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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Is Iran Pushing for Peace?; Can President Obama handle Responsibilities

Aired September 28, 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: Suzanne, thank you so much.

A poke in the eye. Iran decides now would be a good time to test new missiles, just days before talks about its nuclear program. Can the Iranians be reasoned with? The world is watching and waiting.

Only eight months in and the pile on President Obama's desk is getting bigger and bigger. Can he handle it? Is it all just too much for any one President? We'll be talking about that.

And film director Roman Polanski now in custody, 30 years after he pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old -- now fighting extradition back to the United States. Will justice finally be served? Where will the protests end?

ANNOUNCER: This is Lou Dobbs Tonight, News, Debate and Analysis. For Monday September 28, Live from New York. Mr. Independent, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Coincidence or provocation? Just days before Iran is set to open high-level talks over its nuclear program, it is very publicly flexing its muscles, test-firing some very powerful missiles that could reach Israel and some U.S. bases in the Middle East and parts of Europe.

The show of force was meant to be a message for the world that Iran now believes it is capable of threatening almost any country. The news will certainly ratchet up debate over how firm a hand the President should use in dealing with Iran. The timing blatant. Iran just admitted it's been building a secret nuclear facility, and U.S. officials are suggesting there could be others. And there is no doubt that Western intelligence agencies have known about the additional Iranian facility for some time.

It is now up to the Iranians to convince the United States and the world that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. President Obama is focusing now on diplomacy, but pressure is on to consider rattling savers. Jill Dougherty with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty years after Iranians took Americans hostage, severing relations between the two nations, now the highest level discussions between Iran and the United States this Thursday. The U.S. dispatching top diplomat, under Secretary of State William Burns, to Geneva, joining representatives from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. The message -- Iran must come clean about its nuclear program.

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: This is about Iran coming forward once and for all, putting everything on the table and letting the international community understand what the intentions of its programs are.

DOUGHERTY: But with Iran playing war games, testing long-range missiles, and revelations by President Barack Obama and his allies that Iran has been secretly developing an underground uranium enrichment facility, no one is predicting success. Iran won't say what it will do at the meeting. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman saying "if there's goodwill, it's a good opportunity for constructive negotiations." But patience is running thin. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling CBS "face the nation" --

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The Iranians keep insisting, no, no, this is just for peaceful purposes. Well, as I think the Russians said in their statement, and as we believe and what this meeting on October 1st is to test, it's fine. Prove it. Don't assert it, prove it.

DOUGHERTY: Could the talks simply lead to more talks? A senior administration official tells CNN that would not be a bad outcome. What could change Iran's behavior? The allies are considering drastically increased economic sanctions, like cutting off international investment in Iran's oil industry. But a leading Iranian expert says there's no silver bullet.

KARIM SADJADPOUR, CAMEGIE, ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: The problem with this Iranian regime is that economic well-being of the Iranian people has never been a very important priority for them. So, I think they're going to be willing to endure severe economic sanctions, severe economic hardship for reasons of political and ideological expediency.

DOUGHERTY: Behind the scenes, U.S. officials claim they have more leverage than they had just a few months ago. Iran, they say, has damaged itself significantly by not responding to international concerns about its nuclear program and by a brutal crackdown on demonstrations during its Presidential election. But as one U.S. official tells CNN, the challenge is to put pressure on the Iranian government while keeping faith with the Iranian people.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, the State Department.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Well, it turns out that the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has not spent a lot of time with President Obama discussing strategy or direction of the war. General Stanley McChrystal is the man whose recent report warned that we could lose the war in Afghanistan without a troop surge. The general was asked about the extent of his contact with President Obama on "60 minutes" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: How often do you talk to the President?

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. COMMANDER-AFGHANISTAN: I've talked to the President since I've been here once (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: You've talked to him once in 70 days?

MCCHRYSTAL: That's correct.

KING: Can you imagine ever saying to the President of the United States: Sir, we just can't do it?

MCCHRYSTAL: Yes, I can. And if I felt that way, the day I feel that way, the day I'm sure I feel that way, I'll tell him that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: The Pentagon is playing down the admission, saying General McChrystal was not in any way complaining.

