care, also E-Verify, it's the successful federal program to confirm worker eligibility is now mandatory for federal contractors.

And is there a doctor in the house? In the next 10 years that answer is more likely to be no -- we'll have a special report in "DOBBS AND JOBS NOW!" Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: As the president struggles to bridge the health care divide, another potentially crippling issue looms. It's a doctor shortage. Now a recent study predicts a shortfall of 40,000 family physicians by the year 2020. And if health care coverage is extended to the millions of Americans currently uninsured, the problem will only escalate. Ines Ferre has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How we're doing here.

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Randy Wexler (ph) has been a family physician in the Columbus, Ohio area for the past 19 years. He sees up to 32 patients a day.

DR. RANDY WEXLER, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Every day I have a patient that's upset on how long it took to get in or I have a message from a patient who can't wait until a next available appointment.

FERRE: Over the years the wait time for an office visit with him has grown exponentially.

WEXLER: So few physicians because they're so full are taking new patients that for a patient to see me because I'm taking new patients is anywhere from two to two and a half months.

FERRE: Among factors contributing to the shortage of primary care doctors, population growth, aging patients, relatively low reimbursements and more female doctors who tend to work fewer hours. The Association of American Medical Colleges forecast a shortage of 124,000 physicians by the year 2025, 46,000 of them primary care doctors.

Currently there's a shortage of 16,000 primary physicians especially in rural areas. A fifth of the states already have just one primary care physician per 1,300 people. The average general physician earns $161,000 a year. On average medical students graduate with at least $140,000 in debt, the health care bill in the House includes some provisions to address the shortage but the doctor's group we spoke with said more needs to be done.

DR. RICHARD "BUZ" COOPER, PHYSICIANS FOUNDATION: If there aren't enough physicians, health care won't function properly and health care reform won't function properly.

FERRE: Dr. Wexler says primary doctors will help save money through prevention and early treatments. WEXLER: Making sure patients have their flu shots, their pneumonia shots, their colonoscopy, make sure that their cholesterol is controlled to appropriate levels. That blood pressure they didn't know they have was treated and without primary care to coordinate that, to manage that and to look for that, those things get missed and they go by the wayside.

FERRE: Costing more in the long run.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FERRE: And it's estimated that one out of every three physicians are over the age of 55. That means they will retire soon and if it takes about seven years to train a doctor, that's why these medical groups, Kitty, are saying that this is so urgent.

PILGRIM: Yeah, it seems very essential and critical to the whole discussion of health care and the quality of health care. Thanks very much. Ines Ferre.

Well the E-Verify system allows employers to check the legal status of their workers. Now it is the most successful federal program in place to keep illegal immigrants out of the nation's workforce. The use of E-Verify is now mandatory for all federal contractors. This rule went into effect this week despite a last- minute legal challenge by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): E-Verify is now the rule of the land. All federal contractors and subcontractors with contracts greater than $100,000 or contracts lasting longer than 120 days must now use the federally run program to verify whether their employees are legally able to work in the United States.

BILL WRIGHT, U.S. CITIZENSHIP & IMMIG. SERVICES: Once federal contractors start signing up and they see how simple it is, how easy it is to use, how quick it is to use, they're going to learn real quick what 148,000 other employees already know. The system does work.

TUCKER: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the program's staunchest foe. The Chamber wants the courts to stop the program arguing that E- Verify would harm business, the government and public interest. It's a claim that supporters of the program strongly contest.

JESSICA VAUGHAN, CTR. FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: There's really no harm to a business that could be caused by using E-Verify unless their entire workforce or a significant part of it is illegal and they're going to lose it.

TUCKER: But one of the parties to the suit with the Chamber explains.

DAN YEAGER, H.R. POLICY ASSOCIATION: What we would like to see is a system that goes more toward a biometric identifier and so before we start imposing this on millions and millions of employees throughout the United States, we need to make sure we have the best system in place.

