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Lou Dobbs Tonight
Bush White House Tries To Deflect Fierce Criticism; Amnesty Impasse; Deadly Day In Iraq; Sensenbrenner Discusses Immigration Legislation
Aired April 07, 2006 - 17:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight here in Washington, supporters of amnesty for million of illegal aliens have suffered a major defeat in the U.S. Senate. That defeat is also another setback for President Bush, who is facing the lowest poll ratings of his presidency.
We'll have complete coverage tonight in Washington.
Also, hundreds of thousands of people preparing to demonstrate and protest in 70 cities across the country in support of amnesty, illegal aliens and against border security. Will these demonstrators continue to display the flag of Mexico or will they fly the flag of the United States?
We'll have that special report.
And among my guests tonight, the congressman whose border security bill has helped spark these protests, Congressman James Sensenbrenner. Congressman Sensenbrenner says we cannot possibly control immigration until we can secure our borders.
And one of the worst days of violence in Iraq in months. Three of our troops have been killed, more than 70 Iraqis killed at a Baghdad mosque.
We'll have a report from Baghdad.
All of that and a great deal more, here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for April 7th.
Live from Washington, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
The Bush White House tonight appears to be in disarray. The Senate today failed to agree to a guest worker program, one supported by the president that would give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.
The White House is also facing a barrage of questions over a claim that President Bush authorized the leak of secret intelligence on Iraq.
And a new opinion poll gives President Bush an approval rating of just 36 percent. The lowest in that poll of his presidency.
Ed Henry reports from the White House on what has been a terrible week for the Bush administration.
Dana Bash is here tonight to report on the collapse of the immigration deal in the Senate and whether immigration reform is a dead issue for 2006.
Bill Tucker in New York, reporting on the hidden items that the senators tried to slip into the immigration reform bill.
We turn first to Ed Henry -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, perhaps the most ominous part of that new poll you mentioned is the fact that only 40 percent of the nation is now supporting the president and his performance on the war on terror. That's supposed to be his strength. But even today, as the president tried to make a big push on the economy, that good news about the economy is being overshadowed by other events.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... of an economic resurgence that is strong, broad and benefiting all Americans.
HENRY (voice-over): Meanwhile, in Iraq, the bloodiest attack in three months. Three suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque, killing at least 71 people and wounding 164.
The president now faces new questions about his justification for that war after the revelation that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, indicted former top aide to Vice President Cheney, has testified that the president himself authorized the release of highly-sensitive information to refute critics of the war.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: So he, the president of the United States, must tell the American people whether Bush's -- President Bush's Oval Office is a place where the buck stops or the leaks start.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's just crass politics.
HENRY: White House spokesman Scott McClellan tried to make a distinction, since the president has the legal right to declassify, he wasn't really leaking.
MCCLELLAN: Declassifying information and providing it to the public when it is in the public interest is one thing, but leaking classified information that could compromise our national security is something that is very serious.
HENRY: But Democrats charge the president engaged in selective leaking for political purposes, not in the public interest, and misled Americans when he made this pledge nearly three years ago...
BUSH: There's just too many leaks. And if there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is.
HENRY: The White House faced a barrage of questions about the fact that on July 18, 2003, McClellan said the intelligence information in question had been declassified that day. But Scooter Libby started discussing some of the sensitive information with reporters on July 8, 2003, 10 days before McClellan said the information was no longer classified.
MCCLELLAN: I'll have to take a look at it.
HENRY: Now, just in the last half hour, the president and first lady strolled over from the White House to the Blair House just across the street for a party for outgoing White House Chief of Staff Andy Card. I shouted a question to the president, "Mr. President, what's your reaction to Scooter Libby's testimony?" He looked away.
This is clearly a subject that this president, this White House does not want to touch -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much.
Ed Henry from the White House.
The Senate leadership's efforts to enforce immigration reform through Congress today collapsed under the weight of opposition from those who believe that border security should be a priority and a refusal on the part of the Democratic leadership to allow amendments to the legislation. The atmosphere in the Senate today very different from yesterday, when Senate leaders were patting each other on the back, hailing the new plan as a breakthrough.
Dana Bash has the report.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What a difference a day makes in the U.S. Senate. Yesterday, jubilation.
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: We've had a huge breakthrough.
BASH: Today, remorse.
REID: It slipped through our fingers.
BASH: Yesterday, bipartisan celebration.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: It's a win-win for everybody. And I think both Democrats and Republicans will be proud.
BASH: Today, partisan fingerpointing. SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: This is a tragedy because this did not need to happen this way.
BASH: Tragedy, these senators say, because they all still agree on a compromise they thought they would never find on a highly controversial issue, putting millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That agreement would get 65 or 70 votes. And it's not going away.
