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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Senators Today Blasted Government Officials Who Tried To Win Support For The Administration's Port Deal; A Look At Whether Or Not Terminal Operators Are Involved In Security At U.S. Ports; CFIUS Members May Have Broken U.S. Law; Sectarian Violence In Iraq Spiraling Out Of Control; Author Accuses Bush of Being a Pretend Conservative

Aired February 23, 2006 - 18:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, February 23.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.

Tonight, the uproar over the sale of operations in six major U.S. ports to the United Arab Emirates is entering an entirely new phase. There has not been only been a failure of oversight and a conflict between co-equal partners of government, there is now a campaign of deceit and deception as the White House tries to save this deal.

No one in this administration has talked about the fact that Dubai Ports World could be partially responsible for the shipment of military equipment through the Texas ports of Beaumont and Corpus Christi. There are also charges tonight that the Bush administration violated U.S. law by rushing this port sale through the Committee on Foreign Investments without a properly and legally-mandated review.

At the same time, the White House, from the president on down, seems to be in complete denial about the risk to our national security from the sale of U.S. port operations to a country with ties to the 9/11 hijackers and nuclear proliferation.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People don't need to worry about security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're not aware of a single national security concern...

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Coast Guard is in charge of security, not the corporation. And the corporation -- is this correct?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: One thing we will never do is outsource to anyone the control and security of our ports.


DOBBS: As you just heard, President Bush today declaring there's no need to worry about security at our ports. But many members of Congress, governors, and mayors remain unconvinced.

Today, senators blasted government officials who went on to Capitol Hill trying to win support for the administration's deal.

Lisa Sylvester reports from Washington on the clash between senators and administration officials. Bill Tucker reports tonight from the Red Hook Container Terminal in New York on the reality of port security and new efforts tonight to try to block this deal.

We turn first to Lisa Sylvester -- Lisa..

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Congress is officially on break this week, but that did not stop a group of senators from gathering today demanding answers on this issue. And this is the first of several expected hearings.


SYLVESTER (voice over): Senators lashed out at administration officials for approving the Dubai Ports World deal.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: If 9/11 was a failure of imagination and Katrina was a failure of initiative, this process is a failure of judgment.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The American people need to have confidence that the port deal won't undermine national security and that the administration isn't outsourcing our national security.

SYLVESTER: Of the five senators present during the briefing, only Senator John Warner backed the sale. The others accused the Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S., or CFIUS, of being out of touch with the American people and failing to keep Congress in the loop.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We weren't notified at all, unless watching CNN and reading the morning paper constitutes notification.

SYLVESTER: CFIUS was roundly criticized for not doing a more extensive review required by law whenever a foreign entity seeks to purchase a U.S. asset that could affect national security.

LEVIN: Is there not one agency in this government that believes that this takeover could affect the national security of the United States? Is that what you're telling us?

ROBERT KIMMITT, DEP. TREASURY SECRETARY: We have basically taken the position, as have previous Democratic and Republican administrations, that that is only triggered if concerns about potential harm to the national security have not been resolved.

LEVIN: If it could affect national security, then it has to go to that investigation?


LEVIN: That's what the law says?

SYLVESTER: Pentagon representatives trying to downplay concerns argue that the United Arab Emirates is an ally of the United States.

GORDON ENGLAND, DEP. DEFENSE SECRETARY: They provide United States and also our coalition forces unprecedented access, we have overflight clearances and a lot of logistical support from the United Arab Emirates.

SYLVESTER: But Democrats cited the 9/11 Commission report that recognized the UAE as both a valued counterterrorism ally and a persistent counterterrorism problem. The UAE was one of a handful of countries that recognized the Taliban in Afghanistan and refused to enforce sanctions prior to 9/11. Millions of al Qaeda dollars were funneled through the country and two 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE.


SYLVESTER: All of that combined with the fact this is a government-owned company should have set off some major red flags. Senator Hillary Clinton says there is wide bipartisan support in Congress for a 45-day additional review of the deal, and she and Senator Robert Menendez are also introducing legislation to block foreign management of U.S. ports -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester.

The White House tonight is insisting President Bush will use his veto for the first time in his term of five years if it is necessary to block any legislation that would delay this deal. President Bush appears unable to make a distinction between a British firm in the private sector and a United Arab Emirates company that is controlled by the government of Dubai.