TUCKER: Currently 97 percent of employees run through the system are almost immediately found to be legally eligible to work in the U.S. Fewer than three percent have found out problems that are often cleared up, problems like Social Security number incorrectly written down or a failure to change a name after getting married. The remainder three-tenths of one percent are found to be unauthorized to work.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: There isn't anything out there that works at a higher level of efficiency than E-Verify does.

TUCKER: And E-Verify is free to employers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: All right, 1,000 employers sign up for E-Verify every week and according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, 9,000 federal contractors had voluntarily signed up for E-Verify before this past Tuesday when it became mandatory. The courts have denied request for injunctions to stop E-Verify from being instituted but Kitty that has not stopped the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from continuing to pursue overturning the program through the courts.

PILGRIM: It seems -- I'm intrigued by the biometric check option -- it seems a lot more invasive...

TUCKER: It's a lot more expensive, a lot more invasive than somebody just typing in your name, your Social Security number and checking your legal status, yes.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Bill Tucker.

Well coming up in tonight's "Face Off" debate, the president's health care plan, the benefits, the cost, the chances of reform happening this year. And we'll have our special report on health care and how it is handled in other countries and tonight we look at Argentina. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: We continue our coverage of health care systems around the world and how they compare to health care in this country. Tonight Argentina -- in that country health care is funded and the funding is a big problem. Many facilities are run down. There's an abundance of doctors and those in need can readily find care. Life expectancy in Argentina is 75 years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM (voice-over): Argentina probably has one of the most complicated health care systems in the world. The system is partially funded by direct national taxes and payroll taxes. The majority of funding, 58 percent go to Social Security organizations, comparable to HMOs in the United States that are funded by employer taxes. The public sector covers the uninsured and the under-insured, about 42 percent of the population, about eight percent of the population also pay for private health care services. Federico Diaz Mathe once ran one of the largest private health companies in Argentina.

FEDERICO DIAZ MATHE, HEALTH POLICY EXPERT: This is a system that is based on the provisional governments so the provinces that collect better taxes, they can render better services, have better hospitals. It all depends on which province that you live in, the kind of health care that you may receive.

PILGRIM: Argentina spends 10 percent of GDP on health care compared to 16 percent in the United States. An issue unique to Argentina is the oversupply of doctors. There is one doctor to every 333 people compared to one to 416 in the United States. Even if a public hospital is under funded or located in a poor area there are enough doctors.

ASST. PROF. TULIA FALLETI, UNIV. OF PENNSYLVANIA: So what one usually finds in public hospitals is the institution, the maintenance (ph) and facilities are run down but the quality of the human resources is really outstanding.

PILGRIM: In the private sector the level of care and technology is comparable to most western nations. In the public sector a drain on the system in the fact that Argentina offers full health service to all people in the country whether legal or illegal, according to health care policy specialist Bruce Pollack.

BRUCE POLLACK, ACADEMY FOR INTL. HEALTH STUDIES: Hospital administrators are often frustrated with their requirement to provide care which is so frequently uncompensated care that they often don't even bother to attempt to bill the patient.

PILGRIM: Culturally there is an over demand of medical services. People in Argentina go to the doctor often between seven and eight times a year, more than double the rate of the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Because the three systems co-exist there's a lot of duplication and confusion. However, there is no widespread move to reform the system in Argentina.

Well coming up, we'll have much more on the president's address to Congress and in tonight's "Face Off" debate what should be in the health care plan and what should be out, also a brand new controversy surrounding the left wing activist group ACORN. Two ACORN employees were just fired. You will not believe why. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: Well President Obama took his case for health care overhaul to Congress in a televised speech last night. But did the speech provide enough detail about the health care proposal? Did it change any minds? Well that's the topic of tonight's "Face Off" debate.

And joining me now is Congressman Scott Garrett, Republican of New Jersey. And he says the current health care system needs to be changed but a government takeover is not the answer. And Congressman Steve Rothman is a Democrat of New Jersey and he supports the president's plan. He says last night's speech changed the health care debate entirely.

