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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Briefing at Miami International Airport on Fatal Shooting on American Airlines Plane Jetway; Selling the Strategy

Aired December 07, 2005 - 18:00   ET


JIM BAUER, FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL SERVICE: There were no explosives involved that we're aware of, at least on this plane.
We have an investigation under way. There's no reason to believe right now that there is any nexus to terrorism or that, indeed, any other events are associated with this one.

As a tactical matter, the Federal Air Marshals, as has been reported, did deploy federal air marshals to airports throughout the country in a surveillance mode to see if, in fact, other events were unfolding. We have no reports of any other events that would lead us back to this -- to this isolated event.

Again, the investigation both of the shooting event, as well as the nexus for the event itself, his threat, continue. And we have no final answers on any of those at this time.

Director Parker, would you like to say anything?

BOBBY PARKER, DIRECTOR, MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPT.: I'll just say the investigation is ongoing, it's preliminary. We know enough to know that the airline is secure, the bags are all secure, and there really is no bomb at this point.

The investigation will take a while in completing. We will go through every detail and every possible avenue of exploration just to make sure that the situation is exactly an unfortunate incident.



Bobby Parker, director of Miami-Dade Police Department.

QUESTION: This man was boarding in Miami? Is that what you said? So it was not -- he was not coming from Colombia? He was boarding here in Miami?

PARKER: Well, I can't comment on that aspect -- Rick.

BAUER: Rick Thomas (ph) can speak to that issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, what was the question?

QUESTION: Where this man came from. He came from... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He flew out from Quito, Ecuador, this morning. He was onboard American Airlines Flight 932 that arrived here at Miami at 12:04 this morning.

QUESTION: But if he was not armed, what actually triggered the marshals to go after him. Only words?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't really address that.

Jim, do you want to...

BAUER: He was holding a backpack and uttered a threat that he had a bomb.

Andy, would you like to say something?

QUESTION: So he was leaving Miami and then he was re-boarding again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He flew in from Quito, Ecuador, this morning, cleared customs, and re-boarded, I think, it's American Flight 934, headed to Orlando at 2:15 this afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is he a U.S. citizen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The flight this afternoon, American Airlines 934 to Orlando was his departure flight.

QUESTION: Where was this man from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He arrived here from Quito. He's a -- our records indicate he is a U.S. citizen.

QUESTION: And he resides where?

QUESTION: Does he have any criminal record at all?

QUESTION: Rick, is there any indication he suffered from any kind of mental illness or bipolar disorder?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't really address. I don't have any knowledge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was one -- what was the other question?

QUESTION: Did he have a criminal record or anything like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no -- no information on it.

QUESTION: Was he alone?

QUESTION: Was he traveling with somebody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was traveling with a female. I believe it is his wife.

QUESTION: Do you have her? Where is she?

BAUER: Again, this is all in the preliminary stage, and there really aren't -- we can answer some of the questions, but they would be incomplete answers and we run the risk of them being inaccurate. We only want to give you factual information.

Andy, would you like to add something from the FBI?

ANDY APOLLONY, FBI: From the FBI standpoint, I'd just like to add that we're looking at this incident to see if there is a nexus between terrorism and the incident. Right now, as Jim Bauer from the Federal Air Marshals said, we don't see a nexus. But we're not going to make that call right now.

We're going to continue to look with our joint terrorism task force resources. And any time there's an individual that's on a plane or is attempting to board a plane and he says he has a bomb, we're going to be interested in that from a terrorism nexus. But we don't have that information right now, we're still looking. And as Jim said, it's still preliminary.

QUESTION: What city did this man reside in?


BAUER: Ladies and gentlemen, we've said all we can really say about the accident itself.

(INAUDIBLE) investigating that. And that's all I can give you.

He was carrying a backpack, and when he uttered the threat. And his furtive movements are not something that I will describe at this point.

Thank you.


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: You're listening to representatives of the Miami-Dade Police Department, the FBI, the Transportation Security Agency, the Federal Air Marshals, as they are explaining what was a deadly shooting this afternoon at Miami International Airport. The first time a federal air marshal has fired a weapon in the line of duty.

Federal officials saying the air marshal shot and killed 44-year- old American citizen Rigoberto Alpizar. Authorities say Alpizar claimed to have a bomb in a travel-on bag, but in the last few minutes, officials say no bomb was discovered and none involved in this fatal, tragic shooting incident.

