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Lou Dobbs Tonight
Dubai Ports Deal May Not Be Dead; Feingold Calls To Censure Bush; Open Borders Activists Heading to Mexico City; New Bill Aims to Improve Port Security; President Still Pushing Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit;
Aired March 14, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, March 14.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, the Dubai ports deal, it may not be dead after all. It turns out the company may not give up all of its U.S. port operations. We'll have that special report. We'll be going live to Capitol Hill.
Also, two leading members of Congress demanding urgent government action to protect our ports. Congresswoman Jane Harman and Congressman Dan Lungren today introducing legislation to improve security at our nation's ports. And we'll be discussing the Dubai ports deal and its presumed death.
They join us next.
Also, what in the world is Senator Russ Feingold thinking? Senator Feingold has launched a one-man campaign to censure President Bush. His fellow Democrats, however, want, oh, just about nothing to do with it.
We'll have that special report.
And is President Bush a lame duck? Has he run out of political capital? Three of the country's leading political commentators and analysts join me here.
All of that and a great deal more ahead.
We begin with new doubts about whether the Dubai ports deal is dead. A senior executive in the U.S. subsidiary of Dubai Ports World wrote an e-mail. The e-mail said the company has no immediate plans it sell its port operations in Miami.
The company argues that P&O North America manages its Miami terminal, and that means DPW doesn't have to sell those operations.
Bill Tucker is here now with a special report on the e-mail and what it means about DPW's plans.
Ed Henry will be reporting on the rising concern on Capitol Hill about the deal not being dead and how to kill it.
We turn first to Bill Tucker -- Bill.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, Dubai promised last week to transfer its U.S. operations to an American entity. P&O executives appear to be making the argument that P&O North America is just such an entity.
TUCKER (voice-over): Dubai Ports World never promised to sell its American port operations. It only promised to transfer those operations to what it called an American entity.
The argument now being made by the company which already runs those ports is that it will continue to manage them. It's an argument which suggests that if the port operations are going to be sold ever, they will be sold as a whole.
JAMES LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: DP World has to find a way to salvage as much of the value of the American ports as they can. You know, it's $680 million. That's not an insignificant sum even for -- even for an Arab sheikdom.
TUCKER: There are those, however, who believe DP World paid too much and that if they sell, they will lose money on the deal. So skeptics think what's really happening here is a stalling tactic.
ALAN NEIGHER, ELLER & COMPANY: They're supposed to be divesting, and we think that this is just another excuse to buy more time. And we really think when the day is over that DP thinks it can still pull this off in the United States. And we're -- we've been as opposed to that as we've been opposed to any other government-owned entity owning our port infrastructures.
TUCKER: Executives at DP World are distancing themselves from this latest firestorm, releasing a statement which only says, "P&O's U.S. operations remain subject to a whole separate arrangement that went into effect when DP World officially took over P&O on March 9. Under this arrangement, DP World has, to date, exercised no control over any P&O terminal or stevedoring operation in the United States. Any questions about P&O North America's internal e-mails should be directed at them."
TUCKER: Don't ask us, ask them.
In its original statement on March 9. Dubai Ports World said it would not sell its American port operations if had to sell them at a loss, which, Lou, would seem now to force Congress into a position of having to take some action.
DOBBS: Bill, thank you very much.
In terms of whatever action that might be, we turn now to Capitol Hill. Members of Congress tonight are raising new questions about the intentions of Dubai Ports World. Lawmakers are concerned about DPW's e-mail about the Miami facilities and also comments on that deal by Senate majority leader, Senator Bill Frist.
Ed Henry has the story -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, you know, tonight -- OK.
HENRY (voice-over): DP World may renege on its promise. Democrats are demanding to see the company's specific plan to sell six U.S. ports to Americans.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: As I've said throughout this fiasco, the devil is in the details. However, the company, the administration still won't give any details up.
HENRY: That cloudiness was caused in large part by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's answers to questions about the ports controversy on a Sunday talk show. Asked whether he's committed to killing the deal no matter what in the wake of vague statements by the company, Frist hedged.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think, George, you're right in the sense that we don't know what the outcome is going to be. We have their press statement and said what the company intends to do. And we have to wait and see if they're going to do it.
HENRY: Republican John Warner felt compelled to approach Frist to clarify those comments. Warner, who has been an informal liaison to DP World, told Frist he's convinced the company's committed to a "total and complete divestiture."
