Return to Transcripts main page

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Deadly Day for Troops in Iraq; Democrats Divided; Most Americans say Bush has no Plan for Iraq Victory; Still No Word From Pentagon About Able Danger; Walgreens Suspends Pharmacists For Not Giving Out Morning After Pill; Funding For Presidential Trips From Surprising Sources

Aired December 01, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, a deadly day for our troops in Iraq. Another four Americans have been killed. We'll be going to the Pentagon for a live report.

Tonight, most Americans don't believe that President Bush has a plan for victory in Iraq. We'll be telling you why.

And then, how China's aggressive push to grab oil supplies around the world could lead to military confrontation.

Also tonight, the rising momentum to reform teacher pay to give our children a better education. My guest tonight, a governor who is leading the drive to link teacher pay to student performance.

And an increasing number of pharmacists in this country are refusing to fill birth control prescriptions. We'll be examining this new clash between religion, science, and medicine.

One day after the president outlined what he called a strategy for victory in Iraq, the U.S. military announced the deaths of four more Americans in Iraq. The deaths bring the number of Americans killed in the war to 2,113.

Today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace, reinforced the president's optimistic message about the direction of the war and the fighting quality of Iraqi troops. But there are new indications tonight as well that the White House is failing to convince Americans that this president has a plan for victory.

Jamie McIntyre reports on the latest fighting in Iraq. Ed Henry reports on the growing split among Democrats over this war. And Bill Schneider reporting on American skepticism about the president's Iraq policies.

We turn first to Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, despite the fact that the U.S. has just concluded another deadly month in Iraq, there was more upbeat talk about the war from the generals in charge, beginning with the top general, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice over): The Pentagon insists its own tough grading system is partly responsible for what it claims is a misimpression, that only the one Iraqi army battalion rated level one is really up to snuff. Speaking to an audience of officers and civil servants at the National Defense University, Joint Chiefs chairman General Peter Pace insisted his old unit, the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Marines, wouldn't meet that standard, because it would need airlift and support.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: So if you ask me then to grade my own battalion on a piece of paper, as far as level one, level two, level three, level four, I would have to put level two. Why? Because I'm very capable, but I do need some outside help.

MCINTYRE: Still, in the latest counterinsurgency operation in Ramadi, U.S. troops vastly outnumber Iraqi forces 400 American troops to 150 Iraqis. The U.S. military disputed insurgent claims that they had taken over some streets in Ramadi, insisting this video was an insurgent publicity stunt and that the only real enemy attack was an ineffective RPG strike.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, a spokesman insisted the U.S.-led coalition is inflicting daily losses on the terrorist network led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

MAJ. GEN. RICK LYNCH, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: Now, he's struggling. He's struggling because we've taken away a lot of his leadership. He's struggling because we've taken away a lot of his munitions. He's struggling because we've denied him save havens across Iraq. He's struggling because we've taken away his freedom of movement.

But he's still out there with the same stated objective.

MCINTYRE: General Lynch said that 23 suicide bombings in November were the fewest in seven months and that car bombs dropped from 130 in February to 68 last month.

Still, November was one of the deadliest months for U.S. forces. Eighty-five troops died in November, including four on the last day of the month.


MCINTYRE: And in his talk to students at the National Defense University, General Pace said it was a myth that the U.S. would be better off if it just left the terrorists alone. He said their stated goal is to destroy the American way of life, and that's why he said there is no option other than victory -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Jamie.

Jamie McIntyre. Congressional Democrats tonight appear increasingly divided over the conduct of the war. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has declared she now supports a quick withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. But other leading Democrats insist there should be no set timetable for withdrawal.

Ed Henry reports from Capitol Hill.



ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is now backing John Murtha's push for a quick pullout of U.S. troops and claims a majority of House Democrats agree.

PELOSI: The president is digging a hole in Iraq. It's time for him to stop.

HENRY: But even Pelosi's second in command, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, is expressing sharp disagreement, saying, "I believe that a precipitous withdrawal of American forces in Iraq could lead to disaster, spawning a civil war, fostering a haven for terrorists and damaging our nation's security and credibility."

Moderate Democrats are privately grumbling Pelosi's position may also pull the party to the left and make it harder to capitalize on President Bush's woes. Party strategists acknowledge deep division over how to get out of Iraq, just like the party divide over whether to get into the war, but say they're unified on a key point.

PELOSI: That all Democrats agree that the course of action that the president is following is not the best one, and that we have to have another plan.

HENRY: Pelosi is also taking heat for telling colleagues just two weeks ago she would immediately endorse Murtha's plan but then didn't. Speaker Dennis Hastert accused Pelosi of having it both ways, declaring, "This war and the safety of the American people is simply too important for flip-flopping or indecision."