BASH: So why then did a key vote on the immigration measure fail? On the surface, it got tangled in a procedural squabble over whether senators could offer amendments. But in the freewheeling Senate, the procedure is all about politics.
The Democratic leader refused to allow any amendments, calling it a ruse by some Republicans to destroy a carefully crafted agreement because they see the compromise as amnesty for illegal immigrants.
REID: The amendments were being offered by people who didn't want the bill.
BASH: But Republicans accuse Democrats of playing election year politics.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: There was political advantage for the Democrats not to have an immigration bill.
BASH: They say Democrats want to deny the GOP leader Senator Bill Frist from claiming a much-needed victory and a high-stakes issue. And, Republicans charge, Democrats want to be able to make the case this campaign year that the GOP only favors the kind of immigration bill passed by the House, which would impose new penalties on illegal immigrants and people who help them.
But for all the recrimination, there is bipartisan agreement an immigration overhaul is too important to give up on.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And I'm concerned about the lost opportunity, but absolutely determined to keep right on fighting.
BASH: Senators are now on their way home for a two-week recess. Before leaving, the Senate majority leader said he intends to try to bring up immigration this election year, but, Lou, he made no commitments at all.
DOBBS: Well, when the Senate majority leader says something like that, Dana, what are we to take from it, that he's not leading the Senate? Because if he chooses to bring it up, he can.
BASH: Well, there is a Senate schedule that he has set out. They are going to have to do when they come back from recess the Iraq supplemental, the funding for the Iraq war and Katrina. They have a number of issues that are on the docket.
But the bottom line, Lou, is that what we saw is that it's going to be very hard for them to get any agreement to actually bring this to the Senate floor. They're going to bring it back to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but in private, nobody really thinks that this is actually going to happen this year.
DOBBS: Was anyone in the Senate today, Dana, Democrat or Republican, acknowledging that this compromise, as they styled it, effort was flawed in terms of policy, in terms of its priorities and not thought out because it was being rushed through the U.S. Senate? Did anyone acknowledge that?
BASH: Well, I think a lot of people who signed on to this did acknowledge that they didn't think it was perfect, especially those who came in at the end. But, you know, they really wanted to get something done for a lot of reasons. And they really thought this was the time.
DOBBS: And did the Democrats -- did the Democrats -- did Senator Harry Reid, the minority leader, did he explain why in any detail he would not agree to amendments? Because senators had 400 amendments they would have liked to put forward. There was apparently agreement that they could limit that to 20 principal amendments.
Why no -- why no movement there?
BASH: It was hard to get a real answer on that -- on that question, but the bottom line is, what he said is that he believed that a deal is a deal and that any agreement to bring other amendments in that would change it would simply change the agreement, and that he wouldn't buy that.
DOBBS: Well, that would be the purpose of an amendment, would it not?
BASH: Exactly. That was his point, Lou.
DOBBS: Dana, thank you very much.
The war in Iraq and the rising number of American casualties is another major issue for voters to consider in these upcoming elections. Three more of our troops have been killed in the war.
Insurgents today killed a serviceman while he was on patrol in western Baghdad. Two others of our troops killed yesterday, one in a roadside bomb attack north of Baghdad, the other in Al Anbar province -- 2,348 American troops have been killed in this war since it began three years ago, 17,469 troops have been wounded. Of those, 8,015 so badly wounded they were unable to return to duty.
Insurgents also attacked Iraqi civilians today. They killed more than 70 people at a mosque in Baghdad. More than 130 other people were wounded in the attack, which was one of the worst in Iraq in months.
Aneesh Raman reports from Baghdad.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, good evening.
Iraq's capital on high alert tonight after a day of prayer turned to a day of mourning.
RAMAN (voice-over): Outside one of Baghdad's most prominent Shia mosques, heavily guarded to prevent against attacks like this, a suicide bomber detonated a vest of explosives amid guards. At least two other suicide bombers then used the ensuing chaos to move closer and detonate their vests, killing more.
Survivors loaded bodies on to trucks. Some seething with pain, others with anger. Anger that Shia leaders fear could soon lead to actions beyond their control.
ABDELAZIZ HAKIM, SCIRI DEPUTY HEAD (through translator): For three years we have baring the slaughtering, killing and attacking of our innocents. We are always talking to our people to restrain themselves, but gradually people will start not to obey, and revenge actions are a danger.
RAMAN: This attack is the second in as many days against prominent Shia religious sites. Thursday, meters from Iraq's holiest Shia shrine in the country's holiest Shia city of Najaf, 10 worshippers were killed by a car bomb. Amid scenes like this, Shia militia leaders argue that if Iraq's security forces cannot protect their sites or their people, they will do it themselves.
But the same militias are thought to be behind reprisal attacks against Sunnis that in recent weeks have left hundreds dead in those areas and why senior U.S. military officials say they are now Iraq's biggest threat.
