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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Bush Defends Iraq War; Congresswoman Introduces Bill to Prevent Foreign Control of U.S. Ports; The Real John McCain?

Aired March 13, 2006 - 18:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Monday, March 13.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.

Tonight, President Bush strongly defending his conduct of the war in Iraq as he faces the lowest poll numbers of his presidency. Has President Bush lost the fight to convince Americans that he has a strategy for victory?

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

Also tonight, Congresswoman Debbie Schultz introducing legislation to stop foreign governments from controlling any of our ports or port facilities to prevent another Dubai ports deal. Congresswoman Schultz is our guest.

And then, who is the real Senator John McCain? Is he a maverick standing up to the Bush White House and the Congress, or simply another politician putting the best face on difficult realities? We'll have that special report.

And to find out what ordinary Americans think about our elected representatives, the Dubai ports deal, Iraq, health care, and working middle class families, I'll be talking with three of the country's top radio personalities: Dom Giordano, Joe Madison, Steve Cochran.

And killer tornadoes leave a trail of destruction across six states in the Midwest. At least 10 people have been killed. We'll have a special report from the worst-affected areas in the country.

We begin tonight with a new effort by President Bush to defend his leadership and his conduct of the war in Iraq. President Bush today insisted the United States will not lose its nerve in Iraq and U.S. troops will defeat the enemy.

The president's comments are a determined attempt to convince skeptical voters that he's now on the right track. President Bush's approval rating has slipped now to an all-time low. Thirty-six percent of voters approve of the way he's handling the job, according to a new CNN-"USA-Today"-Gallup poll. And more than half of voters believe President Bush is not a strong president.

Dana Bash reports now from the White House -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, these new numbers actually show Americans are feeling pretty good about the economy. It is that, remember, that usually drives a president's approval rating, but for this president, it is all about the war. That is also the source of the country's sour mood.


BASH (voice over): In his latest call for patience in Iraq, the president claimed progress in combating the main insurgent weapon against U.S. troops, IEDs, or roadside bombs, and pointedly singled out Iran as the source of many of the deadly devices.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Such actions, along with Iran's support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, are increasingly isolating Iran.

BASH: Sectarian violence has escalated since this Shiite mosque was bombed two weeks ago, raising fears of civil war. But the president tried to find a silver lining, painting a picture of Iraqis working together to stop the bloodshed, calling that important progress.

BUSH: It was the Iraqi security forces, not coalition forces, that restored order.

BASH: Mr. Bush can only hope this series of speeches is more effective that the last. Four in December were aimed at convincing Americans he has a plan. But there's new evidence that didn't work.

Only about a third of Americans in a new CNN-"USA-Today"-Gallup poll think Mr. Bush has a clear plan for Iraq. An overwhelming two- thirds say he does not.

Six in 10 say things are going poorly in Iraq. Just 38 percent think things are going well, down eight points in just two months.

BUSH: I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth. It will not.

BASH: Mr. Bush has had tough sledding for months on issues ranging from hurricane response to the ports controversy. But aides concede Iraq, by far, is still the biggest factor in his political troubles.

BILL MCINTURFF, GOP POLLSTER: The Bush presidency is wrapped around this issue. And for good or for ill, that's now his presidency. And the outcome on Iraq and how that's determined in the next couple years has enormous bearing on not only his own standing currently, but his standing, I think, in history.


BASH: And on that point, our new poll shows a stunning figure. Sixty-four percent of Americans believe Iraq will be the president's legacy. And no issue, not even terrorism, Lou, comes anywhere close.

DOBBS: Dana, the president talking about defeating the enemy in Iraq as he begins what will be a series of speeches and efforts to reverse these poll numbers.

Did the president today define victory?

BASH: Well, he defined victory as much as he has before. He said that it's basically when the insurgency has stopped, it is when the Iraqi people that have a democracy that really can -- can hold on -- hold up its own. But he did make clear that that is not going to happen for -- for a long time, or certainly it could be some time.

And that is certainly what you hear from Democrats today, Lou. That is the big problem. They say they find in this speech and other speeches that the president has given, they say the president talks about what's going on there, but in terms of the end game, he doesn't give a real specific sense of that. The only thing that the White House does have to hold on to is that Democrats aren't offering an alternative that perhaps at this point voters can go to.

DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much.

Dana Bash from the White House.

Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed six more of our troops in Iraq. One soldier died after being wounded in a roadside bomb in Baghdad. A U.S. Marine was killed in combat in Al Anbar province.

Now, 2,309 of our troops have been killed in the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan. A roadside bomb killed four American troops traveling in an armored vehicle near the border with Pakistan. Two hundred sixteen of our troops have been killed in and near Afghanistan since October 2001.