A Frist aide told CNN the leader had merely answered a hypothetical question and does believe the deal is dead. But new doubts emerged after The Associated Press reported that a vice president for DP World's U.S. subsidiary sent an e-mail to business associates suggesting he's not aware of any effort to quickly transfer the Port of Miami to a U.S. company. A company executive confirmed to CNN the gist of the e-mail, which is giving Democrats fodder to demand that Frist let the Senate vote to officially kill the ports deal.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I am alarmed by the comments and the back-peddling that seems to take place in the comments of Senator Frist and others. And we will insist on such a vote until it is very clear to us that this is, in fact, a deal that is dead.
HENRY: Now, Senator Frist is still tonight refusing to have that vote to make sure this deal is killed once and for all. But House Republicans will move forward, as early as tomorrow or Thursday, on legislation making clear this deal is gone once and for all. And we're getting word late tonight, in fact, that the company, DP World, is planning to put out a clarification of some kind in the next 24 hours or so. My colleague, Andrea Koppel, hearing from two sources close to the company that, in fact, they're going to make clear publicly, finally, that when they said they were going to transfer the assets, they meant sell the assets so that U.S. companies will, in fact, be controlling the ports, and they're also going to lay out a timeline for exactly when this sale is going to take place.
That's something Democrats were demanding today -- Lou.
DOBBS: And why is it that Senator Frist, in clarifying his remarks, is refusing to move for a vote on the -- on the -- on the legislation?
HENRY: Aides to Frist tell me they don't feel like they need to move forward. They think now the deal is dead, and they don't feel that they need to sort of, you know, double up on it and improve it for everyone. But when I asked about the fact that their own Republican colleagues on the House side of the Capitol do seem to think they need that security, they don't really have an answer.
So, the House Republicans are going to move forward on legislation as early as tomorrow to make sure it is killed, but the Senate still not doing it. Bottom line is Democratic Leader Harry Reid is vowing that this week he may try to attach the Schumer amendment once more that would kill the deal, just officially, even though it is dead, just officially kill it so there is no ambiguity at all. He may try to add that on to the debt ceiling legislation as early as this week -- Lou.
DOBBS: OK. Ed Henry, thank you.
Congressional Democrats tonight are also refusing to support an effort by one of their own senators. That effort to censure President Bush.
Senator Russ Feingold wants to censure the president for authorizing warrantless wiretaps. But not one of his fellow Democrats has spoken out in favor of his initiative.
Lisa Sylvester has the report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were attacked on September 11...
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Let's say you're a Democrat who has been in the Senate 13 years and your name is now being tossed around in political circles as a potential candidate for president. But if you don't have the national recognition of Clinton or Lieberman, how do you go about getting your party's nod?
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: I'm introducing a resolution to censure President George W. Bush. SYLVESTER: Go on the attack. Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold is getting plenty of buzz for his call to officially rebuke the president for ordering domestic eavesdropping of U.S. citizens. But Republicans see it as grandstanding.
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Feingold bringing up censureship in the Senate is blatantly political. The American people have pretty good antenna when it comes to this sort of thing, and it's going to be backfire on him, because it looks like he's doing this strictly for personal political reasons.
SYLVESTER: Feingold's office is sensitive to the charge that this is just a political play. His office has released a list called "A Record of Independence."
For example, he was the only Democratic senator who voted to hear all of the evidence in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. The argument, that he calls it like he sees it.
But when it comes to censuring the president, no one seems to be backing this call. Even his fellow Democrats won't touch it.
SCHUMER: Leadership is discussing this. I'm not going to comment until we have further discussions.
SYLVESTER: He can't convince his allies, and having a harder time convincing his adversaries. Feingold is proposing to censure the president, but with a Republican-controlled Congress it's a long, long, long shot.
SYLVESTER: Senator Feingold's resolution has been sent to the Judiciary Committee, where it will likely die a slow and quiet death -- Lou.
DOBBS: Slow, quiet, and lonely.
Thanks very much.
Lisa Sylvester from Washington.
Still ahead, new evidence of decades of failed trade policies in this country and mountains of debt.
Our ports are overwhelmed by cheap foreign imports. We'll have a special report tonight on the drastic steps that are now necessary for this country.
Also, an American organization going to Mexico to lobby against U.S. legislation with the Mexican government. We'll have that report for you.
And one of Hollywood's most prominent liberals, none other than George Clooney, blasting liberals. We'll tell you why.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: The federal government will hit its borrowing limit of $8.1 trillion this week. Treasury Secretary John Snow telling Congress that it needs to act now to raise the national debt ceiling, but Secretary Snow insists raising the debt ceiling should not be coupled with any other issues. And that puts him at odds, interestingly enough, with the new Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke.
Chairman Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that Congress should take concrete steps to improve the nation's finances. The federal budget deficit expected to set a record of more than $400 billion this fiscal year.
