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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Marines Recalling up to 2,500 Reservists; Iran Says it's Ready for 'Serious Nuke Talks'; Ultimate Enemy; Vali Nasr Interview; Debate Underway in Suffolk County, New York Over Attempt to Stop Hiring of Illegal Aliens; Amnesty Bill Would Cost Over $100 Billion Over Next 10 Years

Aired August 22, 2006 - 18:00   ET


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the Marine Corps is recalling more than 2,000 reservists to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some Marines will be recalled involuntarily.
We'll have a special report.

And Iran says it's ready for what it calls serious talks about its nuclear program. But Tehran apparently refuses to stop enriching uranium.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, August 22nd.

Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody.

Tonight, the United States is facing dangerous new challenges in Iraq and rising nuclear defiance from Iran.

The Marines are recalling up to 2,500 reservists because of a critical shortage of specialist troops. At the same time, Iran appears to be playing for time in its nuclear confrontation with the rest of the world. Iran says it's ready for serious talks, but an Iranian news agency says Tehran is refusing to stop making nuclear fuel.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on the Marines' struggle to find enough volunteers for combat jobs.

Aneesh Raman reports from Tehran on Iran's apparent efforts to stall its nuclear showdown.

And Chris Lawrence reports from Jerusalem on Israel's fears about a possible Iranian nuclear attack.

We begin with Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, as most U.S. troops know, the day you hang up your uniform does not end your military obligation. And today, the U.S. Marine Corps announced that it will be recalling to active duty up to 2,500 Marines who are in what's called the Individual Ready Reserve. Those are Marines who are no longer on active duty but still have a military obligation.

They will get about five months' notice before they have to deploy, and then they'll be deployed for tours of between 12 and 18 months to Iraq or Afghanistan. Those tours will not start until the spring or summer of next year, and the Marine Corps says it will ask for volunteers first from the reserve before calling -- before involuntarily recalling some Marines back to active duty.

This is not the first time that the Marine Corps has done this. Back at the beginning of the war in Iraq in 2003, the Marine Corps also activated about 2,000 from the Individual Ready Reserve.

The problem is that they have a shortage in some critical job specialties. And those include combat arms, military police, communications, and intelligence specialists, as well as engineers. Those are areas where they're going to need additional Marine expertise from Marines who have already been through training.

The Marines will get extra training before they deploy, and if there's a hardship created by being recalled to active duty, the Marines can apply for a deferment or even an exemption -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Jamie, what can you tell us about the likely size of the U.S. force in Iraq next year and the possibility of major troop withdrawals?

MCINTYRE: Well, one of the things that we can see from this call-up is that, for the time being, anyway, the U.S. military is maintaining the current force size in Iraq. It had hoped for significant troop reductions this year. But so far those reductions have had to be kept on hold because the situation in Iraq simply hasn't improved enough to make any troop reductions.

Will that still be the case next year? At this point, nobody knows.

PILGRIM: Thanks, Jamie.

Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

The deputy commander of coalition troops in Iraq today accused Iran of stoking up violence. British Lieutenant General Robert Fry said the coalition has clear evidence of Iran's meddling in Iraq.


LT. GEN. SIR ROBERT FRY, DEP. COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE: Certainly we know that some of the arms coming into this country and being used in attacks against the security forces are provided by Iran. Certainly we believe that there is money and maybe even some training being involved for those involved in the use of violence inside Iraq.


PILGRIM: Now, separately, a senior British commander today said Britain may sharply reduce the number of its troops in Iraq. The commander said the number could fall by half by the middle of next year, to between 3,000 and 4,00 troops.

Iran today said it is prepared to begin talks about its nuclear program as soon as tomorrow, but Iran made the offer in a meeting with international diplomats in Tehran.

Aneesh Raman is the only U.S. network reporter in Tehran at that -- at this moment, and here is his report.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The world wanted a simple answer from Iran. Instead, it got this, a lengthy written reply.

In it, Iran called for a new formula to end the crisis, called for serious negotiations to begin as soon as tomorrow. But most importantly, gave no sign it would stop its nuclear program by the end of the month.

This was Iran showing itself eager to restart dialogue, and, it seems, eager to change the world's focus. It's no accident that the most direct comments today came not about Iran's nuclear program, but about U.S. President Bush from Iran's supreme leader.

The Ayatollah Khamenei was quoted as saying, "This person speaks as if he's the owner of Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and other Islamic countries. However, if the immense force of the nations is fielded, as took place in Lebanon, the arrogant will be humiliated."

Khamenei made the comments with the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sitting close by.

(on camera): Iran's response, of course, made big news around the world. But did it make big news here in Iran?

Today was a day off for people, an auspicious Muslim holiday. They came here to the market to go about their business, and they did voice concern for what might come next.