BUSH: The management of some ports which heretofore has been managed by a foreign company will be managed by another company from a foreign land. And so people don't need to worry about security. This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America.


DOBBS: The president also appears not interested in the distinction of the roles played by Great Britain and the United Arab Emirates in the global war on terror.


BUSH: What I find interesting is that it's OK for a British company to manage some ports but not OK for a company from a country that is also a valuable ally in the war on terror.


DOBBS: Great Britain, of course, did not have ties to the 9/11 hijackers, nor is it a center for nuclear proliferation, and nor is the P&O company that Dubai Ports World is buying a government-owned company.

Meanwhile, one senior White House adviser is suggesting this administration might offer its critics a compromise to end the contest over whether this ports deal should go forward. White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove saying there could be a delay in proceeding with this deal if a delay gives members of Congress what he called a comfort level about the sale.

As we reported here, Dubai Ports World has hired former senator Bob Dole to lobby in support of the company's aggressive campaign, but the former presidential candidate so far has not been able to convince his wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole, that this deal makes any sense.

Senator Elizabeth Dole says she's deeply concerned about the transfer of port operations to a United Arab Emirates company. A spokeswoman said the senator makes her decisions independently of her husband. Senator Bob Dole and the lobby firm he's working with didn't return our calls for his comment.

Dubai Ports World has also hired a consulting firm set up by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright to help lobby and push the ports deal through. The Albright Group working with a lobby firm led by former Democratic Congressman Tom Downey.

While the Bush administration and their advocates and supporters insist the port security will not be compromised by the sale of port operations to a government-owned company from the United Arab Emirates, there is reason to question the basis of that confidence. And, in fact, a number of those officials have said outright that the United Arab Emirates government-owned firm would have nothing to do with security.

The White House has repeatedly failed to make that distinction between a government-owned company and a foreign company. The White House is ignoring what we've been reporting here for some time, that terminal operators themselves do play a critical role in protecting our ports and preserving security.

Bill Tucker tonight reports from one of those ports in Brooklyn, New York.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When it comes to port security, it is the case of the administration that protests too much.

MCCLELLAN: This not about control of our ports, this is not about the security of our ports. And let me be very clear, one thing we will never do is outsource to anyone the control and security of our ports, whether that's Dubai or any other entity that operates terminals at our ports.

TUCKER: The White House is wrong. It is about control of our ports. And security is routinely outsourced. Port security is very different from airport or border security. It is a public-private partnership and private companies play a key role.

SAL CATUCCI, AMERICAN STEVEDORING INC.: We're at every ship, and we watch everything that's going on. We know of everything that's going on within the port. And the security right now happens to be the top priority of the company.

TUCKER: In simple terms, at most ports security works like this: while the ship is in the water, it's under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard. While docked at the port and those goods are being unloaded, it's under the jurisdiction of Customs and Border Protection. But the minute those goods come off of the ships and land on the dock, security is the sole responsibility of the terminal operator.

The security plans are reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security, but the terminal operator is solely responsible for the execution of those plans. The plans are classified secret. If a foreign government gains control of the terminal it becomes privy to the classified security arrangements. Not wise, in the opinion of this terminal operator.

CATUCCI: I think we're in trouble right now because it's happening. It's -- you're going to have to give that -- they're going to have a blueprint of that security.

TUCKER: The port authority's authority at most ports ends at the roads leading to and connecting the terminals.


TUCKER: Now, the cost for lighting, fencing, closed-circuit TV, Lou, those are shared by the port and the terminal operator. But when it comes to the security guards, they are hired, fire and paid by the terminal operator.

In this case, it happens to be American Stevedoring, one of only two American terminal operators left in the ports of Newark, New York and New Jersey -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Bill Tucker setting the record straight on whether or not terminal operators are involved in security at the ports.

Tonight, the largest port complex on the East Coast is filing suit to block this Dubai government port deal. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey set to file a lawsuit as early as tomorrow to stop Dubai Ports World from taking over a Port of Newark container terminal. Port authority officials say the federal government failed to assure them that this deal would meet their critical security standards.