The Dubai ports deal exposed misplaced priorities and tangled (ph) lines of authority within the Bush administration and the federal government. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff spoke out about the ports deal, but not about homeland security. Chertoff said we have to maintain a robust global trading system.
Meanwhile, the U.S. trade representative Rob Portman didn't address the trade aspects of the deal. The trade representative said the United Arab Emirates has been a solid ally in the war on terror.
Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is supposed to promote American business. He spoke to the Asia Society today, but he talked about ties with communist China.
Agricultural Secretary Mike Johanns is working against an extension of the farm bill. He says it might send the wrong signal to the World Trade Organization. Farmers said Johanns believes the European Union and the WTO are more important than they are.
While the Bush cabinet members do everything except apparently what they were hired to do, the U.S. is continuing to accumulate something that isn't funny at all: record trade deficits and record trade debt.
The nation's current account deficit reported today, it's the broadest measure of our international trade, and it set another record deficit last year, $805 billion. That is now 7 percent of our annual GDP. At this rate, our trade deficit will exceed $1 trillion this year.
The failed so-called free trade policies that led to the record deficit are also undermining American competitiveness. We are importing so many consumer goods now that some experts say, in fact, we will have to build the equivalent of the Port of New York and New Jersey each and every year for the next decade to keep up with that pace of imports.
Christine Romans reports.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American consumers have a seemingly insatiable appetite for imports, and these imports are clogging America's ports and railways. And incredibly, it's about to get worse.
LUCY DUNCAN SCHEMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, SAFE PORTS: We're going to see exponential growth. It's coming largely from China, but China -- and going down into Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and further and further south. Singapore being a major point of transshipment to us is a day closer to the U.S. East Coast than West Coast. So this crunch of cargo is not only a West Coast issue, it's very much an East Coast issue as well.
ROMANS: It now takes just 13 days for a container ship of Chinese imports to travel to this country. Bigger ships are coming, so-called monster ships loaded with equivalent of 20 miles of truck cargo. They will take even longer to unload and turn around, and it will require more trucks and rail cars to move the loads inland.
Already, international container traffic has skyrocketed over the past decade. Even with seven major ports along the West Coast absorbing an explosion of Chinese imports in particular, there are fears American infrastructure just can't keep up. Critics say consumer savings from cheap imports will be more than offset by hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure demands.
Yet another consequence of years of failed trade practices.
DAVID SIROTA, AUTHOR, "HOSTILE TAKEOVER": So now we're swimming in imports. We have a massive trade deficit. Our infrastructure, which used to be able to handle all of this stuff, can't.
The alarm bells should be going off. The red flags should be going up. Our country's trade policy is selling out America.
ROMANS: Industry groups say without dramatic productivity gains in this country's ports and investments in port and rail infrastructure, a congestion crisis is inevitable.
ROMANS: The fact is, they say this economy is becoming nothing more than a distribution economy, importing, moving and selling consumer goods. But our infrastructure is still equipped for mid-20th century manufacturing economy.
DOBBS: And it's -- while we may be a distribution economy, we're first and foremost a consumption economy, with the deficits that are at unbelievable levels. The idea that we would have to build 10 ports over the next decade the size of New York and New Jersey, I mean, that's extraordinary.
I mean, how much -- the estimates -- what are the estimates for that kind of cost? I mean...
ROMANS: You know, hundreds of billions of dollars, though Lucy Scheman said it's all academic anyway, because you couldn't build the equivalent of New York and New Jersey every year for the next 10 years.
DOBBS: Do you mean the American consumer is going to be denied because we simply don't have the courage to go out and build more port facilities for all of those imports? That's shameful.
ROMANS: Maybe it will take longer for the stuff to get to the stores and we'll have to pay more for them.
DOBBS: It's -- it's incredible. The idea that this country does not have a trade policy or a strategy in terms of giving rebirth to manufacturing -- the president talks about our horrible dependence on foreign oil, yet we're far more dependent right now for clothing, consumer electronics, computers, technology than we are for oil.
DOBBS: Christine, thank you.
A group of open borders activists heading to Mexico City tonight. They're going there to drum up support for their agenda, drum up support from the Mexican government, and even from openly hostile governments in Latin America.
Casey Wian has the story from Riverside, California.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Professor Armando Navarro heads the National Alliance for Human Rights. His group helped organize Friday's protest in Chicago by tens of thousands of people supporting expanded rights for illegal aliens. Now his supporters are going to Mexico City to lobby Vicente Fox's government, as well as the embassies of Cuba and Bolivia. Their immediate goal is to defeat tough border security legislation now pending in Congress.
