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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Dubai Deal Dead; 100,000 March Against New Immigration Bill

Aired March 10, 2006 - 18:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday, March 10.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.

Tonight, President Bush trying to limit the damage to his presidency after Congress and the American people killed the Dubai ports deal. Is the Bush presidency no longer am imperial presidency? Is President Bush now a lame duck?

We'll have the answers. We'll be going live to the White House.

And, the Dubai ports deal is dead, but the distortions and disinformation go on. We'll have a special report tonight on the other Dubai deals, the deals the White House hasn't been telling us about.

And I'll be talking to with three top political and legal analysts, former White House political director Ed Rollins; "New York Daily News" columnist Michael Goodwin; and CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

And as many as 100,000 people marching in Chicago today to protest the Sensenbrenner bill. The bill a major effort to tackle another critical national security issue, border security and illegal immigration.

All of that and much more ahead here tonight.

We begin with the president's urgent effort to restore his political fortunes after the collapse of the Dubai ports deal. President Bush today admitted that Congress disliked the deal, but the president refuses to acknowledge he made any mistakes in the way he handled the controversy. The president's remarks are a clear sign the Bush White House still is confused about the difference between commerce and the national interest.

Dana Bash at the White House reporting on whether President Bush has enough political capital remaining to push any agenda at all.

Ed Henry on Capitol Hill reports on the likely impact of the Dubai ports defeat on the midterm elections.

We turn first to Dana Bash -- Dana. DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, a senior official here today said that the president had no regrets in issuing that veto that many think exacerbated this political problem for about three weeks. But the same senior official acknowledged that this obviously was a very difficult issue. And while the president is a seasoned politician on this one, the horse just got out of the barn.


BASH (voice over): It was his way of conceding defeat.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm sure that the decision by DP World was a difficult decision. My administration was satisfied that port security would not have been undermined by the agreement. Nevertheless, Congress was still very much opposed to it.

BASH: That unprompted statement before a Q&A session with newspaper executives from a president eager to put the ports debate and a GOP revolt behind him. But not before one last shot at the Republican rebels, making clear he thinks they slighted a critical Arab ally.

BUSH: I'm concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East.

BASH: A key question now, what about his relationship with the GOP Congress? Was this a one-time dustup or a sign of more trouble ahead?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If they start saying, I -- hey, the president isn't helping me, his agenda isn't helping me, I have to run without the president, I think that creates a certain amount of problems for -- for the Republicans.

BASH: And yet, for all the drama and discord of the past three weeks, Bush aides concede this: Iraq will define this president's legacy and is the biggest drag on his sagging popularity.

BUSH: They blow up shrines in order to cause this Iraqi democracy that is emerging to -- to go backwards, to not emerge.

BASH: And so Mr. Bush began what officials say will be a renewed push around the three-year anniversary of the war's beginning to once again try to lift public opinion. Consider this snapshot of the new effort a rare decision to release a photo of Mr. Bush running Friday's secret national security meeting on Iraq. The White House says this P.R. campaign to convince Americans there's a plan for Iraq will be different from several they've tried before. Bush speeches will hone in on specific and well-known problems, starting with how the military is dealing with IEDs or roadside explosive devices.


BASH: Now, other efforts like this simply did not move the polls much at all. But Bush officials admit it's simply hard to battle the images of violence on the ground. But one senior official said that Americans may remain unsatisfied, but at least here at the White House they're trying to give them a better sense of what's happening on the ground -- Lou.

DOBBS: I take it, then, President Bush was not excited with the message that was sent to the world on the Dubai ports controversy. That is, namely, something that he is talking about a great deal in the Middle East, actually works here at home, something called democracy. There was no excitement about that?

BASH: Well, you know, one person's democracy is perhaps another's political defeat, Lou. So it just depends how you look at it.

The president did actually talk about the importance of democracy today in general. He even answered a question.

There was a long Q&A session with those newspaper editors. Somebody asked how he felt about somebody in a classroom in Colorado comparing him to Hitler. He said, you know, "It's democracy. It's fine by me."

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Dana Bash.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans today fighting to win political advantage from the defeat of the Dubai ports deal. House Republicans insist they're responsible for the collapse of the sale. Democrats say Republicans will pay a major price in the midterm elections.

Ed Henry has the report.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou -- Lou, for much of the Bush administration, in fact, Democrats have faced criticism from within their own party that they have not stood up to this president. Well, this time they took a firm stand, and they hope now Republicans will pay a price at the polls.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: People were surprised that the president, who's been so strong on security, didn't even want to have a full investigation before making up his mind.