(voice over): Here, the vendors hawked their fruits. As the people came to shop, the shop owners, like Emir (ph), showed apprehension. "Yes, sanctions will definitely have an impact on the market, on my business. People are afraid. They are anxious."

"We Iranians don't like to have crises," said Mashid (ph). "We like to have a peaceful and tranquil life. We are worried, but we don't make the decisions. We hope whatever decision is made that it ends well for our nation."

Most here support Iran's nuclear program, whether it brings sanctions or not. But as their government shows no indication of scaling back its nuclear activities, the people of Iran can do little now but prepare for the hardships that might come. (END VIDEOTAPE)

RAMAN: And Kitty, another hitch in all of this is that Iran has multiple power centers. While the chief nuclear negotiator delivered today's official response, Iran's president is set to hold a rare press conference, just ahead of the U.N. deadline. He could offer new solutions and new words -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks, Aneesh.

Aneesh Raman in Tehran.

Well, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, today said Iran must comply with U.N. demands or risk sanctions. Bolton said it's time for Iran to convince the world that it has only peaceful intentions.

Richard Roth reports from the United Nations.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After much fanfare, Iran gave no public indication it was ready to accept international demands and freeze its nuclear enrichment program. Iran did say it wants serious negotiations but offered little to calm fears the country wants to expand its nuclear program. Iran says it wants electricity, not bombs.

Traveling in South Africa, Iran's foreign minister criticized the Security Council.

MANOUCHEHR MOTTAKI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Are they serious to their commitment to respect and help to realize the right of Iran for having nuclear technology for peaceful purposes?

ROTH: The European Union has a package of economic incentives on the table if Iran would cooperate.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMB. TO U.N.: If they don't, we've also made it clear that their unwillingness to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons will result in our efforts in the Security Council to obtain economic sanctions against them.

ROTH: But China and Russia would be opposed to a rush to impose sanctions. Both countries with large business dealings in Iran believe the region is too unstable to start slapping sanctions on Tehran. Mideast war-weary United Nations officials are just hoping that Iran doesn't become the latest flash point.

IBRAHIM GAMBARI, U.N. UNDERSECRETARY-GENERAL: So really it is very important not to add another very serious damnation to an already very dangerous war.

ROTH: Even with a negative response, some diplomats making their hopes on Iran changing its mind by August 31st, the final day for Iran to decide under the Security Council resolution. NANA EFFAH-APENTENG, U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL PRES.: So anything can happen. Between the 22nd of August and the 31st of August, anything can happen.


ROTH: Iran's talk of a new formula is likely designed to put a wedge between Russia and China on one side and the United States, Britain and France on the other when it comes to sanctions. Bu tit's clear the West, the European Union and the United States, will not wait long to go to some type of resolution call once Iran's final answer is in. They expect it, it seems, to be a no.

Back to you -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much, Richard Roth.

Well, Israel believes Iran is the most dangerous threat to its national security. Iran supplied Hezbollah with rockets that bombarded northern Israel. And now Israeli officials fear Iran may one day fire a nuclear missile at Israel.

Chris Lawrence reports from Jerusalem.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Rockets fired from Gaza. Katyushas launched from Lebanon. But senior officials say Israel's ultimate enemy is Iran.

RAFI EITAN, ISRAELI SECURITY CABINET: We should be ready for rockets from Iran.

LAWRENCE: Iran has been refusing demands that it stop enriching uranium. Tensions with the United States have been escalating over its nuclear program. And a senior cleric says if the United States attacks Iran, Israel will pay the price.

(on camera): Rhetoric aside, do you really believe that Iran would directly attack Israel?

ERAN LERMAN, FMR. ISRAELI INTEL. OFFICER: I think Israel has to be worried.

LAWRENCE (voice over): Former Israeli intelligence officer Eran Lerman says Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made his intentions clear, the end of Israel. Iran says its uranium enrichment program is not designed to build bombs. But Lerman says Iran's missiles are designed to one day carry a nuclear warhead.

LERMAN: Shahab series was refitted and -- and made to reach Israel quite specifically.

LAWRENCE: Some Israeli officials believe the Shahab missile could reach as far as Tel Aviv.

EITAN: We have enough anti-missile missiles that we are able to attack the center, but not -- not all of Israel.

LAWRENCE: (AUDIO GAP) test--fired another shorter-range missile. Iranian officials say they're designed to defend the country from an Israeli or American attack. But former spy master Rafi Eitan is warning Israelis to prepare for Iran's aggression.

EITAN: They should put the public on alert.

LAWRENCE: Israelis have been climbing out of their bomb shelters after the Katyusha attacks. Eitan is urging them to immediately reinforce those bunkers for what may be the greater war to come.