We're closing the prison in Guantanamo Bay has proved to be more difficult than President Obama had contemplated or promised. The President had originally said he wanted it done by January of next year. Now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates concedes that deadline may have been smart politics but not very realistic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I think it has proven more complicated than anticipated. I will be the first to tell you that when the President-elect's National Security, new team met in Chicago on December 7th, I was one of those who argued for a firm deadline. Because I said that's the only way you move the bureaucracy in Washington. And if you have to extend that date, if at least you have a strong plan showing you're making progress in that direction, then it shouldn't be a problem to extend it. And we'll just see whether that has to happen or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: The Obama administration today said it had cleared another 75 of the remaining 223 prisoners at Gitmo to be freed and sent to other countries. Guantanamo Bay just one item on the President's very active agenda. With only eight months now into the new administration, questions rising about whether the President has taken on far too much far too soon. Candy Crowley has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The list ranges from dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions to now traveling to Copenhagen to pitch Chicago for the 2016 Olympics. It's a trip the President said two weeks ago he couldn't take because he was working on health care. He doesn't think that anymore.

VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Well health care reform has been his number one priority issue here domestically. He wanted to make sure that if he went that it wouldn't have an adverse impact on them. So, he's going for just today.

CROWLEY: And it'll still be here when he gets back. One Capitol Hill source says the President has made it clear his fall priorities are financial reform and health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There comes a time to remember the fierce urgency of right now. Now's the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: It will take hands on. The Senate democratic leadership is looking for guidance in putting together one bill out of two really different ones while still holding onto enough votes to pass it.

The administration sent reform legislation to the Hill and on both sides committee work has begun, but it's a long way from cooked. A number of Capitol Hill players say privately, anything beyond health care and financial regulation would be a miracle this year.

On the global scene, in addition to Iran, there is winding down the war in Iraq and deciding what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan and if whatever it is means more troops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you saw Secretary Gates say that a resource request that he gets will not be sent here to the White House until he believes and the President believe that we're in a position, having reached a consensus on moving forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Also worth noting the complexities of closing down the prison at Guantanamo Bay is proving complex and slow enough that the deadline is apparently no longer a deadline.

GIBBS: We're not focused on whether or not the deadline will or won't be met on a particular day. We're focused on ensuring that the facility is closed.

CROWLEY: And then, of course, there's the unknown, the unpredictable things that require immediate attention in any presidency. It's a lot, but during the campaign, then candidate Obama seemed to know what he was getting into.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: A bit of an understatement.

It is a pretty daunting to-do list, and it's against the backdrop of an American public less enthusiastic than they were last spring about a variety of issues. That doesn't make this agenda impossible. It certainly makes it more difficult. Lou?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: And difficult seems to be the order of the day, no matter whether it is a domestic priority or a foreign policy priority.

CROWLEY: Sure.

DOBBS: Candy, thank you so much. Candy Crowley.

Up next, ACORN and the National Media, "The New York Times," the so-called paper of record, admits it ignored the scandal for too long. Was it a question of bias or does the Time just simply sometimes take time.

Also, look out President Obama. That vast right-wing conspiracy is after you. That's what President Bill Clinton said, warning the current commander in chief to watch out.

And if you can believe it, some members of Congress want legislation posted online for four days before any vote so they can actually read the bill. Guess what, the public could actually read it, too. What a concept. We'll be right back

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, here's a novel idea -- members of Congress actually contemplating reading important legislation before they would vote on it. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is now calling for a resolution that would force Congress to wait 72 hours and read bills like health care before taking a vote. Lisa Sylvester has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's an all-too-common complaint.

SEN. JON KYL, (R) ARIZONA: Very few, if any, members of the House or the Senate have read the major bills yet.

SYLVESTER: Lawmakers say in the rush to get legislation through Congress, they often don't have enough time to read it. Take the Senate health care bill. It has more than 500 amendments and it's more than 1,000 pages long. It's not just Republicans complaining.

Representative Brian Baird, a Democrat, says there is a House Congressional rule that currently requires a three-day wait from when a bill is finalized to when it can be voted on, but that rule is so routinely waived that some in Congress don't even know it exists. Baird says Republicans waived the rule during the Medicare prescription drug bill, Democrats more recently with cap-and-trade legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BRIAN BAIRD, (D) WASHINGTON: Right now, whichever party's in the majority has tended to have a pattern of waving the 72-hour rule, and unfortunately, the more important the bill, the more money it spends, the more people who are affected, the more likely we are to have too little time to read it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: Baird has co-sponsored a resolution that would require legislation to be posted for at least 72 hours online before a vote, and it would require a 2/3 vote to waive the rule instead of a simple majority.