Meanwhile, Britain says it will withdrawal 800 troops from Iraq by May. That's about 10 percent of the British force in Iraq.

Prosecutors today suffered a major setback in one of the biggest anti-terrorism trials in the country. A federal judge suspended the trial of self-confessed al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.

The judge discovered what she called egregious government disclosures to expected witnesses. It turns out an attorney for the Transportation Security Administration sent possible witnesses transcripts from earlier court proceedings. The judge is now considering the possibility of declaring a mistrial.

A leading Democratic senator is sharply escalating the battle with the Bush White House over warrantless wiretaps. Senator Russ Feingold wants Congress to censure the president for authorizing the wiretaps without court approval. Vice President Dick Cheney today called Senator Feingold's move outrageous.

Ed Henry has our report -- Ed. ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Feingold is frustrated that the Senate Intelligence Committee failed to launch an investigation of the president's domestic surveillance program, and he declared today that this is the only way to hold the administration's feet to the fire.


HENRY (voice over): Democratic Russ Feingold got straight to the point.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: When the president the United States breaks the law, he must be held accountable. That is why today I'm introducing a resolution to censure President George W. Bush.

HENRY: With Feingold pondering a run for president, many Republicans dismissed the move as early 2008 posturing. But rather than ignore the talk, the vice president, who happened to be speaking in Feingold's home state of Wisconsin, decided to fire back and defend the president's domestic surveillance program.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The junior senator from Wisconsin, Russ Feingold, believes the terrorist surveillance program is grounds for censuring the president. The president clearly has the authority to direct the National Security Agency to collect communications of our enemies in wartime.

HENRY: Feingold insists the president does not have that authority under existing law.

FEINGOLD: If there were a demonstrated need to change the law, of course Congress should consider that step. But instead, instead, the president is refusing to follow the law while offering the flimsiest of arguments to justify his misconduct.

Mr. President, he must be held accountable for his actions.

HENRY: But while senior Democrats joined him in raising questions about the legality of the NSA program, they stopped short of supporting Feingold's effort.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I commend Senator Feingold for bringing this to the attention of the American people. We need a full and complete debate on this NSA spying.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I have said before that I disagree with the Bush administration's legal judgment on this one.

HENRY: Censure is a rare punishment that has virtually no chance of passing. Andrew Jackson is the only president to have been so admonished. So Democrats want to be careful about overreaching.

CHENEY: Do they support the extreme and counterproductive addicts of a few, or do they support a lawful program vital to the security of this nation?


HENRY: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is now pushing for a quick vote on this resolution, thinking it will short-circuit the whole effort because most Democrats will oppose it. But Feingold says he doesn't care. He thinks he has the White House on the run. In fact, he claims that when he got on the Senate floor today, he looked in the eyes of his Republican colleagues, and quote, he said, "They were scared as cats" -- Lou.

DOBBS: Scared as cats. And the senator from Wisconsin saying that he has the White House on the run. Those are very big words. Will he get a big vote? And how soon?

HENRY: He's going to get a vote. It's probably not going to be tonight. But Senator Frist is determined to get it on the floor by the end of this week, and he believes that it will be an overwhelming vote against Feingold.

But remember, Republicans on the Hill did that on the Murtha resolution some months ago on Iraq. Totally different subject, but also a security issue. And that ended up backfiring a bit, because it gave Murtha even more ammunition. And as you know, even though that resolution was shot down pretty quickly, instead, it emboldened Democrats a bit more on the security issue -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed Henry from Capitol Hill.

Thank you.

HENRY: Thank you.

DOBBS: The United States tonight faces new challenges from leftist governments across Latin America. There are reports tonight Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez may sell uranium to Iran for its nuclear program.

And Bolivian president Evo Morales seems determined to thwart American efforts to try to limit Bolivia's cocoa production.

Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Latin America, even a friendly photo-op can be a diplomatic minefield. At the inauguration of Chile's new socialist president, Bolivian president Evo Morales met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The atmosphere cordial, despite Morales' pledge to be the United States' worst nightmare.

He presented Rice with a guitar, which she strummed for the camera. A guitar decorated with cocoa leaves. Cocoa leaves used to make cocaine, which the State Department has spent years urging Bolivia to eradicate.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: It was a very good meeting. We talked about all of the work that we need to do together. We need Bolivia to be strong in the counter-drug fight.

ROMANS: No such smiles for the camera for Rice and Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez. With the U.S. trying to mend fences with Latin American leaders in Chile, Chavez returned to Venezuela, where he continued his anti-American taunts.

To show his power, he changed his country's 200-year-old flag. The white horse now charges to the left instead of to the right.

HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The white horse is now freed.

ROMANS: Freed in Chavez's mind from American imperialism. He has promised a socialist revolution.

And he's feverishly forging ties with Iran, inking a deal for Venezuelan's minerals. An attempt, some fear, to help Tehran secure uranium for its nuclear program.


ROMANS: The State Department has been careful not to respond to the Chavez taunts, but many say it is time to step up the diplomacy there, as Chavez by his friends in the region and forges ties with China and Iran, perhaps one reason why the U.S. is considering resuming arms sales for countries in that region -- Lou.

DOBBS: And how does the State Department, how does the Bush administration define the strategy and the vision for a U.S. policy towards Central and South America?

ROMANS: It is democracy, and they want to support democracy and democratically-elected leaders in the region. I will point out that Chavez, Morales, these are all democratically-elected leaders.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Christine Romans.

Still ahead here, I'll be talking with three of the country's top radio personalities about our elected representatives, the Bush White House, the Dubai ports deal, Iraq, health care, and middle class jobs.

And tonight, the United States is selling its financial independence to foreign governments at a fast pace. The fastest pace, in fact, in years.

We'll have that special report.

And a record number of tornadoes kills at least 10 people and leaves a trail of destruction from Illinois to Arkansas. We'll have that report coming up next.


DOBBS: A line of deadly tornadoes ripped across the middle of the country this week, and at least 10 people were killed. More than a hundred twisters were reported from Illinois to Arkansas. Another wave of dangerous weather is moving across the middle of the country again tonight.

Keith Oppenheim reports from Springfield, Illinois.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When Pat Kuster came back to her house this morning, the emotions poured out. The tornado left her home completely exposed. Just about everything she and her husband Dana had inside was damaged.

PAT KUSTER, HOMEOWNER: Last night in the dark it was one thing. But when you come in this morning and actually see it with the light and how little is left, just -- I just can't -- I just can't tell you what my heart feels like. I just can't.

OPPENHEIM: It was a traumatic night. The house has no basement. So Pat, Dana and their 8-year-old grandson took refuge in the bathroom. As they huddled, the entire roof blew away.

DANA KUSTER, HOMEOWNER: My grandson, he was -- he was scared to death. He says, "Hold me, hold me, hold me." And we were squeezing him as hard as we could just to calm him down because -- and the insulation was just flying everywhere. It just -- it's just like a snowstorm in here the way the insulation was flying around. It's just unbelievable.

OPPENHEIM: The Kusters suffered some of the worst damage in their neighborhood, but they weren't alone. The National Weather Service reported the Springfield twister was the biggest storm to pass through central Illinois in a decade, and part of a storm that spawned dozens of tornadoes in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. At one point, 65,000 customers were without power.

But as residents cleaned up and utility crews scrambled to turn the lights back on, Pat and Dana Kuster were assessing their own damage.

(on camera): Are you hurt at all today?

P. KUSTER: I don't think so. Just inside. Just trying to figure out what Plan B is now.

OPPENHEIM: Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Springfield, Illinois.


DOBBS: And at least seven people were killed by wildfires raging across the Texas panhandle. More than 650,000 acres of grassland were burned. The Texas Forestry Service said it may be the single worst day in the history of Texas wildfires. As many as 19 fires burning across the northeastern panhandle.

Four people were killed in a multi-car pileup on Interstate 40. Fire officials say smoke from the fire is contributing to that crash. One fire department captain said the fire in the northern part of the panhandle was burning still out of control.

In Alabama, a beef cow has tested positive for mad cow disease. This is the third animal case of the disease reported in the United States. The Agricultural Department says the cow did not enter the food supply for humans or other animals.

Meanwhile, the government has come up with a plan for a possible bird flu epidemic. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt today recommending that you put a can of tuna fish and a box of powdered milk under your bed. Leavitt says families should prepare for a flu outbreak the same they would prepare for a blizzard. You may recall the Department of Homeland Security recommended Duct tape and plastic sheeting to defend against terrorist attacks.

And, of course, the pandemic is a very serious threat, and we will be continuing to follow this story to look at other options for preparations in the event of a pandemic.

Still ahead here, President Bush facing another congressional rebellion over raising the nation's debt limit. A special report on that.

And the two faces of John McCain, straight-talking maverick or people-pleasing party loyalist?

We'll have a special report for you.

All of that and a great deal more still ahead here.