(on camera): Eitan says Israel should be ready if the U.S. hits Iran. He hopes that President Bush would give Israel advanced warning to minimize the damage he's sure would follow.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Jerusalem.


PILGRIM: Still to come, the murder suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case makes his first appearance in court in this country. We'll have the story.

Also, local communities across this country are fed up with the federal government's failure to stop illegal immigration. And now many communities are taking action on their own.

Plus, Boomtown, USA. How the search for new energy sources is creating an economic boom in parts of the American West.

And Iran's rising nuclear menace. One of the world's leading authorities on Iran's nuclear ambitions will join us.


PILGRIM: Tonight, new local initiatives fighting illegal immigration are gaining momentum across the country.

Christine Romans reports from Suffolk County, New York, where residents tonight debate a measure aimed at stopping employers from hiring illegal aliens.

And Casey Wian reports on a new ballot initiative in Phoenix, Arizona. It would force police to help catch illegal aliens.

We begin with Christine Romans -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, emotional public testimony here tonight on a proposed ordinance that would require contractors who are bidding for county work prove that their employees are in this country legally.


ROMANS (voice over): These men are a familiar sight in Suffolk County on New York's Long Island, gathering after dawn on street corners, waiting for contractors and wealthy homeowners to pick them up for a day of work. These street corners are the public face of illegal immigration and the reason county legislators are considering a tough ordinance that requires contractors bidding for thousands of county jobs verify their employees are legal to work.

County executive Steve Levy says the complete disregard for American law is a disgrace. It's time, he says, for local governments to enforce immigration law since the federal government has not.

STEVE LEVY, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE: You play by the rules. That's the American way. Well, here we are as a government today basically ignoring that very concept and actually emboldening those who cut in line, who cheat, who don't play by the rules.

ROMANS: He calls illegal aliens lawbreakers, the contractors and homeowners who hire them, cheaters.

But county legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher is opposed to the measure. She's worried enforcement will cost the county money, attract lawsuits and, above all, polarize the community.

VIVIAN VILORIA-FISHER, SUFFOLK COUNTY LEGISLATOR: Now, if someone is a little bit darker than the employer, or if someone has an accent or appears that it might be problematic for the employer and he might get himself into trouble, we might be dealing with discrimination here in Suffolk County. I believe we should avoid that at all costs.

ROMANS: The proposed ordinance also unpopular among the men gathered here looking for work off the books.

ELLIE, DAY LABORER: We're here just looking for work and try to do something better.


ROMANS: Kitty, there will likely be frankly hours of emotional public testimony here tonight about this issue. Frankly, this area has been grappling with the cost of illegal immigration for years now. At least 10 years. And this here, thousands of miles from the border with Mexico -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Christine, what happens after this hearing?

ROMANS: There will be emotional testimony tonight. There's a lot of protesters and demonstrators out here tonight.

This is just a public hearing. This goes back to the committees, and then some time next month this might come up as early as September 19th for a vote before the legislature.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Christine Romans.

Thanks, Christine.

And later in the broadcast, I'll be joined by Suffolk County legislator Ricardo Montano, who is fighting aggressively on this crackdown on employers.

Outraged residents of Phoenix, Arizona, have succeeded in placing a tough new measure on the November ballot against illegal immigration. This initiative would force local police to help catch illegal aliens. Phoenix police are strongly opposed to the measure.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More illegal aliens enter the United States through the Arizona desert than anywhere else. Yet, the state capital, Phoenix, is a sanctuary city where local police are prohibited in most cases from apprehending illegal aliens.

Now border security activists have collected enough signatures to force the Phoenix City Council to allow voters to decide the issue.

RANDY PULLEN, CHAIRMAN, "PROTECT OUR CITY": We could never hire enough border agents or agents to work internally to do all the policing and enforcing we would need to do to deal with 20 million illegal aliens that are in this country. Therefore, it does take local law enforcement's involvement to get this problem under control.

As it stands, the Phoenix Police Department's immigration policy amounts to a "get out of jail" free card for illegal aliens unless they're suspected of a violent crime.

SGT. RANDY TRANTER, PHOENIX POLICE: Our primary responsibility is emergency response, and then followed by enforcing all other laws.

WIAN: Except immigration laws. Phoenix cops can't arrest a person when the only violation is an infraction of federal immigration law. They can't notify ICE or the Border Patrol of so-called undocumented persons involved in minor traffic offenses. And even felony DUI offenders are turned over to ICE only when feasible.

The "Protect Our City" measure would require Phoenix police to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to train local police to apprehend and arrest illegal aliens. It's a strategy that's part of the House border security bill that's opposed by many local politicians nationwide.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If that part of the House bill becomes law, would the El Paso Police Department be amenable to entering into a voluntary agreement? And if not, why not?

