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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Rumsfeld's Latest Attempt to Defend Conduct of War in Iraq; Congressman Chris Shays Breaks Ranks With GOP Over Iraq; Keeping the Peace

Aired August 25, 2006 - 18:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, U.S. troops claim success in their crackdown against terrorists in Baghdad, but insurgents kill a U.S. Marine in western Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says military force alone will never defeat the insurgents.

We'll have a special report from the Pentagon.

And half a century after the end of segregation in our schools, a shocking report tonight about racism in a school district in Louisiana. Parents say a school bus driver ordered nine black children to sit at the back of a school bus.

We'll have complete coverage here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday, August 25th.

Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good evening, everybody.

Tonight, 130,000 U.S. troops across Iraq are battling to defeat insurgents more than three years after the war began. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that military force alone cannot defeat the insurgents, but the Pentagon believes that Iraqi police and troops can help with the troops, despite serious doubts about their training, leadership and morale.

Some members of President Bush's own party are now expressing doubts about the war. Republican Congressman Christopher Shays, who was a strong supporter of the war, now says the United States should set a timetable for withdrawal.

Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's latest attempt to defend his conduct of this war, and Andrea Koppel reports from Washington on Congressman Christopher Shays' decision to break ranks with the White House.

Barbara Starr reports first -- Barbara.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi forces continue the massive security sweeps that commanders believe are working.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're seeing a reduction in the levels of violence and in the numbers of attacks in the areas particularly that the forces have been able to clear.

STARR: But if this success is a result in part of the additional 3,500 U.S. troops on the streets, wouldn't even more troops help the security situation?

RUMSFELD: It's correct, it does do it for a period. But the important thing is to have the entire process go forward. The political, the economic, as well as the security.

STARR: Military commanders know violence is likely to return when the troops leave any area. So Rumsfeld's political operatives are laying the groundwork.

This new memo to reporters details the secretary's sober public comments. It's a memo aimed at one senator in particular.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration's strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy.

STARR: The Pentagon memo counters. This is one example mentioned.

RUMSFELD: I don't want to be accused of suggesting that it's a rosy picture out here. It isn't.

STARR: The memo then details in March 2003, when Rumsfeld said the war would be "tough business" and "not a cakewalk." And while the memo recalls the time in 2003 that Rumsfeld said he was a realist, it doesn't mention this...

RUMSFELD: Stuff happens.

STARR: Rumsfeld offers his view of what is happening on the streets of the Iraqi capital.

RUMSFELD: It's untidy, and freedom is untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.

STARR (on camera): And unexpected grim news. The Army is now reviewing the death reports on 1,700 soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, trying to make sure their families were, indeed, given the correct information about their loved one's death.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


ROMANS: Insurgents have killed another U.S. Marine in Iraq. The man was killed in Al Anbar province, west of Baghdad.

Forty-one of our troops have been killed in Iraq this month, 2,618 of our troops have been killed since this war began.

A leading Republican congressman has broken ranks with President Bush and his own party over the war in Iraq. Congressman Christopher Shays says the United States must set a timetable for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Congressman Shays was previously a strong supporter of the war.

Andrea Koppel reports.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Connecticut Republican Chris Shays had been one of the president's biggest boosters on Iraq.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I support our being in Iraq. I don't care its impact on my election, whether I'm reelected or defeated.

KOPPEL: And on his Web site, after visiting Iraq just last month, Shays said that, "In my judgment, neither Congress or the administration should set definitive timelines for withdrawal."

But now Shays is breaking ranks with Republicans and with President Bush. In a phone interview with CNN, Shays says he now believes timetables must be set.

SHAYS: I believe that the administration needs to set timelines on troop withdrawal, but clearly understand we will still have troops there for years.

KOPPEL: Why the shift? Shays says he's just wrapped up his 14th trip to Iraq and is now convinced a timeline is the only way to force Iraq's new government to make tough decisions.

SHAYS: I think it's absolutely essential that the Iraqis understand that this is not an open checkbook that they can draw on for years and years and years and, more importantly, that they can't draw on our military forces ad infinitum year in, year out.

KOPPEL: But this year, the 20-year congressional veteran is also locked in a tight race with Democratic challenger Diane Farrell, who told CNN she doesn't buy Shays' change of heart.

"For 13 trips Chris Shays came back saying progress was being made and supporting the president 100 percent," she said. "Now on trip 14, 75 days away from Election Day, he is attempting to nuance his position to have it both ways. I, on the other hand, from day one have called this war a mistake."