(on camera): Pelosi aides say she only hesitated two weeks ago because she wanted John Murtha to be the focus. And she jumped on board and endorsed the Murtha plan Wednesday because she saw the president's speech and felt it was full of the status quo.

Ed Henry, CNN, Washington.


DOBBS: The White House today blasted Democrats who accuse President Bush of not having a strategy for victory. White House spokesman Scott McClellan called those Democrats deeply irresponsible. McClellan declared again President Bush hopes to bring some of our troops home from Iraq next year. Despite those comments, the White House appears to be failing in its efforts to convince Americans that President Bush is on the right course in Iraq. A new CNN "USA-Today"-Gallup poll says most Americans don't believe the president has a plan that will lead to victory.

Bill Schneider reports.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To achieve victory over such enemies, we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): It certainly looks comprehensive.

DAVID LETTERMAN, THE LATE SHOW: The White House has now released a 35-page plan entitled our "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." Thirty-five pages. It's called our "National Plan for Victory in Iraq." Now President Bush refuses to set a timetable for reading it.

SCHNEIDER: That's true for most people. As of Wednesday night, two-thirds of the public had not heard anything about the president's speech but their inclination is to be dubious. Most Americans don't think the president has a plan that will achieve victory in Iraq.

BUSH: Most Americans want two things in Iraq: they want to see our troops win, and they want to see our troops come home as soon as possible.

SCHNEIDER: In the president's view, U.S. forces can't withdraw until they've won.

BUSH: Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory.

SCHNEIDER: His critics argue the U.S. can't win until U.S. troops withdraw because they're a target for the insurgents.

PELOSI: Even the generals have said, U.S. forces in large numbers in Iraq fuel the insurgents.

SCHNEIDER: Here's how the president defines victory in Iraq.

BUSH: They mean we will not permit al Qaeda to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven for terrorism, and a launching pad for attacks on America.

SCHNEIDER: Does the public think we can do that? No. By nearly two to one, Americans think it is unlikely that in the next few years, Iraq will be able to prevent terrorists from using that country as a base of operations for planning attacks against the United States.


SCHNEIDER: That is an astonishing level of pessimism. Americans simply do not believe that in the end the Iraq intervention will turn out to be a success -- Lou.

DOBBS: That speaks as much as anything, Bill, does it not, to the fact that the White House, the Pentagon have failed miserably to present whatever the thinking is of the White House and the Pentagon on this war?

SCHNEIDER: That's exactly what it does show. The president himself said that that will be the criterion for determining victory, that it cannot become a base of terrorists. And Americans simply think, well, there's nothing we can do about that. That is a very, very serious matter.

DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you very much. Appreciate it.


DOBBS: Still ahead, the federal government declares it wants to close a gaping hole in our border security. We'll tell you whether that plan has any chance of success.

And then, communist China's aggressive efforts to steal our most sensitive military secrets. That special report coming up.

And tonight, how lobbyists are paying White House officials to go on trips all over the world. It isn't just Congress.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Today, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff promised action that he says will make it harder for employers to get away with those crimes against working Americans. And we're going to hold him to his word.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): There may be laws against hiring illegal aliens, but it happens all the time. The business community has successfully lobbied against stiffer enforcement. But that may be changing.

Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff is looking at tightening employer restrictions.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I can predict in the next weeks you're going to see a number of regulatory or policy changes that will be designed to do two things: make it easier for employers to verify employment, and -- but also say, if you don't verify employment, it's going to be a tougher punishment and quicker punishment.

SYLVESTER: Right now applicants submit proof of work eligibility using any number of documents, including a driver's license. An August report by the General Accountability Office found this form I-9 system ripe for fraud.

STEVEN CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: No effort is really made to check against the national databases that exist, whether -- to indicate whether this person is legally allowed to work in the United States. So basically it's just paper sitting in a file at the personnel office of your employer.

SYLVESTER: A pilot program called SAVE allows employers to use government resources to verify workers are in the country legally. But it is voluntary. DHS is weighing whether it should be mandatory. It's part of broader immigration reform.

The federal government is also hiring a thousand new Border Patrol agents, adding more than 2,000 detention beds, and ending a program where illegal aliens are caught and released into the community. But the Bush administration is not supporting one initiative, building a fence along the length of the southern border.

CHERTOFF: We don't support a wall across the border. A wall across the border would be phenomenally expensive, it wouldn't be particularly effective. We would still need to back it up with a lot of technology and a lot of agents.


SYLVESTER: Secretary Chertoff, echoing President Bush this week, applauded the end of the catch and release program, illegal aliens caught or sent home without going through immigration proceedings. But what you don't hear about are the exceptions. This new policy applies only to illegal aliens caught within 100 miles of the border and those in the country two weeks or less -- Lou.