Americans are also revved up, seen in those August town hall meetings. More than 80,000 people have signed an online petition in just two weeks that would require Congressional lawmakers read every word of every bill they vote on. Eric Yaverbaum helped that drive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC YAVERBAUM, READY TO VOTE ORG: Yes, it would slow Washington down. These documents are enormous, but if we're not going to read them, how can we possibly pass them?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: All of this is made even more relevant as Congress considers the health care bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

House speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked if she would support a 72- hour period where the health legislation is posted online before a vote. She said that she would, but on the Senate side, Republican Senator Jim Bunting offered an amendment in the finance committee that would have required the text of the health care bill and a cost analysis posted online for 72 hours, but his amendment was defeated along party lines with the one exception, Senator Blanche Lincoln who voted with the republicans. Lou?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: And quite an event in and of itself.

I guess everyone recalls that President Obama said there would be a five-day period for everybody to read the legislation when he was running for office. That sort of went away, too, like so many, it seems, so many promises for where transparency and openness due in Washington. SYLVESTER: Yes, this was supposed to be the administration of transparency, but this is again, and we're seeing this road block here in Congress where lawmakers may say that they're all for transparency, but then when it actually comes to a vote, they vote it down.

DOBBS: And the idea, the basic rationale is, well, it's too big to read, therefore, it's -- I mean, it's just -- this is a level of absurdity that's simply incomprehensible. And John Conyers, the congressman, saying that he wouldn't read them, no one reads them because they're too complicated unless you've got a couple of lawyers.

SYLVESTER: Yes.

DOBBS: And seemingly without any sense of absurdity, saying that, you know, they just simply can't be bothered with reading legislation they're passing.

SYLVESTER: Yes. Congressman Conyers in a very frank moment that you just referenced, he said something like you needed two weeks and a couple of lawyers to try to figure this out.

And that's a big thing, too, is that the legislation they're producing, thousands of pages long, very complex and a lot of legalese in there that how is the regular American out there supposed to even understand if members of Congress are having a hard time trying to wade through all this tactical language?

DOBBS: Yes, I think we're in a lot of trouble would be the solution, the final word there.

Thanks a lot, appreciate it, Lisa Sylvester.

Liberal Democrats in Congress and their amnesty allies are pushing to give health care coverage to illegal immigrants. Congressman Michael Honda and 21 other House members now say illegal immigrants should be allowed to pay for insurance even if it comes through a government-sponsored program.

Last week, the national council of La Raza launched a campaign to pressure Senator Max Baucus to include all illegal immigrants in his health care legislation. Right now, the Baucus bill or the Baucus- Obama bill, excludes illegal immigrants.

We've reported extensively on this broadcast that the figure most cited by the Obama administration of 27 million uninsured Americans is inaccurate. If you exclude illegal immigrants and Americans who choose to skip health coverage and choose not to pay for it, the number of uninsured moves down to some estimates as low as 8.2 million.

So, if Congress and the president cover the 20 million or so illegal immigrants in this country, they would be giving more than twice as many illegal immigrants coverage as American citizens.

Well, another elected official wants to give up immigration laws although. California state senator Gill Desaio successfully pushed through a resolution in the California state legislature demanding Congress and the president stop all immigration raids, detentions, and deportations and actions against illegal employers of illegal immigrants.

He said he also wants to get rid of E-Verify, the online worker verification program, which has a 99.5 percent accuracy rate. E- Verify is the federal government's most effective tool fighting the hiring of illegal immigrants.

And here's something new for 2010 census. The forms will go out in English and Spanish for the first time. The U.S. Census Bureau says for the first time about 13 million households will receive bi- lingual forms, and like previous census counts, forms in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian will be available by request.

One group not part of the census, the left-wing activist organization ACORN. Acorn's problems are simply mounting. Bank of America has now suspended ties to ACORN. The decision by Bank of America came after three Republicans in Congress asked more than a dozen banks, including Bank of America, to give Congress a complete accounting of their dealings with ACORN.

Congress has already voted to cut off taxpayer money to ACORN, and the IRS has severed its ties to ACORN as well. ACORN is now under intense fire after hidden camera videos show its employees offering illegal advice to a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute seeking business help on a proposed brothel.