Supporting Bush on Iraq was one key reason Connecticut incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman lost this month's Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. Still, some analysts say Shays' latest shift may not be entirely about politics.

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: What I think that Shays is hoping clearly is that this is what voters appreciate about him, that they -- that they see through all the other political smoke screen to get to the heart of who Chris Shays is. And that is somebody who is just not going to say or do whatever the political winds suggest he does.


KOPPEL: And while it's still too to know whether Shays will win over enough antiwar -- Iraq war voters in his district to hold on to his seat, analysts say Republican incumbents in two other Connecticut races are also on shaky ground, placing Connecticut at the epicenter of the Iraq debate this election year.

Amy Walter of the "Cook Political Report" says if Democrats are to succeed in winning back the House this year, Christine, they would need to win at least two of those three Connecticut races.

ROMANS: All right. Andrea Koppel.

Thank you, Andrea.

In the nuclear showdown with Iran, Russia today declared it does not support sanctions against Tehran. The Russian defense minister said he believes further political and diplomatic efforts are necessary to end the nuclear crisis. He said sanctions have never worked in international crises.

Iran this week refused to comply with the United Nations' demands to stop enriching uranium. The United States says Iran should face sanctions if Tehran does not suspend its nuclear activities.

Europe today tried to end doubts that it will have the will and the capacity to help restore peace to the Middle East after the war between Israeli and Hezbollah. European nations declared they will provide as many as 7,000 troops for an expanded peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. France has finally agreed to play a leading role in that force.

Jim Bittermann reports from Paris.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Even as the first French reinforcements for the U.N. peacekeeping force were arriving in southern Lebanon, more details were emerging about their mission. The French contingent will grow to 2,000 troops within three weeks. It will be part of a beefed up military operation that French officials feel will be fully empowered to keep the peace.

(on camera): Exactly how risky...

(voice over): The defense minister told CNN in an exclusive interview that French officers and U.N. officials have gone through scenarios of situations that peacekeepers might face to predetermine what the reaction should be. And she says there are other conditions for success. MICHELE ALLIOT-MARIE, FRENCH DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): We have asked the U.N. from the very beginning there be a clear chain of command on the ground and that there be a commander on the ground. There must be a single commander, not several. Also, this commander must work directly alongside the U.N. general secretary.

BITTERMANN: According to the defense minister, it will not be the role of U.N. troops to patrol the Lebanese border with Syria. Nor will they disarm militants. But she says the rules of engagement would allow the peacekeepers to stop attacks by either Hezbollah or Israel.

ALLIOT-MARIE (through translator): In that case, if they are threatened by, for example, a Hezbollah group, they will be able to react immediately using force. They will also have access to heavy weapons, which will allow them to enforce the rules.

BITTERMANN (on camera): The defense minister says there is no doubt that the soldiers she is dispatching are on a risky mission, both politically and militarily. But she remains hopeful that with the new ground rules they can avoid the kind of dangers and failures that have plagued U.N. peacekeeping missions to Lebanon, Bosnia and the Congo.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


ROMANS: Israel today said it will lift its air and sea embargo of Lebanon as soon as peacekeepers take control of Lebanese ports and borders. Israel says Hezbollah is trying to smuggle new weapons and ammunition into Lebanon but it appears unlikely that U.N. peacekeepers will deploy to Lebanon's borders and ports. The Lebanese government says only Lebanese troops can guard the border with Syria.

The State Department has begun an investigation into whether Israel dropped American-made cluster bombs on civilian areas in the war against Hezbollah. Cluster bombs are designed to kill large numbers of troops by spraying bomblets over a wide area. Israel says its military always follows international law in combat.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In southern Lebanon, bomb disposal units are finding and disarming thousands of unexploded cluster munitions that litter the landscape after the recent 34-day Israeli offensive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From what we're seeing on the ground, there is tens of thousands of cluster bombs everywhere, scattered everywhere.

MCINTYRE: U.N. workers and human rights groups report many of the unexploded bomblets come from American-made cluster bombs provided to Israel which could violate the conditions under which they were sold.

BONNIE DOCHERTY, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Well, the United States had a special agreement with Israel in the '70s that said that Israel was not allowed to use these weapons in populated areas. It violated those rules in its earlier invasion of Lebanon, and that moratorium was extended.