The shooting took place on a jetway to an American Airlines plane that had just arrived from Colombia. It was bound then for Orlando. And we have been listening, as I say, to the local officials, two agencies with clear -- clear jurisdiction, of course, the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

For more now, we're going to go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, in Washington -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The man who has been shot has been identified by officials as Rigoberto Alpizar, a U.S. citizen. Excuse me, don't have a microphone, a vital piece of equipment here. Let me put this on, Lou.

The individual who has been shot identified as Rigoberto Alpizar, a U.S. citizen, 44 years old. Officials saying that he flew in from Quito, Ecuador, on an American Airlines flight.

He deplaned in Miami, he went through Customs, and he then was boarding this other flight that had come in from Colombia. It was flying on to Orlando.

According to federal authorities, he indicated to authorities that he had a bomb in his carry-on bag. Federal air marshals identified themselves as such and asked him to leave the aircraft.

He went off the aircraft. They asked him to put that bag down and drop to his knees. He did not comply with their repeated request that he do so. And according to a spokesman for the Federal Air Marshals, he then approached the air marshals in an aggressive manner.

They then fired two or three shots, and he was killed.

But as you say, the officials have just revealed that they have found absolutely no indication of a bomb in his carry-on luggage or elsewhere on this flight. And they have found no terrorism nexus at this point in time -- Lou.

DOBBS: The terrorism nexus, as you put it, and as we just heard officials from the Federal Air Marshal Service, the Transportation Security Agency and administration as well, talking about the context of terrorism here, it is pretty clear on these initial reports, at least, that this is a tragedy, a man apparently who was, at least according to early reports, who was mentally disturbed.

MESERVE: No official sources have confirmed that there was any sort of mental issue at all. Those are reports that have been out there in the media, but no one in an official capacity is saying that they know anything about any sort of mental disturbance whatsoever.

The fact is, he's on an airplane, and according to federal officials, he said he had a bomb in his bag. Now, we all travel, we've all seen the signs, they let you know this is not a joking matter, that's something you don't say. Whether or not this guy will turn out to have had some sort of mental competency issues, we just don't know at this point in time -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jeanne Meserve. Thank you very much. Let's go John Zarrella now, at Miami International Airport for the latest.

John, the officials who stepped before those news conference microphone didn't have much to add, did they?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they really didn't. I think the one piece of news, of course, that they did give us was that, you know, there were no explosive device found in the luggage that was in Rigoberto Alpizar's possession or the checked luggage that he had.

You know, still, the outstanding questions are, how could he have possibly had that if he had cleared customs here in Miami when he came in from Ecuador, had to re-board the flight, which means you have to go through the metal detectors again here at Miami International Airport?

And, of course, though they did detonate, three pieces, at least three pieces of luggage that we know of out on the tarmac, luggage that was presumably taken off of the plane and then presumably, for whatever reason, either they thought that there was something wrong with it or that that was the way that they would be able to, you know, come up with a complete OK on Alpizar's luggage.

The only way to do that was to perhaps detonate that. They did not address that at press briefing, only saying that there was no explosive device or no explosives found in his possession.

The one thing I think we got pretty much, Lou, a lot of the information we garnered today was from passengers who were on the flight going to Orlando. Some of those passengers telling us they didn't know anything that happened, and others saying, in fact, that they did hear what was transpiring.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said that she heard three gunshots and then everyone was running -- like, everyone was going crazy. They got up and started running.

And she went to go get me because I was in the restroom. And she went in there and she was like, "There's an emergency, hurry up and get out."

So then I got out, and we just -- we ran the other way, where everyone was -- where everyone was going. And then from there, that's when everybody was like running the other way.

The police came and everything, and from what I heard was that they captured the man, but they shot him, and that he's dead.


ZARRELLA: Now, we're also being told, of course, in that briefing that we just heard that the Miami-Dade Police Department will investigate the actual shooting incident itself. We heard in that sound from the passenger that three shots were fired. They would not confirm here for us any numbers as far as numbers of shots fired or not fired, Lou.

So as you pointed out at the top, really not a whole lot to add to what we already knew was -- had taken place here from this press briefing -- Lou.

DOBBS: And John, to hopefully clarify, when you report that three pieces of luggage, which we saw in the videotape were being detonated, that is the bomb squad presumably adding explosives and exploding those devices, is that correct?

ZARRELLA: Yes, exactly. They would have detonated those with their own explosive devices. And we're just assuming here that may have been his luggage and that they're not take anything precaution.

Someone says they have a bomb, well, you better go through the luggage that he checked as well, even though it was presumably screened before it was put back on that American flight. But taking no chance, as we've heard all day long from experts and at the press briefing here today, when it comes to someone threatening with a bomb on an airplane, no chances are taken -- Lou.