DOBBS: There is such a wonderful way about Washington, Lisa. I know you get to live it every day.

Any comment from the secretary of Homeland Security on the fact the secretary of Defense said that America can't defend its borders?

SYLVESTER: asked him that very question, as a matter of fact, Lou, and he said that it's something that they are aware of, it's one of the reasons why they're taking a look at these new initiatives. And he's hoping to get more help from the Defense Department to patrol along our borders, at least using some of their military technology -- Lou.

DOBBS: I love Washington speak.

Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much for breaking through as much of it as we can, bit by bit. Thank you.

President Bush apparently is not exempt from a civic duty charged to all Americans, jury duty. A court near the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch has called upon the president to serve.

The White House says it hasn't received the summons, but it contacted the court, nonetheless. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Apparently the summons was for Monday, December 5. We have since called the court to inform them that the president has other commitments on Monday, and that he would like to reschedule his jury duty.


DOBBS: Well, we contacted the court as well. In fact, we talked with Judge Ralph Struther (ph) who is scheduled to impanel jurors Monday. The judge says he gave the White House a list of possible makeup dates over the next six months. The judge is now waiting to hear back from them.

Judge Struther (ph), you're a great American, and a great American judge. We salute you.

And just ahead, red storm, how communist China's power play with the world's oil resources is now raising military tension. We'll have that special report.

And aspiring. Shedding new evidence of how communist China is using U.S. secrets to build its fast-growing military.

Stay with us for that and a great deal more still ahead right here.


DOBBS: New fears tonight that communist China's aggressive grab for world oil assets will one day lead to military confrontation with the United States. China appears willing to make friends with any regime no matter how oppressive so long as it's guaranteed a steady supply of oil for its booming economy and its massive military buildup.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The days of the Chinese bicycle are fading. And the skyline reflects a booming economy.

China consumes 6.5 million barrels of oil a day. But by the year 2025, that demand will more than double to more than 14 million barrels, and two-thirds of that oil will need to come from outside of China. That competes with U.S. needs.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: This is a problem that we can either let go as it is now, and it may end up before -- at a point where we can't stop it, where we are not only in competition, but on the verge of hostilities.

PILGRIM: As Senator Lieberman points out, China is entering military base agreements with countries along its oil supply roots from the Middle East, and is building a substantial navy to defend those roots.

China's aggressive nationalistic energy policy befriends reprehensible regimes like Iran and Sudan. President Hu Jintao cozying up with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and signing agreements to help develop oilfields in Venezuela.

The Russian prime minister and Chinese Prime Minister Wen professing strategic partnership and signing an agreement to speed up a joint oil pipeline.

Kazakhstan's President Nazarbayev and President Hu Jintao signed a deal to construct a major crude oil pipeline between the countries.

China investing $8 billion in Sudan and helping to build the pipeline there, paying Sudan with weapons.

ROGER ROBINSON, U.S. CHINA SEC. REV. COMM.: This is something that has seized the attention of many on Capitol Hill. I think the administration is concerned but finds it somewhat less compelling than perhaps their congressional counterparts.

PILGRIM: Also, China gets more than 13 percent of its oil from Iran and signed a $100 million deal to import natural gas.


PILGRIM: U.S. lawmakers point out that friction with China has been centered on human rights, trade and currency exchange, but the competition over energy may become the dangerous, most dangerous level yet of strategic competition between the number one and the number two largest consumers of oil -- Lou.

DOBBS: And it is extraordinary when all of us look at the Sudan and the genocide that is taking place there, and the number of people focused on that terrible, terrible problem in that country, that no one is seemingly -- certainly you are and other journalists on this broadcast -- but not looking at the implications of China, its economic power, and the fact that it is effectively supporting genocidal civil war that is continuing now for years. And the United Nations powerless to act, and without note of China's role.

PILGRIM: Yes. And many lawmakers are calling attention to it now, but it is certainly not getting the attention that it deserves given the scope of the problem.

DOBBS: We will make certain that that does not happen on this hour. Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

China's rapid push to build up its military has become even more clear after the breakup of an alleged Chinese spy ring in California. Newly released documents show the alleged spies trying to steal technology that could help China challenge the United States as the world's preeminent military power.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Chi Mak and his wife Rebecca and his brother Tai Mak are charged with the innocuous sounding crime of failing to register as foreign agents. But according to U.S. government documents unsealed this week, the brothers have been spying for communist China since 1983. And the documents claim they've given China valuable information about what some call the crown jewels of future U.S. military technology.

DAN GOURE, LEXINGTON INSTITUTE: The indictment of these two individuals included evidence taken of lists probably prepared in Beijing or in China for them of -- kind of a shopping list of advanced technologies, which is really the smorgasbord of the best stuff in the U.S. Stuff that, in fact, is at the cutting edge.