So let's start with basically -- we'll start with you Congressman Garrett. Was this a make or break moment for the president? And did he stand up and make his case?

REP. SCOTT GARRETT (R), NEW JERSEY: Well, I think it was potentially make or break and he did try to make his case, and he made a case, but it's the same speech, basically the same points that he's been making from day one, so I don't know whether much of America was tuning in and heard anything different.

My take away from it was is that what he was describing though as far as his ideas and plans sure isn't what we're seeing in the bill that Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid would have us vote in the House or the Senate any time soon. It's very different in a lot of key and crucial points.

PILGRIM: This is sort of a war of words at this point. We need details. We need specifics. Tell us what you think should go in it, Congressman Rothman.

REP. STEVE ROTHMAN (D), NEW JERSEY: Well I think my colleague, Scott Garrett and I, the Democrats and Republicans in general in the House agree on about 80 percent of what's already in H.R. 3200. I did 10 town haul meetings over the summer and we learned a lot about what language needs to be tightened up, what things concern people and those suggestions are going to be incorporated in the bill, but basically if you have insurance, we're going to make sure it's more affordable, bend the cost curve...

(CROSSTALK)

ROTHMAN: ... make sure that the insurance companies can't dump you if you get sick.

PILGRIM: Who could disagree with that? Who honestly could disagree with that?

ROTHMAN: (INAUDIBLE)

PILGRIM: Let's talk about the public option because that seems to be a point of contention although some of our reporting today points out that it may be -- there may be some movement on this. You know the president said last night quote, "only one part of my -- it's only one part of my plan and should not be used as a handy excuse for the Washington ideological battles." So Congressman Rothman, are you for the public option?

ROTHMAN: I'm for the public option because it allows for us to keep the insurance companies honest so they can't dump people if they discover pre-existing condition or the person gets sick or if a person loses their job and they can't get that insurance policy again. But if my friends on the Republican side of the aisle -- I happen to be a Democrat -- have other solutions we -- as the president said -- have had an open mind, we're ready to hear what their solutions are. The Democrats have put forth solutions. We're tightening them up after our August town hall meetings but we're waiting to hear from our Republican friends who identify the same problems but don't offer any solutions.

PILGRIM: Congressman Grassley -- Congressman Garrett, Senator Grassley said that the speech passed a big opportunity that it would have been pivotal, pivotal for bipartisanship if they had ruled out a government-run plan. Do you agree with that and what's your view on the public option?

GARRETT: Well I don't support the public option. And it's really disconcerting that Steve makes that point that he's still waiting to hear from the Republicans for different ideas and plans because you know we've been laying them out since day one. As a matter of fact, as the president walked down the aisle last night when he was all done, I reached out, extended my hand to him and I handed him a packet with over two dozen different Republican bills on health care that had been filed.

It's on the record, so Steve, it's right there for you to look at. And if the president has it now, he said he would be glad to look at it. But they've been out there. The Republicans have had these suggestions out there. We're just asking to have the administration be able to be open to the American public to hear these other ideas.

ROTHMAN: Well you know, Scott, I looked on your Web site tonight and I saw that we share the same concerns and you were criticizing the Democrats' ideas but you didn't offer one specific program on your Web site of how to address the problem of insurance companies dropping people with insurance when they get sick or providing competition so the insurance companies can't raise rates, double and triple as we've seen them happen before.

Plus there was no suggestion from your Web site or my other Republican friends on what to do with those American citizens who are uninsured and the public option is an option only. If you don't want to do it, you don't have to take it. It's an option that we would provide with private other -- private insurance policies. You pick the public one or the private ones, whatever makes sense for you. That's what we think Americans want -- affordability and choice.

PILGRIM: Congressman Garrett, response to that?

GARRETT: Well we certainly do want affordability and choice. And that's why when I listened to the president I said you know he's describing some really -- some good points but it sure ain't the bill that Speaker Pelosi would have us vote. For example, on the public option the president says he would not have that public option being subsidized by the government. Well that's a good point, but if you look in the bill that the House is about to vote on, the one that Steve said that he's all behind and he would support, that has subsidization by the government.