MCINTYRE: In the '80s, the U.S. banned sales of cluster bombs to Israel because of how they were used in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But the State Department won't discuss the strings attached to the recent sales.

A State Department spokesman told CNN simply, "What we are looking to see is if they were used... how they were used, who were the targets..."

Because cluster bombs have a five to 10 percent failure rate, dug (ph) bomblets can kill and maim long after the fighting stops.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: One of the problems that the human rights people have is that kids come out after the war, after the attack, and they find these things and try to pick them up, and they go off unfortunately at that time, producing injuries of civilian casualties that you're not looking for.

MCINTYRE: A U.N. report cited Lebanese army figures that 12 people had been killed and 51 injured from unexploded ordnance, including cluster bombs, since hostilities ended. U.N. workers have located 288 sites across Lebanon where cluster bombs were used, mostly, they say, in the three days before the cease-fire.

A statement from the Israeli Defense Forces says, "All the weapons and munitions used by the IDF are legal under international law, and their use conforms with international standards."


MCINTYRE: An office in the State Department that oversees foreign military sales will conduct the review. A spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in Washington told CNN tonight that so far there has been no official inquiry from the United States government -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Jamie.

Jamie McIntyre.

Still to come, shocking charges of racism on a school bus in Louisiana.

Is racism returning to our nation's schools? We'll have a special report.

Also, big profits for oil companies in Colorado while local schools struggle to repair their classrooms.

We'll have that report.

And the nuclear confrontation with Iran is escalating, but Congress says U.S. intelligence agencies are failing to provide enough information about Iran. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, will join me.


ROMANS: Fifty-two years after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in this nation's schools, a white school bus driver is accused of ordering black students to sit at the back of the bus in Louisiana. Condemnation of this alleged act is spreading across the country tonight. It's being called the disturbing reminder of this country's segregationist past.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nine students in Coushatta, Louisiana, catching the bus, ready for the new school year. But the lesson they are learning could have easily come out of a textbook chapter on the civil rights era.

A white school bus driver allegedly told the black students they had to give up their seats in the front for white students and sit in the back of the bus.

JANICE WILLIAMS, PARENT: I was very upset. I'm not going to tell no lie. I was upset, because my kids have never been treated that way. At all. Never.

SYLVESTER: The families filed a complaint with the Red River Parish School Board. The response was to take the students off that bus route and put them on a bus with an African-American bus driver. But that has not toned down the criticism. Outrage this kind of thing could even conceivably happen in 2006.

JAMES PANNELL, NAACP: The manual that tells you what to do about someone being asked to go to the back of the bus, that manual is somewhere in some archives somewhere. That's not even something that you could even look in a book and find because we don't assume that that's something that we would have to even be confronted with.

SYLVESTER: The bus driver declined to comment to CNN but told school officials the seating assignments were based on problems with the seating chart last year. In a statement, the school district said, "Regardless of the cause, this will not be tolerated," and added, "... the actions of the bus driver do not represent the beliefs of he Red River Parish School Board, its administration, or its employees. At the same time, we wish again to ensure the students and the public in general that prompt remedial action has been taken against the employee relative to this matter." The incident has shined a spotlight not only on the small Louisiana town, once the site of a famous race riot, but on the forms of racism that still exist today.

REP. MELVIN WATT (D), CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: We get preoccupied with these kind of open acts of racism, and we make a big deal of them, but these kinds of things are going on subtly in the workplace, in the -- in the community, in our neighborhoods all the time.

SYLVESTER: And the new generation is finding out just how hard it is for the nation to close the book on racism and discrimination.


SYLVESTER: The school district won't say what disciplinary action has been taken against the bus driver, citing personnel confidentiality laws.

Meantime, the NAACP is weighing whether to file a formal complaint with the Department of Justice. DOJ in a statement said, "We are aware of the situation. We cannot comment on specifics, but we are taking these allegations very seriously" -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right.

Lisa Sylvester.

Thanks, Lisa.

Well, we're going to have a great deal more on this story with special reports from Louisiana next week.

CBS unveiled the plans for its reality contest "Survivor" this week. Remarkably, this season the teams will be divided by race.

The four tribes, as they are called, will be split into black, white, Asian and Latino, in what CBS calls a social experiment. Critics are calling it a shameless play for ratings.


ROMANS (voice over): The fastest way to fix a ratings slide? Pit the races against each other.

Unbelievably, that's the basis of the new season of "Survivor".