HENRY (voice over): Democrats are taking that message to key states like New Jersey, where just a few weeks ago Senator Bob Menendez was trailing Republican Tom Kean, Jr. But after Menendez became one of the most vocal critics of the ports deal, one poll now shows him leading by five points. Another has him locked in at dead heat with Kean.

STU ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: Democrats saw an opening to present themselves as tough, even tougher than the president on fighting terrorism and protecting the nation's security. HENRY: It's far too early to determine whether this translates into Democratic gains in November. But what's clear is the issue of security is now a wildcard, a far cry from the prediction of the president's top political adviser just six weeks ago.

KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world and Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world. That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all, but it does make them wrong -- wrong deeply and profoundly and consistently.

HENRY: On Friday, Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert accused Democrats of trying to take political advantage of everything, including the ports flap, but said, "Ask them what they stand for and they're blank." And since Hastert and many of his House Republican colleagues blocked the deal, having such a high-profile break with an unpopular president could work to their political benefit.

ROTHENBERG: If there's a silver lining, it's that Republicans can say they took on George W. Bush on this and they defeated him.


HASTERT: Now, Speaker Hastert is getting high marks from some of his Republican colleagues for taking a firm stand against this ports deal. But his counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, has raised a lot of Republican eyebrows about why he did not stand out and go against this deal harder. And he could pay a price in his presidential campaign -- Lou.

DOBBS: The politics on Capitol Hill aside, Ed, the fact is these politicians in both parties heard a loud, clear voice from their constituents, didn't they?

HENRY: Oh, absolutely. It was overwhelming, Lou, obviously. And that was really what moved them.

We know that it's ultimately what will get lawmakers in both parties off the ground and focused on an issue, something they were not paying attention to at the beginning, something didn't even know anything about because it was -- it was shrouded in the bureaucracy. But once it got out there, once it started building, you can bet lawmakers in both parties, they finally responded -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much.

Ed Henry.

Well, the Dubai Ports World deal has collapsed. The government of Dubai, however, the White House isn't talking a lot about this, but we're going to. They have defense contracts in this country, contracts that pose new potential national security concerns.

Christine Romans has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Treasury Secretary John Snow calls the failure of the Dubai ports deal an isolated incident. But there is nothing isolated about this issue. Secretary Snow's Committee on Foreign Investments is reviewing another very similar deal, in fact, with the government of Dubai.

REP. JOHN BARROW (D), GEORGIA: We've got a defense contractor in my back yard that's being bought up or going to be bought up by a state-owned company from a foreign country.

ROMANS: Dubai International Capital is buying Doncasters, which operates in nine U.S. locations and makes precision parts for defense contractors, parts for military aircraft and tanks.

Congressman wants to stop it and has introduced legislation called "Protect America First," because he says the administration's review process doesn't protect national security.

BARROW: It ain't working at all.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, the government of Dubai already provides shipping services in this country and has a lucrative contract with the United States Navy. Inchcape Shipping Services is owned by Dubai's royal family. It services and escorts Navy vessels in southwest Asia ports and the Middle East and operates in some of the biggest ports in the U.S., raising questions about how much access to national security has already been sold.

REP. BERNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: There's nothing wrong with foreign investment if we can work through the security and other aspects of it so that what we do does not put America at risk.

ROMANS: While Congress scrambles to assess how much damage has been done, the Treasury secretary insists the United States is open for business.


ROMANS: And no one disagrees. There's just great concern in the wake of the Dubai ports debacle that this administration is more concerned about being open for business than being secure. And we're learning more every day about just what has already been given away -- Lou.

DOBBS: And we should point out, as we reported on Istithmar, the Emirates company, is also a 2 percent -- excuse me, has a $2 billion investment in the stock of Time Warner, the parent of CNN. A recent investment. We're delighted to have them as stockholders, I'm sure.

It's fascinating. It looks like this is just absolutely the beginning.

Thank you very much, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome. DOBBS: For those who keep track of Halliburton and The Carlisle Group, by the way, today "The Wall Street Journal" in its editorial pages noted it would like to see Halliburton buy the U.S. port operations from Dubai, a sense, if you will, of perverse humor.

The Carlisle Group, by the way, today, if you do follow things like The Carlisle Group and Halliburton, said it plans to raise a billion-dollar fund to buy, guess what, U.S. infrastructure, including ports. Dubai has already put some capital into Carlisle's previous $8 billion investment fund.

At this point, I just -- if I may, I'd like to -- Ed Henry and Dana Bash to come back.

I know this is irregular, guys, but I just want to compliment both of you for doing just outstanding work on this story over the course of the past month. You've both been absolutely brilliant. Your work has just been excellent and terrific, and we can't thank you enough here.