Matter of fact, it says if you make up the 300 percent of poverty level the government is going to step in there and subsidize it. It says that the government will be able to set the rates that they will pay on. That's another subsidization.

So I guess the question for Steve is, we both want to do the same thing but you're saying you support the House bill so you're really not supporting what the president was saying right now. So I guess you have to go back to your constituents and say, are you with the president and what he said last night or are you with Speaker Pelosi and the bill that you've already set on your -- (INAUDIBLE) August?

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Last word.

ROTHMAN: I did 10 town hall meetings, Scott. I gathered you didn't do any. But the language in the bill says that after two years there will be no subsidization of the public health option. So I think you misread the bill.

But the bottom line is we need to tighten the language and let's hear from our Republican friends. What's their solution? And the president said if there's something wrong with the language of the bill, help us tighten it up.

Most Americans, 80 percent of them, agree on 80 percent of what's wrong. Let's keep what's right about America's great health care system but fix what's wrong. We can do it. And we'll do it.

PILGRIM: Gentlemen, I have to say we conclude it there. I know we'll be discussing it for quite some time. And good luck with your work.

ROTHMAN: Thank you.

GARRETT: Thank you so much.

PILGRIM: Congressman Steve Rothman, Congressman Scott Garrett, thank you.

Ines Ferre has an update on some other stories that we're following tonight. Ines.

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Kitty. Two former Pennsylvania judges are now facing 48 counts of racketeering, extortion and bribery among other crimes. Former Lucerne County judges, Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, are accused of taking nearly $3 million in kickbacks to place youth offenders in private detention centers.

Hundreds of youth convictions have been overturned as a result of this case and more convictions are under review. An earlier plea deal by the judges was rejected.

In California the Station fire is now 71 percent contained. Cooler weather is allowing firefighters to set back fires on the eastern flank of the fire to gain more control of the blaze.

Two Los Angeles County firefighters lost their lives in the Station fire and 81 homes have been destroyed. Officials say arson is to blame. It is the largest fire in Los Angeles County history.

And finally, there's one fast cat in Ohio. Sarah the cheetah broke the land speed record for an animal covering 100 meters in 6.13 seconds. That's three seconds faster than the fastest human time, 9.58 seconds, set by Hussein Bolt in August this year.

The cheetah ran on a specially designed course at the Cincinnati Zoo. The previous record for a cheetah was 6.19 seconds.

And those are come of the stories that we've been following tonight. Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks, Ines.

Coming up, a California politician resigns after he's caught on tape making lewd comments about an affair with a lobbyist.

Also caught on tape, ACORN workers allegedly helping a young woman build her prostitution business. We'll have details of those stories and much more next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: President Obama's speech last night was more than 5,600 words long. It took about 50 minutes to deliver. But two words shouted during the speech by someone else and the apologies and comments that followed are being what's talked about today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Totally disrespectful. No place for it in that setting or any other and he should apologize immediately.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: It was stunning to hear such a statement made on the floor of the House and the president of the United States is speaking.

WILSON: Last night, I heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and say that my statements were inappropriate. I did.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you accept Wilson's apology?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I do. I'm a big believer that we all make mistakes. He apologized quickly and without equivocation and I'm appreciative of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PILGRIM: Well, it's the level of national discourse was the loser last night, there was one winner and it's congressman Wilson's Democratic opponent. Democratic Party officials say the candidate Rob Miller has raised more than $400,000 since Wilson's remarks last night.

Well, joining me now is Joe Conason, a columnist for "Salon" and New York bureau chief for "The Washington Post," Keith Richburg joins us, and Ron Christie, president of Christie Strategies.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. And let's start with the Joe Wilson controversy. Keith? Thoughts?

KEITH RICHBURG, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's not a really good time for South Carolina politicians, is it?

(LAUGHTER)

And I have to apologize. Both my parents came from the state so -- but, you know, it's funny that that became the thing that everybody is talking about the next day. There could have been things in the speech that they were talking about like, you know, how are we going to pay for this, et cetera.