RICHARD WILES, EL PASO POLICE CHIEF: We're willing to work in partnerships with the federal government when it's issues of a criminal nature. I don't think it's appropriate or right to ask our officers to enforce immigration law. WIAN: But a growing number of citizens are demanding that local police stop turning a blind eye to immigration outlaws.


WIAN: Supporters of the Phoenix law say after the election this November they plan to take their effort to other sanctuary cities nationwide -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks, Casey.

Casey Wian.

Well, Congressman James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is fighting for increased police powers in the fight against illegal aliens. He will be our guest tomorrow night.

Still ahead, lowering this country's dependence on overseas oil not only makes strong foreign policy sense, it also makes strong business sense. Just ask the people in the town of Pinedale, Wyoming.

We'll have a special report on "Boomtown, USA."

The suspect in the JonBenet murder investigation could be flown to Colorado soon. We'll have the very latest on John Mark Karr's day in court.

And Iran says it's ready for nuclear talks. Now, should the United States take it seriously? Vali Nasr, the author of a provocative new book, "The Shia Revival," will join me.


PILGRIM: Tonight, Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, is in communist China for a six-day visit. Now, the two nations are discussing an oil deal that could guarantee China a steady supply for years to come.

The socialist government of Hugo Chavez has blasted the Bush administration, but Venezuela has strengthened its relations with China. To some, this relationship suggests the Cold War alliance between Cuba and the Soviet Union. Chavez has also been moving closer to Iran.

This country's energy needs are triggering job growth. In fact, there is an economic boom under way in parts of the American West, a boom driven by our need to reduce dependence on foreign energy.

Bill Tucker reports from Pinedale, Wyoming.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): America's thirst for energy is driving a wave of domestic energy exploration. No place is that more visible than in the fields outside Pinedale, Wyoming, where workers are tapping into rich reserves of natural gas. The Pinedale Anticline Field in Sublette County is the third largest natural gas field in the United States.

J.R. JUSTICE, SHELL EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION: This is a long life field. So it's going to provide a lot of natural gas to this country for many, many years. Easily 30 to 50 years.

TUCKER: It's not just any energy, it's energy coming from American land.

DENNIS STENGER, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT: There are public lands and public minerals, and they do belong to the people.

TUCKER: The drilling and development has been a boom for the small town of Pinedale, which at last census barely counted 1,400 residents, as oil companies have poured in, chasing a contemporary gold rush. Along with the boom in business and tax revenues have come some challenges.

MAYOR STEPHEN SMITH, PINEDALE, WYOMING: The people that are coming into the community, although they come into Pinedale and work here, shop here, they don't necessarily all live here. We're having a housing shortage.

TUCKER: Real estate is in tight demand. Workers often live in trailer parks.

(on camera): Perhaps nothing typifies the housing shortage better than this hotel. The locals have dubbed it the "Halliburton Hilton". That's because Halliburton has leased every room for the next five years to house its workers.

(voice over): In addition to the housing shortage, there's a labor shortage. The local chamber of commerce estimates unemployment at 1.5 percent. Local businesses find it hard, if not impossible, to compete with the wages paid out on the rigs. But on the whole, Pinedale and Sublette County are coping.

BILL CRAMER, SUBLETTE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: It's a good problem to have. We're doing OK. We're holding our own.

TUCKER: And there's still no traffic light in town, yet.

Bill Tucker, CNN, Pinedale, Wyoming.


PILGRIM: Now, it's time for some of your thoughts.

Nathan in New Hampshire write, "If the president is so bent on staying the course in Iraq, will he stay the course when our economy collapses?"

Ron in Rhode Island, writes, "President Bush said the Iraq war is straining the psyche of our country. That's not entirely true. For me, it's Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice making some of the worst mistakes yet during the last six weeks. That's straining my psyche."

E-mail us at We'll have more of your thoughts later in the broadcast.

As we have reported, President Bush did say that the war in Iraq is straining the psyche of the country, and that is the subject of our poll tonight.

Do you believe the recall of 2,500 Marines will add to the strain on the psyche of the country? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.

The JonBenet Ramsey case, new developments tonight surrounding controversial suspect John Mark Karr. New questions are being raised about his credibility. We'll have the very latest on that.

Tonight, Iran says it wants to resume nuclear arms talks, but does it want to halt its arms program? I'll talk to a leading authority on Iran.

Also, the latest CNN poll finds that voters see the war in Iraq and the war on terror very differently. We'll have the latest on that.


PILGRIM: Taking a look at some of the hour's top news stories, John Mark Karr, the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, could be flown to Boulder, Colorado, as soon as tonight. Karr waived extradition at a hearing today in Los Angeles. He faces numerous charges, including first degree murder and first degree kidnapping.