And I just wanted to say thank you.

BASH: Thank you, Lou.

HENRY: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: Still ahead, the Bush administration's dangerous addiction to foreign investment. I'll be talking with a panel of political analysts. Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, Jeffrey Toobin here.

Also, stunning charges tonight of corruption inside our nation's border patrol bureaucracy. We'll have that live report.

And in Chicago today, the open borders movement mobilizing its forces -- and they're considerable. Tens of thousands of people march in defense of illegal immigration and open borders, protesting the Sensenbrenner bill.

That story is coming up and a great day more.

Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Homeland security officials today announced 375 arrests, the latest in the crackdown on illegal alien criminal gangs in this country. Immigration officials have arrested more than 2,300 violent gang members so far this year. Nearly half of them belong to the violent criminal organization MS-13.

This street gang originated in Los Angeles, moved to Central America. It specializes in murder, drug smuggling, and human trafficking, and operates in 34 states from Des Moines, Iowa, to Providence, Rhode Island. Kelli Arena reports.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was one of the largest crackdowns on violent street gangs mostly made up of illegal aliens. More than 375 gang members taken off the streets in the past two weeks.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We will make their lives miserable until we eliminate them.

ARENA: The stunning growth of the gang known as MS-13 over the past few years sparked the federal initiative known as Operation Community Shield. It's a joint efforts between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to get a grip on gang violence using everything from aggressive prosecution to deportation.

Since February of last year, nearly 2,400 gang members have been arrested in towns large and small. While MS-13 members account for nearly half those, members from 239 different gangs have been taken into custody for crimes ranging from murder to weapons and drug trafficking.

David Brown is first assistance police chief in Dallas, where nearly four dozen gang members were just arrested.

ASST. CHIEF DAVID BROWN, DALLAS POLICE: The profit margins from illegal drugs is quite good. And so these are very violent territorial infighting amongst the gangs.

ARENA: Emilio Viano keeps track of gang activity in the United States and says despite the federal effort, the gang problem continues to worsen.

EMILIO VIANO, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Gangs are expanding because it is not just a question anymore of machismo, honor, power and prestige, swaggering down the street. It is people in business suits, people with -- you know, BlackBerrys that are talking about shipments and deliveries and money and bank accounts.

ARENA (on camera): Because many gang members are in the United States illegally, most of the arrests were made on immigration charges resulting in deportation. Unfortunately, many members illegally make their way right back to the United States.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.


DOBBS: More than 50,000 criminal illegal aliens have been deported to Central America over the past dozen years. Police and Border Patrol officials says that has only helped the gangs, in fact, grow faster. The deportees recruit new members in their home countries, then they bring them right across our porous borders, back into the United States. Tonight, two U.S. Border Patrol agents are accused of betraying their oath of office to protect the citizens of the United States. These agents are accused of taking massive bribes from illegal alien smugglers and helping illegal alien criminals go free.

Casey Wian with a live report from Imperial, California -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, I'm standing in front of the Border Patrol's El Centro Sector station. Officials here say they're shocked by the allegations that two of their top Border Patrol agents are -- are charged with accepting bribes to allow illegal aliens and alien smugglers to go free.


WIAN (voice over): Supervisory Border Patrol agents Mario Alvarez and Samuel McClaren pleaded not guilty to federal charges they took $300,000 in bribes. According to an indictment, they conspired to release captured alien smugglers and illegal aliens into the hands of a Mexican smuggling gang.

JAMES MCCLAFFIRTY, U.S. BORDER PATROL: Yesterday morning at 8:00 in our sector headquarters, two of our senior agents were arrested by the Office of Inspector General for eight felony counts. This investigation started because several of our agents noticed some questionable behavior, came to me, reported it to me, and I immediately reported it over to the Office of Inspector General.

WIAN: Alvarez and McClaren are not just any Border Patrol agents. They helped implement the highly touted Guide Identification Prosecution Program, or GIPP. It transfers custody of captured alien smugglers who are not likely to face charges in the overloaded U.S. legal system to Mexican prosecutors.

So far, GIPP has resulted in the prosecution of 78 smugglers in Mexico. The Border Patrol says the program will continue despite the charges facing Alvarez and McClaren.

In once case, the indictment says the agents took an alien smuggler from custody and released him in the parking lot of this Calexico, California, Wal-Mart in exchange for $6,000 cash. In a statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office says, "There can be no pursuit of justice where our law enforcement agents are corrupt."

T.J. BONNER, U.S. BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: Not only is it a betrayal of the public trust, but it's a betrayal of the trust of their fellow agents. These are supervisors that younger agents look up to for guidance, and it's just sad when something like this happens.