DOBBS: Members of Congress this week will press forward with legislation to demand a greater roll for lawmakers in reviewing foreign purchases of U.S. key infrastructures and businesses. The move reflects lawmakers' anger over the Dubai ports deal, frustration over a rising number of foreign-owned companies buying assets in this country. Foreign corporations are on a massive spending spree with all of those trade dollars that they've earned, and helped by that huge budget and trade deficit, of course.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Foreigners have been snapping up U.S. companies at the fastest pace in five years. But the United States is not just selling off buildings, brand names and critical infrastructure, it's also selling off its financial independence. The United States is becoming more in debt to foreign governments.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: And, in fact, what's going on is that we are selling our country to the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans and others, bit by bit, and it's an incremental process. SYLVESTER: In 2001, the outstanding federal government debt topped $3 trillion. Thirty percent of that by foreign lenders, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Since then, the debt has grown another $1.3 trillion, with foreign lending accounting for 80 percent of the new debt.

Leading the pack of those the United States owes money to? Japan and China.

ROBERT SCOTT, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: We're going to be subsidizing the Chinese government to the tune of $50 or $100 billion a year now, and that total could easily double over next four to five years.

SYLVESTER: With rising interest payments, that means more money leaving U.S. shores and less money for U.S. citizens for schools, health care and roads.

GARY GENSLER, FMR. TREASURY UNDERSECRETARY: If we were sitting around the household and we'd say, each year we're spending $107 and only making $100, that would be a problem. And that is really what we're doing as a country as a whole.

SYLVESTER: Economists agree this is not sustainable, but tell that to Congress. So far, there has not been the political will to reign in the budget in trade deficits.


SYLVESTER: Treasury Secretary John Snow canceled a trip to Africa this week to lobby Congress to raise the federal debt limit. Some lawmakers want to attach conditions to the limit increase. One amendment would set up a pay-as-you-go measure that would force lawmakers to pay for future budget increases or tax cuts -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester with that very sobering report.

Taking a look now at your thoughts.

Doug in Wisconsin wrote in to say, "President Bush's comments concerning the ports deal certainly does send a message around the world. The message is this: the American public is no longer going to tolerate the sale of our national interests."

Tony in Iowa said, "Lou, I just heard the wonderful news that Dubai is backing down on their deal to take over some of our ports. For the first time in a long time, I feel like my voice counted. I e- mailed both of my senators about two weeks ago and told them how much my husband and I were against such a move."

Arenett in Indiana, "Dear Lou, Do you think the people of the United States finally have the attention of Congress? Maybe Bush has become a uniter?" Shirley in Maryland, "Lou, now that our representatives in Washington are listening to our opinions, maybe they will open their eyes to the problems caused by illegal aliens, the China trade deficit, lack of living wage jobs for middle class America and this country's need for affordable health care."

Greg in Tennessee said, "Condoleezza Rice said that the United States faces no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran. That's not true. The greatest challenge facing the United States is the United States itself."

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

And coming up, Senator John McCain, is he a maverick standing up to the Bush White House and Congress? Or is he simply a politician putting the best face on difficult realities for his ambitions?

We'll have a special report.

And the president tries to turn around plunging poll numbers. I'll be talking with the former White House political director, none other than Ed Rollins.

And what is America talking about ? I'll be joined by some of the country's leading talk show radio hosts about what you're thinking, what millions of Americans are thinking and worrying about.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: The early maneuvering for the Republican presidential nomination is under way, just what President Bush wanted to hear. In 2000, Senator McCain won the New Hampshire primary. He's considered an early favorite.

McCain likes to portray himself as a moderate, a maverick willing to buck the president on taxes and torture. But to win the nomination, McCain has to convince the GOP faithful, whoever they are, that he's a loyal team player. That has many asking, will the real John McCain please stand up?

Bill Schneider reports.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): Who's the real McCain? Most voters know John McCain as the straight-talker from the 2000 campaign, a harsh critic of George W. Bush and his conservative base.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Unfortunately, Governor Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore.

SCHNEIDER: That campaign defined McCain as a maverick moderate, a Republican who stood up to President Bush on campaign finance reform and embryonic stem cell research and a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. And most dramatically, on torture.

MCCAIN: It's not about them. It's about us.

SCHNEIDER: In 2004, Democrat John Kerry even considered picking McCain as his running mate. But it wasn't that McCain who addressed the Conference of Southern Republicans last weekend and who asked delegates to write in Bush's name instead of voting for him in a straw poll.

MCCAIN: He's our president and only one who needs our support today.

SCHNEIDER: Some saw it as a political maneuver to take away the sting of defeat when local favorite Bill Frist won the poll.

McCain defended President Bush on the Dubai ports deal when other Republicans abandoned him...

MCCAIN: The president deserved better.

SCHNEIDER: ... and staunchly supported the war in Iraq.

MCCAIN: We leave Iraq, they're coming right after us.

