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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Insurgents In Iraq Launch One Of Their Most Daring Attacks Of War; President Bush Indicates Troops Could Remain In Iraq For Years; Republicans Work To Make Sure Bush's Iraq Policy Doesn't Damage Election Prospects; Lawmakers May Make Pension Situation Even Worse; North Korean Will Not Surrender Nuclear Weapons; Iraq War Came Up Repeatedly In Today's Press Conference With President Bush; Sonia Nazario Discusses New Book; Congress Set To Remove Identity Theft Protections

Aired March 21, 2006 - 18:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, March 21.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.

Tonight, insurgents in Iraq launch one of their most daring attacks of this war. One hundred insurgents stormed on Iraqi police station. Can Iraqi police and troops fight the enemy successfully without American help?

We'll have a live report for you from the Pentagon.

Also, President Bush today insists the United States will succeed in Iraq, but the president indicates our troops could remain in Iraq for years to come.

We'll be live at the White House with the latest.

And what do the American people think about the president's policies on Iraq and other critical issues? I'll be joined tonight by three of the country's leading radio hosts. We'll be talking about what their audience is telling them -- Randi Rhodes, Mark Simone, Doug McIntyre.

All of that and more coming up here tonight.

But we begin with one of the boldest insurgent attacks in Iraq since this war began. Dozens of insurgents today stormed an Iraqi police station near Baghdad. The insurgents killed at least 18 Iraqi police officers, they freed 30 prisoners.

Today's attack comes as President Bush defends his conduct of the war, and today he did so in a news conference at the White House.

Barbara Starr will report from the Pentagon on the insurgents' attack on that police station. Kathleen Koch reports from the White House on the president's efforts today to defend his Iraq policy. And Ed Henry from Capitol Hill reports on the escalating political battle over Iraq in this election year.

We turn first to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Lou, even as the president was holding that press conference at the White House, more details were coming in about that attack in Iraq.


STARR (voice over): One hundred insurgents stormed the police headquarters in Muqdadiya, 65 miles north of Baghdad, firing rocket- propelled grenades and machine guns in a daring early-morning attack. The attackers freed 30 detainees. At least 25 people were killed, many were police officers, raising questions again about the capability of those forces.

Eighty-nine thousand Iraqi police have been trained. But U.S. commanders say some units are infiltrated by insurgents. Some are loyal to their own militia groups. And some are now behind the sectarian violence.

So, can U.S. troops ever really leave the Iraqis on their own?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will there come a day where there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That, of course, is an objective. And that'll be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.

STARR: The president resisting a specific timetable for a troop withdrawal, but anticipating the war will go on for at least three more years.

Senators visiting Iraq warned a new government must soon be established or U.S. support could erode further.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We cannot fool or deceive the people of the United States or Iraq as this government is being formed. It must come about as a unified government. It must come about quickly because of the very tenuous situation here in Iraq today.

STARR: The president, again, expressing his optimism about victory but acknowledging the U.S. has had to adjust its own tactics as the insurgency emerged.

BUSH: Listen, every -- every war plan looks good on people until you meet the enemy.


STARR: Lou, the Pentagon making the case that U.S. forces continue to adapt to insurgency tactics. But U.S. strategy now rests solely on getting those Iraqi forces trained to take over this latest attack on the police station shows there may be a very long way to go -- Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara Starr, thank you very much, from the Pentagon.

Insurgents today killed one of our soldiers in Baghdad. The soldier was shot while he was on patrol in the western part of the city -- 2,316 of our troops have now been killed in the war since it began three years ago. More than 17,000 of our troops have been wounded.

President Bush today insisted that Iraq is not on the verge of civil war. In a surprise news conference, President Bush also indicated American troops could stay in Iraq for years to come. President Bush said future presidents will be responsible for making a decision on U.S. troop withdrawal, as you just heard.

Kathleen Koch now reports on the president's fight against his critics.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm optimistic we'll succeed, if not, I'd pull our troops out.

KOCH (voice-over): The last minute press conference was part of a White House campaign to reassure skeptical Americans about the war in Iraq, but one exchange implied the conflict will not end any time soon.

QUESTION: Will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

BUSH: That, of course, is an objective. And that will be decide by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.

QUESTION: So it won't happen on your watch?

BUSH: You mean a complete withdrawal? That's a timetable, you know. I can only tell you that I'll make decisions on force levels based on what the commanders on the ground say.

KOCH: Even if the conflict outlasts his presidency, Mr. Bush insists it has not degraded into a civil war. He backed his embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and admitted all the advice he'd gotten on the war has panned out.