We haven't even deployed this stuff yet. These are systems in some cases we wouldn't deploy for 10 years.

WIAN: They include a quiet propulsion system for warships, electromagnetic launching system for aircraft carriers, electronic components for submarines, the Navy's most advanced radar system, and maps of a laboratory that tests nuclear propulsion systems for warships. Intelligence experts say it's a classic case of low key patient Chinese espionage.

Engineer Chi Mak emigrated to the United States in 1983, became a U.S. citizen, and worked with a security clearance at Power Paragon, a defense contractor in Anaheim, California.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: As economic ties with China have expanded, the number of opportunities for Chinese espionage has also expanded. I think the other concern that we have is that as America's defense budget has gone up from $300 billion a year to $500 billion a year, you have a lot more people with security clearances.

WIAN: Chi Mak and his wife lived a modest life in this suburban home. The indictment alleges he passed information to his brother Tai, who passed it to a government contact in China. The FBI broke up the ring as Tai was preparing to board a flight to China. Chi was only four months from retiring in his native country.

(on camera): To underscore the threat posed by Chinese espionage, China is now reportedly planning to launch a fleet of aircraft carriers for the first time in its history. It's likely they'll include technology stolen from the United States.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.


DOBBS: This nation's fourth largest bank, Wachovia, is announcing new plans to outsource jobs to India. Wachovia set to eliminate back office and data processing jobs in this country and allow an Indian company, Genpact, to hire workers in India to do those jobs instead of Americans.

Not only is Wachovia unapologetic about the quickening pace of Wachovia's decision to send jobs overseas, it appears downright giddy over the prospects. Wachovia's director of corporate development says, "We believe that establishing a presence in India with Genpact will improve productivity for our company and enable us to explore overseas growth opportunity."

Wachovia, in fact, told us today it's too early to tell how many Americans will lose their jobs, but it this is all part, apparently, of a Wachovia plan to eliminate some 4,000 jobs over the next two years. As we reported earlier this week, Wachovia's chairman, Ken Thompson, has turned from a skeptic on outsourcing to a major cheerleader.

He recently said -- and we quote -- "We are buying products manufactured in low-wage countries. That's good for consumers in the United States. It creates job loss in the United States, but to try to staunch that, in my view, would be like putting your thumb in a dike to hold back the Atlantic Ocean."

Judging from this new announcement, Wachovia feeling no pressure whatsoever to hold back on those plans, even if it means destroying thousands of middle class American jobs.

And Ken Thompson, we didn't have the opportunity to ask you in person, but we would be delighted to at any time, what do you think about the idea of bringing in a couple of Filipino, Indian, Chinese banks into your market area and to see if the consumers that are now using your bank would prefer the lower-cost approach that perhaps those institution could bring? You know, that would be good for the economy. More money for the consumer, more competition, greater productivity for everybody.

If you think about it, Mr. Thompson, we'd appreciate it. Love to hear your answer. Love to discuss it with you right here any time.

Which brings us to our poll tonight. Would you stop banking with a financial institution just because they're exporting jobs from America, yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll have the results for you later in this very broadcast.

Coming up next, quality pay for our quality teachers. The new push to keep teachers on the job.

And then, pharmacists tonight fighting to keep their jobs after refusing to fill prescriptions for religious reasons. We'll have the latest on a fierce debate.

And why prominent members of the Clinton and Bush administrations were flown all around the world and didn't have to pay a thing. Now, it wasn't exactly free, they just didn't pay anything. We'll have that story for you next.

Please stay with us.


DOBBS: One of the biggest challenges of many facing our schools is attracting and keeping top quality teachers. The pay for the majority of teachers is simply too low in this country. But tonight, there is a sign of improvement for our teachers so that they may be paid what they deserve and teachers teaching well will be rewarded.

Bill Tucker reports from Minneapolis.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Almost half of all teachers leave before they have taught five years. The biggest reason they quit, the teachers say, pay, even if they have trouble admitting it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of teachers, if you're in a room (ph), don't work for money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, money is an issue, of course, to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So here's what we're going to do today.

TUCKER: Concerned about keeping teachers while also creating accountability for teachers, the state of Minnesota this summer overhauled the way teachers are paid, constructing a system that offers performance-based incentives.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: If we're going to spend a lot of money on education, which we're all for, let's make sure the money is being spent to things that are impactful as to the core mission of education: student learning, teacher effectiveness, and so it's not a lot more complicated than that.

TUCKER: Minnesota's plan was worked out with the teachers and their unions. The state union endorses the package but remains wary.

RANDI KIRCHNER, EDUCATION MINNESOTA: Funding is a concern, and having sustainable funding is part of the ongoing efforts.

TUCKER: The state has budgeted $86 million to fund the program, but the union is concerned that the funding will not remain a priority.