SCHNEIDER: McCain's critics see naked political calculation. The Republican presidential nomination is wide open in 2008, when McCain will be 72-years-old. McCain has been making connections with the Bush money network and the Bush campaign machine. Is this a new McCain? Not really. There were glimpses of McCain, the partisan conservative back in 2000.

MCCAIN: I am a pro-life, pro-family, fiscal conservative and advocate of a strong defense.


SCHNEIDER: McCain, the partisan conservative would be well- positioned to win the 2008 Republican nomination. And conservatives might go along, if they see McCain as the only candidate who can stop the dreaded Hillary Clinton.

Then, he would turn back into McCain, the maverick moderate to win the general election, if he can win back Bush-hating Democrats and independents. Lou?

DOBBS: Some fancy foot work required.


DOBBS: Even by national political standards -- Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

An endless barrage of bad news has left the president's popularity with a pounding hangover. The latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows only 36 percent of Americans approve of the job he's doing, that is an all-time low.

From Iraq to Katrina, the vice president shooting his friend, or the Dubai ports deal, the White House is not catching a break. And now, the president's former domestic policy adviser arrested for conning local department stores. Joining me now to just talk about what is a trail of travail is former White House political director, Ed Rollins. Ed?


DOBBS: Good to have you here -- 36 percent. I mean, these are stunningly low numbers.

ROLLINS: These are incredibly low numbers, particularly where the vast majority of the country thinks the economy's in decent shape. Historically, bad economy is what drags presidents down. This president is so tied to the Iraq war and people today just don't have faith that there's a right, there's a correct plan, or we're doing the right things. They're all for the troops, but they're think we're someplace we shouldn't be.

DOBBS: Is the president doing the right thing? He's embarked on what will be a schedule of speeches and events trying to drive home the message and the White House is making it clear, they believe that these poll numbers, these terrible poll numbers are in part because they have not been effective in communicating all of the good news out of Iraq.

ROLLINS: Well there is no good news out of Iraq. The only good story that he's going to have is when on May 1st, 2003 he said mission accomplished. When he can say mission accomplished and pull our troops home, whether it's a year from now or two years from now, then people will applaud.

Until then, it's just going to be this basically day in/day out, people watch the news and they don't think things are going well, they think it will be a civil war there. They don't think that their investment or the president's investment is the correct thing to do.

DOBBS: With these relatively high numbers in our poll, showing people believe that this is a strong economy, why isn't that resonating more in your judgment as a political strategist with people?

ROLLINS: There's a lot of people out there, who even though they may be employed, they're worried about their life. They're worried about losing jobs. They see big layoffs in companies they thought were very established. They see all sorts of pension things and people are just uncertain. And I think to a certain extent, we grew up in an era where you could work for General Motors and work for 30 years and your grandfather could have and your kid could have. Today, that's all changed. There's just a whole lot of uncertainty about the economy.

DOBBS: And you have a president sitting in India talking about how great it is that there are 300 million Indians in the Indian middle class but not talking -- and talking about how great outsourcing American jobs is, but not talking about this middle class in any way that certainly touches them, right?

ROLLINS: We talked about the 300 million in the middle class in India, you didn't talk about the middle class here. And the reality is that historically presidents go on foreign trips and the numbers go up. This president went on a foreign trip and his numbers continue to go down. So I think there's no place for him to go.

DOBBS: We don't hear the name Andy Card, we don't see much of Karl Rove. What is going on with the people who are -- I mean, I think there's a pretty clear perception that most of the cabinet secretaries are front men and women, if you will, for their agencies. And that the strings are all pulled from a cadre within the White House. What's going on?

ROLLINS: I think they're tired. I think the reality is they have been there six years, most of them have gone through a campaign before that. They've lost the energy that they once had. They've lost the skills that they once had. Their political antenna is so far down at this point in time, going through a very critical midterm election, that I think the president needs some new blood.

DOBBS: New blood, that would be one piece of advice. Does Ed Rollins have any other counsel for the president?

ROLLINS: Well I think they've got to sit down with the Republicans and say, "This is our agenda, we're going to either have spending cuts, we're going to basically do some things that we can all run on together." The president's not up this time obviously but his party is. And a lot of disillusioned Republicans right now on the Hill who are worried about this election.

DOBBS: Ed Rollins, as always, we appreciate your insight.

In our poll tonight, the question is, do you believe the president's record-low poll ratings reflect a failure to effectively communicate the progress of the war in Iraq or a failure of leadership and effective conduct of the war in Iraq? Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here later.

Up next, preventing another Dubai ports debacle. I'll be talking with one lawmaker about new legislation that would block all foreign governments from ever controlling key infrastructure at our ports.