MAJ. GEN. RICK LYNCH, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: The militias are wrong. The militias are bad for the people of Iraq, and the militias have to be disbanded.
RAMAN: But the only people who can disarm Iraq's Shia militias are Iraqi leaders, who four months after election day are embroiled in political wrangling and yet to form a government.
RAMAN: This attack will likely enrage and embolden Iraq's Shia militias. And if they are allowed to continue to operate at will, it means U.S. forces could have to play an increasingly pivotal role in keeping Iraq away from civil war -- Lou.
DOBBS: Aneesh Raman reporting tonight from Baghdad.
Coming right up here, more good news for American students who want to demonstrate their support for the American flag in their public schools.
And the shocking privileges for illegal aliens hidden within the Senate immigration legislation that has just died. We'll have that special report on the program senators did not want you to know about.
And illegal aliens and their supporters do not like the Senate impasse on amnesty. They're taking to the streets again, pushing amnesty and more.
We'll have that story, a great deal more, coming right up as we continue tonight from Washington, D.C.
DOBBS: The latest polls show voters have a very low opinion of the president and even lower opinion of the U.S. Congress. President Bush's political problems are escalating despite White House efforts to promote so-called economic success. And the Congress seems unable to complete any important business at all.
Bill Schneider reports.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): New York is about money. The Dow Jones Industrial Index is the town's key indicator. Right now, it's pretty high. New York is happy.
Washington is about power. The president's job approval rating is the key indicator. Right now, it's very low. Washington is worried.
How low is it? We took a poll of polls.
Nine national polls taken since the beginning of March show 36 percent of Americans on the average expressing approval of the way President Bush is handling his job. But why does it matter? President Bush can't run again. The president's job rating has a powerful impact on what happens to his party in the midterm elections, especially with an unpopular war.
STU ROTHENBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: The midterms are likely to be much more a referendum on George W. Bush, the war in Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: But the problem is not just President Bush. Look at the job ratings people give Congress.
An average of 33 percent approval, even lower than the president's. Congress isn't doing its job. The House of Representatives can't pass a budget. The Senate can't pass immigration reform.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: The government here in Washington has passed one serious immigration bill in 30 years. This is a very, very difficult issue to deal with in American society. SCHNEIDER: There's a venerable American tradition called "throw the bums out." It's gaining momentum this year. Since Washington is now a Republican town, most of the bums are Republicans. In four polls taken over the last month, Democrats average a double-digit lead when registered voters are asking how they would vote for Congress.
SCHNEIDER: Does that mean that the public is moving to the left? No. It means they're ready to throw the bums out -- Lou.
DOBBS: We'll see, as they say, shortly.
DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
Well, there are reasons for the U.S. middle class to distrust Congress tonight. Hidden deep within that 500-page Senate legislation, that immigration bill, are programs that would provide for illegal aliens, foreign workers that would greatly, greatly injure American workers and taxpayers. The Senate trying all the while, apparently, to hide those from you, the American voter.
Bill Tucker has the story from New York.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Microsoft's Bill Gates would have plenty of reasons to smile if the Senate gets its way. Senator Arlen Specter wants to double the number of H1B visas with built-in, automatic, no debate, no discussion 20 percent increases every year thereafter that the new limit is reached.
But the senators aren't talking out loud about that.
KIM BERRY, PROGRAMMERS GUILD: The Senate is hiding the H1B because they know it's very unpopular with voters to replace American workers, middle class Americans with overseas labor when there's plenty of Americans available.
TUCKER: The unemployment rate for high-tech workers runs above the unemployment rate for other professions. But corporate America likes H1B visa worker because they work on average for $13,000 a year less than American workers.
But that's not the only way the Senate is taking aim at the middle class. Quietly, they've added a bill allowing states to grant in-state college tuition rates to the children of illegal aliens. A right not available to citizens or legal residents from other states.
KRIS KOBACH, UNIV. OF MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY: It's also profoundly unfair to the students who are trying to follow our laws and are coming from other countries. In any given year we have tens of thousands of students from countries around the world who are here on student visas and are playing by our rules and are following all of the laws.
TUCKER: Also included, a more than doubling of the number of green cards from 140,000 per year to 290,000 per year.
TUCKER: What is not in the bill or any of the bills being debated on the Senate floor or the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lou, job protections and wage protections for American workers.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.
It is remarkable what the Senate does not want us to know about their crushing inability to come to terms with the great compromise, as they styled it. Americans could well be grateful tonight that they were unable to come to terms with that compromise.
Bill Tucker from New York.
In tonight's poll, we would like to know and we ask, do you plan to voice your opinion on the lack of border and port security to your congressmen and your senators? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll be bringing you the results here later in the broadcast.