BUSH: I don't believe he should resign. I think he's done a fine job of not only conducting two battles, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also transforming our military, which has been a very difficult job inside the Pentagon. Listen, every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy.

KOCH: The president acknowledged the political capital he garnered with his 2004 election victory is running low.

BUSH: I would say I'm spending that capital on the war.


KOCH: Now, President Bush also took questions on Iran, on immigration reform, rising interest rates, his domestic surveillance program. And he also expressed some personal frustration with those nearly 11,000 FEMA trailers sitting in Arkansas instead of providing shelter for hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast. The president said he had contacted Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to find out what was going on and do something with them -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kathleen Koch from the White House.

Thank you.

KOCH: You bet.

DOBBS: The president's comments today on achieving victory in Iraq were in stark contrast to remarks he made three years ago. Today, President Bush declared, "We've got a strategy for victory, and we're making progress."

That statement was far more cautious than the message he delivered in his "Mission Accomplished" speech pack in May of 2003. When speaking on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, the president said, "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began September 11th, 2001."

Top congressional Democrats today accuse President Bush of pursuing dangerously incompetent policies in Iraq. Meanwhile, many Republican lawmakers and candidates are trying to ensure the president's Iraq policy doesn't damage their election prospects.

Ed Henry reports from Capitol Hill.


BUSH: Good morning.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The president acknowledged Republicans are uneasy about the midterm elections but reminded everyone he's beaten the odds before.

BUSH: Remember '02 before the elections, a certain nervousness, there was a lot of people in Congress wasn't sure I was going to make it in '04 and whether or not I would drag the ticket down.

HENRY: But the difference between then and now is the president's poll numbers, especially on Iraq, have plummeted. Emboldening Democrats.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: There's really no disagreement. The disagreement is between everybody and Rumsfeld. Everybody and Cheney. Everybody and the president. Everybody and Karl Rove. That's where the disagreement is.

HENRY: And even as the president counseled patience at his White House press conference, a key Republican was in Baghdad delivering a stern message to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari.

Senator John Warner said he told the prime minister, in forceful terms, Iraqi officials have to move quicker to form a unity government.

WARNER: So let us not disappoint the people, because I can assure you that people in the United States, if it does not happen, a unified government, expeditiously, will rise up and speak with a very loud voice.

HENRY: Back home on the campaign trail, Republicans are keeping their distance from the White House. The president's Iraq speech in Ohio on Monday was not attended by Senator Mike DeWine, who is locked in a tight re-election.

And in New Jersey, Vice President Cheney headlined a major fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Tom Kean, Jr. But the candidate himself did not show up until after the vice president departed.


HENRY: Democrats charge that Kean, Jr. didn't want to get his photo taken with the vice president, who is widely unpopular in New Jersey. The Kean campaign insists to CNN there was no concerted effort to avoid appearing with the vice president. They say the candidate merely got caught in traffic -- Lou.

DOBBS: You've got to love politics.

Ed, thank you very much.

HENRY: Thank you.

DOBBS: Ed Henry.

In tonight's poll, our question is: Do you believe the president's recent, more frequent speeches and appearances will help or hurt his approval ratings? Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up later in the broadcast.

Still ahead, America's pension system is crumbling and needs to be fixed, and quickly. And Congress could be worsening the crisis. Our special report on the war against the middle class ahead.

Also, President Bush's fast-track fever. Why the White House is rushing in to free trade agreements that could further damage this nation's economy.

And communist North Korea is threatening a nuclear attack against the United States. We'll have that special report next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Leave it to this nation's Congress to continue to conduct a war on our middle class. Instead of finally agreeing to strengthen this country's crumbling pension system, lawmakers may soon make the situation with our pensions even worse.

Christine Romans has the report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The White House wants Congress to fix the pension mess.

BUSH: A growing economy means we've got to have a private pension system that is fully funded and one in which those who pay into the private pension system keep the promises they made.

ROMANS: But after a year of lobbying and political horse trading on Capitol Hill...

JEREMY BULOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: The bills we're seeing in the House and Senate are definitely giant steps backward.

ROMANS: ... a conference committee is hammering out a compromise that may actually weaken the pension system. Congress, under intense pressure from companies, is allowing them more time to cover their gaping pension shortfalls and virtually eliminating disclosure requirements.

And analysis by the government's pension agency forecast Congress' so-called reform will slash funding to the system by up to $160 billion over next three years. Essentially, under-funding a crumbling pension system in an attempt to fix it.

BULOW: It takes a better economist than me to figure that one out.

ROMANS: Critics say Congress would allow unrealistic assumptions on how long retirees will be drawing pensions and special exceptions for the airline industry and some companies.