It is important to note tonight that almost every governor whose ports would be affected in a Dubai government company takeover is completely opposed to this dangerous deal. Pennsylvania's governor, Ed Rendell, says if this deal goes through, he will fight to make certain a terminal lease is the Port of Philadelphia is not renewed.

The governor says, "We can just not renew the lease. 'Trust us' isn't good enough."

New Jersey's governor, Jon Corzine, said on this broadcast here last night that he's filing state and federal lawsuits to block the deal. The governor says, "It's just outside of the realm of reason that we are going to without complete disclosure believe this isn't a risk."

New York's governor, George Pataki, saying, "Ensuring the security off New York's port operations is paramount, and I am very concerned."

Maryland's governor, Robert Ehrlich, "We needed to know before this was a done deal, given the state of where we are given security."

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco: "We in Louisiana take the management and safety of our ports seriously and we expect the same from Washington."

Only one governor out of six says that he's not concerned about the takeover by a foreign-owned firm. It is none other than Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, who says, "I have full confidence that the president of the United States will make the right decision as it relates to our national security interests."

Still ahead here, a special report on the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. Did in fact this committee break the law when it approved the port deal?

And why Bush administration officials are so intent on possibly compromising national security in order -- in order to favor high- powered corporate friends.

And is this the start of the Iraqi civil war? New sectarian violence breaking out. And our troops are in grave danger tonight.

That story is coming up next.


DOBBS: CFIUS, the secretive U.S. government committee that approved the Dubai Ports deal, couldn't wait to rubberstamp this stunning national security giveaway. In their haste to approve this deal, CFIUS members may have broken U.S. law.

Christine Romans reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The super- secret committee on foreign investment officially reviewed the Dubai port deal for 23 days, but in deals like this Congress intended a 30- day review and then another 45-day full investigation.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, FMR. DHS INSPECTOR GENERAL: Because this deal, if it goes forward, will result in a foreign power acquiring a key asset, an investigation was required to have been conducted and the president was to have been informed. That didn't happen in this instance.

ROMANS: Indeed, the law requires a 45-day investigation when "the acquirer is controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government," which is true in this case. And the acquisition "could result in control of a person engaged in interstate commerce in the U.S. that could affect the national security of the U.S."

Patrick Mulloy helped write that 1992 statute.

PATRICK MULLOY, U.S. CHINA ECON. & SEC. REVIEW COMM.: We put in a provision called mandatory investigation. It was a government-owned corporation, do the additional 45-day investigation. Now, in this case, it is a government-owned corporation. And they did not do the investigation.

ROMANS: That's because the Treasury Department interprets the law differently. If it finds no national security concerns in the first 30-day review, then Treasury says there's no need for a full investigation.

FRANCIS TOWNSEND, BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: There was no need for an additional 45 days for an investigation.

ROMANS: Senator Chris Dodd sharply disagrees, saying, "Both provisions of the law are clearly met. And either the administration doesn't think that our ports are a critical security issue, or it's content with continuing to outsource our national security."

Regardless of the legalese, the Government Accountability Office last fall found 30 days is too little time for a proper analysis anyway.


ROMANS: Now, the people who crafted this 45-day mandatory investigation rule say this deal is precisely what they had in mind when they were writing that law. The Treasury Department is standing firm on its legal interpretation.

And Lou, voters (ph) are starting to point to maybe a crack in the Treasury Department position here. If there is nothing in this that could affect national security, then why did the Treasury Department and CFIUS, as it's called, have to get extra conditions from Dubai Ports World?

DOBBS: It's more than a crack. It's a chasm and it's an absolutely -- it would be illogical to come to any other conclusion that they understood the risk when they went ahead with this deal. And it would be illogical, in my judgment, to assume that there was any other reason than political and economic expediency, and in this case, at the heart of a national security review process mandated by Congress.

Christine Romans.

Thank you.

The uproar over the UAE ports sale demonstrates how the Bush White House appears determined to put commercial interests ahead of national interests. This sale is just the latest in what has been a series of deals where this administration has allowed foreigners to take over key U.S. assets despite major national security concerns.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defends the sale of British-run P&O port facilities to a government-owned company in Dubai, saying it's a good deal.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe this is a deal, a port deal that serves the interests of the United States, serves our security interests, and serves the commercial interests as well.

PILGRIM: But have U.S. commercial interests taken precedent over security concerns?