(on camera): Efforts at reforming teacher pay are not unique to Minnesota. Though this state is the latest to pass legislation regarding teacher pay, several other states also have reform on their agenda.

(voice-over): Fourteen governors are currently addressing teacher pay. And the controversy extends beyond the financial. In a soon to be published report, the Education Commission of the States underlines the need for total commitment and involvement.

TRICIA COULTER, EDUCATION COMMISSION OF THE STATES: They need to allow it time to grow and to level out and to make sure that it's working well, and then to constantly look at all the pieces of the system to make sure they're working towards the goals of the schools, the districts and the states.

TUCKER: Reform does not come easily. Teachers have been reluctant to move away from a traditional seniority based system. And the report emphasizes that for reform to be successful, teachers have to be involved in its development.

Bill Tucker, CNN, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


DOBBS: I'm joined by the governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, and he joins us tonight from San Diego. Thanks for being with us, Governor.

PAWLENTY: My pleasure, Lou.

DOBBS: The fact that you got the unions at least with tepid agreement to move forward, how important is that? How profound is it?

PAWLENTY: It's critically important. Lou, they're such an instrumental part of the whole system. They're very powerful. If they're not brought into the reform or the change, it's not going to be successful.

DOBBS: In terms of Minnesota, tell us if you will, how successful your teachers have been at this point, according to national testing levels, and where you want to see this program -- what you want to see this program achieve.

PAWLENTY: Well, Minnesota leads the nation or very close to it, in almost every measure of standardized education performance, but we need to raise the bar even on ourselves for a whole variety of reasons.

The early returns on this program and the pilot projects that preceded it are very good: increase in teacher morale, increased time that they have to share with each other. But, as importantly, aligning resources and the bulk of the resources in the schools go to people. It's understandable; it's a people business, but aligning the resources to things that impact the core mission of schools, which is student learning and teacher effectiveness.

DOBBS: I would think there would be great excitement on the part of any top quality teacher to be told you're going make a lot more money if, in fact, you can teach so well that your students will do better on national standardized tests. Is there excitement on the part of the teachers themselves?

PAWLENTY: I have to say candidly they were skeptical at first, and many of them still are. But after they have some experience with, they become actually our best proponents and advocates for the change. And what we're doing in Minnesota is just phase one. If you looked at the correlation between student learning and teacher effectiveness, it's very, very important that we have high quality, impactful, effective teachers.

One of the sad things going on in our education system amongst many is it's increasingly difficult, almost impossible, to get the very best teachers to go in the most challenged sites where we have disproportionate amounts of disadvantaged students. So enhancements like that will be important as well.

DOBBS: Now, nationwide, just about half of the Hispanic students in high school are dropping out. The same is true of black students in high school. Have you got special incentives to try to reduce the disgraceful gap in education amongst minority students?

PAWLENTY: The achievement gap to which you refer to, Lou, is common across the whole nation, particularly prevalent in urban areas. There is really no urban school district in America that has turned around their educational fortunes to scale. But we do need to close that achievement gap, and one of the best ways to do that is to get highly effective, impactful teachers in the classrooms with those disadvantaged students. This will help along with some other things.

DOBBS: And those other things also critically important. I presume they include raising pay levels period, improving the standards for the teachers that we do hire, demanding discipline in the classroom, and getting parents involved. Are those amongst some of the things, Governor?

PAWLENTY: That's a very good list. The number one determinant of how children are going to do in schools, of course, is their parents. The second most thing is the effectiveness of their teachers, and a lot of kids, unfortunately, don't have high functioning or engaged or involved parents. This is the next best thing we can do.

DOBBS: Well, maybe we can get it all done, and we thank you, Governor, for your leadership on the issue.

PAWLENTY: You're welcome, Lou. Thanks for having me on the show.

DOBBS: Governor Tim Pawlenty or Minnesota.

Taking a look now at some of your thoughts.

Tracy in California wrote in to say, "Why do you have to call China 'Communist China'? Do you have a problem with China or People's Republic of China or Mainland China? What are you trying to imply."

Tracy, as you watch this broadcast more, you'll find I don't imply much, I speak rather straightforwardly, and I call it Communist China, because it is Communist China.

And many of you wrote in about our poll question last night on a matter before the Supreme Court. We asked whether parents of a minor should be notified if that child wants an abortion.

Dennis is Texas wrote to say, "if a minor can get an abortion with parental consent, why not let them drink, drive and get breast implants?"

William in New York: "Lou, children have to get their parents' permission to go on school trips or to get married, et cetera. But there are people who believe that a child's parents shouldn't be notified in order for them to get an abortion."

Yes, William, in fact, we asked that question of our audience in our poll last night. Forty-five percent of our audience said parents should not be notified; 55 percent agreed that they should.