Congressman Rob Andrews supported House legislation but is now concerned the final bill may be watered down.

REP. ROB ANDREWS (D), NEW JERSEY: I think the larger interests that want the flexibility to walk away from pensioners and dump the obligations on U.S. taxpayers wrote the right campaign checks, made the right campaign contributions and got away with it.

ROMANS: Without reform with teeth, many fear more pension failures, more government liability and less security for the American worker.


ROMANS: Now, critics say this is anything but historic reform. They say it just delays reform for another couple of years. And if company profess are riding high, if this economy can't afford reform today -- if companies can't afford reform today, when will they ever afford it -- Lou.

DOBBS: This Congressman Andrews, I mean, he's saying it just like it is, lobbyists writing checks, the influence of corporate America right now in public policy. I'm sure President Bush has threatened to veto this.

ROMANS: Actually, he has. He would like to see some tough, tough measures here, and Congress not following through.

DOBBS: Tough on the companies or tough on middle class working men and women?

ROMANS: It's going to be tough on everybody all around. This is -- it's a touch situation.

DOBBS: Well, we're going to continue to follow the story, and I guarantee you that there will be at least transparency in the process that leads to whatever the result.


DOBBS: Thank you.

Christine Romans.

The Minutemen headed back to Arizona, and they will be lining up along the Mexican border next month. The Minutemen also fielding civilian border patrols last April, considered to be the most heavily trafficked month of the year.

The volunteer patrols focusing national attention on the issues of border security and illegal immigration. Organizers say the patrols will remain on the border until the federal government passes a border security bill. That could be some considerable time, as you might suspect.

Still ahead here, you know about NAFTA and CAFTA, but that's just the beginning of our so-called free trade agreements. Why the federal government is negotiating free trade free-for-alls with dozens of countries all around the world at a considerable cost to our working men and women in this country.

And you see the polls, but what are the American people really saying about the president, the war in Iraq, and a host of other issues, including illegal immigration? I'll be talking with talk radio show hosts from all across the political spectrum and the country, and they'll tell us what people are saying.

That's next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: The Bush administration, of course, remains committed to its agenda of so-called free trade despite the high costs and despite the fact the Central American Free Trade Agreement won congressional approval by the slimmest of margins last year. Now U.S. trade representative Rob Portman is pursuing free trade agreements with 20 countries all around the world.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Costa Rica, protesters held a mock funeral for the U.S. Central American Free Trade Agreement. In Ecuador, demonstrators gathered to oppose similar trade talks with Washington.

There's opposition to these trade deals abroad and at home.

REP. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: It's pretty clear these trade agreements aren't working, they're costing us jobs, they're hurting our communities when one more plant closes and then another plant closes.

SYLVESTER: Since 2002, when Congress gave the president authority to fast-track trade negotiations, the United States has either reached an agreement or is in trade talks with 25 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Peru, Oman, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Botswana and South Africa. That compares to only four countries in the previous two decades.

Critics say the United States is giving away too much.

LORI WALLACH, PUBLIC CITIZEN: They have broad rules about how we can spend our tax dollars, getting rid of buy America. They have broad rules about who can own services inside the U.S. So, for instance, the ports deal that we were able to reverse, under some of these trade agreements, there foreign investor rights or procurement rights that say we couldn't do that in the future.

SYLVESTER: Supporters argue the trade agreements are good for the United States because it opens up new markets to U.S. companies.

THEA LEE, AFL-CIO: Each time it turns out the opposite, that rather than selling more products overseas, we're moving more jobs and we're moving them faster.

SYLVESTER: Most of the countries the United States is signing agreements with are part of the developing world, where wages are paid in cents, not dollars, environmental rules are lax, and labor standards, subpar. That means it's cheaper for a company to manufacturer there than in the United States.

For big business, that translates into profits. For the U.S. factory worker, it often means a pink slip.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: And now the United States is closing in on an $800 billion a year trade deficit. Fast-track authority is scheduled to expire in the summer of 2007. So the Bush administration, which has been quite pro-business, is trying to squeeze in as many as new trade deals as possible -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, it's a question of when in the world do we ever learn?

Thank you.

Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

Tonight, a Dubai government-owned firm is putting on hold its purchase of Britain's Doncasters Group. Doncasters is a military equipment firm with nine plants in the United States.

The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is investigating this deal for security threats that it might pose to the United States. Dubai International Capital says it will not complete this deal until CFIUS delivers its ruling.

That announcement comes two weeks after Dubai Ports World, another Dubai government-controlled firm, backed out of a deal to buy U.S. port operations.

Now turning to some your thoughts.