If you do choose to make yourself heard, here is how you might do so. You can e-mail the president through the White House Web site at whitehouse.gov. Your senator can be reached at senate.gov. Your representative can be e-mailed through the House of Representatives Web site: house.gov.
Or you can link to any one of those Web sites through ours, LouDobbs.com. And we'll be glad to help in any way we can.
Still ahead here, the illegal alien lobby is in full revolt. The call for coast-to-coast demonstrations this Monday. We'll have a special report for you.
And the man sparking those protests, Congressman James Sensenbrenner, he's our guest here tonight. We'll be talking about illegal immigration, border security, the chances of meaningful reform this year in the nation's capital. And we'll also be talking about something kind of rare in this city. We'll be talking about truth.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Well, officials at another public school have finally come to their senses in the school flag ban debate. The Shaw Heights Middle School in Westminster, Colorado, has reversed its ban that prevented students from carrying or wearing the American flag to class. Students from this school tried to show their support for our flag after illegal aliens and supporters prominently displayed the Mexican flag during protests against the Sensenbrenner legislation. Earlier this week, the Oceanside Unified School District in California also reversed its ban against students bringing American flags to school after that policy came under intense attack across the country.
Just when you think that decency, commonsense have left the country, you find out it's still here. Perhaps weakened, but nonetheless still here.
This weekend, hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to resume their nationwide marches in favor of expanded rights for illegal alien, amnesty and against the Sensenbrenner legislation. Many organizers are calling upon protesters and demonstrators to leave this time their Mexican flags home and to carry the American flag instead.
What a great idea.
Casey Wian has the report.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Six hundred Florida high school students cut class to march in favor of expanded rights for illegal aliens. You're likely to see many more pictures like these over the weekend, leading up to Monday's national day of action on immigrant rights.
Marches are scheduled in some 70 cities in 32 states. They're being organized by Latino advocacy groups, religious organizations, unions and others.
ANA AVENDANO, AFL-CIO: Communities around the country are standing up together on behalf of the rights of all workers and on behalf of the humane and dignified treatment of immigrants in our nation.
WIAN: In other words, they're seeking legalization for all of the 11 to 20 million illegal aliens in United States and expansion of the number who are allowed to enter legally in the future. Protesters are emboldened by the failure of the Congress to pass border security legislation.
FELICIA MARTINEZ, SACRAMENTO, CALIF., MARCH ORGANIZER: We encourage people to join these local mobilizations in order to continue to put pressure on Congress, both the House and the Senate, to continue to oppose some of these harmful enforcement measures that are still present.
WIAN: Some organizers are trying to counter criticism of the overwhelming presence of Mexican and other flags in previous demonstrations. They're encouraging demonstrators to wave the American flag.
ENRIQUE MORENO, BORDER ANGELS: You'll see on Sunday when we do our march, you'll see a lot of American flags. We're all part of America. We want to demonstrate it in a peaceful manner. And it's important that we do showcase that we're proud to be part of America.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Racists, go home!
WIAN: It's a clear change in tactics. Previous demonstrations have included threats to smash the border, charges of racism against border security advocates, even sporadic violence. Organizers say these protests will be peaceful.
WIAN: Border security activists say they continue to be outraged by the large number of illegal aliens and illegal alien supporters marching through American streets. So they're planning their own national day of action a week from Monday -- Lou.
DOBBS: You know, it would be a very wise thing, it would seem to me, for those protesters, these activists, if they're sincere, to set down those other flags and talk about American issues with an American flag flying above them.
Is it -- does it appear at that point that the organizers are going to be successful in that -- that counsel?
WIAN: The organizers say they will be, but there are some radical elements within these group that the organizers have not been able to stifle. So we'll probably see more Mexican flags -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well, in any given group of people at any given time in this country, you can find some radical elements.
DOBBS: Thank you very much.
Casey Wian from Los Angeles.
Now, let's look at your thoughts.
Joe in Massachusetts wrote to say, "Lou, are we going to get so politically correct in this country that we'll no longer have a country, take down the American flag because people feel it is insensitive to others?"
Well, Joe, I've got to tell you, I think we've got a reason to be encouraged as these school districts who were overwhelmed with political correctness initially gathered some commonsense and perhaps looked at what country they're in to permit the return of the American flag.
Ginny in New Mexico, "Lou, if our schools decide not to fly our American flag, maybe we should cut their federal funding."
Any school who does that, I think, frankly, will have far more problems than federal funding.
Steve in Florida, "Lou, you said the White House leak will question the credibility of this White House. Nope, there's no credibility to question."
And Susana in Florida, "Lou, if the Congress is so ready to give away citizenship, they should give away their own."
Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. We'll have more of your thoughts coming up here later in the broadcast.