"The New York Times" has admitted it was slow, as it put it, to report on the ACORN scandal, insisting the lack of reporting on the ACORN scandal was not liberal bias, but as the "Times" put it, "insufficient tuned-in-ness," "insufficient tuned-in-ness."

The "Times" said it doesn't follow certain issues, especially ones on Internet blogs, but it turns out the "Times" does follow blogs. They just happen to be liberal, left-wing blogs.

An analysis by the conservative site "News Busters" shows the "Times" consistently cites more liberal blogs than conservative, but just by a modest margin. During one period, the paper mentioned liberal blogs 389 times. During the same period, conservative blogs were referenced 18 times.

"The New York Times" says it has appointed an editor to monitor opinion media, but didn't want to say who that person would be because the "Times" said he or she would come under fire in the blogosphere.

Well, we're often critical of the "The New York Times" on this broadcast, but tonight we love "The New York Times." This weekend's "Style" section featuring the wedding announcement of one of our colleagues, a member of the "Lou Dobbs Tonight" team, producer Marci Starsec (ph) and Brian Whalen (ph), married Saturday evening.

We thank "The New York Times" for noting the occasion. It is the first time the show has been mentioned favorably I believe by "The New York Times" in recent memory, at least.

Marci and Brian, we are delighted for you both. We wish you congratulations. All the very best, all the happiness possible.

Up next, Iran's nuclear ambition -- how should the Obama administration respond? I'll be talking with a leading authority on the Middle East, Professor Fouad Ajami.

And gun owners fighting to defend Second Amendment rights. We'll have that special report here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A record 1 million background checks on gun sales were completed by the FBI in the month of August alone. Those numbers show that gun owners are increasingly concerned that the Obama administration is on a mission to restrict Second Amendment rights in this country.

Supporters of those rights gathered in St. Louis over this weekend to fight attempts to strip Americans of their right to keep and to bear arms. Bill Tucker with our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This meeting of several hundred gun owners and manufacturers enthusiasts in St. Louis had all the passion you can expect from a group of people who believe the Second Amendment is constitutionally guaranteed.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: If you support government of the people, by the people, and for the people, if you agree that the right of free speech and the right to keep and bear arms that protects it are the very foundations of our American freedom, then I call upon you to become a gun rights freedom activist.

TUCKER: Ask them why, and they recall the words of Attorney General Eric Holder on the need to ban assault weapons to help reduce drug violence in Mexico.

They point to the president's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, who personally is not just opposed to hunting, but said back in 2007 it should be banned. Or they will point to the president's consistent voting record for gun control, both in the Senate and back in Illinois.

Nor do these gun rights enthusiasts trust the newest Supreme Court justice, who in her only ruling on gun rights said the Second Amendment could only be applied to the federal government.

BOB BARR, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: There are very severe challenges to our Second Amendment rights, and by the federal government, by state governments, and by local governments. It is something that needs to be reinforced and reinvigorated and refocused on year to year to year, absolutely.

TUCKER: The media came under fire as well from conservative media watchdogs.

DON IRVINE, ACCURACY IN MEDIA: The media tends to get this education standard of guns are bad, guns kill people, whereas those who have actually grown up with guns and used them in various fashions understand that they are very safe, they protect us.

ALAN GOTTLIEB, SECOND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION: You notice here our attendees are from all walks of life. Professional people, blue- collar people, union people, you know, men, women, people of color. And that doesn't usually get represented.

TUCKER: There were seminars for women and guns and calendars from the Locked and Loaded Ladies, along with the Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: All of them, of course, united under the banner of securing their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. For his part, the president does say he respects the constitutional right and promised that he will "protect the rights of hunters and other law- abiding Americans to purchase, own, and transport, and use guns."

But gun activists remain skeptical -- Lou?

DOBBS: I mean, the attorney general, Eric Holder, has said "They just want to do a few things with the Second Amendment." And the czar here, Cass Sunstein -- I mean, what's his deal?

TUCKER: He's a vegetarian, and he believes that hunting ought to be banned.

DOBBS: So, he's not big on hunting.

TUCKER: He's not big on hunting at all. But he has openly supported the right of animals to sue. He believes animals ought to have rights...