But there -- once again, I think the opposition is the best friend that Obama has in some of this stuff because by always going over the top and -- you know, doing something completely shrill like that, I think, you know, the Republicans kind of end up stepping on what they want their message to be.

PILGRIM: Yes. Well, you know, I mean that point aside, let's talk about the topic that was being discussed at that moment which is the White House says illegal immigrants will not be covered.

Ron, thoughts on this whole incident.

RON CHRISTIE, CHRISTIE STRATEGIES: I think it's unfortunate. I think you've heard from Senator McCain and others in the Republican leadership that said that there is no place for that level of discourse on the floor of the House of Representatives.

I think that's right. But I don't think we should over blow this either, Kitty. I think that Joe Wilson is one member of Congress. There are 535 members of the House and the Senate, and one individual's action doesn't speak for an entire party. I mean, for that matter, you can look and say that Wilson immediately owned up to what he had done.

He had called White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, admitted that he was wrong. The president accepted that apology. Let's move on. I mean we can say that Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee who's been immersed in wide variety of tax issues. Democrats brushed that away and say oh, let's not talk about that.

So I think that partisans need to be very careful and look at the speech and look at the topic at hand which was health care and not have all the attention be on Joe Wilson.

PILGRIM: All right. Joe?

JOE CONASON, COLUMNIST, SALON: Well, look, Wilson has brought a problem on himself which is that now the constituents in his district in South Carolina will have a better opportunity to judge whether he's fit to serve in Congress anymore because his opponent has raised a lot of money overnight, having had something like $16,000 in the bank before, now has -- is closing in on half a million. So may be able to be a competitive candidate and that's the way it should be.

PILGRIM: Go ahead, Keith.

RICHBURG: Just to -- I think, you know, the problem was yes, he did apologize but then he went ahead and repeated the thing that we now know is untrue. Fact Check, a lot of other organizations including "The Washington Post" have looked at this. Illegal immigrants would not be covered. It can't be clearer.

PILGRIM: Well, gentlemen, let's go to the substance of this. Go ahead, Ron.

CHRISTIE: That's not true at all. Actually, if you look...

RICHBURG: It's completely true.

CHRISTIE: ... at what the Congressional Budget Office has said -- the Congressional Budget Office has said that there is not a specific provision in there that says that illegal aliens could not be covered.

What Republicans have tried to do and what Republicans were voted down, I should say, on party line were amendments that said let's specifically state that we will not allow people who are in this country illegally to receive money from this bill.

The Democrats won't pass that. So I think that there is a lot of reason for Republicans to say the Democrats are being a little bit disingenuous.

RICHBURG: It says that. Listen to what John McCain said. He said, in that interview, it is not there. It's not there. It's fake. Even in his apology, Wilson repeated it.

CONASON: In any case, you know, if Joe Wilson or any other member of Congress has a problem with the language of the bill, what they need to do is change their attitude about the entire health care package and start to introduce amendments that are constructive rather than scream out while the president is speaking in Congress. I mean that is, you know, a sign of their frustration perhaps but it doesn't do anything.

PILGRIM: A fair comment. You know, Joe, I wanted to ask you, you have written a number of columns that Obama has a strategy that ranks bipartisan agreement above policy substance. What are you talking about there? Flush that out for us a little bit. CONASON: Well, what I said was there were signs of that certainly from comments coming from White House staff basically saying we're going to throw over, for example, the public option in -- because we need to have -- we want to get at least one Republican vote in the Senate.

They know they're not going to get any Republican votes in the House practically. But they want to get one Republican in the Senate because there were some Democrats in the Senate who didn't want to vote for a bill that was done through reconciliation with no Republican votes.

This is a strategy that starts up by saying we cannot have the bill that the president originally wanted because we have to get Republican. So that's what that meant. And whether that a sound strategy or not remains to be seen. So far it has not worked.