ARMANDO NAVARRO, PROFESSOR, U.C. RIVERSIDE: Essentially, we have to do everything possible to make sure that the process is such that we can maximize the influence of Mexico, the influence of Latin American in terms of making sure that that pressure, that power, diplomatically speaking, can be directed at the administration, as well as Congress.
WIAN: They admit they're going against the current in Washington and say they would be willing to accept, for now, legislation that would allow true amnesty for illegal aliens. Longer term, however, they're pushing for unlimited job for foreign workers in the United States, and nothing short of a radical shift in this nation's government, a shift to socialism.
MARIA ANNA GONZALES, NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: It's a system that's being used in other countries where everybody's eating, where everyone has a place to live, where everyone has the right to go to school. Well, maybe we need to look inside ourselves as a nation and maybe we need to start adopting another system.
Call it whatever you want. But the current system of capitalism ain't working for all.
WIAN: The group also says its discussions will also include what actions it will take if laws pass that would toughen penalties for illegal aliens and the companies that hire them and improve security along the border. They also say they will implore the Mexican government to do its part to improve the lot of Mexico's people.
WIAN: That's an idea that even border security activists could embrace. However, the open borders group is not toning down its rhetoric. When we arrived at their press conference today, they handed us this bumper sticker, which repeated their charge that you, Lou, are a racist.
DOBBS: Well, I'm glad that you held that up bumper sticker. It's always nice to be noticed, I suppose.
I would prefer a somewhat more flattering notice, but the fact is, socialism, open borders, absolute free immigration, no constraint. Why, then, are they so interested in our free enterprise democracy?
WIAN: It's hard to say. They talk about some very real issues -- the lack of good living wages in this country and in Latin American. They talk about problems at the border. But their solutions don't seem to make a lot of sense.
I will bring one other point on the issue of racism. It seems like maybe they're figuring out that that dog is not going to hunt in some sectors of the American public. During the English portion of their press conference, they never mentioned the word "racism" once. When they switched to Spanish, they brought it up -- Lou.
DOBBS: An interesting dichotomy. And I appreciate being brought up to date.
Thank you, Casey Wian.
DOBBS: Watch carefully, as they say.
Still ahead here, George Clooney. He has some very strong words for Democrats. We'll tell you why the liberal actor is attacking liberals.
And then, two members of the House Homeland Security Committee will join me here tonight. I'll ask them what their plan is to improve protection of our all but unprotected ports.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: A well-known politically active Hollywood star is slamming politicians in Washington. You may be thinking, nothing new there, but this time the critic is well-known Hollywood liberal George Clooney. And he's attacking his fellow Democrats.
Bill Schneider reports.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Actor George Clooney -- make that Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney -- wears his liberal convictions proudly. Now Clooney has come out swinging against Democrats.
Clooney posted an online message saying, "The fear of being criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run-up to the war. It drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, 'We were misled.' It makes me want to shout, '(EXPLETIVE DELETED) you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic.'"
Clooney even made a movie last year about journalist Edward R. Murrow in which that message was a central theme.
DAVID STRATHAIRN, ACTOR, "GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK": We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.
SCHNEIDER: Democrat are feeling pressure from the left to be less timid in their opposition to President Bush. In fact, rank and file Democrats are more united in their opposition to President Bush, 84 percent, than Republicans are in supporting Bush, 75 percent.
Senator Russ Feingold has proposed a test.
FEINGOLD: When the president of 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.
SCHNEIDER: He charges that President Bush illegally wiretapped conversations between U.S. citizens and suspected terrorists without obtaining a warrant. The administration called Feingold's proposal...
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It poses a key test for our Democratic leaders on the other side. Do they support the extreme counterproductive antics of the few, or do they support a lawful program vital to the security of this nation?
SCHNEIDER: Feingold's response? This is not disloyalty.
FEINGOLD: No one questions whether the government should wiretap suspected terrorists. Of course we should, and we can under current law.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats have responded cautiously. They may not appreciate being tested or criticized by Hollywood liberals -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well, whether they appreciate it or not, the test is foursquare and present. How many people on the Democratic Party have stood up and said yes to Senator Feingold's initiative?
SCHNEIDER: Well, so far, they've avoided saying anything. They didn't even discuss it today at the policy luncheons or afterwards when they came out to the press.
They put off a vote. The Republicans tried to have an immediate vote to put the issue right on the line, but the Democrats said, no, we want to have time to debate this fully. I have a feeling they don't really want to debate it.
DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
DOBBS: Taking a look now at some of your thoughts.
Niles in Kansas wrote in to say, "Lou, is it 2008 yet?"
And Charles in West Virginia: "My father always told me when it came to politicians, if there were as many horses as there were horses asses it would be a better world."