Matthew Peters wrote in about the president's proposed guest worker program for illegal aliens. He wrote it say, "Lou, if this country does not have the political will deport illegal immigrants now, what will change in six years from now when this guest worker program ends?"

And William in Florida: "Thank you for bringing truth back to reporting." It is our job, and we enjoy doing so. Thank you.

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at Everyone whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "Exporting America," and can you receive our e-mail newsletter at the very same

A reminder to vote in our poll tonight. The subject? Wachovia's plans to outsource American jobs to India. We're asking whether you would stop banking with a financial institution just because they are exporting American jobs to the cheap foreign labor market. Yes or no, cast your vote at We'll have the results for you later here.

Still ahead, Able Danger, day 12. The latest as members of Congress are fighting for an Able Danger hearing on Capitol Hill.

And the political battle at home over our troops overseas in combat. General David Grange joins me here next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: It's been 12 days since Congressman Curt Weldon sent a letter signed by more than half of the members of the House of Representatives to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, demanding Able Danger military officials be allowed to testify before Congress. But as of tonight, the Pentagon has not responded.

Able danger officials, when they tried to alert the FBI about 9/11 mastermind Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 radical Islamist terrorists more than a year before those attacks, they say the Pentagon prevented them from sharing that information with the FBI. My guest here tomorrow will be journalist Peter Lance, who has written a book dealing with Able Danger and the failure of our nation's intelligence agencies. Tonight in Illinois, four pharmacists working at Walgreens have been put on indefinite, unpaid leave for refusing to fill morning after contraceptive prescriptions. For these pharmacists, the morning after pill is an affront to their religious and moral beliefs. But Walgreens tonight says, quote, "Illinois law requires pharmacies to dispense these contraceptive medications, and we must follow the law. If we allow our pharmacists in Illinois to refuse to dispense these medications, we are placing our pharmacy license at risk."

And in a moment, I'll be talking with the governor of Illinois. But first, I'm joined by Ed Martin, the attorney representing the Walgreens' pharmacist. Can you find fault, Ed Martin, with what the governor of Illinois has done here, or Walgreens?

ED MARTIN, ATTORNEY FOR PHARMACISTS: Sure, I can find fault with what he's done. I had to laugh when you said -- it makes me laugh to hear indefinite unpaid leave. If there was ever a euphemism for being terminated, especially the way these pharmacists dealt with it, they were in the dark of night, they were kind of delivered this message.

But yes, what the governor has done is from April 1st until today, it's a logical progression. He has put in place a pressure -- him, him, not the legislature, which has passed laws on this subject, not the...

DOBBS: Well he is, after all, the governor, I mean, he has been elected, he didn't just show up there?

MARTIN: Fair enough. But there's a law passed in 1995 that addresses rights of conscience. That was passed by both houses of legislature and signed by the governor. This governor decided he wanted to change the rules, and he did it. And the pressure he put, again, as governor, on businesses, is what has caused this to happen today.

DOBBS: And others would argue that what has caused this to happen is that pharmacists have asserted their religious and moral views, which they were keenly aware of when they became pharmacists, that there would be prescriptions for contraceptives and they would be filling those prescriptions. And not to argue that point, but the fact is, it is the law.

MARTIN: Well, not exactly, with all due respect, Lou. The fact is, there's a law in the books called the Illinois Rights of Conscience Act, that protects all health care professionals in all health care settings, with regards to procedures or anything else.

Pharmacists are professionals. They are supposed to be -- we've honored them in lots of ways. But what happens here is, we've said now, like we do with doctors, let's say doctors having to perform abortion. No one said a doctor must perform an abortion if he or she doesn't want to.

Pharmacists are saying, we're ready to dispense all kinds of drugs, but there are times when our conscience, as professionals, comes into play. And we shouldn't be pulled into and forced to do it. And the law exists that says we don't have to.

DOBBS: And your next course of action represents the pharmacists?

MARTIN: Well, the four pharmacists in Illinois that are dealing with this are trying to sort out their employment relationship. So down the line, there may very well be lawsuits, although we can't know. We're working with lawyers from American Center for Law and Justice on those angles. We'll see where it goes. I will say there's a number of other lawsuits though in Illinois, challenging this rule to try to clarify the real mess that the governor has made by moving it this way.

DOBBS: Ed Martin, we thank you for being here.

MARTIN: Thank you.

DOBBS: Appreciate it.

Now on the other side of this important issue is Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, joining us tonight from Chicago. He imposed this controversial contraceptive ruling back in April. Governor, are you supportive of what Walgreens has chosen to do so far in this case?