There are no survivors after a Russian jet crashed in eastern Ukraine today. 170 people were on board. The pilot sent a distress signal shortly before the crash. He reported heavy turbulence and a fire aboard the aircraft.

And the hunt continues tonight for two FOX News journalists kidnapped in Gaza more than a week ago. Correspondent Steve Centanni and camera man Olaf Wiig were abducted by gunmen near the Palestinian security headquarters. No group has claimed responsibility. The families of the two men are appealing for their release.

Iran today said it is prepared to begin what it calls serious negotiations about its nuclear program, but it appears Iran has no intention of suspending its nuclear activities.

Joining me now is Vali Nasr. He's professor of Middle East and South Asian politics at the Naval Postgraduate School. And he's author of "The Shia Revival: How Conflict Within Islam Will Shape the Future."

And thanks for being with us, sir.


PILGRIM: Well, Iran today gave a response, but it is not giving any indication whatsoever that it's going to suspend its nuclear activities. We did get a reply from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on the situation. So let's listen to that, first.

NASR: Sure.


JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: We've made it clear in the security council resolution 1696 that Iran has a choice. They can either take up the very generous offer that the five permanent members and Germany have extended to them. And if they do, there's a possibility of a different relationship with the United States and others.

But if they don't, we've also made it clear that their unwillingness to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons will result in our efforts in the Security Council to obtain economic sanctions against them.


PILGRIM: Now, there was a serious proposal put on the table in June. Iran has till the end of this month to reply to it. It apparently is replying not well. How do you feel about the situation as it stands now?

NASR: Well, Iran's response is not a surprise. Iran all along has always said no to suspending enrichment and then said yes to more talks. And that's exactly what they did today, except their no was a little more emphatic than usual. And they've always said that they're willing to talk about enrichment, but after normalization of relations, after relations become better.

Whereas, as we heard with Ambassador Bolton, the U.S.'s position is suspension of enrichment first, then relations will become better.

PILGRIM: The June proposal was reasonably generous and offers Iran the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes. What's the holdup?

NASR: Well, the holdup is essentially in terms of what comes first. Negotiations and improvement on relations, or suspension of the nuclear program.

PILGRIM: Isn't that just a stalling tactic?

NASR: It is a stalling tactic. But also it goes to Iran's view of itself as now a regional power and the fact that it wants the international community to accept its newfound status by agreeing that it's going to talk without preconditions.

PILGRIM: Someone suggests that Iran is setting itself up as a power in the region simply by its funding of terrorist activity. Iran's leader has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Condoleezza Rice has called Iran the central banker for terrorism. And during his news conference yesterday, President Bush talked about Iran's role in the region. Let's listen to that.


BUSH: Iran's obviously part of the problem. They sponsor Hezbollah. They encourage a radical brand of Islam. Imagine how difficult this issue would be if Iran had a nuclear weapon?


PILGRIM: It's hardly an image building exercise to be sponsoring terrorism and be taken as a credible world power.

How do you see this changing in any way? Or will it just say the way it is?

NASR: I don't see any change in the immediate future. I mean, it is belaboring the obvious to say that Iran is -- has a bad image in the west and is seen as a source of a lot of problems in the region. That's not the issue. The issue is how do you deal with its power and how do you get it to change its behavior?

The current strategy of sanctions, of isolating Iran has not so far worked. And right now there is no new strategy on the table. And that's part of the problem. There is nothing that really forces the Iranians to change the way they're approaching this issue.

PILGRIM: What do you expect is the next move out of the Security Council?

NASR: They're going to impose sanctions on Iran, but it's not very clear what the nature of those sanctions would be. If they don't include oil, which is unlikely that they would because it will impact prices, they're not really going to bite in Iran.

And secondly how are they going to be implemented? Who is going to implement economic sanctions against Iran? And Iran is also counting on the fact that Russia and China may likely make the sanctions much softer than one would expect.

PILGRIM: A difficult situation. Thank you for helping us sort through it. Vali Nasr, thank you, sir.

NASR: Thank you.

PILGRIM: New poll numbers on the war on terror and the war on Iraq. Now the poll has implications for both political parties. Let's talk to Bill Schneider. He joins us from Los Angeles about it -- Bill.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, in politics you have to frame the debate. And that's exactly what both parties are trying to do right now, Kitty.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Republicans want to frame the debate around the war on terror. Why? Look at the latest CNN poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation. Americans believe the Republicans in Congress would do a better job dealing with terrorism than the Democrats.

Democrats want to frame the debate around the war in Iraq. Why? Americans believe Democrats would do a better job dealing with Iraq.

Public opinion is becoming more and more critical of the war in Iraq. Only 35 percent of Americans now say they favor the war, the lowest level of support ever.