DOBBS: I'm sorry, repeat that again?

TUCKER: He believes animals should have rights, which would include the right to sue if they have been mistreated.

DOBBS: If they were hunted.

TUCKER: Or I guess hunted.

DOBBS: If they were hunted -- really?

TUCKER: I can't explain it, Lou, I'm just telling you.

DOBBS: I just think we should let this sort of percolate, because, presumably, the president knows this man, knows who he put there...

TUCKER: Yes. DOBBS: ... as the regulatory czar over guns. That's truly, truly interesting.

Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

TUCKER: You're welcome.

DOBBS: Up next, director Roman Polanski arrested three decades -- more than three decades later, now fighting extradition back to the United States for having pled guilty for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

And guess what? He's got a lot of people sympathizing with him, protesting on his behalf in Europe and in, well, you won't believe it, Hollywood.

And then -- dealing with Iran. Patience running thin -- the central question remains, how much pressure will the Obama administration apply? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Iran defying the United States, the world with its nuclear program and its series of missile tests over the past few days. These tests coming less than a week before Iran is to meet with the U.N. Security Council to discuss its nuclear ambitions. Joining me now, our leading expert on the Middle East, professor of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University. Professor, great, as always, to have you with us.

PROF. FOUAD AJAMI, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Thank you very much, Lou.

DOBBS: Let's start with Iran. It seems as every step taken by the administration over the past week had been anticipated by the Iranians and they had a response.

AJAMI: Well, nothing new, Lou, in the Persian bizarre. The Iranians have our number. We have threatened them over and over again. We have held out all kinds of the threat of sanctions. We have said military force. I love this expression, is on the table, nothing is off the table. And the Iranians are heading directly to acquiring nuclear weapons, and in a way they've called our bluff at every point.

DOBBS: The military option being on the table, nothing off the table -- does it have a hollow ring to you?

AJAMI: Well, we don't really know. I mean, I think, in the case, if you take a look at what John McCain said when he was running for president, he said there was one thing worse than a military strike against Iran, which is Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Now, in the case of candidate Obama, he said he actually believed he can sweet-talk the Persians out of their nuclear ambitions. I think some people told him that the fact that his middle name is Hussein, which is the name of the patron saint of the Shia of Iran, is going to cut enormous amount of sway in Iran. So, he came convinced that he can talk --

DOBBS: It is a powerful man in negotiations.

AJAMI: Yes.

DOBBS: This is unprecedented, isn't it is.

AJAMI: But that's the belief that we reinvented the world in November '08 when we elected President Obama.

DOBBS: What is the likely outcome with Iran?

AJAMI: A colleague of mine, Elliott Cohen, he had a nice piece today in the "Wall Street Journal," where he basically said, look, Iran is headed toward the nuclear option and toward nuclear capabilities. Either the Israelis take them out, because that's an existential threat to Israel, or the Americans take them out because that's a threat to the American position in the Persian Gulf. If neither power takes out the Iranian nuclear capability, the Iranians will acquire nuclear weapons.

DOBBS: And there will be a new power in the Middle East.

AJAMI: Well, there would be a new power in the Middle East, but you know, maybe -- I don't -- yes, of course, there would be a new power if the Iranians --

DOBBS: If they become a nuclear power, they would do so in alliance with both the People's Republic of China and Russia, and that would alter the balance of power in the Middle East indelibly.

AJAMI: Absolutely. There is no doubt about that. But that's in the future. That's what we have to discuss -- that's what our country has to ponder.

DOBBS: And this president has to ponder. And ponder is precisely what he is doing now, vis-a-vis, Afghanistan and the strategy. Sort of a remarkable turn of events there over the past week, in which we find out from General Stanley McChrystal that he wants a new strategy, which is odd, given that we've been there almost eight years.

AJAMI: Sure.

DOBBS: He wants more resources and manpower, which he does not see as a way to victory, but rather to deny defeat. This is becoming somewhat opaque rather than clear, is it not?