And the voices of America, things happen in Washington and imagine what happens when Washington listens? I'll be talking with three of the country's best-known radio talk show hosts about what people are saying and thinking. Stay with us.


DOBBS: A powerful public outcry over the Dubai Ports World deal is ultimately what ended that deal. Our elected representatives in Washington telling us that they have never had such a public reaction, receiving phone call, e-mails, from Americans all over country, concerned about business interests put ahead of the national interest.

Joining me now for what will be a regular feature on this broadcast, three of the top radio personalities in the country. They hear from the American public daily and they join us here tonight. Dom Giordano is the host of "The Dom Giordano Show," which is aptly titled I think on WPHT in Philadelphia.

Joe Madison, "The Black Eagle" of WOL in Washington D.C. Good to have you here, Joe.


DOBBS: Steve Cochran, host of the "Steve Cochran Show" on WGN in Chicago. Steve, good to see you.

STEVE COCHRAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: How are you, Lou? Nice to see you.

DOBBS: Outstanding. The president's poll numbers -- and let me just start with you, Steve -- the president's poll numbers are at the lowest of his presidency. He's trying to reverse it. What are your listeners saying?

COCHRAN: I think his best shot now is to try to become a contestant on "American Idol," because everybody's watching that. You know, people are fed up. And I think the great thing, and you've discussed this on the show regularly, is that people have been fired up and unified by the ports deals. So now we can get some collective action going and take a step in the right direction.

DOBBS: Joe, your thoughts?

MADISON: Oh, I think that's absolutely right. Look, this wasn't about xenophobia. It wasn't about anything other than we've spent the last six years talking about fear, fear. We are in a war. We've been told it's a war and I think people are concerned that their ports are a vital interest and I for one don't care whether it's England, Dubai -- but I think they need to be under American control. And we must have spent the first day, four straight hours -- we couldn't talk about anything else, and I did encourage people to call their senators. And now I think people feel empowered.

DOBBS: You know, it's funny you should say that. And I would like to hear each of you. But the e-mail to this broadcast, there was a sense of empowerment amongst our watchers, this audience, that I haven't detected in response from the audience before. I mean, that's heartwarming, don't you think, Dom?

GIORDANO: It is, Lou. It was great. And I think the problem with the president here, at least with my listeners, is that the base was angry over this, the base of the people that supported. This was a Harriet Miers' moment. I'm afraid when the guest worker program comes down these things are inextricably linked in the mind of people. We are going to see this again, and I don't know that the president and his advisers, listening to Ed Rollins, get that how angry people are. DOBBS: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

MADISON: Oh, no. I was just going to say. Isn't it interesting? Here you have different political perspectives on your program. And we're all agreeing with this. I mean this transcended -- this transcended race, this transcended politics. It transcended party. It was an amazing expression, and I'm glad it happened. And I think we're going to see more of it.

DOBBS: My gosh, Joe. I mean, is it possible that we've discovered something called America and that the great common denominator here is being an American?

MADISON: Well, I'm from the Midwest, and I think that's right. I'm sorry, Steve. Go ahead.

COCHRAN: No, I was just going to say that is the case. But, you know, the one thing that's very, very true is this e-mailing and all this passion that's been kicked up in the past couple of weeks has to continue. And if you don't know who your rep. is, because the whole house is up this year, go to and figure it out, send them an e-mail, if you hadn't done it already. Send them a second one and say, if you want my vote, here's what matters to me.

DOBBS: And, you know, Dom, we also should be very cautious here because now we have -- and I'll be talking shortly about this. But we also have legislation moved both in the Senate and the House to stop this outright because interestingly, while some people cynically say, you know, they can't trust their government.

Right now, the government doesn't trust the government. Congress wants to block this deal in law because they don't trust the negotiations and the public relations spin from this administration on the ports deal.

GIORDANO: Exactly. And listeners -- and I don't know the other gentlemen, Lou -- but listeners are wary of this still. They don't know that the final thing is they're waiting to see one of these guys. Bill Frist has been a guy blowing in the wind back and forth, Republican on this. He seems to be saying, well, maybe this can happen in a slightly different way.

If they think the American people are going to go sleep on this -- and people that call my radio station at least, don't want what we were promised coming out of this, that this will not be a UAE-type of operation. It will have a worse backlash.

MADISON: And I'm waiting for tomorrow because I want to see what my listeners have to say about what Senator Feingold has done. I think his base wanted this. I'm hearing that Democrats don't have a backbone that they need to do something dramatic. It's not going to pass.

But I bet you anything it'll give him a platform in which he will now be able to go around the country and start to solidify, at least part of the Democratic Party, that's probably telling him, way to go. At least somebody's got some guts.