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: We have erred on the side of commercial interests, and we have not given adequate weight to the legitimate security concerns of the American people. We need to limit foreign investment for strategic transportation assets that provide entree into the United States and can be the vehicles of access for terrorists.

PILGRIM: It's been widely reported that British-owned P&O will transfer operations of six ports in the United States. But buried in the fine print of DOD budgets is a $15 million contract for P&O to move military equipment going to Iraq from Texas ports of Beaumont and Corpus Christi. P&O stevedores load military equipment from both ports.

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: So we need to do things that make us safer and keep the U.S. economy competitive, not trade off one for the other. But we need -- we need things that do both. And I think that's essential. We need things that make America safer and continue to make this an open and economically competitive country.

PILGRIM: About a third of U.S. ports are now under foreign control through leases to major overseas shipping companies. And the cargo industry has slipped from American control also for financial reasons.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: There's something like 10,000 ocean-going cargo ships around the world. Only a couple of hundred of them are under American flag.


PILGRIM: Now, the U.S. military command in Washington that handles port deployment confirmed today that P&O operations do load military equipment onto ships. Now, P&O, up until now, has used American workers to do that work -- Lou.

DOBBS: And so when members principally of this administration and those supporting this administration have said that there will be no issue of national security, even though this company has a defense contract to move U.S. military material, how could they possibly come up with such a conclusion?

PILGRIM: Well, we've called P&O to ask them if any military operations would be transferred and they basically said no comment, they referred all of those calls to Dubai Ports company -- Dubai Ports World.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you very much.

Kitty Pilgrim.

We'd like to know what you think on this issue. Our poll tonight, the question is, As a matter of general policy, do you believe the Bush administration is putting commercial interests ahead of the national interest?

Cast your vote at We'll have the results later here in the broadcast.

Up next, Iraq. Is it on the verge of civil war? We'll be taking you to Baghdad for the very latest report.

And one of our nation's leading authorities on port security will join me next. He says President Bush must be kidding when he says there's nothing to fear in this deal.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Insurgents in Iraq have killed seven of our soldiers in two roadside bomb attacks. The first attack took place 130 miles north of Baghdad. That bomb exploded near the soldiers' vehicle.

A second roadside bomb killed three more of our soldiers near the town of Balad.

And a U.S. Marine has died in the hospital from wounds that he received five days ago -- 2,286 of our troops have now been killed in Iraq since this war began. Sectarian violence in Iraq tonight appears to be spiraling out of control. There are rising fears of a full-scale civil war. More than 100 people have been killed across Iraq since terrorists destroyed one of the most important Shia mosques in Iraq yesterday.

And tonight, in response to this latest violence, the Iraqi government has imposed a curfew in Baghdad and surrounding areas for tomorrow.

Aneesh Raman report from Baghdad.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dozens of Sunni mosques attacked in the past two days, at least five destroyed as sectarian strife edges near the breaking point, as Sunni pain mixes with Shia anger.

Thousands poured onto the streets.

In Samarra, demonstrators stood atop the ruins of the revered Shia mosque hit in Wednesday's attack. In the holy city of Najaf, they carried posters of the country's Shia spiritual leader, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

From the people to the clerics to the politicians, divides are only getting deeper. Iraq's largest Sunni political bloc Thursday suspended all negotiations with the Kurds and the Shia on forming a new government after, they say, notable silence from the country's leaders in condemning the string of reprisal attacks against Sunnis.

But there are isolated and important signs of unity. In the city of Kut, tens of thousands of Sunnis and Shias joined together carrying the Iraqi flag.

In the past two days, blame has been easy to find, hope far more difficult.


RAMAN: Tonight, Lou, the situation is rapidly deteriorating, and at stake, in addition to everything else, is whether the fight here will soon intensify, possibly leading to splits within Iraq's security force along sectarian lines and putting the 138,000 American troops in Iraq in even greater danger -- Lou.

DOBBS: Aneesh Raman from Baghdad.

Still ahead here, I'll be talking with one of the country's geopolitical experts, assessing the United Arab Emirates port deal. Professor Arthur Waldron says it needs to be killed. He'll be here to tell us why.

Also tonight, why new violence could put our troops at even greater risk, as Aneesh Raman just reported. And Bruce Bartlett, a diehard conservative, takes on a president, a conservative president, or at least a compassionate conservative. He calls the president an imposter.