Criticism of Iraq may be shaping the public's view of the war on terror.

DAVID DRUCKER, ROLL CALL: As long as the war in Iraq is difficult, I think voters are going to feel more insecure about the terrorist threat.

SCHNEIDER: Just over one-third of Americans believe the U.S. and its allies are winning the war on terror. The prevailing view? Neither side is winning.

President Bush is trying to reverse that process. He wants the public's view of terrorism to shape their opinion of Iraq.

BUSH: I repeat what our major general said, leading general said in the region. He said, if we withdraw before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here. I strongly agree with that.

SCHNEIDER: Does the American public agree with that? No. Fifty-two percent believe the war in Iraq is a distraction from the war on terror. Forty-four percent agree with President Bush that Iraq is an essential part of the war on terror.


SCHNEIDER: The midterm campaign is just beginning, but so far it's the Iraq issue that's framing the election. But still, most Americans do not believe that either party has a decisive advantage in handling the issue of Iraq -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks so much, Bill Schneider.

Well, exactly 11 weeks from tonight we'll be counting the 2006 vote. In politics that's the equivalent of several lifetimes. So it may be too soon for Democrats to dream of major gains. But inside the beltway, that is the talk of the town. Andrea Koppel reports.



REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: I'm telling you, we have 202 Democrats in the House. It ain't enough!

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Enough for House Democrats would be to pick up at least 15 seats this November, just enough to give them a majority for the first time in 12 years. And with 232 seats, Republicans are bracing for their biggest battle in years, but predicting they'll hold on to power. Some analysts aren't as optimistic.

(on camera): How worried should Republicans be?

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: They should be very worried, looking into what right now what is a category 5 type of political storm. Every diagnostic indicator suggests there are real troubles for Republicans this fall.

KOPPEL (voice-over): Indicators like President Bush's continues low approval ratings while anti-incumbent sentiment remains high. Growing pessimism about Iraq and bread and butter issues like high gas prices. And those sentiments are playing out in at least three dozen hotly contested races with the northeast and the Midwest at the vortex of this growing storm.

In Connecticut, three moderate Republicans face tough challengers, as do several Republicans in Pennsylvania, including 20- year veteran Curt Weldon. While in Ohio, a member of the Republican leadership, Deborah Pryce is one of at least three vulnerable incumbents.

According to Amy Walter, it's a recipe for Republican angst.

WALTER: Voters have become calcified in their beliefs about this election. I don't think that there's any speech or piece of legislation that a Republican incumbent can give to change voter's perception about this election.

KOPPEL: What they can do, says Walter, is to try to drive up negative feelings about their Democratic challengers while highlighting a Republican strength, national security. And so in Web ads and e-mails, Republicans plan to paint Democrats as weak and too liberal to lead the war on terror.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO), MAJORITY WHIP: It makes such a big difference who sets the agenda, who is the majority in Washington. We need to make that case, the difference in Speaker Pelosi and Speaker Hastert is going to be a pretty big difference.

KOPPEL: But for the first time in a dozen years, Democrats feel the political winds are finally blowing in their direction. And privately, some senior Republicans agree.

Said one senior aid, we know there's a hurricane out there. What do we do? We board up the windows, put out the sandbags and get ready.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.


PILGRIM: Still ahead, a shocking new report on the billions of dollars taxpayers will pay if illegal alien amnesty becomes law.

And Suffolk County, New York wants to crack down on employers hiring illegal aliens. My next guest says not so fast. Suffolk County legislator Ricardo Montano will join us.


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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Kitty, thanks very much. Involuntary recall. The Pentagon says it might force thousands of United States marines back into service and back to war. Plus, more nuclear reaction. Iran is willing to talk about its nuclear program but also sounds very defiant. And when it comes to the war in Iraq, he's been one of the president's biggest supporters but will it cost Senator Joe Lieberman his job?

Senator Lieberman joins us in "THE SITUATION ROOM." And he's making world headlines, but his name is catching reporters and politicians at a loss for words. Can you say Ahmadinejad? Jeanne Moos on the tongue-twisting president. All that, Kitty, coming up right at the top of the hour.

PILGRIM: Thanks, Wolf. Well if the amnesty bill for illegal aliens that's before the Senate becomes law, it will cost taxpayers over $100 billion over the next 10 years. That figure comes from the Congressional Budget Office. Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Senate immigration reform bill comes with a $126 billion price tag. That's a lot of money. The kicker? Congress has no idea how to pay for it.

PETER SEPP, NATIONAL TAXPAYER UNION: One of the reasons why we're in this deficit mess is because Congress votes first and asks questions about how to pay for these bills later. This is the case with the immigration bill.