GIORDANO: Joe, I have to tell you, I think this is overreaching, and this will be the Democrat mistake if they do what Feingold is doing.

MADISON: Well, that's going to be one side of the Democrats. But I am telling you there is a large group of people out here who want to see them do something.

DOBBS: Steve.

COCHRAN: Well, gentlemen, the thing about the Feingold thing -- and he is right up the road -- is he may or may not want to be president of the United States. But the Democrats' biggest problem -- and they have got to get this figured out this year and certainly for '08 -- is pick an issue and talk about what you are going to do about it, not why the Republicans are wrong. It's actually strategy.

GIORDANO: Well, people wants some common sense. They're tired of this. What is that issue, Joe?

MADISON: The issue is, what is your exit strategy? I don't need a date. Because nobody's going to -- how do you plan to get out of Iraq? That's the issue. What is your exit strategy? And I said that when this things first started many years ago. And one talk show personality threatened to turn off my microphone. So I'm glad you didn't Lou.


DOBBS: Well, you have got an open mike here, as you know, Joe.

Steve, let me ask you this and let me ask you all this. I'm sorry. I just want to ask, how do we have an honest national debate when American lives are being lost, when three years, almost, after this war has begun, we're talking about communicating effectively about the progress in the war, about the progress of the war itself? A president has these low poll numbers. They are real concerns.

How do we have a national discourse, national debate between the people and our leaders without undermining our troops and without giving them any sense that we offer them nothing less than our full and absolutely passionate support as those who serve this nation?

GIORDANO: My answer would be...


GIORDANO: Oh, I'm sorry go ahead, Steve.

COCHRAN: No, I was just going to say I think it's a parallel argument. I think you have to do those two things and do them exactly. I think you have to remember that we've made a commitment. We're there in for the interest of not just the American men and women that are fighting but their families back here and all of the other troops there and certainly the Iraqi citizens. You have to be able to support it while you carry forward this passion that's kicked up in the last couple of weeks and say we'd like to know a plan. I know you can't tell me a date, but we'd like to know a plan on where this thing is going.

GIORDANO: Lou, my answer would be, it's in the hands of people that are objective and don't have an agenda, people like Lieberman and others, who are looking to do the right thing but also don't have an agenda, haven't had an agenda. Don't come across in that manner. It depends upon those voices. McCain's another one. When they're out there, those voices I think are listened to by the American people.


MADISON: My answer would be get beyond the Beltway, even though I'm inside the belay. Get beyond the belt way. I don't think the American people are so stupid that they don't understand that we know soldiers have a duty. They're ordered to go to war. And at the same time, we can support their duty but debate the policies that sent them there to begin with.

DOBBS: Is there a sense amongst your listeners that -- is there a sense of aspiration? Is there a sense here, a positive sense, about the country? We see the polls. The polls are not particularly reassuring. But do your listeners have a real sense that things are going to get better? Is there a mood of optimism?

GIORDANO: No, I would say no among my listeners. And some of it is coming off of the Dubai Port deal. Some of it is coming off the outsourcing of jobs and things related to that even though the economy is good.


MADISON: My listeners think it's a mess. It's a big mess. And this mess is catching up with the Bush. It's catching up with Rumsfeld. It's catching up with all of them.

DOBBS: Steve Cochran you get the last word.

COCHRAN: And I see a little more optimism than you guys do, and I think that's a fabulous thing. And again I think it's a bit of explosion from what's going on in the past two weeks, and if people get behind trying to figure out who they are going to reelect to the house, in the Senate, or a governor here in Illinois, again carry that passion forward. We are all going to be better off for it. It's common sense. Lou, that's all we want.

DOBBS: You know, common sense, decency, some dignity. You know, it sure helps a lot.

MADISON: And a media with a backbone that will ask the right questions.

DOBBS: Well, that's what you guys are here for.

GIORDANO: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Joe, thank you very much. Steve, thank you. Dom, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

President Bush hits a new low in a brand new CNN poll. Find out what's dragging down public opinion.

Also we'll hear from two outspoken Congressmen, one who is for the president, another one who is very critical of him.

Plus, a former White House adviser arrested, accused of scamming department stores. Find out how he went from being a political superstar to a falling star.

And what drives rich people to steal. A look at a few celebrities who risked it all for some small change.

And you'll also meet an American intellectual who is speaking out on al Jazeera against Islamic terrorism. Now she's facing death threats. All of that, Lou, coming up right at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Thank you Wolf. Looking forward to it.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. The question, do you believe the president's record-low poll ratings reflect a failer to effectively communicate the progress of the war in Iraq or a failure of leadership and effective conduct of the war in Iraq?