Coming right up, I'll be joined by the man that many have placed at the center of the immigration battle and these protests, Congressman James Sensenbrenner. And tonight we're going to be setting the record straight and we're going to be talking about truth, something that's in short supply in this national debate. And we're going to discuss how amnesty for illegal aliens may not be even remotely close to the direction that you would want to go when you find out what it will cost you and millions of American taxpayers.
That special report and a great deal more coming right up.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Should Congress ever pass an illegal alien amnesty bill, it would cost this nation's taxpayers tens of billions of dollars while at the same time jeopardizing the economic well-being of the middle class.
Is America ready to pay that high price once Americans are aware of it, for what is an unworkable program as it has been described in legislation at least to this point in the U.S. Senate? Lisa Sylvester reports.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Senate debated several immigration proposals this week, but absent from much of the discussion was the impact of an amnesty bill on taxpayers.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: This is going to be a very, very expensive proposition and we ought to have a better idea of how much it's going to cost.
SYLVESTER: The defeated Hagel-Martinez bill that would have given legal status to millions of illegal aliens, would have cost on the very low end, $12 billion in the first 10 years, according to preliminary estimates from the congressional budget office.
CBO says outlays in the following 10 years would be substantially greater.
JAN TING, LAW PROFESSOR, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: Who is going to provide health care for these 12 million illegal aliens? Where are all these children going to go to school? Well they'll just go right into our public schools and the local school districts will have to cope as best they can. SYLVESTER: The federal government already spends about $10 billion a year on social programs for illegal aliens. If they were legalized, the Center for Immigration Studies estimates the social cost of amnesty could jump to $30 billion a year.
STEVE CAMAROTA, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Illegal aliens are costly not because they're lazy and don't work and not because they came to get welfare. Rather, it's because they generally have very little education. And people with very little education generally don't pay much in taxes, but tend to use a lot in services.
SYLVESTER: The Pew Hispanic Center found that newly arrived illegal aliens earn just under $26,000 on average. That's only slightly more than the federal poverty level.
SYLVESTER: The Congressional Budget Office says the Hagel- Martinez amnesty bill would have imposed huge new unfunded mandates on state and local governments. In fact, the CBO estimates that the amnesty bill would have exceeded legal limits. Lou?
DOBBS: And Senator Jeff Sessions pointed out immediately that it was a budget buster and couldn't be moved forward at any rate. Don't you find it fascinating that this broadcast is criticized by the open borders, pro-illegal alien activists and, of course, corporate America and the lobbyists because we present the facts on these issues, facts that would bring a lot more comfort to them if the American public didn't know it?
SYLVESTER: It's amazing to think that they're actually having a serious discussion on this and a lot of the questions, the questions of how they would implement this, how they would pay for this, it just goes virtually ignored in the Senate.
And then to watch those giant tears shed by some of our U.S. senators on Capitol Hill lamenting the passage of this so-called compromise breakthrough. Even by Washington standards, it's an incredible performance. Lisa, thank you very much for keeping the record straight as always -- Lisa Sylvester.
Immigration reform isn't the only piece of business that lawmakers failed to finish before heading off on their new two-week break. The Senate failed to complete work on $70 billion of tax cut extensions and legislation that would have granted alternative minimum tax relief to the middle class.
The House failed to agree on an almost $3 trillion budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year. Without that blueprint, the House is in danger of passing individual budget bills that will further widen an already difficult and ever larger U.S. federal budget deficit.
The illegal alien lobby has focused its fury on the work of one man, Congressman James Sensenbrenner. His border protection, anti- terrorism and illegal immigration control act has sparked in fact angry demonstrations all across the country.
Critics have derided the Sensenbrenner Bill as evil, draconian, un-American, racist, xenophobic, not to mention anti-Christian. And despite the best efforts of the U.S. Senate, it has been unable to come up with an alternative to this legislation. Congressman James Sensenbrenner joins us here now in Washington D.C. Congressman, it's good to have you here.
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: Happy to be here, Lou.
DOBBS: The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee -- at first I want to just ask you the collapse of this so-called compromise in the U.S. Senate. Your reaction?
SENSENBRENNER: The Senate doesn't get it. We made the mistake of giving amnesty 20 years ago and not enforcing employer sanctions. And instead of solving the illegal immigrant problem, we ended up getting four times more.
And the Senate again wants to give amnesty and not have effective border security and enforcing employer sanctions. I have seen demographic projections that it means that we'll get 20 million more illegal immigrants in the next 10 years.
DOBBS: Your legislation, I think you would acknowledge, it's not perfect. I'm not familiar with a piece of legislation that is. Though I think most people don't know and certainly the organizers, I'm sure, of many of these demonstrations -- and if I may I'd like to take some time and just set the record straight on some very critically important issues.
One, why does the Sensenbrenner legislation, and this is something I disagree with as well, make it a felony for an illegal alien in this country rather than a misdemeanor?