WIAN: Alvarez and McClaren are being held without bail.


WIAN: Both agents had clean disciplinary records and more than 10 years' experience with the Border Patrol. The chief of the El Centro Sector says the GIPP program will be modified to ensure better supervisory control -- Lou.

DOBBS: As Bonner said, it's just sad. Thank you very much.

Casey Wian from Imperial, California.

Also ahead, tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in Chicago to protest the crackdown on illegal immigration and border security. We'll have that story for you next.

And President Bush delivering one of the strongest warnings yet about the nuclear threat from Iran. We'll have a special report on what is being called the nation's now number one policy challenge.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: As many as 100,000 people today marched through the streets of Chicago. They were there protesting Congress' efforts to increase border security and stop the invasion of illegal aliens.

Keith Oppenheim reports.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Under the shadow of Chicago's Sears Tower, they marched. Chicago police estimated at least 75,000 people, mostly members of Chicago's large Hispanic community, were expressing their determination to stop U.S. House Resolution 4437.

"Yes, it can be done!" they shouted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Together you are a voice that is unstoppable.

OPPENHEIM: The protesters were especially incensed that under the bill, illegal presence in the U.S. would be changed from a civil offense to a federal crime.

CARLOS PEREZ, VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR: It essentially creates a whole new level of criminal statutes for the entire country. And it really -- it's just Draconian.

OPPENHEIM: Hugo Martinez lives on the Chicago's south side. This 25-year-old who works at a trucking company believes the bill is an insult, in particular to Mexicans, who he says takes jobs many Americans don't want.

HUGO MARTINEZ, CHICAGO RESIDENT: The U.S. needs to do something to step up its security; however, I don't -- I don't see why they should -- why they should just turn their backs on immigrants when America was built -- was built on immigration.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): Organizers here say for about a month they've been working on a coordinated series of rallies like this across the U.S.. and their message is straightforward: the House bill is, in their view, discrimination.

MARTHA CAMACHO, LEGAL RESIDENT, CHICAGO: Every person has a right to look for a better life. If they're working, if they're not doing any, you know, crime, they're not supposed to be treated like that.

OPPENHEIM (voice over): Earlier, supporters of the legislation held a news conference arguing the bill is meant to support immigrants who play by the rules.

SANDRA GUNN, FED. FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: This rhetoric is factually incorrect. And their goal is to infect the media and our politicians with this distorted rhetoric.

ROANNA PULIDO, ILL. MINUTEMAN PROJECT: It's not about race. It's about enforcing immigration laws on the books. You know, if China was at our southern border, we would be talking about mainly Chinese having the opportunity to break our laws.

OPPENHEIM: For sure, in Chicago, this has become a potent political issue. And members of the Hispanic community who vote are making it clear they're not going to be happy if this bill becomes law.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.


DOBBS: The protest, obviously, of Congressman James Sensenbrenner's legislation, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act.

Bill Tucker is here and has the story.

Bill, it seems like a perfectly sensible name for a bill.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, and very long at that, too. But since we had 75,000 to 100,000 people out on the streets of Chicago protesting this bill, we thought we'd take a look at exactly what it is.

Frequently, it's referred to as the fence bill, the fence that would put -- the bill that would put a fence along the southern border. But that's a very small part of the overall goal of the bill, which is simply gaining control of the border, interestingly enough.

The bill calls for increased use of technology, more border agents, cross-border security agreements with both Mexico and Canada. And Lou, it would demand the Department of Homeland Security develop a coordinated border strategy.

Not only that, but the bill would require employers to verify an individual status before hiring them. Something, interestingly, they're not required to do now.

Penalties for illegal entry would be raised, as Keith reported, making it a felony. It would be punishable by a year in jail. Currently, it's a misdemeanor.

And by far, the most controversial section of the bill is aimed at alien smuggling and related offenses. The bill would make it a crime to knowingly transport, move, harbor, conceal or shield from detection a person illegally in the United States. This is the section that has the social activists in the Catholic Church up in arms, Lou, and why you've got Catholic priests calling for down right civil disobedience if this law is passed.

DOBBS: Well, it's -- it's quite a law. And it's interesting. I can understand why if you were an illegal alien you would not want to be facing a year in jail for a felony. And the Catholic Church, its position on this is, at best, interesting.

One of the things that I noted -- I don't know if you did. I assume you did. A lot of Mexican flags in that parade. I wonder why. Just a question.

Bill Tucker, thank you.

Coming up next, the Bush administration now says Iran poses the biggest challenge to this country. We'll have that story and more coming up.