DOBBS: And that apparently the case here today.

John Zarrella from Miami International Airport.

Thank you, John.

Joining us now is our security analyst, Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security.

Good have you with us. And as John Zarrella reports, those air marshals take no chances, they fire presumably to kill.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: That's exactly right, Lou. At least under these circumstance, this fellow said that he had a bomb, I presume that he spoke in English. He was told to cease and desist. There was one report that he was told to go to the ground.

He then apparently reached into his bag, according to one report. The latest report is that he actually lunged at officers.

Under that set of circumstances, particularly in the post-9/11 world, the air marshals did exactly what they should have done. They shot to kill, and under the circumstances I think they did the right thing.

DOBBS: And in listening to the -- to the officials representing various agencies, the Transportation Security Administration, the Air Marshals, the Federal Security Service, the FBI, of course, Miami-Dade Police, very little information forthcoming from them just about four hours after the incident.

Does that surprise you? ERVIN: It doesn't. You know, this is typical of an investigation like this.

You know, it happened just hours ago, there are lots of questions to be asked. There are lots of people to talk to. There's lots of evidence to comb over. There are lots of entities at the federal, state and local level involved here.

So as they said at the news conference, they want to have as much information as possible before they give a briefing. So they gave the information that they had at that time, and there of course will be subsequent briefings in a very lengthy and exhaustive investigation, no question.

DOBBS: As we just saw, and as John Zarrella reported, three pieces of luggage were exploded, detonated on the tarmac there, on the apron. Is that standard procedure? Because apparently, dogs were sent through the luggage to sniff out any potential explosive.

What is the protocol there?

ERVIN: Well, that would be standard procedure if the dogs sniffed something. The dogs must have spotted explosives, and if that was, in fact, the case, the standard procedure would have been to blow up those bags.

Otherwise, it seems to me the bags wouldn't have been detonated, because of course the bags could have contained evidence that would be important for the investigation.

DOBBS: Exactly. And at the same time, we do have officials there at the airport, federal authorities, as well as local, saying that no explosives of any kind were found.

ERVIN: Right.

DOBBS: The language used by several of the federal authorities in particular today, looking into a terrorist nexus here, is that -- why that kind of language? Is that just federal bureaucratic speak for they're not sure what they've got?

ERVIN: Well, no. I mean, in these post-9/11 times, you always think about whether there might be a terrorism nexus. And it would be incumbent upon the officials to see whether there was any connection to terrorism on the part of this particular passenger.

This particular flight had originated in Colombia. Colombia, of course, is a center of narcotrafficking. Not terrorism, but narcotrafficking.

We learned that this fellow came from Ecuador. Now, neither of those countries tends to be associated with terrorism, per se, but certainly that's the kind of question that needs to be asked under these circumstances.

DOBBS: And, of course, I'm sure there will be a complete review of the screening process that was in place at Miami International and the flight arriving from -- from Ecuador and then moving on to the next leg, on this flight, at least, from Colombia, then on to Orlando.


DOBBS: Kent, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

ERVIN: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Today's shooting at the airport, the Miami International Airport, comes amid new concerns about the federal government's commitment to protecting commercial aircraft and passengers. Last week, government investigators reported that the Homeland Security Department has abandoned a program to train thousands of additional agents for aircraft and airline security. The General Accountability Office saying the program was quietly dropped because Congress objected to the cost.

We'd like to know how you feel about all of this in tonight's poll. The question is straightforward: Do you feel confident that the federal government is doing enough to secure air travel, yes or no? Please cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up.

We'll have as well the latest on this shooting at Miami International Airport. Those details coming as soon as we have them here.

Also, President Bush and the Democrats trading new charges over the conduct of the war in Iraq. We'll have reports from both the White House and Capitol Hill.

And scathing criticism tonight of our school's efforts to teach students basic science.

We'll have that special report and a great deal more still ahead.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: A sharp escalation in the already intense debate over the war in Iraq. President Bush today slammed critics of his policies in Iraq, saying the United States is not going to yield to al Qaeda. President Bush also insisted the United States is making steady progress in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Dana Bash reports from the White House.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This time the president's focus was post-Saddam reconstruction. He told Americans soured by daily images of violence Iraq is taking significant strides toward recovery. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't always make the headlines in the evening news, but it's real. And it's important. And it is unmistakable to those who see it close-up.

BASH: His big examples, two cities where bloody battles are now replaced by what he called tangible progress because of lessons learned the hard way.