Originally they hoped to get several Republicans. Now they're down to one that they think they may get. And I think they're going to end up having a Democratic bill.

PILGRIM: All right. We will get back to that in a second. We'll have much more with our panel in just a moment.

Another controversy also surrounding the left-wing activist group ACORN. This one is caught on tape. So stay with us for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: There's a new controversy tonight for the left-wing activist group ACORN. The group has fired two employees who were caught on tape allegedly giving tax avoidance advice to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute.

This videotape made by an independent filmmaker shows the workers allegedly telling the couple how to obtain loans for a brothel even how to obtain tax credit for illegal immigrants working as prostitutes.

Now this is not the first time the federally funded organization has come under fire. Bill Tucker joins us now with more. Bill?

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, thank you very much. As you mentioned, there is a swirl of controversy this evening. That because of two filmmakers. Two conservative activist filmmakers who went in the Baltimore office of ACORN posing as a pimp and a prostitute.

And as you mentioned, they went in seeking advice on how to establish their business and how to run their business and they received it beginning with some tax advice from one of the officials at the ACORN office in Baltimore.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your business is a performing artist. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A performing artist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which you are. OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're lying. We'll play on words. But you're a performing artist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK? Stop staying prostitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER: Well, they didn't stop saying prostitution. And in fact, they went on to tell them that it was a complicating factor here because what they were interested in doing as well was bringing in young girls from El Salvador into the country illegally, 14 years of age, and using them as underage prostitutes in the business that they were going to be running out of the house. Instead of being told to leave the office, they went on to receive some further advice from the people at ACORN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to use all of them. You're going to use three of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under 16. So you're eligible to get a child tax credit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And additional check of tax credit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER: Now there are some problems with this videotape and that we should point out, Kitty, in that the videotape as presented on the Internet is blacked out. We can't see all of the conversations nor everything that has happened.

We have put phone calls into law enforcement agencies in Maryland to ask if there was an ongoing investigation or if in fact there is a new investigation. They confirmed neither but they did tell us at CNN that there could be problems with the evidence as it was gathered because Maryland is a two-party state, meaning secretly videotaped evidence would not be admissible into court.

But again we do not know whether there is an investigation going on. We are informed as you reported, Kitty, that two employees have been barred by the Maryland office. We've been trying to reach that Maryland office. Their voice mailbox, as you might suspect, is full. They're not answering phone calls nor are they returning any phone calls.

I do also want to mention that we did ask the filmmakers for interviews. Mr. O'Keefe was not available today. Hannah Giles, the young woman that played the prostitute in that video, Kitty, was supposed to be here but mysteriously sent us a text message saying, "Sorry, I can't do it."

So we don't know if, in fact, they've been trying to film other film offices, or excuse me, other ACORN offices. The statement that we received from ACORN today from the ACORN national spokesman, Scott Levinson, was pretty straightforward. He called this an example of "gotcha journalism". He noted that they had tried to do this in other offices at ACORN, had failed to do so and that they want to see the full video before they make further comment.

The other offices they told me were in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. We have no confirmation of that nor do we have any reason to not believe the ACORN spokesman. Kitty?

PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much, Bill Tucker. A lot of reporting there. Thank you, Bill.

We are back with our panel, and on this note, why don't we start with this controversy, Keith, of what do you make of this discussion?

RICHBURG: You know, it's another embarrassment for ACORN. It's another embarrassment, you know. And the only reason they're on the radar screen is because they became well known -- most people, they've never heard of ACORN two years ago.

They became well known because they were helping "Get Out the Vote" efforts for the Obama campaign. You know, so it's an embarrassment for ACORN. I don't know if it's going to go beyond that and I'd be interested if that is true, what the spokesman said, that these conservative filmmaker went around to three or four offices and basically got thrown out with this ruse, and they found one office where there were two people stupid enough to sit down and give them this kind of silly advice.

And it sounds to me like that's just entrapment. You know? Let's go around various offices until we can finally trick somebody into...