He's our guest here tonight.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: President Bush today said, "People don't need to worry about security if the United Arab Emirates port deal goes forward." President Bush insists our nation's security would not be compromised in the least.

My guest tonight says President Bush could not be further from the truth. My guest, one of the foremost geopolitical experts in the country, Professor Arthur Waldron, the chairman of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania. Good to have you with us, Professor.


DOBBS: This issue -- we're hearing all sorts of things. Give us just your reaction, your thoughts on this?

WALDRON: Well, my immediate reaction is that when the president says that there's nothing to worry about, he can't possibly know that. And the reason for that is that we do not have, within our government, anything remotely resembling a serious and exacting process for evaluating the national security dimension of foreign purchases.

DOBBS: I have to ask you, there's some secretive committee, a group called CFIUS -- Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States -- and we're told they completed a 25-day review and everything is hunky-dory.

WALDRON: Well, I know a little bit about this CFIUS, and if viewers want to know more, they should go to the Government Accountability Office,, and look for their report of 2005 on international trade and security. They audited this.

DOBBS: Last fall.

WALDRON: And it was last fall and they said the processes were murky, the thing is -- it operates at a very low level. It's chaired by Treasury, it has this incredibly strong tilt in the direction of commercial interests. The intelligence agencies don't even get to vote. They can raise concerns.

DOBBS: Well, in point of fact, professor, CFIUS was set up expedite trade and commerce and to push aside those silly things like national security concerns, intelligence concerns. Things like that.

WALDRON: Well, I think that there was an intention in 1988 to try to address the issue of the impact of foreign investment on American national security. But I think this has been subverted and I think that the process we have now is not remotely adequate to the task.

DOBBS: So many of the experts we've talked with are talking about what is, in some ways, rather clear or subject to interpretation, that this administration has put commercial interests so far in advance of national security issues, that they're being trumped. What is your reaction?

WALDRON: Well, I think there's been a very strong tendency over the last 30 years to try to convince ourselves that somehow national security does not exist as an independent area of concern at all, and that if we just trade with everybody and have lots of investment and so forth, then there's not going to be any enmity.

And in World War I -- for goodness sake, in 1914, Britain and Germany each was trading -- I think was the largest trading partner of the other. It doesn't work that way.

DOBBS: And the principle trading partners with the United States in World War II were Germany and Japan.

WALDRON: Of course. No, it's absolutely right. Warfare, conflict, and so forth are completely distinct from economic activity. Now to have good economic activity, you have to remove the threat of violence.

DOBBS: Well, that's is by any definition, I think, the technical term. That would be a tall order.

WALDRON: Yes, indeed.

DOBBS: But in this case, is it your sense that we moved to a new level? The president continues to say well, why are people -- and almost implying -- and we heard it from English today, the deputy defense secretary, saying, you know, that there's almost a racist tinge to this, that the president is saying well, what's the difference between a United Arab Emirates company and a British company? Not -- one assumes not intentionally -- but not pointing out that the United Arab Emirates company is a government company.

The spin, the lobbyist, bringing in a former presidential candidate, a former secretary of state, and the lobbying, when the issue is national security and they're treating it like its a political campaign.

WALDRON: Well, I think this is one of the problems, that it is being treated as a political campaign and I hope that this particular issue is going to led us to look more deeply at how we vet foreign investment into sensitive sectors because this is not an issue of xenophobia or racism, this is a substantive issue of national security.

There's a big difference between Britain and United Arab Emirates, but we don't know the answer until we've done the work. Seventy-five days is the maximum under CFIUS to get a security clearance ...

DOBBS: And how long does it take for a security clearance for an individual?

WALDRON: A top secret clearance for one person takes a year-and- a-half. So it's superficial.

DOBBS: Well, one can see -- one can -- or we can assume that this administration has found great, great efficiencies that heretofore have not existed. Professor Arthur Waldron ...


DOBBS: ... thank you for being with us.

WALDRON: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: We also want to note that we invited two of my strongest critics over the last couple of days to join us here tonight: Ken Shepherd writing for the Free Market Project; Robert Bluey, the editor of Human Events online.