Ceil in Vermont wrote in about our poll question last night in which we asked whether you believe the low approval ratings for the president and Congress are the result of poor communication or poor policies. She wrote to say, "I think the president's low approval ratings are a result of excellent communication of poor policies."

Stew in New York, "Lou, looking at the policy decisions of the White House and Congress, I wonder how come most of the people working there aren't required to register as agents of foreign governments."

David in Maine, "Lou, the only way to help our country is to eliminate corporate and foreign government lobbyists."

Tony in Florida said, "Lou, I just don't know why people are in an uproar about Congress taking so many days off this year. Hell, they don't do anything for the American people when they're at the office. So are they really going to be missed?"

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

Up next, North Korea threatens a first strike with its nuclear missiles against the United States. Is it really a cry of war or is it another cry for more attention?

And our radio roundtable tonight. Talk show hosts from all across the country and across the political spectrum tell us tonight what their listeners are saying to them and what America is thinking. As identity thieves are targeting your personal information, lobbyists are hard at work in Washington to make sure you can't do a thing about it.

We'll have that special report and a great deal more coming right up.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Communist North Korea today threatened to launch a preemptive nuclear attack against the United States. North Korea also declared it will not bow to American pressure to surrender nuclear weapons.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): North Korea today said a preemptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States. The CIA says North Korea has highly destructive 500-kilogram payload longer-range missiles that can reach Hawaii or Alaska, but those missiles have not been tested. North Korea also has an estimated six to eight nuclear weapons.

The statement comes just days before the United States and South Korea hold their annual joint military drills. But many say the threat is a ploy.

JON WOLFSTHAL, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: They're feeling that they have pursued nuclear weapons for many years to get American attention and to try to change the situation for one way or the other on the Korean peninsula. And they're finding themselves literally drowned out by what's going on in both Iraq and Iran. And so I think they are trying to use rhetoric to seize our attention and refocus American efforts on the six-party talks.

PILGRIM: Those talk have been stalled since last November.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: What we would do, first of all, is encourage the North Korean government to return to the six- party talks, to engage in serious discussions, as opposed to making inflammatory statements.

PILGRIM: North Korea is now trying another tactic, trying to leverage the U.S. nuclear deal with India to its advantage.

HENRY SOKOLSKI, NONPROLIFERATION POLICY ED. CTR.: They actually started to make diplomatic arguments. That is, trying to bring everyone to the view that the exceptional treatment of India should be the standard for everybody.

PILGRIM: That recently-struck deal would give U.S. civilian nuclear technology to India. The North Koreans say it would be a wise step for the United States to cooperate the same way with them.


PILGRIM: Now, Pyongyang has apparently decided to grab the world attention back from Iran and Iraq with new demands, making threats to get its way. As one nuclear watchdog put it, the North Koreans think, what's the point of having a nuclear weapon if they can't use it to some advantage -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you very much.

Kitty Pilgrim.

Diplomats tonight saying the United Nations Security Council is now deadlocked over just how to respond to the uranium nuclear crisis. The Security Council today postponed new talks on the issue because communist China and Russia are refusing to support efforts to pressure Tehran.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton says he will continue to work on a compromise. The United States is pushing for a strong statement of condemnation of Iran's efforts to enrich uranium, and China and Russia refusing to sign off on tough language that would demand a halt.

Iran's supreme leader said for the first time today he supports talks between the United States and Iranian officials over Iraq. This is the first time that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that he is in favor of talks with the U.S. on ways to stabilize Iraq, but he warned that the United States must not "bully Iran." And he said Iran's nuclear testing will be completely off the table in these talks.

Well, President Bush held his 24th news conference of his presidency today. With his approval ratings stuck below 40 percent, the president has been publicly campaigning now to build support for his policies, principally in Iraq. The Iraq war came up repeatedly in today's questioning.


QUESTION: Will there come a day, and I'm not asking you when, I'm not asking for a timetable, will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

BUSH: That of course is an objective. And that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.

QUESTION: So it won't happen on your watch?

BUSH: You mean a complete withdrawal, that's a timetable. I can only tell you that I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say.


DOBBS: Joining me now, Randi Rhodes, she's the host of "The Randi Rhodes Show" on Air America radio. Mark Simone, talk show host on WABC Radio here in New York. Doug McIntyre, host of "McIntyre In the Morning" on KABC in Los Angeles. Let's start with you, Randi. What did you make of that statement by the president.

RANDI RHODES, "THE RANDI RHODES SHOW": First of all, it was a surprise news conference. And I don't know why it has to always be a surprise. I just think that the idea that the president, you know, surprises the press and says, OK, I will finally talk to you, I will finally meet with you when the war's been, misrepresented, let's say, a thousand ways to Sunday.