In Mosul, he talked of an increasingly stable government, upgraded roads, bridges and schools. And in Najaf, 90 miles south of Baghdad, the president touted new businesses, markets, pilgrims returning to holy sites.

Experts agree there is progress, but also still significant economic paralysis and frustration, especially in Baghdad.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: What's happening in Najaf and Mosul is not really representative of overall Iraqi trends right now. And so I think the president gave a slightly too rosy picture.

BUSH: Like most of Iraq, the reconstruction in Najaf is preceded with fits and starts since liberation.

BASH: The president did concede kidnappings, armed gangs and terrorism are causing what he called uneven advances, forcing a change in tactics to address urgent visible needs like sewer lines and city roads first, instead of large-scale repairs.

BUSH: Reconstruction has not always gone as well as we had hoped.

BASH: Like last week's speech about the military effort, the more sober assessment of the challenges now stand in stark contrast to the administration's pre-war optimism.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, FMR. DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.

BASH: Instead, Congress has approved $250 billion of American taxpayer money for Iraq including nearly $21 billion for reconstruction, a fair amount of, the White House concedes, lost to corruption.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: There are mistakes that were made. There's no doubt that some American taxpayers' money was spent inappropriately in the reconstruction project.


BASH: The word "mistake" does not flow freely from the lips of this president, yet he did utter, quoting someone else, Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman's recent statement that mistakes have been made in Iraq, but it would be a bigger mistake to rush American troops home. On both counts, Mr. Bush said, the senator was right -- Lou. DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Dana Bash from the White House.

Democrats immediately firing back against President Bush, trying to present a united front. The Democratic leadership tapped Congressman John Murtha to lead their counterattack. Congressman Murtha, of course, wants a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, a view that many Democrats themselves don't share.

Ed Henry reports from Capitol Hill.


ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Murtha challenged the president, armed with charts showing Iraq has water shortages, electricity problems, and oil production is down.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We didn't get up to pre-war level in oil production. Today they say we're making progress. I mean, I can only measure progress by what I see in the things that I can actually measure.

HENRY: Murtha renewed his call for a quick pullout of U.S. troops, which has put pressure on the president but also helps split Democrats.

SEN. JACK REED (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I think what we're trying to do is to articulate our views. And we have different views.

HENRY: Moderate Democrats worry the anti-war comments of party chairman Howard Dean, who said he does not think the U.S. can win in Iraq, will backfire with swing voters. And liberals grit their teeth as the president cites the support of moderate Democrat Joe Lieberman.

BUSH: Here's what Senator Lieberman wrote -- Senator Lieberman wrote about the Iraq he saw, "Progress is visible and practical."

HENRY: House Democrats huddled behind closed doors amid a rift between leader Nancy Pelosi, who has endorsed Murtha's plan, and her second in command, Steny Hoyer, who says a hasty withdrawal would help terrorists. Some Democrats worry her move may position Democrats too far to the left. But Pelosi has no regrets.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I'm so very proud of endorsing Mr. Murtha's proposal. I think that he has kicked open a door in our country to let in some fresh air and some sunlight into the debate.

HENRY: Democrats point out Republicans are not exactly united, with Chuck Hagel saying last week, "We've shed a lot of blood, spent a lot of money, invested heavily in Iraq, and it's still uncertain as to the outcome."

REED: Does that mean the Republicans are having problems with the -- themselves with a coherent, consistent message? HENRY (on camera): John Murtha says 34 House Democrats have now co-sponsored his resolutionment. A minority of Democrats, but a slowly growing minority.

Ed Henry, CNN, Capitol Hill.


DOBBS: Still ahead here, we're keeping our eye on the very latest at Miami International Airport, the scene of today's shooting of a passenger by a federal air marshal. We'll have the very latest for you and we'll be taking you back live to Miami.

Our nation's education officials failing our nation's students. Are teachers failing? Are schools failing? The story of why educational excellence is still not a priority in our public schools. That special report coming up next.

A great deal more still ahead here.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, devastating news about our nation's continued failure to teach our young children. A new study says states are failing in their efforts to teach students science skills that children elsewhere in the world are mastering.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia, students are learning about electromagnetic waves in physics class. When it comes to setting science standards, Virginia is one of only seven states earning an A grade.

DAN CARROLL, PHYSICS TEACHER: The state has -- from the top down has really tried to encourage us as teachers to have a full understanding of what the standards are and to also participate in the selection of those standards.

SYLVESTER: According to a new report by the Thomas Fordham Institute, 22 other states got a D or F in K through 12 state science standards.