JEFF PROBST, HOST, "SURVIVOR": It could sound like a stunt. And especially with the way realty has gone, it wouldn't be unusual. But that's not what we're doing here. The idea for this actually came from the criticism that "Survivor" was not ethnically diverse enough.

ROMANS: Protesters in New York call CBS' branding of the show "a social experiment, a joke." MELISSA MARK VIVERITO, NYC COUNCIL MEMBER: The last I heard, CBS is not an accredited institution of higher learning or a research facility.

ROMANS: At its peak, 20 million people watch the show. Now that audience is about 16 million.

ANDY DEHNART, REALITYBLURRED.COM: Clearly, what they wanted to do was get the show back into the national conversation, which it hasn't been for years now, and instantly just by announcing this twist they got exactly what they wanted.

ROMANS: CBS stands by the program.

"CBS fully recognizes the controversial nature of this format, but has full confidence in the producers and their ability to produce the program in a responsible manner. 'Survivor' is a program that is no stranger to controversy and has always answered its critics on the screen."

But critics say it's still a bad idea.

JEN CHAU, NEW DEMOGRAPHIC: It's not an idea that is going to help us promote diversity in any kind of positive way, which is what the show has claimed it's trying to do with this.


ROMANS: One of CBS's objectives has definitely been met. Publicity for the flagging show has exploded since they unveiled the basis for this season's competition.

And that brings us to the subject of our poll tonight.

Do you believe it's appropriate to segregate teams by race on a nationally televised reality show? Yes or no?

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

Also ahead, Northwest Airlines is recommending that its laid-off employees dumpster dive as a way to save money. We'll have some of the airline's other unbelievable recommendations next.

Plus, why an economic boom in some parts of this country is actually putting a strain in local communities and schools.

We'll have a special report.

And a tropical storm in the Caribbean tonight could strengthen into a Gulf Coast hurricane. We'll have the latest.


ROMANS: Bankrupt Northwest Airlines is apologizing tonight for a handbook it sent to its employees. Inside this book is a section entitled "101 Ways to Save Money." It gives advice to its laid-off employees on how to make ends meet while they are unemployed.

Among the suggestions -- and we quote -- "Ask your doctor for samples of prescriptions. Buy spare parts for your car at the junkyard. Buy old furniture at yard sales and refinish it yourself. Borrow a dress for a big night out. Take a date for a walk along the beach or in the woods."

And last and most outrageous, "Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash."

Northwest pulled this list from the handbook after receiving complaints. It says the handbook was written by an outside firm. Northwest says it will make sure to review the materials it sends out to its fired employees more closer in the future.

Tonight, big oil firms are making huge profits in rural Colorado, where local communities can't even afford to repair crumbling schools. Students are suffering as big oil gets richer. Communities say oil firms must give back more to these schools.

Bill Tucker reports from Denver, Colorado.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Roy Moore Elementary School spent more than $400,000 to keep this school safe and the kids dry over the past four years. Principal Lisa Whitmore says it's the way of life in this rural Colorado school.

LISA WHITMORE, PRINCIPAL, ROY MOORE ELEM. SCHOOL: If you call 20 buckets in the hallway a functional issue, I guess it could be. But, you know, kids learn to walk around them. Teachers would walk with -- you know, reading things and they knew where to go around those buckets. I mean, that -- that's just how we live.

TUCKER: The school is not the worst off in the state. But it is in a poor area, an area which is growing quickly as oil and gas exploration is picking up.

Some believe the money to rebuild the schools should come from the riches fueled by the energy boom.

GARY PACK, GARFIELD SCHOOL DIST. SUPER.: The oil and gas industry in 2005 in the state of Colorado, profit margin was $10 billion. So I question that if they're paying their fair share.

TUCKER (on camera): The way Wyoming, Colorado's neighbor to the north, handles its oil and gas tax revenue is to collect it at the state level and then redistribute it back to the counties for spending on schools. That's not the way they do it here in Colorado.

(voice over): The state does not contribute to school construction. School districts have to go to taxpayers for money. This state's oil and gas associations say they're willing to work with the legislators and educators. STAN DEMPSEY, COLORADO PETROLEUM ASSN.: We would sit down and work in good faith with them to understand what the needs are of the state of Colorado.

KEN WONSTOLEN, COLORADO OIL AND GAS ASSN.: My association, at least the majority of my membership represented on the board, got to a point where we were willing to seriously consider this one percent across the board new tax for education.