Also, President Bush dismissed the will of the people and sided with his friends in Dubai until the very end. Is he now a lame duck? Our panel of political analysts and legal analysts, Jeffrey Toobin, Michael Goodwin, Ed Rollins, join us to discuss precisely that issue and more.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight the Bush administration is confronting the growing nuclear threat from Iran. Bush officials this week called Iran this nation's number one foreign policy threat. Iranian officials are responding with threats against the United States.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Friday prayers in Tehran after a week of threats and belligerence. Today President Bush answered back.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iranian president has stated his desire to destroy our ally Israel. So when you start listening to what he has said to their desire to develop a nuclear weapon, then you begin to see an issue of grave national security concern.

PILGRIM: This week U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pointed clearly at Iran as the enemy.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.

PILGRIM: U.S. diplomats signalled they were out of patience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 30 days are up. We believe next Monday or Tuesday the United Nations Security Council will begin a very active debate about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

PILGRIM: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this week said the Iranian people would, quote, "resist any pressure and threat." But it is Iran that has been leveling threats.

JAVAD VAEEDI, IRANIAN DEPUTY NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR: The United States may have the power to cause harm and pain. But it is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if the United States wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll.

PILGRIM: Regional analysts say Iran could initiate attacks in Iraq against U.S. forces. A military strike against Iran is not under active discussion in the world community. But some say it's not entirely out of the question.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: The Israelis for the last 15 years have been modernizing their air force in order to give them the ability to strike targets in Iran. The primary requirement for all their new airplanes that they've been buying is that they be able to fly unrefueled to the distance of these targets in Iran and return safely to Israel.


PILGRIM: Now, the United States and the European community are insisting that Iran stop its nuclear activities. Russia and China still saying sanctions are not under consideration. That showdown will come next week at the United Nations -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you, Kitty Pilgrim.

New developments tonight in the White House CIA leak case. A federal judge has ordered the CIA to hand over portions of highly classified intelligence briefings to Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff Scooter Libby.

Libby is charged with perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice. Libby's attorneys say the CIA documents are essential to prepare his defense. They are now available.

Now, let's take a look at some of your thoughts. We've received a lot of e-mails on our coverage of the Dubai Ports deal, but we have also received a few critical ones, most, by far actually, are very congratulatory and we thank you for those. But these are sort of interesting because of the just resounding negativity.

Chase in Missouri said, "Congratulations, Lou, because of unforgivably senseless people like you, the United States has today essentially erased any hint of progress made in the Middle East. Because of people like you history books will refer to the 2006 era of U.S. government as racist, irrational and self-defeating. Get it through your thick, fat head: There was no security threat, you thoughtless bigot."

I have to say this we love hearing from you.

Robert in Wyoming, "Lou, I was watching another network just after the market closed and according to them you must be one bad dude. According to them our credit line will dry up and other nations will not buy our national debt because of Bush's latest failure on the port deal. Good. Maybe we should pay our bills ourselves. Mission accomplished."

Watch that mission accomplished stuff.

Mike in North Carolina wrote in about our poll last night, asking if you're stunned that our elected officials actually listened to we, the people? He writes to say, "Stunned is a mild term. The fact that elected officials in Washington actually listened to the concerns of the American people made me think that I had died and come back as a lobbyist."

Jerry in New York, "Lou, the administration is always worried about sending the right message. When are they going to be worried about telling the truth?"

Roxann in Virginia wrote in to say, "Lou, if we had our industries in the United States we wouldn't need ports as much in the first place."

And Paul in Oregon, "I'm sure the administration will support the operation of the U.S. ports by a well-run, qualified U.S. company so long as it is Halliburton."

Send us your thoughts at We'll have more of your thoughts later here in the broadcast.

We have just received this just in to CNN. A spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert says tonight that the full House of Representatives will next week vote on a provision to outright bar the Dubai Ports deal.

The spokesman, Ron Bonjean, said that they now believe it's a smart move to keep the vote on that legislation just in case the Dubai Ports World deal and company and government doesn't follow through on the decision to, as they put it so quaintly, transfer control of their port interest to an entity in the United States.

The House of Representatives acting with considerable and, perhaps, well-placed skepticism and assuring an outright vote on the issue. That just into us here.

Well, joining me now to talk about what has been a remarkable week of developments is former White House political director Ed Rollins, our senior legal analyst here at CNN, Jeffrey Toobin, and Michael Goodwin, a columnist "New York Daily News."

Gentlemen, good to have you with us.

A remarkable -- that Dennis Hastert apparently doesn't trust his friends over in the Senate or the White House or his friends in the United Arab Emirates.