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: Well, Walgreens is following the law, and the law is very simple. When a woman goes to her doctor and here doctor writes out a prescription, then when she goes to the drugstore or the pharmacy, it's the responsibility of the drugstore and pharmacy to fill that prescription. And the pharmacist that works there needs to do his job.

DOBBS: Governor, you perhaps, I hope, heard at least, Ed Martin, representing those four pharmacists, say that he believes that his clients are protected under the Professional Practices Law, 1995. I know you have the best legal advice available to your office. What's your position?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I don't mean any disrespect to Mr. Martin, but he may want to go back to law school and take that class again. The right of conscience does not apply to pharmacists, it applies to doctors and nurses.

And the rationale is that when a doctor or nurse has a moral objection to performing an abortion, which is a legitimate concern, that they would be precluded from having to do that. In the case of a pharmacist who's not covered under that law, the morning after pill or contraceptives don't terminate pregnancies, what they do is prevent pregnancies, and that's far different from performing an abortion.

DOBBS: And the issue here is, will the governor's office in the state of Illinois prevail, or will the conscience rights of these four pharmacists prevail? The question for those who are licensing a pharmacy is to how far this is going to go. Walgreens has acted here, in your judgment, appropriately and the way in which you would want a pharmacy to follow your executive orders? BLAGOJEVICH: They have. Again, because they're following the law. Let me again be clear about the simplicity of this issue. When a woman gets a prescription from her doctor, if it relates to an issue of her reproductive health, she has every right to expect that when she goes to the drugstore, the pharmacist fills the prescription. That he doesn't impose his own moral views, doesn't lecture her or hassle her, delay her. He just does his job, fill the prescription.

To suggest that somehow pharmacists should be treated differently, would be to suggest for example, that when you go to your supermarket and the clerk is checking out your food, and that clerk may be a vegetarian, that when you check through the counter to pay your bill, he's checking the asparagus and the potatoes and the pasta, but when he gets to the ground sirloin, says: I'm sorry, I have a moral objection to meat, I'm not going to sell you the hamburger.

The fact is, if he can't do his job, don't work there. And when it comes to these pharmacists who are making political statements, they can choose to fill their prescription and do their job, or they can work at a pharmacy that doesn't stock birth control. There's nothing at all in my order that requires drug stores or pharmacists to stock it.

DOBBS: Governor, let me ask you as we wrap up here, you said you meant the attorney for those pharmacists no disrespect, Ed Martin, when you suggested that he go back to law school. If you admit disrespect, would have you suggested perhaps college or high school, I'm just curious?

BLAGOJEVICH: No, I mean, I was a scholar in law school so I didn't take that class either, but he's misstating the law, and he ought to be fair and honest with all of us. The fact is, pharmacists are not covered under that law, and nor should they be.

Because that law, rationale again is, abortions, and if a doctor or a nurse or a health care professional doesn't want to perform abortion, that's understandable. They have a right to not do that. But we're talking about birth control and contraceptives that prevent pregnancies. They don't terminate them.

DOBBS: Governor, we appreciate you very much being here.

BLAGOJEVICH: Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour here, THE SITUATION ROOM and Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, tell us what you're working on.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. In only a few moments, we'll tell you about a story that you will see only here on CNN. Bill Clinton speaking out directly on the war in Iraq. Find out why he agrees with President Bush's decision to stay the course. Our Anderson Cooper joins us live to talk about his exclusive interview with Bill Clinton.

Plus, inside the insurgency, a chilling view of the propaganda campaign against U.S. troops. And trouble for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The life and death decision, putting the California governor in a political tight spot.

And get this, bed bugs lawsuit. A New York hotel taken to court by bitten tourists. All that coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

DOBBS: Bed bugs, Wolf. Yuck. We'll be watching anyway.

Well as you saw at the top of the hour here on CNN, the National Christmas Tree is now aglow in Washington, D.C. On the Ellipse, President Bush, the first lady attending the annual tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse near the White House.

There are now at least two trees by the way, in our nation's capital that are called precisely what they are, are you ready? This is the National Christmas Tree. House Speaker Dennis Hastert this weekend renamed the tree on Capitol Hill, the Capitol Christmas Tree. It was formerly known as the holiday tree. Merry Christmas, Mr. Speaker.

Coming up next, a leading Congressman says our military is broken and tired. General David Grange weighs in next here.

And then, Switzerland, Hawaii, and Paris, they are just some of the exotic locales the White House staffers have traveled to at no cost to them, for no apparent reason, and certainly somebody had to pay. We'll tell you how, why, and when next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Two weeks after Congressman John Murtha called for a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, over six months, the lawmaker sparked new controversy by calling the U.S. Army "broken and worn out." Congressman Murtha declared the Army is unable to meet its new force structure of half a million troops and 43 active duty combat brigades, and has no strategic reserve.

Joining me now, General David Grange. Is the congressman right, and what's going on?