AJAMI: Well, you know, when you take a look at the administration, the Obama administration, it's on the helms of a dilemma of its own making in Afghanistan. They insisted that Afghanistan was the good war, because that's to be contrasted with the bad war, being Iraq. They insisted that Afghanistan was the war of necessity to be contrasted with the war of choice, and that's Iraq. And so, they came to Afghanistan and they came to this issue now, and they now understand that they have a war on their hands. And the president basically asked his commander on the scene for a strategic review. The commander on the scene gives him a strategic review. It's a brilliant piece of analysis. Anyone -- I advise anyone, they can get it on thewashingtonpost.com, some 60-odd pages, it's a brutal analysis of the realities of Afghanistan. And then the president drew back. So, in august, he was telling people, as he did to the veterans of foreign wars in Phoenix, Arizona, as he said, this is a war of necessity. Then by September 20, that famous day when he went on all the talk shows, he began to walk back from the Afghan war. I think we have to decide. Either we explain the war or explain it away, and the president has to go to the Democrats and tell them that they have to support this war and pay for it, and that is yet to be done.

DOBBS: Is that the correct course, in your judgment?

AJAMI: No, I mean, having, as you well know, from many appearances here, having been a proponent of the Iraq war, I have decided to sit out this one as either a proponent or an opponent. I have very, very severe reservations about Afghanistan.

DOBBS: Let me ask you this. You're not only one of the most knowledgeable and insightful analysts of the Middle East, but you also are wise in the sweep of history. The idea that a nation would put its men and women in uniform into harm's way without conviction on the part of the commander in chief, with a newly appointed commander in the theater who articulates a view as to what would create defeat but has none as to what would create victory --

AJAMI: Yes.

DOBBS: That seems problematic. Is it?

AJAMI: Well, the whole endeavor in Afghanistan is problematic, and what can we gain in Afghanistan? What the stakes are for America and Afghanistan. There is only one state in the universe more dysfunctional than the Afghan state, which is Somalia. So, we are dealing with a country that's tribalized. We're dealing with a country that has no majority of any kind. The Pashtuns are the dominant ethnicity, around 40 percent. The Tajiks are the minority. There are linguistic, tribal differences in the country and we're going to come from afar and fix this most tribalized, most desperate of nations. It's not a winning errand.

DOBBS: I know you advised the previous administration. I hope this would avail you of your thoughts as well.

AJAMI: I think they just have me criticizing them. It's an easier way to live this way.

DOBBS: Doesn't require a two-way conversation.

AJAMI: Exactly.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, professor. Thank you.

Well to hear my thoughts on these issues, join me on the radio Monday through Friday for "the Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 radio here in New York City. Go to loudobbs.com for local listings for the show and subscribe to the daily podcast, please on loudobbs.com. You can follow me on Lou Dobbs news on twitter.com. Twitter.com, loudobbs.com.

Up next, concern over a controversial health proposal that would give authorities the right to force you to have a swine flu shot.

And Roman Polanski, sex criminal, filmmaker. Well, he is now in custody. The French government says he was thrown to the lions, as they put it. And Hollywood is trying to free him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Three teenagers in Chicago have been charged with first- degree murder after a deadly beating was caught on videotape. Now, this video that you're about to see is disturbing, and I want to caution you. This beating happened right outside a high school on the south side. Look at this. I mean, attackers using two by fours to beat a 16-year-old honors student, Darian Albert. They beat him to death. His family believes he was attacked because he refused to join a gang. All three teenagers who were arrested will be charged as adults. Well, this continues what is a disturbing trend in Chicago. 36 Chicago public school students have been killed in the last school year alone. The number of students murdered in Chicago schools has risen over the past three years, a dramatic increase from 2006, when only seven students were killed. I say only. The overall murder rate in Chicago is also rising. There were 511 murders in 2008, up from 445 in 2007.

In Massachusetts tonight, a controversial health bill raising concerns about forced vaccinations. The so-called pandemic preparedness bill has already passed the Massachusetts state senate. It's awaiting a vote in the house. And if enacted, critics charge that the legislation would allow state government officials to mandate vaccinations for swine flu or other contagions and forcibly quarantine those who refuse. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has pledged to sign the bill if and when it reaches his desk.

Meanwhile, New York is the first state to require vaccines for health care workers. That policy affects 500,000 employees with direct patient contact in New York. Those who refuse face reassignment and disciplinary action.

Well, film director Roman Polanski today vowed to fight extradition from Switzerland to the United States. Polanski was arrested Saturday, 30 years after he pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Now both France and Poland are pressuring U.S. officials, including secretary of state Hillary Clinton, to intervene on behalf of the director. Casey Wian has our story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 76-year-old Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski fled the United States in 1978 as he was about to be sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. STEVE COOLEY, LOS ANGELES DISTRICT ATTORNEY: So, you're ultimately sentenced to a court of law, there is no justice. So, there would be some form of justice, maybe not perfect justice, some form of justice now that he's been apprehended.