When you have the temerity to question the president about, where are the weapons of mass destruction? Oh, that's, you know, that's not allowed. Or if you say to the president --

DOBBS: Or it's unpatriotic, disloyal.

RHODES: Unpatriotic you don't love the troops. I remember a member of the armed services standing up and saying to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, why do we have to forge around and look for armor in garbage dumps to up-armor our Humvees? And they blamed that on the media. The media fed him the question. Apparently, we're the problem, not the president.

DOBBS: That them has resurfaced again. As you know, Mark. And that is, the president blaming the media. Donald Rumsfeld blaming the media. Are we the problem?


DOBBS: Do your listeners think we're the problem.

SIMONE: Republicans have to be realistic about this. In this country, the media doesn't cover power plant openings or school openings. They cover violence and crimes. That's what they cover and that's what they will do over there. If you want better news, you'll have to have better news to be reported.

DOBBS: Doug McIntyre, one of our viewers here wrote in and said, Lou, since you've been accused as a member of the media of being the problem, why don't you do what the administration does and that is spend and lie and deny. And so, should we just deny that we're the problem or are we in some part responsible?

DOUG MCINTYRE, HOST, "MCINTYRE IN THE MORNING": Well, everybody's responsible. I mean, Lou, I've never seen anything like what we've got going on right now. I mean, I just believe that now you get more trouble with the truth than you do way nice palatable sugar-coated lie across the board.

DOBBS: Well, and I know that each of you, and part of the reason you're here, is each of you delves in the truth and you're willing to take the trouble that comes with that. No sugar-coating. There was a little sugar-coating, I thought, I don't know about you, Doug, with the president's response on illegal immigration. He's talking about onion guy. And the guy with the onions. He updated it from Cleveland yesterday. Talking about you know, poor fellow's got to find work -- workers, and he can't possibly know where everybody's from or whether they're legal. Did that strike a sympathetic chord with you?

MCINTYRE: No. It's just patented nonsense, Lou. I mean you can use an ATM card in Milan, Italy, and they can deduct the money from your account. We have got the technology to trace people. There's no willingness to do this. George Bush represents not Republicanism, he reports corporatism. And this is insourcing. This is the other shoe of outsourcing.

They can't outsource the bellhop and they can't outsource the driveway paver. But what you can do is insource millions of cheap laborers and drive down the wages of working Americans and that's what they're doing.

DOBBS: So, wait a minute, let me see if I have got this right, Doug. You're suggesting there is some sort of alliance that is working to import cheap labor and export jobs to cheap labor?


DOBBS: Where does that leave our middle class? I'm just wondering, Doug?

MCINTYRE: It leaves them stiffed. In fact the subject of racism always comes up, especially when you look like Hitler youth, like I do, and you talk about the border issue. But what we're doing is inherently racist. In Los Angeles, for instance, this is an anomaly, perhaps. But the construction trait --

DOBBS: Most people regard Los Angeles of something of an anomaly in a positive way.

MCINTYRE: Some truth to that. But the drywall trade here in Los Angeles used to be dominated by African-American construction workers and over last 20 years, jobs that were $18 an hour went to $15 and then vanished after $13 and they have gone completely. What we are doing is we are crushing the working poor of all races and all ethnic origins.

DOBBS: Is the same thing happening here in New York, other parts of the country. Are you hearing a lot on this issue from your listeners, Mark?

SIMONE: Everybody's furious about this issue. Here's another case where you have to be realistic. Democrats and Republican, both sides, think on this. You need antitrust action here. It's like when all the oil companies collude on something. They've both somehow agreed not to do anything about this problem.

Democrats see this as a source of cheap votes. Republicans see it as a source of cheap labor. The idea of, once somebody's broken into the country, it's like if somebody broke into your house you wouldn't then try to find some legal status for them to remain. DOBBS: Right.

SIMONE: But neither party's going to anything about this.

RHODES: So what are we going to do when you have a situation where we have a 2,000-mile hole and only one side of the hole is trying to plug up the hole?

And other side keeps -- I mean, the only way to actually discuss this is to broaden it out and realize that America's had this love affair with cheap labor for centuries, and unless Mexico actually develops some sort of a business plan for itself, then you are going to have people risking their lives, dying in the desert, trying to get here. Knowing that when they get here, we have a CEO of America who belongs in the mail room, not in the boardroom. And doesn't do --

DOBBS: You've said that before, haven't you? You just made that up? I like that.