Unfortunately, Ken declined. Robert is traveling. We hope they'll be able to join us here sometime soon. Jonah Goldberg writing with the "Los Angeles Times," we also invited him. I hope he'll be able to join us as soon as time permits them to do so. Our time is theirs.

President Bush tells us repeatedly his guest worker program for illegal aliens will only be temporary if it wins approval in Congress. But time and time again, this administration has proved there's nothing temporary about its temporary legal residence programs.

The Bush administration is expected to announce tomorrow that it is extending for yet another year special U.S. residency status for hundreds of thousands of Central American workers. The United States began to protect its status program back in 1998 for residents of Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, all countries hit by natural disasters eight years ago.

The so-called temporary program has been renewed many times, and was supposed to have expired by next month, this time. As we've told you here many times on this broadcast, there's nothing more permanent than temporary workers.

Taking a look now at some of your thoughts, James in Georgia wrote in to say, "Lou, after the ports, what do we have left to outsource? Have these people lost their minds completely?"

And R.E. in Pennsylvania: "It would appear to be far wiser to relegate control of all of our seaports to China. At the rate we're going, we will be a province of China within the decade. Cut out some red tape."

And Puru in New Jersey: "Here's an idea for the administration. UAE-owned company watches our ports, China builds our tanks and weapons, India manages our defense computers, and in the end, everyone is happy, except, of course, the American people."

And Grant in Albert: "You'll have to excuse me for laughing since I don't live in the United States. USA outsourcing major ports to the UAE -- let me guess. Next week, the administration will be outsourcing U.S. Customs to a Colombian drug cartel."

We love hearing your thoughts. Send them to us at We have more thoughts coming up later here.

Still ahead, a leading conservative fired from his think tank because he decided to write a book critical of President George W. Bush. The title of the book may have played some part, it's straightforward. The book is entitled "Imposter."

And Iraq tonight appears to, be in the minds, of many including general officers of our military to be on the verge of civil war. We'll report tonight on the new wave of deadly violence in Iraq. General David Grange joins me. Stay with us.


DOBBS: A report just out from the Federal Reserve, probably you already know. The average American family income fell by more than two percent between 2001-to-2004 after adjusting for inflation. The Federal Reserve today reported the average family earned $70,000 in 2004. Last year, real wages in this country fell almost a full percent, the second straight year in which real wages have declined.

Bruce Bartlett is a long-time conservative who has worked for two Republican presidents. He has produced a provocative new book on the Bush presidency, provocative certainly to the president himself. In this new book, Bartlett accuses the president of being a pretend conservative, willing to betray his principles to advance his political agenda.

This book is so incendiary that Bartlett was in fact fired from a conservative think tank where he worked. Bruce Bartlett is the author of the new book "Imposter: How George Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy." He is my guest here tonight. It is a remarkable read, a terrific read.

And even though I disagree with you on some of your conclusions and views obviously, it is a very precise document on your views against those of a president's conduct.

BRUCE BARTLETT, AUTHOR: Yes, I think one of the things listening to your broadcast earlier, one of the things that I talk about in the book is the process, because one of the things that I'm curious about is where does George W. Bush get his ideas from?

There doesn't seem to be a policy analysis process, he doesn't read much by his own admission. So where do his ideas come from? How does he decide on something like this port issue that he is absolutely certain that he is right, apparently on the basis of very little information? He was only just told about this the other day, you know? DOBBS: And to the point that he basically tells Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader of the Senate and Dennis Hastert, speaker of the house, to go to hell.

BARTLETT: But he does this on...

DOBBS: ... And threatens a veto.

BARTLETT: That's right and as we know, I mean, I think one of the most appalling statements of fact about this administration is that the president has never vetoed a single solitary piece of legislation.

DOBBS: And as you point out in your book, you have to go back to the 19th century to find anybody who can get into that particular arena.

BARTLETT: The last president who served as long as this president without vetoing a single bill was Thomas Jefferson, our third president. And you have to go back to John Quincy Adams to find one who served an entire four-year term without vetoing a bill. God knows, there's plenty of stuff that needed to have been vetoed, pork barrel projects if nothing else.

DOBBS: Do you think that that might give the senators and the congressmen some confidence if they decide to actually assert themselves as a co-equal branch of government on this deal?

BARTLETT: I think there's absolutely no question that if this does come up for a vote in Congress, it will pass with a veto-proof majority.