And Fletcher in New Mexico, "Dear Lou, with the selling of our country to the Chinese and many others around the world, it won't be too long before they'll start outsourcing their products to the United States for cheap labor."
And David in Pennsylvania, "Dear Lou, remember 'Buy American'? Now it's Buy America!"
Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. We'll have many of your thoughts coming up here later in the broadcast.
Coming up next, Congress wants action on port security. Two lawmakers tell us about their plan to improve safety at our nation's port.
And the president's political headaches. Three of the country's top political analysts, John Fund, Michael Goodwin, Hank Sheinkopf, all join us next.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Two leading members of the House Homeland Security Committee today introduced bipartisan legislation for a massive shakeup in port security. Congresswoman Jane Harman and Congressman Dan Lungren want to raise government spending on port security by $800 million a year. They introduced the bill days after the Dubai ports deal collapsed.
Congresswoman Harman and Congressman Lungren join us tonight from Capitol Hill. Good to have you both here.
Let me start, if I may, with the idea that we need more port security. As we've reported here, as Congress, your committee has learned, one percent of the containers coming into this country are being examined for radioactive material. I mean that's crazy. What is your legislation do about that?
REP. DAN LUNGREN (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, our legislation does several things. One is it creates a strategy in terms of authorized legislation that will make sure that we have a comprehensive approach to this. Number two, it makes sure that we expand the frontiers of security. Not our ports alone. But in those foreign ports.
Third, it allows for the rapid deployment, far more rapid deployment of those kinds of machines that would give us protection about what you just referred to. And we allow permission or authority for the secretary of DHS to allow those kinds of machines to be utilized in foreign ports. So we could actually get that done. We could lease them to them. We could let them borrow it.
In other words, we are doing everything we can to make sure every incentive is out there to allow us to look at these things far better than we have before.
DOBBS: Congresswoman Harman, your bill also requires that employees in secure port areas be checked against the terrorist watch list. I was stunned that it should be even necessary to do that. That's amazing.
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: You've been all over this issue, Lou. And this is the silver lining in the Dubai ports meltdown. This is Congress pulling together to fix the problem. We've introduced our bill today. We already have 50 co-sponsors. We're having a hearing on it this Thursday.
As you know, Susan Collins has a similar bill in the Senate with Patty Murray. Ours, of course, is better. But there's is moving, too. And this is going to be law. This year.
DOBBS: It's -- five years, we're approaching five years since September 11. The fact that Congress is now moving up port security. The fact our borders are still as porous as they were all but just as porous as they were after September 11. What in the world -- let me ask it this way. What in the world is Congress doing?
HARMAN: Not enough. Sorry, Dan, just, strategy, strategy, strategy. It's not just about money. The whole point in setting up the Homeland Security Department was not to rearrange the deck chairs but to create one deck, and we're barely at the starting line.
This port bill is a strategy that will inspect these containers at the point of embarkation so we don't get the bad stuff at our ports. The whole goal here is to push the frontiers out, as Dan said. You've been pushing this for years, so congratulation, Lou, it's finally happening.
DOBBS: Congressman Lungren, this legislation, you move it through. I'm going to ask you the same question. This administration is beating its chest on the war on terror and creation of a Homeland Security Department, and yet our ports today and assuming that your bill goes through, it will without question improve markedly security at our ports. Our borders remain insecure. How do you explain that?
LUNGREN: I've just been back to the Congress for about a year and two months. One of the things I would say that I've been disappointed with is a lack of urgency that I find in some quarters. It's not just parts of administration, it's parts of Congress. It's all of us not doing what needs to be done.
Jane Harman and I started working on this before the Dubai port issue began to spring to the attention of the public because we recognized it was important.
But, look, we are safer today than we were before 9/11. We are safer today with aviation. We are safer today in terms of port security. We are safer today actually in terms of border security. But I'm not satisfied and nor is Jane satisfied. We have much more to do.
The administration, give it credit, has set the foundation in many situations for us to build on, but we need to build a super structure on that foundation. We're trying to accelerate this process. We're trying to get money behind the ideas and have this strategy together with a dedicated source of funds so that we actually do put our money where our mouth is.
DOBBS: Let me ask both of you very quickly. We're out of time. But the Dubai ports deal, some considerable confusion now right now in the Senate, as to whether or not this deal is dead. You've seen the reports on the e-mail from the P&O people on particularly the port in Miami.
Quickly, Jane Harman, Dan Lungren, in that order if you will, is this deal dead or are you going to make sure it's dead.
HARMAN: It was 62-2 in the House Appropriations Committee led by Jerry Lewis, a Republican from California. The deal is dead. Let's move on and let's do something serious about port security which is what our bill will do and it will become law.
DOBBS: Dan, do you agree?