RHODES: I was watching you on "Bill Maher" and you know Lou's got a good point there. And I thought, he's not the CEO president. He belongs in the mail room. That's where Bush belongs. And until we get serious on both ends, of finding people who hire cheap labor, and ending their love affair with cheap labor, because it's no longer permitted, you'll be breaking the law if you hire somebody for less than a working wage.

And actually engaging Mexico in some sort of an industry that the president doesn't want us to be engaged in. For instance, President's got a problem with stem cell research, right?

Let Mexico become the preeminent stem cell research hub of North America. You know, some things got to develop for them.

SIMONE: There's a myth that you can't close the border. You can do it in this day in age with motion detectors and it doesn't take that many troops to do it. The Soviet Union kept their borders closed for years. Nobody got out.

MCINTYRE: Mark, the point starts with the willingness to do it. This is not government incompetence and it's not a conspiracy theory. It's a business model. This is the plan. It's capitalists getting together to put capital in a business model to flood the market with cheap labor and it all comes together.

Mexico's going to build a $2 million deep sea port in Baja, California. Here's where it all comes together. You are export manufacturing to Asia, you import it into the Baja Peninsula, where you dodge the longshoreman's union and OSHA and air quality management, and then you bring it into America on trucks. It's like the back of the shampoo bottle, shampoo, rinse, repeat.

And who is stiffed is the American worker and that's what they want to do. They want to lower the standard of wages to level the playing field so they can make NAFTA and CAFTA and soon it'll be hafta and you'll hafta go to another country to get a job. DOBBS: Let me ask each of you this. In talking to your listeners and listening to your listeners, is there a sense that there isn't really a wit's worth of difference between a Democrat and a Republican in Congress.

I'm not talking about broadly views between liberal and conservatives and although I'm not sure -- we'll talk about that in a minute. Is there any sense, Mark, amongst yours listeners that it's a big deal.

SIMONE: It's a huge deal to our listeners. But they all have the sense you can't turn anywhere for this. Republicans have no plan on this and Democrats have no plan on this.

RHODES: Oh we have a plan. We just have no voice. You have to remember, Democrats can't even have a hearing. I was asked to come to The House of Representatives to talk about media issues and we weren't even allowed to have a hearing. We went to the basement. We had to call it a forum.

DOBBS: They sent you to the basement?

RHODES: We had to go to the basement.

DOBBS: That's a spirit of bipartisanship.

RHODES: When you go there, you're in awe. Because it is a holy American institution and there's all kinds of statues, the hall of statues and there's an American flag from 1790 and then you go in the basement. There's not one thing of art on the wall and there's school chairs. You can't call the chairman of the hearing, Mr. Chairman. You have to call him Congressman Conyers or whoever. We're not -- we have no subpoena power. We can't get any information.

DOBBS: Wait, wait, wait. We still a government here that we do have elections.

RHODES: We have a government but we have no power. That's what it means to be in the minority. So fully, we have an executive branch that's very secretive. A Congress that's a majorities of Republicans, which means they have the chairmanship of every single committee. Which means that Democrats have no subpoena power.

DOBBS: But that was the case for years with the Democrats.

RHODES: Look at immigration for one second.

DOBBS: Sure.

RHODES: Immigration, I defer to you, Lou. Broken Borders is your entire series. It's educated me on things.

I live in New York and you obviously do too, and so do you, mark. And when we walk down the street I bet we hear about 12 languages from 38th to 39th Street. It doesn't seem to really upset our economy all of that much. But I understand that it's an American issue, immigration. It's not a partisan issue.

I know Democrats have ideas of immigration, but they're not allowed to say anything because they can't have a hearing on it. They can't discuss it. Maybe we should be fining people who hire illegals to tamp down on this love of cheap labor.

DOBBS: You would think, because it is an America that ...

RHODES: It's a Democrat idea.

DOBBS: There's a Democratic idea.

RHODES: That's the difference.

DOBBS: It's not America that loves cheap labor. It's illegal employers that benefit from and love cheap labor.


DOBBS: I believe in labor being well paid.

RHODES: That's right, because you believe in a middle class. That's why.

DOBBS: Silly, me.

RHODES: And I'm a middle help class kid too, so I believe in it also. But ...

DOBBS: By the way, America's built on a middle class.

RHODES: And so think about what is the benefit to a power elite without a middle-class.

DOBBS: Mark Simone and Doug McIntyre are going to kick me for letting you dominate the entire last minute and 30 seconds here.

SIMONE: No, that's OK.

DOBBS: Mark Simone, Doug McIntyre, would you all come back please?

SIMONE: Absolutely, Lou, anytime.

DOBBS: And we'll give you all of the time. I'm going to invite Randi back, but we're not going to let her talk at all. Can we deal with that?