WIAN: Prosecutors say they'll proceed with sentencing if Polanski can be extradited from Switzerland.

HERVE TEMIME, ATTORNEY FOR ROMAN POLANSKI (through translator): He has been very shocked and his family even more. His wife, his children. We told him of all the support he's receiving.

WIAN: Including from the Polish and French foreign ministers, who asked secretary of state Hillary Clinton to intervene in the case.

BERNARD KOUCHNER, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): A man of such talent considered in the entire world, considered especially in the country, which has arrested him, all that is not nice.

WIAN: Neither are details of the case, which in recently unsealed grand jury testimony included a 13-year-old victim's story of being plied with champagne, part of a prelude, then being raped and sodomized by a 43-year-old man. Despite that Polanski continues to receive support from Hollywood and the film festival he was planning to attend.

DEBRA WINGER, REP., ZURICH FILM FESTIVAL JURY: Despite the philistine nature of the collusion that has now occurred, we came to honor Roman Polanski as a great artist, but under these sudden and arcane circumstances, we can only think of him today as a human being, uncertain of the year ahead.

WIAN: Two panelists on ABC's "The View" Monday defended Polanski, who was charged with raping and drugging the girl but pleaded guilty to unlawful intercourse with a minor.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC'S THE VIEW: He did not rape her because she was aware and the family apparently was aware.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The punishment at this point may be excessive.

WIAN: The victim who received a financial settlement from Polanski has said she wants charges dropped, including in this 2003 interview with CNN's Larry King.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been a long time and I wasn't prepared to carry a lot of bad feelings with me and further damage my life.

WIAN: Earlier this year, a Los Angeles judge dismissed a motion from Pulaski's lawyers to throw out the case based on allegations of prior judicial misconduct. The judge said he would reconsider his ruling if Polanski showed up in court.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WIAN: The state department says it will review California's extradition request to make sure it abides by the U.S. treaty with Switzerland. That extradition request is preliminary right now. The United States has 60 days to make it a formal request, Lou.

DOBBS: Do we understand why these charges moved forward to an arrest at this particular time?

WIAN: What authorities in Los Angeles say is they have been aware that Mr. Polanski has been traveling to other countries and they have submitted six other extradition requests or had discussions six other times over the year with different countries, and either Mr. Polanski hasn't made the trip or authorities weren't successful in getting him. This time, because it was a public event that he was planning to attend, this film festival in his honor, they knew where he was going to be, when he was going to be there. So they submitted the request to the Swiss authorities and they arrested him, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Casey. We'll be following that here throughout. Casey Wian in Los Angeles.

Still ahead, polls showing support for President Obama's health care proposal are at an all-time low. Opposition has risen to an all- time high. The topic of our face-off debate tonight has the president lost the opportunity to prevail? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, tonight, national polls show President Obama's personal approval rating now dropping down to the low 50s. Support for his health care proposal also at an all-time low, particularly among seniors. He calls the highest legislative priority of his presidency health care reform. But has the president lost the momentum necessary to prevail?

Joining me now, John Anzalone, Democratic strategist with a research team and Kellyanne Conway, Republican strategist with the Polling Company. Thank you both for being here. How concerned should the Democratic Party be about the fact that today, for example, we saw the Rasmussen poll showing the highest opposition to the president on health care that we've seen so far?

JOHN ANZALONE, ANZALONE RESEARCH: The good news for President Obama, in this environment, you have almost 70 percent of the people, voters, who believe that the system should be totally reformed or a major reform. The want for reform is out there. That's not going away. The other thing in terms of Obama right now is he is in control of it. I believe he turned it around in his speech to the American people, to the fact that he's gone across the country talking about it. He at least is now controlling it and owning it. I think that is important at this point in time. The other thing is, who's the competition? Right now, if you take a look at those numbers --

DOBBS: Absent.

ANZALONE: Here's what's really important. Even though the support and opposition may be about dead even, when you ask the American people who do you trust on health care reform, by a two to one margin, they choose President Obama and that becomes really important in this next month.