DOBBS: You come at this book obviously from the perspective that it is appropriate. You are a true conservative in the traditional sense. You take great exception to George Bush's description of himself as a compassionate conservative. You think the Republican Party is in extraordinary trouble because of this administration and the way in which it has pursued its agenda. Why?

BARTLETT: Well, I think Ronald Reagan represents the core of what Republicans at least think or want the Republican Party to stand for, just as I think the Democrats base their philosophy on Franklin D. Roosevelt.

And I think if you get away from your core, you're asking for trouble, especially when you have the attitude that you never have to explain why you're doing anything. The president says over and over, "Just trust me, you can trust me." And I think that maybe that works for a little while but after awhile, I think people start to wonder.

DOBBS: I think our viewers of this broadcast would be particularly interested to find out that Bruce Bartlett, traditional conservative, thinks Bill Clinton did a terrific job in terms of economic policy.

BARTLETT: Well, I said specifically on the budget, he did cut spending, he did reduce budget deficits, he did give us a budget surplus.

DOBBS: It still hurts you a little to say that?

BARTLETT: Well yes it does. But just from my own personal point of view, what is most appalling about Bush is his fiscal policy.

DOBBS: You're not pleased with him on Iraq either. I mean, let's be open.

BARTLETT: No, no, but...

DOBBS: ... You make it very clear. You're not pleased with him. I couldn't find a thing you were pleased with him on.

BARTLETT: No, but I thought I would have more impact if I talked about things where I have an acknowledged area of expertise. And if I get off into tangential areas, people can accuse me of not knowing what I'm talking about.

DOBBS: Well, no one will accuse you of that ever when it comes to economic policy. You've written a biting, even brutal assessment of your conservative leader, who I've got to ask you, why did the National Policy Institute fire you for this?

BARTLETT: They said they were losing too much money from contributors who were all fat cat Republicans.

DOBBS: Outraged. So we're still in a sort of conservative/liberal, Republican/Democrat high bound orthodoxy that doesn't permit a broader view, come hell or high water.

BARTLETT: Apparently not.

DOBBS: Well maybe we can fix that. Just work on that in your next book, if you will.

BARTLETT: All right.

DOBBS: Bruce Bartlett, the book is "Imposter." It is a terrific read and we thank you for being here, Bruce.

BARTLETT: Thank you.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. As a matter of general policy, do you believe the Bush administration puts commercial interests ahead of the national interest? Cast your vote please at We'll have the results coming up here in just a few minutes.

Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, tell us what you've got.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. We're watching several new developments in the religious violence that's raging across Iraq. We'll tell you what Iraq's government is planning to do to try to keep the country from spiraling into a civil war. What impact will a possible civil war have on U.S. troops on the ground?

Plus, port insecurity. Is there a chance the deal will be delayed? The Bush administration facing some tough questions on Capitol Hill. Find out if the critics are satisfied with the answers.

And protesting at military funerals. A fringe group torments families trying to bury their loved ones. We'll find out why several states and a group of motorcycle riders are now standing up to this outrage. All that, Lou, plus General Russel Honore in "THE SITUATION ROOM," that's coming up in a few minutes.

DOBBS: Looking forward to it. And sounds like a good idea for those motorcyclists to intervene.

In Rochester, New York, Jason McElwain waited three long years for his chance to play in a high school basketball game. On the last game of the season, with only four minutes remaining on the clock, his coach finally gave him the chance.

Jason McElwain, who is autistic, scored 20 points for his team in those four minutes. He sank, as you see here, hoop after hoop, one after another. The fans and his team just simply were incredulous. Jason says he's being treated like a hero.


JASON MCELWAIN, HOOP STAR: I was late to every single class. Everybody was saying congratulations.


DOBBS: Jason's scoring feat tied a team record, his friends say he's loving every minute of this, his new found fame. Congratulations, Jason.

Still ahead, we'll have more of your thoughts and Iraq, on the verge of civil war? What could that mean for our troops? General David Grange here next, stay with us.


DOBBS: A wave of sectarian violence in Iraq has broken out, raising fears among many that that country is now on the brink of a full-scale civil war. Our senior military commanders are telling our Pentagon correspondent that they are extremely concerned that that is exactly the case, the prospects of a civil war.