MCINTYRE: It's the first time I have ever been outtalked in my life.

DOBBS: She's used to not having her word heard in the basement of the Capitol. I hope you all three come back and we'll continue the discussion.

RHODES: Thanks, Lou, it's a pleasure to meet you. DOBBS: Thank you all. Good to be with you.

And reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe the president's recent and more frequent speeches and appearances will hurt or help his approval ratings? Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here in just a few minutes.

Also ahead, why Congress is turning its back on Americans worried about identity theft. It's a big problem, so why is Congress making it worse? We'll have that special report.

And the dangers that illegal aliens face, risking their lives to come to this country. I'll be talking with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the new book, "Enrique's Journey," about the travails of illegal aliens, those trying to find a new life in this country, and the proper response for this country to the crisis of illegal immigration. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario has spent years reporting on how the illegal alien crisis is destroying families and lives of the immigrants. Four years ago, Nazario followed the voyage of a Honduran teenager named Enrique, who entered the United States illegally looking for his mother.

Nazario's reports show how teenagers making this same dangerous trip aboard Mexican freight trains are often attacked and abused. Sonia Nazario's new book about her trip is called "Enrique's Journey."

Joining us tonight from Los Angeles. Sonia, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Let me first -- it is a fascinating tale and an important story to tell, and I don't think -- I certainly can't think of another that captures the dreadful experience of being an illegal alien any better. The humanity you bring to this story is remarkable but I found it also -- and I'll be honest -- surprising.

You also brought great, great reason and dispassionate analysis to the solutions for this. You don't give as much time to that, but certainly your credentials are strong in talking about solutions. First, what inspired you to tell this story?

NAZARIO: Well, Carmen, my housekeeper, would come twice a month to clean. And one morning I asked her if she planned to have more children. And she's normally very chatty and happy, and suddenly she went silent and she just started sobbing. And she told me about these four children she had left behind in Guatemala.

She was a single mother, her husband had left her, and she listened to their cries of hunger every night. She could feed them once or maybe twice a day. And so she made this very painful decision to come to the United States. She had not seen them in 12 years. And I ask myself, how does a woman, how does a mother, travel 2,000 miles and leave her children not knowing when or even if she'll see them again. I wondered what I would do in their shoes and it just fascinated me.

DOBBS: And it's a fascinating tale that is "Enrique's Journey" and we won't discuss what happens with Enrique because that's part of the tale. But we should, I think, discuss a couple of things, and amongst them is your sense of what is happening.

As you know, the issues come down to the importance of border security, the importance of dealing with the issue of illegal immigration, and then the issue of dealing with the issues of those who are in this country illegally and what should be done about them.

Let's start with your view about the people that -- you mentioned almost two million, and we should all stipulate, no one knows the numbers. These are the best estimates possible of numbers but you talk about almost two million children this in this country illegally. And we don't hear discussions in public policy arenas about what to do about those children. What do you think should be done?

NAZARIO: Well, I think first all what's important is that the very face of illegal immigration to the United States has changed. We think of this as mostly men who come from Mexico, and that's changed radically in the last 20 years.

There are millions and millions of women, mostly single mothers, who have come and they have left these children behind in these wrenching separations that they think will be one or two years that stretch out into five and 10 years. And there are more than 48,000 children each year who come in search of them, and so it's a huge number of children who are coming.

DOBBS: Sonia, I have said in term of dealing with illegal immigration that there is a syllogism that I simply cannot break. Perhaps you can. We cannot reform immigration -- as our representatives are now apparently trying to do -- we cannot reform immigration unless we can control it. Would you agree with that part of the syllogism?

NAZARIO: I think a vast majority of the American public wants to control illegal immigration. There are 700,000 people entering the country illegally every year. The question is, how realistically does America go about doing that? And what's being proposed in the Senate is more of what's been tried in the past and according to many studies has not succeeded, quite frankly. And so what will ...

DOBBS: Well, let me finish the syllogism then.


DOBBS: You can't reform immigration if you can't control it, and you can't control immigration unless you control the borders. What's your reaction? NAZARIO: Well, I would say based on what I saw -- I mean, obviously, all of us believe we're a country of laws. But from what I saw in terms of the incredible desperation of these women who are heading north -- I mean, can you imagine what it takes for a parent to leave their child, to walk away from their child.

This incredible desperation of these women and the determination of these children to make it through Mexico, some of whom tried 27, 28 times get through Mexico -- when you see that close up, as I did, on the rails in Mexico, what people say is that there is no way to really change this flow until it is addressed at its source in these few countries that send the overwhelming number of illegal immigrants to the United States.

DOBBS: Mexico and ...