TUCKER: But Colorado is a state that has seen several energy booms and busts and knows the volatility of those revenues.

WILLIAM MOLONEY, COMMISSIONER, COLORADO DEPT. OF EDUCATION: What happens if we make commitments based on current revenue stream and then the revenue stream collapses? Do we withdraw the benefits then? Do we announce that we're going to cut funding?

TUCKER: While discussions continue about the best way to fund school construction, students will have to wait. Nearly 90 percent of the schools in Colorado need construction money to fix problems related to health and safety issues.

Bill Tucker, CNN, Denver, Colorado.


ROMANS: Still ahead, John Mark Karr awaits an important day in court. We'll have the latest.

Also, Congressman Peter Hoekstra, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will be my guest. He's alarmed by Iran's growing military threat and our lack of high quality intelligence.

And three of this nation's most distinguished political analysts will join me with their thoughts on the chaos in Iraq and its affect on the midterm elections.


ROMANS: In just a moment I'll be speaking with House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra about the danger Iran poses to the United States.

But first, these headlines.

John Mark Karr, the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, is expected to make his first court appearance in Colorado on Monday. Prosecutors have yet to file formal charges against him.

An American Airlines jet from Manchester, England, to Chicago was forced to land in Maine this afternoon because of an unspecified security scare. And a U.S. Airways jet was diverted to Oklahoma City when an unruly passenger pushed a flight attendant.

Also today, U.S. officials found dynamite in the checked luggage of a passenger, a U.S. citizen flying from Argentina to Houston. The flight continued on to Newark, New Jersey.

byline: Wolf Blitzer, guest: Rep. Pete Hoekstra

ROMAN: And former President Gerald Ford underwent successful heart surgery in Minnesota today. Doctors performed an angioplasty procedure to unclog Ford's arteries. That procedure was a success.

A new tropical storm is strengthening as it barrels through the Caribbean tonight. The seasons fifth tropical depression is now officially tropical storm Ernesto. Officials say the storm is gaining strength in the Caribbean and could become a hurricane within 72 hours. The storm is moving toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and is headed directly for the Gulf of Mexico.

In Minnesota tonight officials are assessing the damage caused by deadly storms that swept through yesterday. Two tornadoes cut a swathe of destruction through southern Minnesota, killing one man and injuring 22.

In South Dakota, at least six tornadoes tore across the state last night. The storms destroyed farm homes and damaged power lines.

The House Intelligence Committee this week blasted U.S. spy agencies for their failure to provide complete and timely information about Iran. The committee's report comes as Iran continues to defy the world over its nuclear program. U.S. and British military commanders are also accusing Iran of trying to destabilize Iraq. Joining me now is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Pete Hoekstra. Welcome to the program.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R) INTEL. CMTE. CHAIRMAN: Good to be with you. .

ROMAN: Frankly a report that is chilling in what it says about Iran and Iran's goals vis-a-vis the United States and the west and also about our ability to see what Iran is doing and to understand those threats. How serious is the threat posed by Iran?

HOEKSTRA: Well, I think the report, it's a bipartisan committee report, clearly outlines that Iran is a threat. They clearly want to have the capability for nuclear weapons. They are tied to terrorist organizations. They have a ballistic missiles capability and we also believe that, once again, they are involved in chemical and biological programs. You put all of that together and it's a regime that we really do need to be focused in on.

ROMAN: We've heard Iran is part of the so-called axis of evil. We have heard more and more about its nuclear ambitions, but also this report points out its support of terrorism.

HOEKSTRA: That's absolutely right. We believe that they are intricately linked to Hezbollah. The trouble that we've had in southern Lebanon, between Lebanon and Israeli, really the trouble between Hezbollah and the state of Israel. They are tied into Hamas. They ship them weapons. They provide them with financing and we believe that they also provide some of the leadership and direction for these terrorist organizations. They are also very closely linked to some of the insurgent groups in Iraq. Iran does not want to see, Iran does not want to see Iraq be successful. So they're creating lots of mischief in the region and it is deadly mischief.

ROMAN: Mr. Chairman, you say there is a critical lack of decision-making and sort of intelligence understanding of this threat. What can we do about that? What is the import of this report?

HOEKSTRA: Well, I think really what we're working with the intelligence community on and Director Negroponte has done the right thing. What he has done is he has appointed a mission director. That means that there is a person and a group of people who wake up every morning, 24/7 with one responsibility. That is the responsibility of collecting the intelligence that policy makers are going to need in the future to make better informed decisions.