SENSENBRENNER: I offered an amendment to reduce the felony penalty to a misdemeanor. And it was defeated because of an almost unanimous Democratic vote against it in the House. These are the same Democrats that are now criticizing the bill for making it a felony, but when they had the chance to reduce it to a misdemeanor, they voted the other way.
A little cynical and play on politics, yes. Dealing with an important issue facing the American public that way is just bad policy and bad politics.
DOBBS: Well, having set the record straight on that, let's talk about another -- the cardinal of the Los Angeles Diocese, Roger Mahony, saying we should break the law -- his parishioners should break the law, Catholics should break the law if indeed the Sensenbrenner legislation is passed because it would mean that good Samaritans -- and Senator Hillary Clinton has also said that even Jesus Christ himself would be a criminal under the terms of this legislation. How do you respond to them?
SENSENBRENNER: What's really interesting is 20 years ago encouraging an illegal immigrant to stay in the country was made criminal. And the United States Catholic Conference strongly supported that.
DOBBS: Let's say that again, 20 years ago, 1986.
SENSENBRENNER: Encouraging an illegal immigrant to stay in the country was made criminal and the U.S. Catholic Conference supported it.
What my bill does is that it gives prosecutors the tools to get at the alien smugglers who are trafficking in people, having them bring drugs across the border and to throw these people in jail?
DOBBS: Drugs, human smuggling, for all sort of purposes.
SENSENBRENNER: Yes, prostitution, indentured servitude and things like that. And I'm a Christian and I believe that smuggling people and trafficking in humans is probably the most immoral thing that people can do short of murder.
DOBBS: So when Cardinal Mahony calls upon the Catholics in this country to defy that legislation and he's worried about the good Samaritan helping an illegal alien, whether it be on the border, out in the desert or in the churches of Los Angeles or anywhere else, he's worried about being prosecuted, what would you say to the cardinal?
SENSENBRENNER: Look at the record. He shouldn't be worried, because in the 20 years that encouraging an illegal immigrant to stay in the country has been criminal, there's been not one good Samaritan prosecuted.
DOBBS: Not one?
SENSENBRENNER: Not one. And yesterday Attorney General Gonzales testified before the Judiciary Committee that good Samaritans won't be prosecuted.
DOBBS: We have in your legislation, obviously, providing for border security, dealing substantively with many of the issues. I think the American people -- and this is just a guess -- I think most people in this country, certainly the audience of this broadcast, are aware that we have to secure our borders before we can possibly control immigration and we've got to be able to control immigration before we reform it.
Why doesn't that get to the U.S. Senate or is -- are they under such the sway of big employers, corporate America and special social interests groups that they can't be honest and straightforward and understand there has to be a priority?
SENSENBRENNER: Well the people aren't where the protesters are. And one of the things that is vitally important is that the senators realize that in the two weeks that we've got in a recess. People have got to speak out because this is our one opportunity to have border security and enforcing our immigration laws against employers who break the laws by hiring scads of illegal immigrants. DOBBS: I think that you and I and a lot of other people in this country agree something has got to be done about the illegal alien crisis. But there's no way to kid the American people, there's no way to fool the American people. If the Congress and this president can't deliver secure borders and secure ports, it is foolish to even consider immigration, an attempt at immigration reform.
SENSENBRENNER: If we don't do that, Lou, we're just going to have more illegal immigrants crossing our border. That's what happened 20 years ago when the Simpson-Mazzoli bill failed. And if we don't do first things first, and do it the right way, we're going to see the economic collapse as a result of the flood of illegal immigrants going into our schools, collapsing our healthcare and taxing our social services.
DOBBS: Congressman James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, good to have you here.
SENSENBRENNER: Thank you.
DOBBS: Up next, four of this country's most distinguished political analysts join me with insight into the illegal amnesty debate, the White House leak controversy, plunging poll numbers for this president, and plunging poll numbers for this Congress. Stay with us.
DOBBS: The White House today desperately trying to put a good face on an economy that the facts show to be seriously unbalanced but which the White House wants to stress is doing great. America's middle class continues to take a beating as good paying jobs continue to disappear, replaced by lower paying jobs.
In March, America lost nearly 7,000 manufacturing jobs in the automotive and aviation industries. Meanwhile, retailers hired 30,000 clerks and salespeople, bars and restaurants adding 33,000 waiters, bartenders, dishwashers.
And the government hired 24,000 new employees, all the new jobs and sectors that face no competition from outsourcing or imports and they'll do nothing to correct our monstrous trade deficit, which reached a record $724 billion a year ago. But everything's boffo in America.
This has been another week of setbacks for the Bush administration. Efforts to pass the guest worker program for the president broke down in the Senate, new sectarian violence raging in Iraq, and the very integrity of the president being called into question on the CIA White House leak case.