PAUL GROSS, REPORT AUTHOR, FORDHAM INSTITUTE: Most kids have an inadequate exposure to science, particularly the interface between science and math. This is something that is not stressed in nearly enough of the standards.

SYLVESTER: State standards are important because they set the level of what's expected of students. The Fordham study found standards were carelessly written and difficult to navigate, lacked detail and content, and included vague teaching activities like this one from Mississippi urging students to watch ice cubes melt.

The Texas Education Agency, which received an F, called the report more science fiction than science and questions the methodology used.

But the Fordham group, made up of scientists and teachers, say there's plenty of evidence to support their conclusions. Just look at the impact of globalization and how high-tech jobs are leaving the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are other -- other countries around the world who are our active competitors who are teaching better, training more people to do good science and good engineering than we are, and so one has to be concerned with the standards.


SYLVESTER: The Fordham Institute backs teaching evolution, a very controversial subject, but the authors insist that in their evaluations it weighed no more than any other subject in biology. And to close the science gap, they say the country needs to focus on raising expectations and teaching science educators how to be better teachers -- Lou.

DOBBS: Imagine that. Lisa, thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

Coming up shortly here, I'll be joined by Democratic Congressman George Miller of California. Congressman Miller is calling for a massive new initiative to improve education and scientific research and to stop the spiral of U.S. global competitiveness.

Turning now to our nation's border crisis, an outrageous new proposal could make it even easier for illegal aliens to live and work in this country. Indiana State lawmakers want to give illegal aliens there permission to drive.

Bill Tucker has our report.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Illegal aliens could soon be given the privilege of driving legally by the state of Indiana. Legislators there say they are alarmed at the number of unlicensed, uninsured illegal aliens who are driving in their state. Rather than crackdown on the problem or put them in jail, the legislators have another idea.

MIKE MURPHY (R), INDIANA STATE REP.: I want to make sure that while they're here for whatever period of time that may be, that they're actually driving safely and have insurance to protect them us from, us from them.

TUCKER: And they apparently will be able to buy auto insurance, despite their illegal presence in the country. Indiana's Department of Insurance says there's no law in the book prohibiting the transaction, adding that once an insurance company accepts money, they are obligated to provide coverage, regardless of the insured's residency status.

Ten states currently require no proof of legal residence when applying for a license, meaning illegal aliens can get driver's licenses in those states. Only two, Utah and Tennessee, currently provide a separate class of driver's license or driving certificates, specifically for applicants who have no proof of legal status. That is folly in the opinion of those critical of current immigration policy.

DAN STEIN, FED. OF AMER. FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: This kind of state attitude, it's not my problem. I mean, that's exactly why we're in the mess we are today. It's not just a federal problem, it's a state problem because it's everybody's problem.


TUCKER: And as evidence of the kinds of problems that a state's decision can create on a national level, on Tuesday the FBI busted its second ring of criminals in six months who were smuggling illegal aliens, Lou, to Tennessee to obtain driving certificates.

DOBBS: Now, why were they going to Tennessee?

TUCKER: Because they can get the certificate there, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, you know, I laugh, it's not funny. You can either laugh or cry. And anyone living in any one of these states where your state legislature has permitted this, if you can't figure out what to do, I'm not going to say a word. The only other thing to do is put up a -- I guess a white flag of surrender at the border, or maybe Vicente Fox has already figured out Washington has done that. Bill Tucker, thank you.

Our next guest made this nation's border crisis a critical issue in a special Congressional election held in California yesterday. Jim Gilchrist is the co-founder of the Minuteman Project. He ran as an independent. His campaign surpassed all expectations and earned Gilchrist a solid third place finish, 25 percent of the vote.

Republican state senator John Campbell spending a lot more money with a lot better name recognition, and of course with the support and a solid Republican district, well, he won the runoff but he won only 45 percent of the vote.

Democrat Steve Young took 28 percent, and Jim Gilchrist spending very little money and having just a matter of weeks to campaign, won an astounding 25 percent of the vote. And he joins us tonight from Orange, California. Good to have you here.

JIM GILCHRIST (I), FMR. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Good to be on your program, Lou.

DOBBS: Jim, this is an impressive showing. This is what every strategist that we've talked with was afraid of, that you would have a showing above the 15 percent that you won in the primary, moving up to 25 percent, against two organized, established, political parties. We'll even name them: the Democrats and the Republicans. Did you expect to do this well?

GILCHRIST: Yes, actually I expected to do a little bit better. Could not guarantee that I would win the race, but I would not have been surprised if I won the race outright by a couple of thousand votes. I've given -- literally given a voice in government to that so-called silent majority.