LUNGREN: Look the deal is dead. I don't I think there is any doubt about that. But what we're trying to do is to establish some real action as a result of the focus that was placed on port security. So let's get some good out of this. I think this is going to happen. We're going to have a bill that's going to be law.
DOBBS: Thank you, both, we appreciate it.
Turning now to our poll. The question, "Do you believe both the House and the Senate should vote to deny foreign government ownership of any U.S. port facilities. Please cast your vote at loudobbs.com.
We'll have the results coming up here later in the broadcast.
A federal judge will order Google to disclose some of its Internet search records to the Justice Department. Federal prosecutors want those records to show that child pornographers can easily get around so-called Internet filters. Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL have already given the Justice Department search records.
Still ahead, more of your e-mails. Also the president takes to the road to sell his policies. We'll be talking with our distinguished panel of Political analysts next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: President Bush today went to upstate New York, trying to win support for his trouble Medicare prescription program. The president's visit comes as he faces the lowest polling numbers of his presidency and new questions about his entire agenda. Dana Bash reports now from the White House.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Never mind questions about this year's agenda. The president is still pushing a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit he signed into law more than two years ago.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you haven't looked at the new prescription drug benefit, do so. Call 1-800- MEDICARE. Go to medicare.gov on the Internet.
BASH: The program began in January, but enrollment has been plagued by confusion and errors. Older voters are a major election year Republican worry. Beyond concerns about Medicare, seniors, more than any other segment of the electorate, have regrets about the Iraq war.
Sixty-eight percent, nearly seven in 10 seniors in the new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll think military action in Iraq was a mistake.
A sobering figure for Republicans who know Iraq defines this president, and more broadly worry events like this one, revisiting the prescription drug debate, take precious time from advancing new initiatives.
Yet many GOP strategists see nothing particularly galvanizing on the Bush 2006 agenda anyway. One priority is meeting conservative demands to limit spending. Another is a White House immigration proposal that many conservatives oppose.
Low approval ratings have even some Bush allies suggesting, what one called a Jimmy Carter problem: a public perception he is no longer accompany to run the government. If Mr. Bush is to emerge from his rut, one leading GOP strategist says, it won't be based on his current agenda.
BILL MCINTURFF, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What is going to have to happen is there's going to have some external event that happens, the president handles in a way that kind of changes this current mood.
BASH: Now in the wake of recent missteps here at the White House, Lou, there is renewed talk in some Republican circles about the need for the president to shake up his staff. Mr. Bush doesn't appear to want to get rid of anybody at this point.
But CNN is told by some Republicans who are involved in these conversations, confidants, friends of the White House, that they are trying to convince the president that perhaps at this point, the best thing to do is to at least bring in somebody new, some experienced hand-seasoned veteran, if you will, to help have conversations with leaders on Capitol Hill, troubleshoot, at least be in the room to give advice during meetings.
Something, they say, they hope that could shake things up given the fact that at this point, it does not appear that the president wants to get rid any of his staff despite some fear in Republican circles that the problem is that many of these people have just been here too long -- Lou.
DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much, Dana Bash.
Joining me now to discuss the White House and its perspectives and problems, Michael Goodwin of the "New York Daily News," Hank Sheinkopf, Democratic political consultant and strategist, John Fund, columnist "Wall Street Journal."
Let me turn to you first, Michael, what -- as Dana Bash reports, thinking about its -- whether the White House is thinking about it or some of the top tier of the Republican Party are begging the White House to bring in new people. Do you think that's going to happen?
MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well, it should happen. I think it should have happened awhile ago and I think this whole second term has sort of been off the rails. And in part of it is that you've got the first-term staff still there largely in the White House. And it's clearly not working. So whoever's to blame, it's not working, they have to do something and that's as good a shot as anything right now.
DOBBS: Dana suggests that they might bring some more experienced hands. I mean, these people have got five years experience.
HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Fresh perspective wouldn't hurt, especially when you're -- the margins that your party has in the Congress are at risk. They need something quickly to change the discussion and it's not going to be easy.
DOBBS: John? JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": The model here is Ronald Reagan, who got involved in the Iran/Contra imbroglio. He realized he had to change the subject, give the impression that he was starting anew and he got rid of Don Regan and he brought in Howard Baker, a seasoned hand who had good relations on Capitol Hill, a new team, and eventually things did get better.
DOBBS: But in this case the president is turning to Medicare, his Medicare prescription plan. He's turning to speeches and events on Iraq. This is hardly turning...
FUND: ... it's flailing, it's flailing. And he needs a renewed focus and he needs somebody, whether it's a Rob Portman, the trade representative, a Phil Graham, who's the former senator, a Vin Weber, former congressman -- somebody who has a fresh perspective, new ideas, and can frankly clean house.