Joining me tonight here in Washington is Joe Madison, host of "The Black Eagle" on Washington's WOL radio; and our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider; and in New York, my partners Michael Goodwin of the "New York Daily News"; Ed Rollins, former White House political director. Gentlemen, good to have you. Let me start, if I may, with the nattily-attired Joe Madison who has an event here.
JOE MADISON, WOL RADIO'S "THE BLACK EAGLE": Well, it's not every day that Lou Dobbs comes to Washington.
DOBBS: Which raises the question, what is Bill Schneider?
DOBBS: This is -- let's start with these poll number, Joe. I mean, this gets -- the Congress is down to 30 percent in the latest AP-Ipsos poll. The president down the 36 percent. I mean, good grief, the American people aren't thrilled here.
MADISON: Well, of course, they're not thrilled. And I think in your last segment, it was very clear. You just simply can't fool the American people. The people that I talk to every single day, mostly African-Americans on our Radio One talk network -- look, they're not feeling this. They're insulted when you say there are jobs that Americans won't do. And we keep asking ...
DOBBS: By the way, we all ought to be incensed by that.
MADISON: Who are these Americans and what are their jobs? And then when you see this potential crash that's going to happen, states already suffering in terms of budget with education and other things, this is going to be a disaster.
DOBBS: Do you agree, Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think so. I think people are very dispirited, but the main reason is the war in Iraq. I mean, when they see Americans getting killed, that is very distressing because instead of getting better, this war is getting worse. And there was an election in December in Iraq. It is now April. There's still no government in Iraq.
I think that leads Americans to ask what in the world are we doing there? Especially with news that a civil war may be breaking out between Sunnis and Shiites, the question is, whose side are we on and what does it matter to us?
DOBBS: Michael Goodwin, somebody pointed out to me the other day that the second term of the Bush presidency is now just a little over a year old. And it feels like it's been years, they said.
MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Right.
DOBBS: That says a lot. But what does it suggest to you?
GOODWIN: Well, I think he's never quite gotten off on the right start. This whole second term has been a mess, and I think it started with such promise in a way. He talked about spending his political capital. He looked like he was emboldened after defeating John Kerry. But it has been one problem after another, of course, Katrina. But I agree with Bill. I think Iraq is the fundamental problem. Someone described it as the bone in America's throat. And I think as long as Iraq continues to go south on us, I think that the public is going to be restive.
And then you pile everything else on top of that -- competency as Katrina exhibited, the jobs issue, the economy, the borders, the immigration. Everything sort of piles up on top of it. And the news is bad, so the president really can't catch a break. And, of course, the poll numbers are just going to go down south with it.
And so I think he's not been able to right the ship. He has tried something of a modest shake-up in the White House. It's too soon to say whether that's going to work. There's been talk of doing more. But right now he's still way off course. And there's no clear way to get back.
DOBBS: Off course, Josh Bolten moved in to be the chief of staff. There's a party here tonight in Washington for his outgoing chief of staff, Andrew Card. The policy failures that have just been referenced here by our colleagues is remarkable.
Is this administration, is this president, incapable of coming to terms with policies that are not working, changing them, and moving on and setting a new standard for himself, and the country?
ED ROLLINS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, there hasn't been an agenda. I mean, first of all, they declared a massive victory after the election over Kerry. And it was all hype. I mean, they won by three million votes out of more than 100 million cast. That's not a gigantic election, and Bill Schneider can tell you that better than anybody.
What they did have was an opportunity to have a second term with an agenda, if they had an agenda. They could have sat down with the Congress and said, this is what we're going to do, but they didn't.
They went to the Hill and they said, we're going to do Social Security reform. They didn't talk to Bill Thomas, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. They didn't have an agenda. The president ran all over the country for months and months talking about Social Security and his numbers dropped dramatically.
Then when a crisis came along, he couldn't handle it well. And then you have the continued effort to try and sell the war that nobody believes is effective. And as tragic as the deaths are, the American public, when they realize the cost of this and the repeated costs when we have to go replenish all the military, you know, it could be half a trillion dollars and far more than that as opposed to replacing things here in this country that desperately need spending.
DOBBS: We're going to come back to that issue and we're going to, if I may, ask each of you, as well, to answer something that I cannot figure out to save me. Why is this administration and this Senate, in particular, and this House so averse to the idea of doing something directly supportive of working men and women in this country and middle class families? We'll get to that in just a moment.
And a reminder now to vote in our poll. I'll be back with the panel, but first, please, do you plan to voice your opinion on the lack of border and port security to your Congressmen and senators over their two-week spring break? Please cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have those results in just a few minutes.
We'll be a back with our panelists and a great deal more. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
We're following several stories including those deadly tornadoes. Storms happening right now, leaving destruction in their path. We're following the twisters.
Also, presidential pressure. The White House facing tough new questions over intelligence leaks. We're covering all sides of the political fallout. We'll also hear from former Senator John Edwards.