ROMAN: Do we, today, lack the ability to gather the information about Iran that we need and the ability for our spy agencies to talk to each other about that information that we do get?

HOEKSTRA: We're doing a whole lot better than what we were three or four years ago, than we were at 9/11. You know, what we saw in the UK incident, we saw intelligence communities internationally working basically seamlessly. We saw law enforcement working with intelligence agencies in the UK, working seamlessly. So we've made significant progress, but in terms of getting raw intelligence, getting into the leadership intent and capabilities of some of these countries, we still have significant work to do. You do not build an intelligence community overnight. We're still paying for some of the neglect that occurred during the 1990s.

ROMAN: Mr. Chairman, we live in a political world and a political time right now as well. There are cynics who would cite that and say that maybe this report is meant to be, stir up some fear ahead of elections. What do you say to those cynics?

HOEKSTRA: Well, I just ask them to take a the look the process that we went through. We had committee staff, on a bipartisan basis, working on this report for the last five months. They deserve the credit for this report. They painstakingly went over, you know, just about every word and every sentence in this report. You know, the chairman of the subcommittee, Mike Rogers, and the ranking member on that subcommittee, Rush Holt, they both signed the letter announcing the completion of this report. This report is intended to get information to the American people so that we can have a better dialogue about some of the threats that we face than perhaps what we've had in the past, but, again, it's a bipartisan staff report that was supported by both the chairman and the ranking member of the subcommittee.

ROMAN: OK, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, thank you so much for joining us tonight, sir.

ROMAN: Hey, great. Thank you. ROMAN: Time now for some of your thoughts.

Gail, in California, "Hurray for the California company suing competitors accused of using illegal aliens as farm workers. It's about time for someone stood up for the low and middle class workers. Where was the federal government in all of this? Camera shy."

Ron in Georgia, "I think it is amazing that within the U.S. we cannot take a bottle of water on the airplane. On the other hand, anything and everything is allowed to cross our borders and ports on daily basis. Makes you wonder."

E-mail us at We will have a lot more of your thoughts later on in the broadcast.

Still ahead, border state governors issue an urgent plea to Congress as this nation's illegal alien crisis deepens.

Plus Republican Congressman Christopher Shays is fighting for reelection and changing his position on Iraq. Three of this nation's most distinguished political analysts discuss Shays' call for a troop withdrawal.

And in tonight's Heroes, the inspirational story of the Navy Corpsman Derek McGinnis. He almost lost his life in Iraq. He is now fulfilling a lifelong dream.


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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Christine, cluster bombs, the State Department announcing it's investigating whether Israel misused the American-made weapons during the war with Hezbollah.

Plus tropical storm Ernesto, Houston and New Orleans possibly in its track. I'll speak with the head of the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield.

Also, Barack Obama, the royal treatment. We are going to take you live to Kenya where they are rolling out the red carpet for the U.S. Senator.

And Oprah Winfrey turning education into action. We will take you to South Africa where she is keeping a $40 million promise. All that, Christine, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

ROMAN: All right Wolf, we'll be watching. Thanks Wolf.

New efforts are underway to clear the names of two border patrol agents who face 20 years in prison for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler. Congressman Walter Jones, North Carolina, today met with Justice Department officials and urged them to reopen this case. The Mexican drug smuggler was given immunity and allowed to walk free in exchange for his testimony against these two agents. Border state governors issued a joint declaration at their annual meeting today, demanding that Congress do more to strengthen border security, but at the same time, border governors also urged Congress to pass, so-called, comprehensive immigration reform legislation that critics call nothing more than amnesty.

And a State Department official was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges today for allegedly helping a jewelry company win speedy visas for its workers. Michael John O'Keefe allegedly accepted free flights to Las Vegas with exotic dancers, expensive meals, and other bribes to speed up the visa process for the firm.

Joining me now, three of the most provocative political commentators in the country: Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf; James Taranto, columnist for the "Wall Street Journal"; and Errol Louis of the "New York Daily News." Thank you all for being here.

I want to start with Connecticut, Congressman Chris Shays. After being a very strong supporter of the war in Iraq, he is now calling for a timetable for withdrawal. What is the motivation do you think, Hank, starting here? I mean, is it a true sort of change of heart or is this election?