I've gotten people to come out of their caves to register for the first time in their lives to vote. These issues that I'm representing are very, very serious issues, and not only have I gotten the attention of Congress, I've gotten the attention of the president of the United States. And what happened in my election yesterday will continue occurring throughout the United States.

DOBBS: All right, Jim, the bottom line is you lost. You ran on one -- basically one issue, illegal immigration. Do you wish right now that you had been somewhat more comprehensive and addressed a number of issues and been more -- let's say overt in your connecting the dots on a number of issues?

GILCHRIST: I did address more than one issue. I addressed the problem with education, a threat to our Social Security system, the shrinking middle class, the war in Iraq, the need for fundamental tax reform.

But under the key issue that I was using as a paramount item was the issue -- the so-called one issue of the cavalier and reckless lack of enforcement of U.S. immigration law. Under that issue flows many, many major issues affecting the prosperity and future security of this nation.

DOBBS: Just out the curiosity, why didn't you run as a Republican?

GILCHRIST: I had registered as an independent a few years ago, and to run as a Republican anyway, I would have been trounced in the primary along with the 12 other competitors. I'm up against the machine, whether it be a Democrat machine or a Republican machine. It makes me look like the lone Chinese patriot in Tiananmen Square standing up against the Russian tank.

DOBBS: Jim, are you going to run again?

GILCHRIST: You betcha. You'll hear more about that at the end of January.

DOBBS: Sounds good. Jim Gilchrist, thank you, and congratulations on a race well run.

GILCHRIST: Yes, and we did come out victorious. Thank you.

DOBBS: Jim Gilchrist, we thank you very much. Still ahead here tonight, the very latest on the deadly shooting at the Miami International Airport. We'll have a live report for you here next.

And then the rising debate throughout this country about the American strategy in Iraq. The Democratic party appears more divided than ever on the issue, the Republican party divided as well. We'll be talking with two of the country's leading political minds here. Stay with us.


DOBBS: More now on the top story of the day, the fatal shooting of an airline passenger at Miami International Airport by a federal air marshal. Authorities say the marshal opened fire after that man claimed to have a bomb and refused to drop the bag.

But in the last half hour, officials announcing the man was not carrying any explosive. John Zarrella at Miami International Airport with the very latest for us -- John.

ZARRELLA: That's right, Lou. About 30 minutes ago, a host of federal, state, and local officials here to brief us on what exactly happened. Bottom line, 44-year-old U.S. citizen Rigoberto Alpizar was shot and killed by federal air marshals this afternoon, after he made some threatening gestures on board an American Airlines plane.


JIM BAUER, FED. AIR MARSHAL SERVICE: American Airlines flight 924 was boarding at gate D-42. It was in the boarding process. An individual later tentatively identified as Rigoberto Alpizar, age 44, was boarding that aircraft as well.

At some point he uttered threatening words that included a sentence to the effect that he had a bomb. There were federal air marshals on board the aircraft. They came out of their cover, confronted him and he remained non-compliant with their instructions. As he was attempting to evade them, his actions caused the FAMs to fire shots and, in fact, he is deceased.


ZARRELLA: The incident took place in the loading ramp, in the jetway, is where apparently he was shot by those federal air marshals. Now, again, you heard that no explosive devices were found. In fact, three pieces of Alpizar's luggage were saved by the Metro-Dade bomb team. They used what's called disrupter devices, there were safe. No explosive devices found in that luggage, but the FBI did confirm that the three pieces of luggage did belong to Rigoberto Alpizar.

And again, Lou, still waiting, continuing developments here as to what may have set this man off. Why he did what he did, and resulting, of course, very tragically in his death here today at Miami International Airport -- Lou.

DOBBS: John, thank you. John Zarrella from Miami International. And John will continue to keep us updated throughout the evening here.

A reminder now to vote on our poll tonight. Do you feel confident that the federal government is doing enough to secure air travel? Yes or no, cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up in just a matter of moments.

Just ahead, an urgent call for our nation to quickly improve education and math and science. Congressman George Miller says it's imperative to keep this country competitive with the rest of the world. He's our guest here.

And then Democrats divided over the war in Iraq. Will the party be able to resolve its differences and clarify its position before next year's midterm election? We'll be talking with a leading Democratic strategist and a political columnist, as well, next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: One of Congress' leading Democrats is calling for urgent action to restore America's competitiveness by making innovation science and technology top priorities. Congressman George Miller says America's global leadership is being challenged as never before by countries such as China, South Korea and India. Congressman Miller says the country must graduate 100,000 additional scientists, engineers and mathematicians over just the next four years.