And a $100 million plan to move homeless from downtown Los Angeles to the suburbs. But will they be any more welcome there?
Plus Jesus goes pop culture, from "The Da Vinci Code" to hit movies, how religion has become a huge moneymaker. All that, Lou, coming right up right at the top of the hour.
DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf. Looking forward to it. Now, back with our panel.
Joe, let me start. Why can't this Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike and this president, just say, you know, the middle class is foundation of the country, the men and women working in this country are critically important? Why can't they just say that?
MADISON: Look, I'll be very concise with this. One is that they are corporatists. They're playing to the corporatists interest which could care less about increasing the wages of middle class and poor working people. There are over 20 million poor working people who have signed up for jobs.
And number two, I guarantee you on this spring recess, Congressmen and senators are going to get an earful because all politics is local. And if you notice, the president of the United States is not going around the country talking about local successes here in this state or that city because there are very few of them.
DOBBS: Ed Rollins?
ROLLINS: You know, the interesting thing is these guys aren't working. They have their own guest worker program. They just came back from two weeks for St. Patrick's Day, now they're off to two weeks for the Easter. You know, ordinary Americans have to work every day.
They get up, they have to face putting food on the table and taking care of their kids. And these guys don't have to do that -- and gals -- anymore. And I think to a certain extent, they've lost touch with that middle class. They look at polls, but they don't talk to ordinary people. And I think that's to their detriment.
DOBBS: Michael Goodwin, do you believe that working men and women in this country, 280 million that were all but forgotten in this illegal immigration debate, are they capable of mustering themselves and actually -- because I'll tell you, thousands of e-mails we get here, people are really frustrated with the Congress that does nothing and a president that is taking the direction they perceive to be in entirely the wrong direction.
GOODWIN: Well, I think on this issue, Lou, what you have is you have the demonstrations I think making a very big impact. Then you have the advocates and the lobbyists in Washington. So I think once the senators get out of there a little bit, they may get an earful.
But I have to tell you, Lou, right now, I think that this was not a failure so far. This was progress that they did not pass this bill. And I'm hopeful when they come back to Washington, they will come back with a better idea and a different way of enforcing immigration at the borders and then worry later about the 11 million who are already here. So there's hope now that they didn't do a bad bill.
DOBBS: I happen to, Michael, agree with you 100 percent. Bill Schneider, you get the last word here tonight.
SCHNEIDER: When they go home to their districts, you know, they're supposed to be working. Let's be fair about this. They're supposed to be keeping in touch with the voters. That's part of their job. They listen to people complain, they hear what the people have to say. I've seen it happen 1,000 times.
They come back to Washington and they all talk about here's what the voters in my district are angry about. And they're likely to hear about Iraq, they're likely to hear about immigration reform, and they're going to come up all fired up about something. And we're going to try to figure out what that is.
DOBBS: And public schools that are failing our kids, the outsourcing of jobs, record deficits, federal budget deficits, trade deficits, health care -- it goes on. If ever there was a time for leadership, it appears to be now. Bill Schneider, Michael Goodwin, Ed Rollins, Joe Madison, thank you, gentlemen, appreciate it.
Still ahead, the results of tonight's poll. We'll have more of your thoughts, and we'll take a look at what is likely to happen come Monday. Please stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Now the results of our poll. Ninety-three percent of you say you will voice your opinion on the lack of border and port security to your Congressmen and senators when they return to you over the next two weeks. That's hopeful.
Now more of your thoughts.
Larry in Vermont saying, "Our government doesn't know how many illegals are in this country. And now they claim to know how many years these people are in the United States? Give me a break."
Erin (ph) in Arizona: "The present bill they're working on is nothing but window dressing. All it is, is amnesty wrapped in fraud. It only represents the views of special interests and not the American people."
Tom in Michigan: "If Congress is serious about the illegal immigration crisis, why don't they call off their spring break and work it out right. What can be more important than securing our borders?"
And Hugo in New York: "Maybe the idea of building a fence across the border isn't so bad. We could send the entire U.S. Congress to build it as long as they're standing on the other side when they finish it."
Well, those are your thoughts. We love hearing from you. Send them to us please at LouDobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read here on this broadcast receives a copy of my book, "Exporting America."
Also, if you would like to receive our e-mail newsletter, sign up on our Web site, LouDobbs.com
And if you want to get a hold of your Congressman, your senator and the president, we can make it easy for you on that same Web site.
We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here Monday. We'll report on the so-called day of action rally for immigrant rights. I'll be joined by a U.S. Congressman taking part in those nationwide protests, one of the leading organizers of the demonstrations. We hope you'll be with us.
For all of us here, we thank you for watching. We hope you have a pleasant, great, weekend. Goodnight from Washington, D.C.
"THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
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