CONASON: It's not journalism unless they report everything that happened. It's propaganda. If you're a reporter and you're doing something this, then you would report, yes, we went to the four offices and one said, you know, fell for -- took the bait.

If you don't report that, if you act as if you went into one office and they did it, then that's dishonest. The other thing is, Bill mentioned that it's a two-party state. The filmmakers could be liable to civil or criminal action, in fact, for taping people without telling them in the state of Maryland. I have a reporter who works in the capital district that knows about this. It came up during the Linda Tripp affair whether Tripp could be prosecuted in Maryland for recording Monica Lewinsky unlawfully. So that could be an interesting sideline, and may be why the filmmaker did not show up to be on television to discuss this tonight.

PILGRIM: Ron, thoughts about this whole issue?

CHRISTIE: I think it only underscores, Kitty, the reason why many conservatives, many Republicans think that there should be a federal investigation into ACORN. And it's not just this specific case. There have been of a number of cases with ACORN over the years where there have been allegations of illegally registering people to vote.

This particular incidence of allegedly allowing prostitution or those funds to be used, I think that there should be an investigation. And Mark Levin, a conservative radio talk show host, has been on this for years. The silence has been deafening from the Democrats and the Justice Department.

CONASON: You should...

CHRISTIE: And, again, these people...

CONASON: You should present the evidence to the Justice Department if you have evidence of a federal crime.

CHRISTIE: It's not me...

CONASON: And this is...

CHRISTIE: I didn't cut you off.

CONASON: This is a lot of vague stuff.

CHRISTIE: Excuse me. I didn't cut you off. It's not me. It's for those in the federal government who are looking at whether or not the federal elections have been tampered with. I think that's a serious enough allegation that has been out there...

(CROSSTALK)

CONASON: Where's the evidence?

CHRISTIE: ... but for years, that I think it would be warranted, rather than some of these frivolous cases that the Justice Department seems to be interested in pursuing on partisan lines.

PILGRIM: I mean, this does have political ramifications. Congressman Steve King has called for an investigation.

Keith, I mean, this is a political issue, is it not?

RICHBURG: Well, these are two different things. I mean, if there was this group in Baltimore, the two people advising, you know, so-called prostitute and pimp how to evade the law, sounds to me like that's a Maryland state law. Just go to Maryland state authority.

Now in terms of election fraud, now, look, there have been these election fraud allegations going on back and forth since the 200 election with allegations that black voters were kicked off the rolls on Florida, that voters were disenchanted in Ohio. These things happened after every election.

PILGRIM: Well, the fact that...

(CROSSTALK)

PILGRIM: ... that the name ACORN turns up in both of these cases, I mean, you bring it up yourself.

RICHBURG: Sure. Sure.

PILGRIM: I mean, certainly, that -- does that have any political ramification?

RICHBURG: I think there should be -- if there is evidence that there was some voter fraud committed, yes, sure. The Justice Department should be looking at that, as they should have looked at all these voter fraud allegations that have happened in the last three election cycles we've had.

CONASON: Yes, I mean, but usually it is a state law. In other words, usually, the states supervised elections and if people are permitting election fraud in a state, that state needs to investigate it and states attorney general have the power to prosecute people who do that.

So if Ron Christie knows an example where ACORN committed a prosecutable election fraud in any state, which I don't know of, by the way, he or the conservatives he's talking about ought to present the evidence of that to the property authorities in those states and they should do something about it.

A lot of these allegations against ACORN have taken place in states that are governed by Republicans. And they have not one, one case against ACORN for election fraud.

PILGRIM: Ron, you get the last word on this.

CHRISTIE: And Ron Christie would say this is yet another indication where the Justice Department seems to be...

CONASON: Not the Justice Department.

CHRISTINE: ... interested on the partisan -- excuse me, Joe, where they seem to be very interested in pursuing things on partisan issues. If you look at the case dealing with the New Black Panther Party, where they had him on tape, intimidating voters in Philadelphia, and Eric Holder, the attorney general, decided he didn't want to prosecute. I think that justice should be blind before the law. It should be on what is right and wrong, not on what is black and white. And it seems to me that any allegation of tying President Obama's former affiliation with ACORN is met with racism charges...