DOBBS: I can't understand how he's possibly facing 56 percent opposition on health care, looking at the approval ratings of 51 percent on the tracking poll.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, THE POLLING COMPANY: Yes, but that's because he's been trying to sell it too hard. He keeps pushing a bad idea. He wants to make you buy a product that people don't seem to want, Lou. Actually, the more he talks about it, the less appealing the product becomes. If you look at his numbers in the last two or three months among seniors, women and particularly independents, it's one thing that the approval is dropping but the disapproval, the skepticism is on the increase. People that were giving him the benefit of the doubt and sitting on the fence have now firmed up their own opinion. Seniors will show up to vote in 2010. I think all the young people that came out for Obama are back on the couches, watching health care reform from the sidelines may not show up in 2010.

Let's take a look at the health care proposals, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Poll, you were talking about 70 percent wanting it. Health care proposals from the president favoring 51 percent, opposing 46 percent. As I say, now, the Rasmussen poll, for example, showing considerable more opposition than we've ever seen before. That hardly looks like something particularly as Kellyanne was suggesting, this president has been in the field campaigning hard for health care for almost eight weeks and his numbers have been going in exactly the reverse direction of what he would have wanted.

ANZALONE: When you take on big issues and this is about the biggest issue you can take on in terms of what affects American households, you're going to take a couple punches. I mean, let's not talk -- forget about literally the tens of millions of dollars that is being spent in opposition to this every week, every month and so he's using a little bit of his capital. But the reality is, this is a president who is dealing with a bad economic time, who is in two different wars, who inherited a lot of difficult situations, including a deficit and is now taking on the toughest issue there is. This is a guy of action. You're going to see, for example, Kellyanne was talking about his negatives going up. A lot of that is consolidating Republicans who gave him the benefit of the doubt at the beginning who are consolidating and going back to where they felt during the campaign.

CONWAY: The number one issue to Americans across the pardon, as John knows, tripartisan. There's the sense that the president is off doing health care, thankfully talk about the Afghanistan war, I'm not sure going to Denmark and selling the Olympics is on the people's agenda. There's a sense, John, there's a lack of prior authorization. Health care is lingering there and he has to deal with General McChrystal asking for more troops. It was reported today he's talked to the general one time in 70 days. There's a lack of prioritization. That's what upsets the people. The left is way too focused on Obama as the messenger. ANZALONE: You couldn't ask for more focus in the last two weeks than President Obama has had on health care. Let's also remember when we ask American families what is their top economic issue, it is health care. Health care is a jobs issue. It is an economic issue. That's what I'm talking about. This guy is owning this.

DOBBS: Health care is the number one economic issue. What I'm looking at in the polling, it's about jobs and the recovery.

ANZALONE: When you ask a separate question -- I think that's a misanalysis. When you ask what's the top economic issue for your family? And make a list, health care is the number one issue. Because we're still dealing with nine out of ten people having jobs. So I think we forget how important the health care issue is to a family's economic concerns. It's their number one anxiety.

DOBBS: The last word.

CONWAY: There's no question, people are concerned, particularly to small business owners. To the 15 million Americans who are out of work, having the job first is most important to them. They haven't seen much coming out of the stimulus package. This president spent $1 trillion bailing out people in Detroit, bailing out Wall Street, cap and trade. They don't want to see another trillion on top of that.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Appreciate you both being here.

Coming up at the top of the hour can be Campbell Brown. Good evening, Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there Lou. Coming up tonight, a closer look at the case that you were talking about, Oscar winning director, Roman Polanski. He is behind bars. 30 years after being accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old in California. The big question, of course, why now?

Plus, has the response to h1n1 flu been a disaster? We're going to talk to an expert who survived the flu. Why she believes we aren't doing enough to keep people safe right now.

And is your credit card company spying on you? Where you shop and what you buy could have a big impact on your credit limit. We'll explain. Lou?

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Campbell.

We'll be right back after this, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Political columnist William Safire. He joined "The New York Times" in 1973. Safire's essay appeared twice a week on "The New York Times" op-ed page for 72 years. He authored books and politics, four novels. His column on language appeared "New York Times" in the magazine from 1979 until earlier this month. Safire's last op-ed column was entitled "Never Retired." We wish he hadn't. Thanks for being with us. Thanks for watching. Good night from New York.

Next, "Campbell Brown."

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