Joining me now to assess this escalating violence and what it could mean for our troops and our strategy in Iraq, General David Grange. General, this is troubling. We've lost seven of our troops over the last 24 hours, we lost four yesterday. What is your reaction to what is -- what appears to be a rising danger, if it's possible, to our troops?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Lou, I don't think we're on the verge of a civil war, but it could very well turn that way quickly. And you're seeing some strategy, I believe, of the insurgents, of foreign terrorists, of neighboring countries like Iran, like Saudi Arabia and Syria, that don't want Iraq to be successful as a Democratic state.

And so they know they can't get the Americans to leave, they know they can't stop the Democratic process. Their last chance is to start a civil war.

DOBBS: OK. That clarifies their strategy. What is ours?

GRANGE: Well, ours is going to be to try to keep a lid on this thing and it's going to be very tough because it's very easy for the American troops to get caught in the middle when have you Sunni and Shia, Shia and Sunni, et cetera, the common enemy will turn in to be the American G.I.

DOBBS: The -- our troops on the ground, obviously, with an extraordinarily difficult task, they are effectively a police force, an army, a nation building force -- are we going to have to make a significant adjustment here? Should we, in point of fact, consider getting as many of our troops out of there as possible if full-scale civil war does break out?

GRANGE: Well, I think if the U.S. troops -- that's the only thing that will keep the lid on it if it starts to go that way, I think you'll find coalition forces to include U.S. troops moving away from anything to do with masses of people.

In other words, they'll protect vital facilities and sites, but they'll try to keep from mobs of people the best they can. Now sometimes that's unavoidable, but they'll try to have the Iraqi security forces do that if in fact they can.

DOBBS: General David Grange, thank you very much.

We want to once again call your attention to a very important cause, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes fund, constructing a state-of-the- art facility in San Antonio, Texas, a center that will help our severely wounded members of the military returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you would like to contribute, and we hope you do have the means to do so and the will, please go to The fund is one week and just under $2 million away from its goal. Once again, You can find a link for the fund on as well, or call 1-800-340-HERO -- 1-800-340-HERO.

Still ahead here, the results of our poll and we'll have more of your thoughts. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Now the results of our poll tonight, a huge response, 98 percent of you saying the Bush administration is putting commercial interests ahead of the national interests as a matter of general policy. Two percent of you say it is not. More now on your thoughts. We've received thousands of your e- mails on port deal with the United Arab Emirates.

Steve in Oklahoma saying: "Lou, there is no way to accept the assurances of any foreign government that they will look after our security interests at our ports. Any sensible person knows that a sovereign country will always act in its own interest first. Well, any country except the United States under the Bush administration, that is."

Mitch in Pennsylvania: "Perhaps America should outsource the Secret Service to a foreign government. If they are better than us at protecting our ports, then why not for protecting our president?"

And Mike in California: "Dear Lou, I'm sick and tired of the White House saying it needs to improve the U.S. image in the Middle East. I think it's time for the Muslims to improve their image with the rest of the world."

Barry in Pennsylvania: "Dear Lou, last night one of your viewers said our elected officials must be crazy. I think we are the ones who must be crazy, because we are the ones who voted them into office. But we can change that in November."

James in Georgia saying: "Putting a foreign government in charge of our ports is like putting Ken Lay in charge of the Treasury."

Ruby in Tennessee: "I feel so much more at easy knowing Michael Chertoff is onboard for the Dubai snafu. We all know what a bang-up job he did with Katrina."

And Robin in New York: "Lou, I hope you have an iron-clad contract with your employer. You are performing an outstanding public service, but remember that no good deed goes unpunished."

I could have done without that reminder. Thank you, anyway.

Barbara in Maryland: "Lou, I was stunned to find that fully six percent of your audience does not believe that national security should play a role in the national security review process. I guess those, that six percent, are the folks in the White House and Congress who watch your show."

And Tony in Wisconsin asking simply: "Lou, whose side is this President on?"

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book "Exporting America." And if you'd like to sign up for our e-mail newsletter each day, sign up on the Web site, Thanks for being with us tonight.

Please join us here tomorrow as we continue our reporting on port security, global trade, the national interests, as we review the United Arab Emirates port deal with the Bush administration. We hope you'll be with us. Thanks for watching us tonight. For all of us here, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.