GOODWIN: And I think just for example on the ports, I mean he didn't see that coming apparently. It came bubbled up, he didn't know about it until he read about it. That's a great mistake. That should never happen. So if they can just stop those things from happening, it would be a big improvement.
DOBBS: Well and then "Time" magazine this week is reporting that actually, as soon as he became aware of it, he knew it was a disaster, but then pressed ahead and even threatened to veto.
SHEINKOPF: He is absolutely rigid in his choices of staff. He won't change direction, he won't listen, and he has a tenure when it comes to how people in the country are thinking and feeling.
GOODWIN: He's loyal to a fault, too.
FUND: Except they said he would never, ever give up on Harriet Miers and he did. So there comes a point where even this president has a limit.
DOBBS: A limit, and speaking of limits, debt limits. We are watching the national debt rise. The federal debt limit has just -- we're going to hit it this week. And at the same time, the treasury secretary says, John Fund -- John Snow says, "We don't want to have anything attached to this debt limit," like as the Democrats are calling for, "some reduction in federal spending."
The chairman, the new chairman the Federal Reserve on this very day says "Yes, we need to deal with the budget deficit."
FUND: We have a lot of federal spending because we have a broken budget process that's 30-years-old and out of date. The only time we have ever had substantive budget reform, Lou, is attached to a debt- ceiling bill. Perfect example in the 1980s. This is a tremendous lost opportunity if we just raise the debt and don't do something about the underlying disaster that is our federal spending machine.
DOBBS: Well you can talk about process but nonetheless, pro force, a very good economy, pro force bipartisan action. Bill Clinton was able and give the devil his due whether you're Republican or Democrat, he was able to create surpluses for three years with this process. This is about decisions that are being made by leadership both in the Congress and the White House that says the hell with the consequences.
FUND: Just remember...
DOBBS: You're a conservative.
FUND: ... those three years of surpluses, over half of that was the Internet bubble, which was a one-time.
DOBBS: Oh please.
SHEINKOPF: That's an excuse. The facts are, this is an administration out of control.
DOBBS: What is this? You're talking about $400 billion in Iraq, $400 billion, 2,309 lives at last count. And not one dollar of taxes has gone up. And by the way, the budget deficit this year will amount to 420 plus billion.
FUND: Just remember, five years, not a single terrorist attack on the homeland. Now, that's luck, we knock on wood, but I think this administration leadership has something to do with that, too. That's on the positive side of the ledger.
SHEINKOPF: You have an administration that has no clear sense about direction or policy. Economic policy is not incessantly giving tax breaks to rich people. That's very nice and all of us have benefited from it to some extent, depending on income levels, but that's not an economic policy.
DOBBS: Michael Goodwin is trying to duck this entire discussion and we're going to bring him into it when we come back in just a moment. Our reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe both the House and the Senate should vote to deny foreign government ownership of any U.S. port facilities? Please cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results coming up for you in just a moment and we'll find out what Michael Goodwin is really thinking, next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with my friend Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. We're following a developing story right now in Hawaii. A damn has just burst, washing out Hawaii's main coastal highway. Several people are reported missing already. We're going to have a live update from the Coast Guard on what's going on.
Plus protecting the poultry industry against bird flu. We're going to show you what farmers here in the United States are doing to try to get ahead of the crisis. And one on one with the world's richest man. Our Ali Velshi has the interview. He'll find out what Bill Gates thinks is the next big issue, what he thinks about outsourcing, education and China. Lou, you're going to want to stick around and watch.
DOBBS: And I will. Thank you very much, Wolf Blitzer.
Continuing our discussion here with Michael Goodwin and Hank Sheinkopf and John Fund, first, is this deficit and this -- the issues right now one of governance in your opinion?
GOODWIN: Well, absolutely. I think you can't spend it if you don't have it and I think if you're going to spend it, then you have to either raise taxes or find somewhere else. So I think government has not done what every ordinary American family has to do.
DOBBS: And Congress isn't doing much.
GOODWIN: No, not at all.
DOBBS: They go along with this president. The fact is that Russ Feingold stands up, calls for censure of the president of the United States. He doesn't get a single Democrat to stand with him. What's your reaction?
GOODWIN: Well, I thought Frist had a brilliant parliamentary maneuver and said, OK, let's vote. Let's see where you really stand on this. He called the Democrats' bluff, just as Hastert did when Murtha said let's bring the troops home awhile ago.
So I think the Democrats are trying to figure out where they stand on these issues. They don't really know. They don't want to take a clear position against the president, against the war, against wiretapping. So they're kind of muddling through and testing the waters. I think Feingold is going to be the Howard Dean of this race.