MAJ. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET)., CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, Lou, you cannot wear out the United States Army. It's an enduring institution. There are some parts of it that have been rode hard. There's a lot of equipment that needs to be upgraded. It's going to cost money, it's going to cost time. And you cannot look at, for instance, United States Army by itself, because you don't just fight one service. You fight jointly with all the services.

So he's partly right, but this -- it's an enduring military that will hang in there. If you have to put boots on the ground in North Korea and Iran, that would be very tough right now, obviously.

DOBBS: It would be tough, as you say, obviously, but also perplexing, if I can read some of these numbers, and I know you know them, General. The National Guard only able to meet 80 percent of its 2005 recruiting goals, fiscal year 2005. The Army reserve meeting only 84 percent of its recruiting goals. General Blum on this broadcast sat there and said he was doing great, that things were going well, when they obviously were not. He didn't know that at the time, I'm not implying anything by that.

But the fact is, we've got some serious problems. The standards have been lowered to improve force levels. This is not going in the right direction, is it?

GRANGE: Well, you know, it's a national problem. The recruiting issue is a national problem. The propensity to serve in the country is down. During peacetime, quite often you meet recruiting goals, but sure enough there's a war, and then people start having second thoughts. It doesn't matter if it's Iraq or any war. That's just the way it is.

DOBBS: This war, in point of fact, has created a lot of second thoughts, as you know, in much the American public. The president also saying today that the troops deserve our unwavering commitment. I think that's absolutely true, that our troops do deserve that, and I believe they have that on the part of all Americans. But what is the role for our leading political officials, for everyone in this country, in terms of a debate, as the number of fatalities now in Iraq have reached 2,113 young Americans' lives lost?

GRANGE: Well, you know, one of the purposes of this military is to ensure that there is a right to debate in this nation. And that's in the Constitution of the United States, which every soldier swears to uphold and defend. And so that's appropriate. The only thing that bothers me is if you use it for political gain, and it's so obvious at times that it is used for political gain, instead of for what's best for the nation or what's best for those soldiers, and that's where I have a rub with it.

DOBBS: I'm reminded of what H.L. Mencken once said, "The purpose of a political party in America is to demonstrate to the voters that the other political party is unfit to serve. Both parties succeed in that goal, and both are always right."

We thank you very much, General David Grange.

GRANGE: Thank you.

DOBBS: Still ahead here, the great getaway. Dozens of White House staffers are enjoying trips, some to luxurious destinations, without it costing them a penny. We'll tell you who's paying for it and perhaps why. It's next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, a shocking new report on dozens of trips taken by White House staffers over the past six years. Did I say shocking? This is, after all, Washington.

The finding shows companies and other groups that lobby the U.S. government have paid millions of dollars to send White House staffers, not just congressmen and congressional staffers, around the world. Bruce Morton reports.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Center for Public Integrity, a private nonprofit group, says companies, industry organizations and others paid $2.3 million over six years for White House officials to come and speak to them.

The study covered the last two years of the Clinton administration and the first four of George W. Bush's. Big stars had trips paid for. Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security advisor. Bush guru Karl Rove. Six hundred twenty White House aides in all. Trips to exotic places like Paris, less exotic ones like Detroit.

Government regulations say federal officials shouldn't accept such travel if it would cause a reasonable person to question the integrity of agency programs, unquote.

But groups that lobby include the White House among their targets. The AFL-CIO has spent $26 million on lobbying in those six years, the study says, $218,000 on White House travel. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, $205 million lobbying, $16,000 on White House travel. Harvard University, $3.5 million on lobbying, $85,000 on White House travel -- mostly because it invited Al Gore to speak when he was vice president, and had to pay for staffers he brought along with him.

Is there a risk?

BOB WILLIAMS, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: They're going to be beholden to -- possibly beholden to folks who they're paying for their travel.

MORTON: Vice President Cheney reported no such travel. All his staffers' trips were apparently paid for by the taxpayer.

WILLIAMS: Basically what you have with Mr. Cheney's office is, there's no disclosure, there is no way of really knowing where they went.

MORTON: Better the company pays than the taxpayer? What do you think?

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


DOBBS: That's what's called a Hobson's choice in Washington, D.C.

Now, the results of tonight's poll: 94 percent of you say you would stop banking with a financial institution because it exports American jobs to cheap overseas labor markets.

A final note tonight: In addition to the honor today of receiving a lifetime achievement Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, imagine what it's like to discover that this beautiful statue is made right here, in the United States, by R.S. Owens in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Another quality product made in America. Our congratulations as well as thanks to the Academy, and our congratulations to R.S. Owens. Thank you.

And thank you for being with us. Please join us here tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer and "THE SITUATION ROOM" are coming right up. For all of us here, good night from New York.