PILGRIM: All right, Ron...

CHRISTIE: .... or let's see the evidence.

PILGRIM: Ron, we got -- I'm so sorry. We have to cut it off here. Quite an interesting discussion. Keith, we'll take you for another time.

RICHBURG: Yes, all right.

PILGRIM: Joe Conason, Ron Christie, Keith Richburg, thank you very much.

RICHBURG: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown. Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Kitty, we're actually following a little breaking news about the swine flu vaccine. We've got some new information on how many shots you will have to get. We'll tell you about that coming up.

Also, I'll ask best-selling author Paul Branson what parents should make of researchers finding that six-month-old babies already judge others based on the color of their skin.

And a question you've brought up, can our politicians get past the lies, the distortion, and just plain rudeness and have a national debate about health care?

We've got all that plus the "Mashup" of the day's top news at the top of the hour, Kitty.

PILGRIM: We look forward to it. Thanks very much, Campbell Brown.

When we come back, did they really say that? High-profile people making low-brow comments all caught on tape. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PILGRIM: Always be careful of an open microphone. Well, it's an axiom many politicians seems to frequently forget. And the latest victim of an open mike is a boastful California congressman with an apparent habit of discussing non-legislative subjects.

Casey Wian has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When will they learn?

MIKE DUVALL, FORMER CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLYMAN: She wears little eye patch underwear.

WIAN: Self-proclaimed family values Republican state lawmaker Mike Duvall was captured by an open microphone before a California assembly hearing bragging to a colleague about his alleged sexual exploits with a lobbyist.

DUVALL: So I am getting into spanking her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are?

DUVALL: Yes. I like it.

WIAN: Much of Duvall's locker room tales are too graphic for television. The married father of two resigned Wednesday but says that's no admission he actually had an affair. It is however the latest case of a politician caught by an open mike.

You'd think a former actor would know better. But California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was recorded talking about a lawmaker with Puerto Rican heritage.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I mean, they're all very hot. They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them. That together makes it.

WIAN: Then there was Jesse Jackson caught by a FOX News mike saying this about the presidential candidate he supported.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: See, Barack been, um, talking down to black people on this faith based. I want to cut his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off.

WIAN: And speaking of cutting off, that's essentially what Senators Hillary Clinton and John Edwards wanted to do to lesser known Democratic presidential candidates during an NAACP forum.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We got to talk because they are just being trivialized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Senator Joseph Biden. Again, thank you so much. Thank you very much for coming. Have a great afternoon.

JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They are not serious.

CLINTON: No.

WIAN: It's unclear if Republican congresswoman Jean Schmidt was serious when an open mike caught her agreeing with a woman claiming President Obama is in eligible for the White House. A statement Schmidt later disavowed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He cannot be a president by our Constitution.

REP. JEAN SCHMIDT (R), OHIO: I agree with you, but the courts don't.

WIAN: Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell took heat for this backhanded endorsement of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano.

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Janet's perfect for that job because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.

WIAN: Former President Clinton turned this less than artful phrase after an interview during the 2008 primaries, explaining his claim the Obama campaign played the race card against his wife.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I don't think I should take any (EXPLETIVE DELETED) from anybody on that, do you?

WIAN: President George W. Bush was also captured using salty language about a "New York Times" reporter.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Oh yes, yes. Good times.

WIAN: Actually that gaffe was small time compared to the lurid tales that caused former California Assemblyman Duvall his job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: One of the first things we learned in this business is to treat every microphone is live. And to be fair, Kitty, plenty of our colleagues have caught saying the wrong thing by one of these.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Casey Wian.

A reminder now to join Lou on the radio Monday through Friday for the "Lou Dobbs Show" and go to loudobbs.com to find the local listings for the "Lou Dobbs Show" on the radio. And you can follow Lou at LouDobbsNews on Twitter.com.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Next, Campbell Brown.