DOBBS: Say that again?
GOODWIN: In 2008, Feingold is going to run, he is going to be the Howard Dean of 2008. He's going to try and get everybody to the left.
DOBBS: Hank, from the left.
SHEINKOPF: From the left, if I'm a Democrat, I get out of the line fire and let these guys keep stepping all over themselves. The best trick the Democrats have tactically is to let the Republicans keep governing, because every day they govern, it's going to drive up the numbers for the Democrats.
DOBBS: Well, I don't know if that's fair because when you look at Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt saying that the bird flu is on its way, way and put tuna fish and powdered milk under your bed, I mean ...
FUND: He's from Utah. He's just deferring to the home folks. DOBBS: Well, he may be, but shouldn't we be expecting a little more here? Or is this simply deflection? I mean, what in the world is going on?
FUND: I think if you read his whole speech, you'll understand it in context, but as a sound bite it's awful.
DOBBS: It is awful, and ...
SHEINKOPF: We live in a land of sound bites. They've got to wake up. Every time they open their mouths, they make it easier for Democrats. Democrats just need to stand there, smile, let them keep doing what they are doing.
DOBBS: Well, what about the rest of us who are not smiling right now? I mean, we have serious issues here. We have the war in Iraq, we have the war in Afghanistan, a global war on terror. We have an illegal immigration crisis.
We're watching the Republican leadership in the Senate playing, even by Washington standards, breathtaking politician games, creating maneuvers there to kill bona fide border security legislation and illegal immigration legislation.
We are dealing with a public education system that is -- we have, as you would point out, John Fund -- we have an economy that is strong for many, but not for all. These are serious problems.
FUND: The next month is going to be the critical break point. Either this Republican Congress and president pass some legislation which has a meaningful impact on people's lives where people think that, for example, they can -- there's a bill that would allow people to buy health insurance that would end at cross lines that would -- like you do with Geico.
DOBBS: Well, let's ...
DOBBS: What piece of legislation has this Republican-led Congress and this Bush-led White House passed to support middle-class working men and women?
FUND: Indirectly, tort reform.
DOBBS: Not indirectly. I'm talking about directly, because indirectly they're getting kicked in every direction in this country right now.
FUND: I think there's an awful lot that can be done in the next four weeks. If they take the opportunity, they can repair their political fortunes.
DOBBS: Brother, I hope they take three years to help us all out. It would be a nice change of pace for Congress and for this White House to head in new, bright directions. Michael Goodwin, Hank Sheinkopf, John Fund, as always, good to talk with you.
Still ahead here, we'll have the results of our poll tonight. We'll have more of your thoughts and a preview of what we're working on for tomorrow. It's worth waiting for, believe me. Stay with us.
DOBBS: The results now you have our poll, overwhelming. Ninety- seven percent of you say both the House and the Senate should vote to deny foreign government ownership of any U.S. port facilities.
Taking a look now at more of your thoughts, Jay in Texas wrote in to say, "I think President Bush is on the right track, telling Iraqis that democracy requires compromise and that all factions should be fairly represented throughout the government. If only he would practice what he preaches at home."
Gail in Maryland: "Let me see if I understand the argument. We need foreign investments such as selling off key infrastructure to finance the out-of-control U.S. debt."
Yes, I think you have it.
And Lynn in Texas wrote in about the Department of Health and Human Service's department's plan for the bird flu pandemic. She said "Lou, I thought I heard you say the Health and Human Services secretary said put a can of tuna fish and powdered milk under my bed. Was that a joke?"
I don't think so.
Jan in Idaho: "Dear Lou, I am on the way to the store to prepare for the bird flu pandemic. Does it have to be canned tuna, or will the newfangled tuna packets work as well? And how about canned milk instead of powdered milk? And how much of each should I buy? I have a small bed and not much room underneath."
Roger in New York asks, "can I get bird flu from Chicken of the Sea? Also I'm worried that milk that has been powdered may be weaponized in some way. If I find powdered milk that gives me cause for suspicion, can I forward it to the Department of Homeland Security for analysis, or would that constitute an attack on the Department of Homeland Security?"
We appreciate your thoughts, thoughts of all kinds. Send them to us at loudobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read here on the broadcast receives a copy of my book, "Exporting America."
We thank you for being with us tonight. We hope you'll join us here tomorrow. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, will be my guest, as the Security Council prepares to respond to Iran's nuclear defiance, and a decision about the United Nations' commitment to human rights. Congressman John Barrow introducing legislation to protect America first. How about that? He'll be among our guests as well. Please join us.
For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.
"THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer begins now -- Wolf.
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