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Unemployment is a terrible thing for political people. When they are off the payroll, they try to get back on the payroll. He's no fool. He reads polls, and he what happened to Lieberman. He doesn't want to lose that seat. Somebody is going to go in Connecticut, and those couple of Republican congressmen they got there. He doesn't want to be the one to go.

ROMANS: But he knows he's going to be called a flip-flopper.

JAMES TARANTO, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I interviewed Chris Shays a month ago for the "Journal." And at the time he was first strong in Iraq, he said we can't just pull out because what kind of message would that send to the world? It says a few thousand of our troops and we're going to cut and run. And I agree with him entirely and I thought he was very strong.

I haven't seen his comments now. Based on your description, if this is what he said, I'm very disappointed with him but I think it's politics. I think he's worried about losing the seat and he thinks that this will stand him in better stead with his Connecticut voters.

By the way, he told me that he thought he would be better off if Lamont won the primary and Lieberman was running as an independent. I think he miscalculated. I think there's going to be a huge turnout and people who are going to vote for Lamont are going to vote for Shays' opponent.

ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": You talk to Nancy Pelosi and any of the Democratic strategists, they are trying to pick up 15 seats. There are about 50 that are contested. They always talk about two or three in Connecticut and Shays was at the very top of the list going back over a year so he can read tracking polls and he got religion. ROMANS: Well, I'm wondering if everyone who is facing a midterm election here is taking a look at their stance on Iraq and really retuning or at least trying to put some more nuance in there so they can appeal to the folks who are maybe down on the president right now?

SHEINKOPF: The problem is the president's numbers and the trick is to get as far away as you can if you want to survive. If you don't want to survive, get as close as you can and most of the districts around the country that are in play -- Shays is no fool. He understands those numbers and he knows his own state.

ROMANS: Let's talk about the chaos in Iraq at the moment and its effect on the midterm elections, but in general, this whole idea of civil war. Is it a civil war or is it sectarian violence? It's almost civil war, it could descend to a civil war. I want to listen to a soundbite here from what the deputy president of Iraq said today.


ADIL ABD AL-MAHDI, IRAQI DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That is a key issue, and this is our response, our answer to all those talking about civil war in Iraq. We don't think we are leading to one.


ROMANS: Is it semantics at this point? I mean, when you've got as much chaos and destruction as we're seeing there, is it semantics, civil war or sectarian violence or are we in the media just sort of zeroing in on these two words?

LOUIS: We had a two-week period where almost 100 civilians a day were killed. Those are not semantics laying in the streets. Those were bodies. You know, when you talk about a civil war, any way you define it, you have got sectarian violence. It's escalating. It's not getting better, it's getting worse. If he wants to call it a civil war that is semantics but the reality on the ground is what people have to address, not the words.

TARANTO: Well, look, Saddam Hussein is on trial for murdering 5,000 civilians in the course of a few days in northern Iraq. Was that a civil war?

ROMANS: Very good point.

SHEINKOPF: Look, Europeans and people not of the Middle East ought to look at the history of Europe for a moment. Europe went through periods of sectarian violence based upon religion. Why is anything else expected but in the Middle East where you have historical problems between Sunnis and Shiites? That is what is going on in Iraq today and it's not something the United States is prepared or equipped to handle.

ROMANS: This Iran intelligence assessment this week, it's a dire call sort of for the spy agencies to get it together and try to know more about what is happening there. Do you guys see political undertones at all in the timing of this or in what it's saying, or any kind of parallels to intelligence before Iraq or is this simply sort of a wake-up call for the American people?

SHEINKOPF: Wake-up call right away quick. It also is a way to make the president look pretty good if they can figure it out fast because Iran with nuclear weapons is not something Americans really want to see.

TARANTO: I think the problem -- one of the problems we have with intelligence is we underestimated Saddam Hussein's weapons capacities in the early 90s, then we overestimated them early in this decade. And there is a temptation to then, you know, correct the mistake before and underestimate it so I'm glad to see they're not doing that.

LOUIS: Well, time is working against the White House in two different ways. I mean, not just because we are closing in on 60 days until the general election, which is going to be a disaster for the White House in a lot of different ways, but because every day that this problem is not resolved works to the advantage of Iran. Now they are -- their strategy clearly is to stall, stall, delay, delay and to continue working on their program.

So next week a deadline is going to come and go but really the problem is going to be to try and draw a hard deadline and try to figure out what to do when that deadline is also broken, because Iran ...

ROMANS: Are they just dancing with us diplomatically at this point?