Congressman Miller joins us tonight from Capitol Hill. China graduating exponentially more engineers than we do in America. What will you -- what is your proposal going to do to address the imbalance?

REP. GEORGE MILLER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, our proposal, our innovation agenda is a challenge by the Democrats to the Congress to the administration, to do those things of which many, many people in the business community, in the scientific community, in international trade, believe have to be done if America's going to maintain its leadership and it's going to keep its competitive edge.

When we talk about graduating 100,000 scientists and mathematicians over the next four years, that's after consulting with many businesses in the biotech areas and the engineering fields and the high technology areas that believe that they can once again put together a public private partnership to provide employment opportunities, summer intern programs, help to create these scientific openings, in their industries, in the universities, so the people will be able to gain those credentials.

You know, we had, back in the '60s and '70s and the '80s, the most powerful public-private partnership in the history of the world, was created by John Kennedy in pursuit of sending a man to the moon and bringing him back. And that laid down the seed capital for innovation and scientific discovery.

DOBBS: Which we have not replenished, as you point out.

MILLER: Exactly.

DOBBS: Ten thousand engineers graduate in this country a year, 100,000 in Japan, a million in China. These are donning numbers to try to reach. In the study we just reported on, showing that more than half the states are not excelling at all in mathematics and natural science right now in the public schools. How much is this going to cost?

MILLER: This is going to cost -- if you've taken its entirety and it's larger than just what we put down in the innovation challenge -- you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five and 10 years, maybe billions of dollars.

But what's interesting is when you talk to those who are betting their money, their shareholder's money, their personal money, their venture capital money, they tell us that we have no alternative. We have no alternative to making this kind of investment in better math and science teachers, better math and science students. Graduate schools and obviously research opportunities in the private sector and in the public sector.

DOBBS: Congressman, I'd like you to come back to talk about a lot of the aspects of this proposal, because as you know and know well, there's a lot more to this than money, and the fact is the cost of not doing something and soon and urgently, will be as you suggest, dramatically higher to this country. Thank you, Congressman Miller.

MILLER: Thank you.

DOBBS: Still ahead, a party divided. Democratic members of Congress split over the war in Iraq. Just what does the Democratic Party have to do to get back on track and to put forward united opposition? We'll hear from both sides, Republicans and Democrats, next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: President Bush delivering his second major speech on Iraq in as many weeks. The president once again defending the war and claiming steady progress. The Democratic Party meanwhile, divided over the war, some calling for quick withdrawal, such as Congressman John Murtha, while others say the strategy could be a disaster.

Joining me now, Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf and John Fund, columnist at the "Wall Street Journal." Hank, let's begin with you. Democratic split on opposition to the war. How -- what are they going to do?

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Democrats have a problem, they need voters in those swing states, which are really four states in the Midwest, heavy Catholic voters, heavy patriotism, heavy tradition. Move too far to the left too fast, get in real trouble next year.

DOBBS: Is this any stab at all for Republicans who have got a huge set of problems on their hands? JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, WALL STREET JOURNAL: It buys them some time. Nancy Pelosi is not exactly the best spokesman for withdrawal from Iraq. She is literally a San Francisco Democrat. She revives a lot of the fears that voters had about the Democrats and national security issues.

DOBBS: Let's roll, if we may, three statements from Senator Kerry, from Howard Dean, and from Donald Rumsfeld, and I'd like to ask you each, Republican conservative, liberal conservative, what you think of the kind of language that's being employed by both sides as policy makers on the issue of the war in Iraq. If we could listen, please.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You've got to begin to transfer authority to the Iraqis and there's no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children. You know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the historical customs, religious customs.



HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIRMAN: The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately, it's just plain wrong.



DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: To be responsible, it seems to me, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks.


DOBBS: What do you think?

SHEINKOPF: John Kerry sounds rational, Howard Dean does not. Not helpful to Democrats, he may be our chairman, but it ain't great. And Mr. Rumsfeld? Well, there are a lot on the Democratic side who use him as the pincushion and the person to bat around for what's wrong with this war.

DOBBS: Did Donald Rumsfeld just drive two pins into his own cushion?

FUND: Rumsfeld clearly has a communication problem and he clearly has not been able to explain to the American people what the rationale or the strategy is. I think that's being left to the president now. The president is finally putting specifics down. Kerry, I know what he was trying to say, but when he implies, and I don't think he was meant to say this, that Americans were terrorizing the population, it sends a bad signal.