ED ROLLINS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIR.: Well I think if this was a parliamentary system this would be a vote of no confidence on the president. And I think to a certain extent fortunately we don't live in a parliamentary system, but the message is very loud and very clear.

DOBBS: Did you say fortunately or unfortunately?

ROLLINS: I said fortunately we don't.

DOBBS: Amen, brother.

ROLLINS: At the end of the day, though, once the Republicans have turned on the president, they have a very significant issue. It gets easier each time. So I think at this point in time the White House better wake up. The president is not the president of the United Nations. He's president of the country. And I think the House Republicans represent more where the country's views are than the president is right now.

DOBBS: Michael, the president today fears that we're sending the wrong message to the world, that it's going to be misinterpreted.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: I think that there's a cataclysmic change going on in our politics right now. And I think we're just beginning to wake up to the fact that now who defines national security? It's no longer George Bush. I think that whatever he says is just going to be one voice out there.

And I think it is something of a jump ball as to who gets to say what makes us more secure, what is dangerous, what is good for our country. It's a very tricky issue. But I think he's lost a monopoly. He's no longer in charge of that issue.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And his answer, we learned today, is more speeches about Iraq? Is there something he hasn't said about Iraq that we need to hear? I mean, he's been giving speeches about Iraq for years, and the situation there just continues to deteriorate, as far as I can tell.

DOBBS: I may be wrong in this, but I believe that there were eight consecutive speeches up until about two weeks ago on precisely that, Iraq and the war on terrorism.

TOOBIN: And so now -- I mean, that, to me, is the really interesting question now. What does the Bush administration do when it wakes up in the morning now for the rest of the -- for two and a half years? What are the issue that they push other than hoping for John Paul Stevens to slip in the bathtub and have to resign, giving them another Supreme Court appointment, which they would have to fill? What are the issues they're going to bring forward to the American people? I don't see anything at the moment that's going to get embraced by Congress.

ROLLINS: Well, certainly nothing they are going to move forward that is going to have any measure of success. First of all, they have got a very tough budget. They have sent a budget up there that's dead on arrival. Congress is going to draft its own budget. Immigration reform, the way they are outlining is going nowhere. Certainly the idea of a tax reform bill, which a year ago might have been more successful, is dead and gone.

TOOBIN: Don't forget Social Security reform. That died a while ago.

GOODWIN: And I think one of the things, too, about the House wanting to go ahead with this vote with Hastert, I think it's very much -- they want to be on the record as voting against the deal. I mean, they want to be on the record as opposing the president. I mean that's an amazing turn of events.

DOBBS: Because of the Schumer event. But in the Senate and the procedural move in the Senate it looks as though the Senate may have to vote on the Schumer amendment, which is on the Dubai Ports deal.

ROLLINS: The other thing that has happened obviously the president's polls are going down and down, but members are starting to take their own polls. And they are finding a dramatic drop off in their own popularity, people that were 60 percent or 70 percent. They're not so much worried about getting re-elected, but they are very nervous about losing their popularity. And it's not about the president, it's about them. And that makes it a very personal fight.

DOBBS: Well, the AP Ipsus Poll today comes out, Associated Press. There it is. Thirty-seven percent approval that ties the lowest level of his presidency. It's one point below the CNN Gallup "USA Today" Poll that we reported here I think eight, nine days ago of 38 percent.

This is a disaster for a president who wants to hang out with sultans and authoritarian figures from large countries in Asia. This is a man that is going to have to acknowledge at some point he is in charge of a republic and a democracy.

GOODWIN: Well, and I think to me the most fascinating number in that poll is the 43 percent approval on the handling of the war on terror. That was always the ace. It was 52 about a month ago. And I think so we have had two polls now that have been 43 on that question. And without that, he has nothing. I mean, he's below 50 percent on everything, some as low as 37, (INAUDIBLE) what he stands on.

TOOBIN: He needs news to change the dynamic. And it seems to me in Iraq, there is no news that's going to change the dynamic, except -- you know, maybe, I don't know when it counts that there's a civil war. Maybe when they start wearing blue and gray uniforms. But I mean, it just is not getting better there in the kind of -- at the kind of rate that will matter in American politics.

DOBBS: It's interesting that we're hearing from the Department of Defense and also from U.S. representatives in Iraq that they're not concerned about a civil war right now. In point of fact, great expressions of confidence that the Iraqis can maintain order and prevent that.

My question is, is it then time, please, to bring home our men and women from Iraq?

ROLLINS: I think...

GOODWIN: Go ahead, Ed.