Please cast your votes at We'll have the results coming up in just a few moments.

Also ahead, more of your thoughts and one member of Congress who says the death of the Dubai Ports deal means good things for our nation's port security. Congresswoman Debbie Schultz is our guest here next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: New moves in Congress to protect our ports from terrorists and other national security threats after the collapse of the Dubai ports deal. Congresswoman Debbie Schultz has introduced legislation that would ban any foreign government from controlling any part of U.S. port operations. Congresswoman Schultz joins me now. Her district, by the way, includes the Port of Miami, one the ports involved in this deal. Good to have you here.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Thanks. Thanks for having me here.

DOBBS: Senator Warner said the deal is dead, but Senator Bill Frist yesterday said, quote, "if everything that the president, the administration said, and that is that there is absolutely no threatening or jeopardy to our security and safety to the American people, I don't see how this deal would have to be canceled."

Your legislation is designed to deal with that, isn't it?

SCHULTZ: Well, it's premature, clearly, to breathe a sigh of relief. I mean, even if you say that the deal is off the table, which I think is premature, we still have to deal with the overarching issue of government-owned corporations, foreign-government-owned corporations having intimate knowledge of the port security measures at our nation's ports through ownership or leasing of port terminals. That's totally inappropriate.

DOBBS: Let me ask you -- you say it's inappropriate; I think, according to our polling of the audience of this broadcast, just about everybody agrees with you. What took Congress so long to come to terms with the fact that we were turning over key infrastructure assets to foreign-government-owned corporations?

SCHULTZ: Well, what's troubling about the answer to that is that it's because we didn't know, because we were not told. That committee, the CFIUS committee, is not a transparent process. It's opaque. We have not been able to get access to that information. Most members of Congress, unless they're on the Intelligence Committee, and even then only a couple of those, were even remotely aware that foreign-government-owned corporations owned port terminals. And to take that one step further, that there were even foreign companies that owned terminals.

DOBBS: That's incredible.


DOBBS: And is it your sense in Congress that the Dubai Ports World deal has been a bit of a sea change, at least in terms of awareness and attitude toward turning over -- because, let's face it, foreign companies, foreign-government-owned companies, foreign governments, hold trillions of dollars, American dollars, as a result of our buying binge and so-called free trade. They've got some real claims against U.S. assets.

SCHULTZ: Lou, it's lit a fire of concern over port security in America. Finally. Because Democrats literally in the last several years have introduced no less than a dozen amendments that have been wholesale rejected by the Republican leadership, that would have increased funding for port security. And there's been absolutely no interest or concern on the part of the Republican leadership in the Congress. It's shocking.

DOBBS: Well, that -- the leadership, and at least in the form of Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, putting forward strong legislation. Is it -- you have put forward legislation. Is it your sense it's going to pass? We're out of time. Is it your sense it's going to pass?

SCHULTZ: I don't have enough of a sense yet. I think that their concern -- that their concern right now is let's get this off the table and try to move on, and we can't let the heat off, we can't let it off.

DOBBS: Congresswoman Debbie Schultz, thanks for being here.

SCHULTZ: Thank you. Thanks.

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


DOBBS: The results now of our poll. Ninety-seven percent of you responding saying you believe the president's record poll ratings, low poll ratings, reflect a failure of leadership and effective conduct of the war in Iraq.

Taking a look now at your thoughts. Many of you writing in about our poll question Friday, asking whether the president could be classified now officially as a lame duck.

John in New Jersey -- "If President Bush is a lame duck, you better stay away from Dick Cheney!"

Leslie in Nevada -- "Lame duck sounds like an apt description. Americans certainly gave Bush the bird over the port deal."

And Mike in Florida said -- "Lou, if I were a duck, I'd take umbrage at your poll question."

Veronica in Idaho -- "Lou, how can this administration have the guts to say that they're strong in the fight against terrorism if they can't manage the basics like securing our borders and ports? Is there something wrong with this picture or is it me?"

Mary in Virginia -- "When will the Bush administration get it through their thick skulls? We don't need another PR campaign to change our minds about Iraq. What we want are real results, something they can't seem to deliver."

And Bonnie in Illinois -- "Lou, just curious: With 75,000 plus on the streets of Chicago working at all those jobs that we're told most Americans don't want, who gave them the day off to protest?"

Kenneth in Minnesota -- "President Bush only sees a global economy. He's morphed his role as president into ruler of the world. Borders don't matter, even nations don't matter. Only the needs of mega buck interests are of importance."

We thank you for writing in. Please send us your thoughts at Each of you whose email is read on this broadcast receives a copy of my book, "Exporting America." Also, if you'd like to receive our email newsletter, please sign up on our Web site,

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.