DOBBS: I think the point of what Senator Kerry said is one hopes that one knows what the senator meant. What he said was certainly not artful and it was clumsy indeed for a man who has run for president of the United States.

Secretary Rumsfeld, I cannot imagine, frankly, a secretary of defense suggesting there is no metric for victory, to judge the progress toward victory in Iraq. And Howard Dean suggesting, my god, that we cannot win, are the Democrats going to tolerate him much longer?

SHEINKOPF: The problem the Democrats have is they cannot permit themselves to be moved far to the left. This has become a much more centrist country. Democrats can win an economic argument, probably the polls would tell you that. But if they appear to moving too far to the left and violating basic American principles of patriotism, they're going to get terribly hurt in the place they need to pick up votes. That's the problem they face, it's simply values.

FUND: Ultimately there's only one metric that counts to the American people, and that is how many American soldiers are dying on the ground in Iraq. That number is going to go up before the December 15th vote. If the December 15th vote is a success, it may stabilize and it will go down. But that's the only metric that counts.

DOBBS: I wouldn't be sanguine in that view because we have heard whether it be the handover, whether it be the interim government, the elections, now for the parliamentary vote. We've heard that this is a reason that it is spiking.

The fact is, when you go back and you look over month by month, the terrorist incidents and the way they have risen and the number of American casualties that have occurred, this has been a year of continuing violence against Americans and more American casualties and deaths. I for one -- I am disgusted by the lack of candor on the part of the secretary of defense and I think a lot of people are as well.

FUND: 2006 is going to be the decisive year, because it's an election year and the president is on notice from the U.S. Senate that action has to be made, and that troops have to be withdrawn.

SHEINKOPF: Jack Murtha is the most important person in this discussion. He's a decorated war hero, he understands what the problems are, he's an expert on defense and he's trying to rally Democrats.

FUND: Even he has been incoherent on some of this, too, because he can't make up his mind about it.

DOBBS: I think the moral of the situation, if we can draw one, is that the people to whom we are turning for leadership here, of whether they be Democrats, or whether they be Republicans, or whether it be in office or be in opposition, the American people are not being well served right now, are we?

SHEINKOPF: Too much politics about Americans dying, not enough rational thought and not a plan.

FUND: And everyone is posturing.

SHEINKOPF: And both Republicans and Democrats have political exposure.

DOBBS: What is it going to take for straight talk from the part of both parties and their leadership on this issue? Because it is to me obscene, while young Americans are dying in Iraq, for this kind of political gamesmanship to be taking place. And you can almost see the glee on the part of the Republicans when the Democrats make absurd statements and on the part of Democrats when Republicans do the same.

FUND: My nephew Michael is serving with the 7th Regiment in Iraq. He was injured there a few weeks ago. Had to go to the hospital. What he has told me is, of course, they feel the frustration too, but said he read carefully the text of the president's last two speeches. It's the beginning of an attempt to be straight and square with the American people. It's delayed but it's happening.

SHEINKOPF: We need to know, Americans need to know, and at some point they're not going to tolerate from tolerate it from either party. That is the danger to the system.

DOBBS: I think you're exactly right. And we appreciate you being here. Thank you, gentlemen.

Still ahead here, our nightly tribute to our troops serving this country around the world in this holiday season. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Now the results of our poll. Nearly 90 percent of you do not feel confident that the federal government is doing enough to secure air travel.

And finally tonight, on this, the 64th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a tribute to our troops. Every night on this broadcast, we share some thoughts from a few of our brave men and women who are serving the country around the world and far from home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Francis Lindo (ph), I'd like to send a happy New Year and a merry Christmas to my wife Paulette and the kids in Virginia. I love you, babe, happy New Year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, this is Lieutenant Mike Cody (ph) in Kabul, Afghanistan, wishing merry Christmas to my family and everyone in Baltimore, the best city in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Specialist Konst (ph), with the 463rd Engineers deployed in Balad, Iraq. I just wanted to say happy Hanukkah to my father, Barry, and merry Christmas to my mom. And happy holidays to everybody in my family. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd just like to say hello to my husband and my children and my grandchildren. And my brothers and sisters that are all home supporting me. And I hope to see you soon. I love you all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Staff Sergeant Robert Abruzzi (ph) stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. I'd like to wish my wife Hope, daughter Abby (ph) and all my family and friends a merry Christmas and happy holidays back in Rhode Island. Hi Abby, daddy loves you.


DOBBS: And all our best to them and to all who serve this nation around the world. Thanks for being with us here tonight. Please join us tomorrow. For all of us, good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM begins right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.