NAZARIO: And that the United -- I'm sorry.

DOBBS: Please finish. We're out of time, but go ahead.

NAZARIO: That the United States really needs to formulate a foreign policy geared towards illegal immigration and trying to work with these countries to try to elevate their economies and create jobs for these women so they can stay at home by their children's side, which is the best solution.

DOBBS: Sonia Nazario, "Enrique's Journey" is the book, a terrific read. We thank you for being here. Come back soon.

NAZARIO: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Still ahead, we'll have more of your thoughts and e- mails. Also, why Congress wants to take away important identity theft laws now in place to protect you, me, and all Americans. That special report on your Congress at work in the war of the middle class. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Lou. We're going to have much more on President Bush's surprise news conference today. In some cases, it's not just what the president said, it's how he said it.

Plus, the veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas fires a tough question at Mr. Bush. What does she think of his answer? Helen Thomas joins us here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

And Clinton versus Clinton? A serious question today about one of America's most prominent power couples. Who's the boss? We've got the story. Lou?

DOBBS: We look forward to hearing the answer, Wolf, thank you.

Identity theft is growing to epidemic proportions in this country and Americans are demanding action. Instead, however of helping their constituents, Congress is set to take away important protections from I.D. theft. Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California has one of the nation's toughest laws allowing consumers to protect themselves against identity theft.

One requires companies to notify customers anytime their Social Security number, passwords or personal identification number falls into the wrong hands. And it gives consumers the right to freeze their credit reports before they're victims of fraud, meaning no one can gain access without specific authorization from the consumer.

But a congressional committee has voted overwhelmingly to weaken those protections to Californians and residents of a dozen other states.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: What this bill did that was reported at a committee, it said that you had to be a victim of identity theft. The horse is already out the barn. They're already stealing your name, your credit cards and everything else. You have to be a victim before you can lock your credit files. How fair is that to people? That doesn't protect individuals. I don't know who it protects.

WIAN: Opponents of the proposed Financial Data Protection Act say it really protects credit reporting agencies, financial services firms, retailers and others who mail out sensitive personal information to leak. Those industries have been using their muscle in Washington.

ABIGAIL CAPLOVITZ, N.J. PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP: There's a good hundred lobbyists down there representing various industries and interests, compared to two on the side of the consumers. Just a number of industries out there who are really looking to be able to be sloppy with our information and not tell anyone.

WIAN: One provision requires companies to notify consumers of a security only if the company determines the leak may harm or inconvenience the consumer. And it strips enforcement away from state attorney's general and gives it to the federal government.

Representatives of the banking and retail industries say the tougher state laws are too cumbersome, ineffective and costly. The Federal Trade Commission estimates nearly 10 million consumers are victims of identity theft each year, with annual losses mostly to businesses, of nearly $50 billion.


WIAN: One of the proposed measure's sponsors said in a statement, "the committee has crafted a balanced bill that makes sure companies safeguard their sensitive information and insures that consumers are fully protected if data is breached." Several other bills are still pending in the Senate, Lou, so there's still a chance lawmakers will pass a measure that's more friendly to consumers.

DOBBS: More -- the odds would be about 100-2, wouldn't they? Isn't that the consumer activists said the odds were of lobbyists, 100-2?

WIAN: But the consumer activists are getting some help. They're lobbying state governments. Governors are already on board opposing this legislation. They're going after the state attorney's generals to try to get them on board as well, Lou.

DOBBS: All right, Casey, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Casey Wian reporting from Los Angeles.

Still ahead here tonight, we'll have the results of tonight's poll and more of your thoughts. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Well now the results of our poll tonight. A tremendous response. A lot of passion or as President Bush might put it, a lot of emotion, 93 percent of you said the president's recent more frequent speeches and appearances will hurt his approval ratings, not help them.

Now, more of your thoughts. Marty in Indiana saying: "Vicente Fox is more of a terrorist than Saddam. He is sending illegal to the United States who are costing us (you and me) for their health care, food stamps, education, loss of good-paying jobs, interpreters for every one of their needs. To me, that is terrorism."

And Judy in Indiana: "Force Mexico to keep its people there. Their people can work at the Maytag plant where my job went."

Terri in Alabama: "Dear Lou, I thought I had seen it all until I found a job listing that stated, 'Only those with English as a second language need apply.'"

And Shirley in Maryland: "My psychiatrist told me that I could get off my anti-anxiety medication if only I would stop watching your show. Sorry Doc, but I am hooked on hearing the truth."

Thank you and we hope that we can give you some relief from all that anxiety as well. Send us your thoughts at Thanks for being with us tonight. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer begins now -- Wolf.