ROLLINS: I think there's no question if a civil war breaks out -- and I personally find the generals that sit there and say there's no civil war when people watch 150 people killed in a couple of days, and lots of demonstrations and lots of -- it looks like a civil war to me. They keep saying the media is imagining all this. I think the American public will support the troops as long as there's progress. At this point, if a civil war breaks out, they want Americans home.

GOODWIN: Well, and I think general have basically pulled them out of the really hot spots.

DOBBS: General Abizaid yesterday with General Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, being brought out basically to support the United Arab Emirates and this deal. Did anyone else have a reaction to that? A distinguished general, a man of great service to the country, but when he starts talking about -- when he's involving himself in a political dispute, it's remarkable to me.

GOODWIN: Right. And I think the whole idea of having an investigation after the president said basically we're going to use it to educate people, it was a farce from the beginning.

DOBBS: Patronizing the kind of -- the condescension. Not helpful.

Not much condescension, not much patronizing on the issue of warrantless wiretapping. We -- Pat Roberts, the chairman -- Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, coming up with a deal.

TOOBIN: Boy, the Senate was tough. They said, you know, we think you may have been broken the law, so we're going to change the law so you didn't break the law. That's their solution to the problem.

GOODWIN: Oh, well...

TOOBIN: Well, that's true. That's what they did.

GOODWIN: There's also oversight going forward. I mean, operational details. TOOBIN: Some oversight going forward, but I mean, when there is a real possibility that administration officials intentionally set out to break a federal law, and the answer is to change the law and add some oversight, I think that's a pretty weak congressional response.

DOBBS: Is this issue in your judgment then resolved, Michael?

GOODWIN: You mean the wire...

DOBBS: The warrantless wiretapping.

GOODWIN: I think it is resolved. I think the Democrats have no choice but to sign on to this, and I think the steam is out of that one now.

DOBBS: It's one that I think that -- well, there are, however, a number of lawsuits still under way. I believe a dozen.

TOOBIN: But they will take years to move through the process. This is just another example of how valuable it is to have the Republicans in control of the Senate, not the Democrats.

DOBBS: Do you think that privacy and civil liberties should somehow be expedited in our vaunted legal system in this country?

TOOBIN: Nothing is -- you know nothing is expedited in our legal system.

DOBBS: Gentlemen, we thank you very much, as always. Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, Jeffrey Toobin.

In tonight's poll, we'd like to know what you think the Dubai Ports World debacle will mean for the Bush presidency. The question is straightforward: Do you believe that George W. Bush can now accurately be described as a lame-duck president? Cast your vote at We'll have the results later here in the broadcast. I will tell you at the same time, the vote of our guest panel as well.

Up next, "Heroes," saluting our men and women in uniform, as we do each and every week. We'll meet the Coast Guard commander, who braved mortar fire to train Iraqi troops. His story and a great deal more coming right up. Stay with us.


DOBBS: In tonight's "Heroes," the story of Coast Guard Commander Steve Weiden. Philippa Holland reports from Miami.


PHILIPPA HOLLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three decades after Coast Guard Commander Steve Weiden enlisted, he voluntary deployed to Iraq.

COMMANDER STEVE WEIDEN, U.S. COAST GUARD: You've got 30 years in the military, and all of a sudden your nation finds itself at war. That's not the time to retire. And one of the reasons I volunteered for the Iraqi freedom was I wanted to get in the fight, I wanted to carry my share.

HOLLAND: His mission, to train the new Iraqi navy in coastal defense and port security.

WEIDEN: There was no infrastructure. We basically picked them up as they exited out of boot camp. We had to teach them everything from basic fire fighting, damage control, electronic navigation, safety.

HOLLAND: Commander Weiden and his team trained the 275 Iraqi officers in Taji. There, they focused on basic drill training and weapons qualifications. The training facility itself was frequently under rocket attack.

WEIDEN: Unfortunately, some of the mortar shells found their mark, and we had some fairly significant casualties, both with Iraqis and with coalition forces. And it was a tense time.

HOLLAND: When the naval facility was ready, the new unit moved to Umm Qasr to finish their training. When the five Iraqi patrol ships arrived, the Iraqi navy was underway. Commander Weiden was awarded the Bronze Star for his meritorious service in Iraq, the first person to receive a Bronze Star from the Coast Guard commandant since 1941.

WEIDEN: I've gotten my share of decorations in the past, but nothing approaching the Bronze Star. So it was humbling, it was a very humbling thing. And the Coast Guard's been very good to me, and I've had a tremendous career, and don't have an end in sight just yet.

HOLLAND: Philippa Holland, CNN, Miami.