SYLVESTER: $48 billion of the $126 billion would be mandatory spending. Illegal aliens in the United States would become eligible for taxpayer funded entitlement programs. The cost over the next decade: $24.5 billion in tax refunds through the earned income and child tax credit, $15.4 billion for Medicare and Medicaid, $5.2 billion in Social Security benefits. And $3.7 billion in food stamps and nutrition programs. These costs will only rise over time. Representative Tom Tancredo says the only winners are the corporations.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO), IMMIGRATION REFORM CAUCUS: These are all costs that we incur so that we can obtain cheap labor. It's not cheap. It's cheap only to the employer. Believe me, it's not cheap to the taxpayer.

SYLVESTER: Tancredo and other House Republicans favor a border security approach. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it will cost $800 million to hire 1,000 new border patrol agents, $1.8 billion in fencing and vehicle barriers and $1.6 billion for an employment verification system.

JACK MARTIN, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: What we have to remember when we're talking about gaining control over the border is a national security issue. That is going to cost money in any case, whether it's the House version or the Senate version.

SYLVESTER: If border security is a costly proposition, the question for Congress -- can the nation also afford to spend $50 billion for guest worker amnesty plan?


SYLVESTER: And it's important to remember these costs are only federal costs. They don't factor in what the state and local governments will have to pay. The Federation of American Immigration Reform puts that price at $70 billion per year by 2020 borne by the U.S. taxpayer -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: These numbers are unbelievable. Thank you, Lisa Sylvester.

Well, debate is underway in Suffolk County, New York, tonight over what is being called a groundbreaking attempt to stop employers from hiring illegal aliens. Under this measure, thousands of companies doing business in Suffolk would be forced to certify that their workers are in the United States legally. Employers could be thrown in jail if they're found guilty of hiring illegal aliens.

Well my next guest is fiercely opposed to this proposal. He's Suffolk County legislator Ricardo Montano and he calls the measure racist. He joins me tonight from Hauppage, New York. And thanks for being with us, sir.

RICARDO MONTANO (D), SUFFOLK COUNTY LEGISLATOR: Thank you very much. How are you?

PILGRIM: Very well. You know, I have to say the majority of county legislators are expected to back this. Steve Levy, the county executive claims the public support is overwhelming. You're staking out quite a position in opposing this.

MONTANO: Yes, but I think it's the right position. Myself and a handful of legislators are opposed to this measure. I think that we're listening to debate right now, but I think that you'd be surprised with those legislators that have expressed concern with this bill.

We're thinking maybe there's a possibility that this bill will be defeated in the committee. We don't know that at this point. But the reality is that myself and others feel that this is just an issue the county should not be involved in with respect to the immigration policy. We already some sufficient federal laws and state loss on the books that deal with this issue. And the county's involvement I think is more for political rhetoric and show than anything else.

PILGRIM: Well...

MONTANO: And I'm concerned about -- go ahead.

PILGRIM: If the House or Senate are unable to enforce illegal immigration, isn't it incumbent on local governments to take issue with it?

MONTANO: We do take issue with immigration policy and we would like to see the Congress come together and come out with a bill. But at the same time, we think this is a first in the nation type bill. I would like to see the debate go on, I'd like to see the Congress do its job.

I don't think this is the role of the county. We're not setting up borders here in Suffolk County. It's sort of like we're not happy with the war in Iraq, so we're going to send in the county police. I don't think that's where we should go.

This bill has serious preemption issues. And again, it is a first in the nation but I think it's bad policy. It's going to lead to issues of discrimination. Employers had going to opt out in terms of hiring certain individuals rather than be involved in being questioned by county officials. There's no mechanism for enforcing this bill. This is another, you know, to me unfunded, mandated -- who is going to enforce this the police department here in Suffolk? It's just that there are a lot of questions.

PILGRIM: But there is not a chronic problem in your area. I mean, after all, this is going on for more than a decade. Is it not important to step in and take a position on this?

MONTANO: This is a chronic problem throughout the nation. We have a huge immigration problem. We need to secure the borders. I think everyone recognizes that. We would push for that. Suffolk County at this point I think is vying to be the anti-immigration capital of America.

PILGRIM: Well, and there's certainly been a groundswell of local initiatives. This is not the first.

MONTANO: This is not the first. There's been an English-only bill that's been promoted by the county executive. There was a recent plan which I was against to deputize local police officers to become federal immigration agents. Even the PBA, the police benevolent association, was against that bill. There has been evictions without notice of people that were perceived to be undocumented workers.

PILGRIM: I'm sure that no one is suggesting that the law is not followed in enforcing this. Let me ask you, contractors, unions, individuals to work in this sector claim that it will protect rights of people, especially the Latino population who is here legally and that wages will not become depressed. What do you say to that very large group of voters?