DOBBS: Commander Weiden expected to be deployed to Alabama next month, where he'll coordinate the Coast Guard's response operations for this year's hurricane season. We wish him and all the best of luck.

Coming up at the top of the hour here, "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We wish him the best of luck as well. Thanks very much. We're following a developing story. The FBI has put on alert for law enforcement officials to be on alert for a potential terrorist attack at sporting events. This as college basketball tournament season gets under way. We'll have all the details, what we know, in our CNN security watch report.

Plus, we'll also have much more on the demise of the ports deal. Dubai has been a key ally and trading partner of the United States. So how much damage was done to that relationship?

And it may be March of 2006, but the race for 2008 definitely on already. We'll go live to Memphis, where Republican presidential hopefuls are gathering right now for an early vote. Lou, all that coming up at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Look forward to it, Wolf, thank you.

Coming up next here, I'll be sharing some of my thoughts with you on the Dubai Ports World deal and where the controversy stands now. And we'll look at a few more of your thoughts as well. Stay with us.


DOBBS: One year ago, a routine trial in an Atlanta courtroom took an unexpected turn. The man on trial grabbed a guard's gun, and that was the beginning of 26 hours of terror for the women he took hostage.

Kyra Phillips with the one of the women whose life was changed forever -- Kyra?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, that name is Ashley Smith, and, yes, she's been called an unlikely hero, a guardian angel. She's the one held hostage for seven hours by the man named Brian Nichols, as you mentioned. What happened between those two -- still a lot of questions.

And we addressed that to her, but we got exclusive access inside the apartment that she moved out one year ago. Ashley takes me through every step that she and Brian Nichols took that night, that we were on the air literally for 26 hours until he finally gave himself up. Lou, a lot of people question her story still. They want to know if she knew Brian Nichols, she -- people want to know if they did drugs together in that house.

A lot of people don't want to know, because this is the woman that eventually ended a situation where a man was not going to stop. He was on a shooting rampage, and the city was terrorized by him for 26 hours. So we address a number of questions with her. We hear a story about an amazing miracle. And at the same time, we ask her the questions that a lot of people still want to know.

DOBBS: Kyra, thank you very much. We'll be looking forward to it. We appreciate it.

You can watch a special two-hour special edition of "CNN PRESENTS: 26 HOURS OF TERROR," with Kyra Phillips with weekend at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific.

Still ahead here, we'll have the results of our poll tonight and a few of my thoughts on what this port deal was really all about. And a question of messages. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight, 95 percent of you saying that George W. Bush can now accurately be classified as a lame duck president. Our panel, by the way, only Michael Goodwin of the "New York Daily News" thought the president was not now a lame duck president.

Finally tonight, the Dubai ports deal is dead. Perhaps not buried, but it is certainly dead. The controversy, however, lives on, and so does the campaign, the distortions, disinformation and outright lies, many, unfortunately, generated by the Bush administration and national media, who blindly perpetuate political economic agendas antithetical to the national interest and the security of all Americans.

"Fortune" magazine's Europe editor today wrote in that I would now have to find something else to talk about, making it rather clear he definitely would rather I just touch on important issues lightly and then only once. He suggests that "further that dire financial circumstances would be felt by U.S. companies because Congress rejected a foreign-government-owned companies' operation of U.S. port terminals".

"Washington Post" columnist Steven Pearlstein today warned us that the United States is risking 6 percent unemployment, 8 percent mortgage interest rates, and a $9,000 Dow Jones Industrials because our Congress actually had the courage -- yes, courage -- even if spurred by the prospect of upcoming elections and then possibly losing in those elections, to listen to the people and put national security ahead of so-called free trade and commerce.

"The Wall Street Journal" editorial pages this morning lament what they call the reemergence of national security protectionists. And the editorial suggests we imagine the threat to American well- being if investment capital were to flee the United States.

And the president of the United States today declared we're sending the wrong message of the world by placing our national security concerns over trade and commerce. Particularly in the Middle East, the president is concerned about the message.

We actually need to be tolerant here. Neither these columnists nor editorialists; nor the president, apparently, are comfortable with Congress actually conducting itself as a co-equal branch of government. They're obviously discomforted with the idea that our government can still put the national interests ahead of special interests, that the people of this country can demand a voice in our government still.

So don't worry about the wrong message having been sent in this controversy. The message is right, even righteous, Mr. President. In America, we still have a vote. We still have a choice. And we've never wanted anything in this country but a democracy. The message is simple. This week, we saw the democracy work. And based on what I'm hearing from our audience, Americans like the feeling of them. So who knows, Mr. President. You and Congress may just have to get used to it.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great weekend. Good night from New York.