MONTANO: Well, I'm not sure I heard the question. But I think it had to do with contractors that were in favor of this bill and the voting public that's in favor of it. And I have no doubts that there's a large sentiment that is in favor of this. We've somehow gotten into the national debate. But I think that if you read the bill, you look at the particulars, you realize that this is not a bill that the county should be legislating or should enforcing.

I stand out here. As you said, there's a lot of people that are in favor of it. But I don't think this is what responsible leaders should be advocating. We've got to look at this bill, read it carefully, look at the policy implications, and move from there. And I just don't see why we need to pass this bill.

PILGRIM: All right, Ricardo Montano, thanks very much for your time this evening.

MONTANO: Thank you very much.

PILGRIM: A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. Do you believe the recall of 2,500 Marines will add to the strain on the psyche of this country? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll bring you results in just a few minutes.

Tonight in Florida, new questions about the reliability of e- voting. Officials there put e-voting to the test, and they knew what the results should be. It still failed. We'll have details and what the warning holds.


PILGRIM: A Kentucky school teacher has been reassigned after burning an American flag in front of his students. Seventh grade teacher Dan Holden torched the flag to inspire his students to write about free speech. Parental reaction has been mixed. Holden has been given nonteaching duties while the school authorities and the fire marshal investigate.

More painful lessons could be in store for voting districts that use e-voting. The machines are tested for accuracy before an election, but in Florida, one series of tests only raised new fears.


PILGRIM (voice-over): Pinellas County, Florida wanted to make sure its Sequoia electronic voting machines were tested and ready for the September 5th primary. They ran a controlled test knowing what the results should be. Initially, they got the correct results, but after a Sequoia technician modified the database, supposedly to upgrade it, the machines failed the next test.

LINDA MCGEEHAN, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: My concern is if -- this was controlled results going in. They knew what the results were. They programmed it in. They knew what the results were going to be, and so you could compare it to something. But in an actual election, there's no controlled result. So you don't know what it's going to be. How would you know if it's incorrect or not?

PILGRIM: The modification was reversed and the system passed yet another test. According to county officials, the 3,800 machines will read almost 1,200 different ballot configurations for this election alone. The complexity of the election begs for answers.

DAVID DILL, VERIFIEDVOTING. ORG: We don't really know what happened there. I'm glad that they do fairly thorough logic and accuracy testing. As I mentioned, some places don't do that, which is just an absolute invitation to disaster. On the other hand, the observers who were present still don't have answers as to exactly what happened.

PILGRIM: Since the machines don't have a voter verified paper trail, a problem could go undetected.

BILL BUCOLO, VOTING INTEGRITY ALLIANCE: In a case of a problem with an election, there's no way to recount the vote, because there's nothing to count.

PILGRIM: Sequoia said the software technician working with the database is stranded during testing, and they stand by the results of their machines.


PILGRIM: The county also stands by their testing results and says it has no fears about accuracy. Early voting is already underway. But voter watchdog groups fear without a paper trail it's impossible to know if the results are accurate.

Well, still ahead, the results of tonight's poll. More of your e-mails on this country's serious court interpreter shortage.


PILGRIM: Now the results of tonight's poll. Eighty-three percent of you believe the recall of 2,500 Marines will add to the strain on the psyche of the country.

Time now for more of your thoughts. And many of you were writing in about our poll on taxpayers paying for the cost of providing interpreters to non-English speaking defendants.

Cathy in North Dakota writes: "A resounding no. Too many of our tax dollars are going to support non-English speaking people already. By non-English speaking people, I mean immigrants who refuse to learn to speak English or learn our American way of living."

R.A. in Texas writes, "Yes, when anyone is accused of a crime, it is imperative that both the defense and the prosecution fully understand each other. Otherwise, you can forget justice."

Heather in North Dakota writes, "Just when I think I've heard it all, we, taxpayers pay for Spanish interpreters in court. When do we get a break." Vicky in Nevada writes, "On whether illegal criminals should receive interpreters subsidized by our tax dollars, I have an idea. Send President Vicente Fox the bills for all the costs incurred by his citizens, and maybe then he'll stop encouraging his citizens to violate our borders."

Ronald in Indiana: "Make the corporations who encourage illegals to come over here pay their translators and court expenses. They're the people who benefit from them being here."

And Randy in Kansas writes in about Border Patrol agents Compean and Ramos, and "It seems to me that the agents with the connections to the druglord should be the one on trial. And a commendation should be give to the two agents for doing their job."

Send us your thoughts at

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow. Congressman James Sensenbrenner, the author of the tough border security bill that passed the House will be among our guests.

And Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the author of the new book, "The Plan: Big Ideas for America."

For all of us here, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.