SHEINKOPF: Oh sure, it's a great dance. The problem is, the dance goes on and every day passes. More scientists do more work to create more heavy water and more nuclear components is dangerous.

ROMANS: And our intelligence agency -- do you have confidence our intelligence agencies are talking to each other and are on the ground, you know, finding out what is happening here?

LOUIS: The thing that frightens me is they're going to reach a point where we either are going to have to go over there and try to bomb what facilities we can, or they're going to have to come up with some other kind of a strategy. But, you know, just because we know what's going on -- and I think we do know what's going on -- that doesn't provide a solution necessarily.

ROMANS: I mean, we've talked about it's a wake-up call for the American people and Iran. I mean, there are those in the American public who are kind of tired of the Iraq situation at the moment, and you try to tell them there is problem out there brewing. Do they take it seriously, I wonder? I mean, I wonder if we could sell another big conflict or at least another big enemy at this point?

SHEINKOPF: People need to understand that the weapons that could be aimed at Tel Aviv can also be aimed at Europe. The Europeans ultimately have to ultimately wake up. Will they? Probably not. They haven't in the past.

TARANTO: And we have a big enemy, whether we sell it or not. This is a problem we should have dealt with in 1979 when they took over our embassy.

ROMANS: Let's talk a little bit -- I want to come back domestically here. We talked about this story in Louisiana, these children on the schoolbus who were told by a white schoolbus driver to leave their seats, go to the back of the schoolbus and let the white children sit in the front of the schoolbus. You know, I just sort can't believe that this is a story or a headline that we are seeing here.

Your initial thoughts, Hank?

SHEINKOPF: Pretty distressing, very awful and a throwback to something that should just not be going on in this country.

TARANTO: I think it's shocking and appalling and the fact that it's shocking and appalling says something good about the country. If this happened in 1950 -- it happened all the time in 1950 -- it wouldn't have been a headline. It wouldn't have been a story. Everyone is shocked by this and that shows how far this country has come.

LOUIS: You know, I slightly agree but in a different way. I mean, we have, thank God, an apparatus that's in place that you've already started to see swing into play which is the civil rights organizations which a lot of people attack as irrelevant but this is why they are still needed and this is why they are still around.

You've got a number of anti-discrimination laws on the books, lawyers are looking at those laws right now, the Justice Department is involved, so now at least we've got an infrastructure to deal with it.

ROMANS: I thought the timing of this story and then, of course, the story from CBS about "Survivor," this reality show that I frankly have never watched but they've certainly have drummed up an awful lot of publicity about it. They're putting these four teams against each other calling them tribes, white, black, Hispanic and Asian. Those two stories happening at the same time I found a little troubling.

TARANTO: I find it heartening, and here is why. I agree with the critics that "Survivor" thing is stupid and offensive. All right? I've never watched the show either, but it's a stupid, offensive idea. But, you know, we're having a reasonable debate about it. People are saying it's stupid and offensive. We're saying it's a publicity stunt for CBS.

Can you imagine if they had done something like this in the 1960s or the 1970s or even the 1990s when the Rodney King riots were going on? It would have been so inflammatory. The fact that the response to this is relatively calm, I think suggests that this country is on its way to getting past race.

ROMANS: I think we're cynical, too. A lot of people are saying it's for ratings. It's for ratings.

LOUIS: Yes, well, in some ways that is the worst part of it that -- the sort of -- the kind of glib, cynical acceptance. It's like, well, there is a lot of money involved and the players didn't object to it. They want the $1 million and the sponsors didn't object to it. They want the viewing audience and so forth.

But I think the public is smarter than that and they are cutting through it. I think that's the outrage that you're hearing, that people just don't want this. Parents are trying to raise their kids with entirely different values and they are so sick of Hollywood and the networks pushing in the other direction.

ROMANS: And, you know, a reality show having any kind of say about the morals of this country on race relations, we'll just leave it there for what it is. Hank Sheinkopf, Thank you all so much for joining us. James Taranto, and Errol Louis, welcome to the program. Thanks, gentlemen.

Still ahead tonight, "Heroes." We will introduce you to a Navy corpsman who nearly lost his life in Iraq. Through grit and determination he has made a remarkable recovery and now he's taking on a new challenge. That's next.


ROMANS: Now, "Heroes." Our tribute to the men and women in uniform serving this country overseas. Tonight, the inspiring story of Navy Corpsman Derek McGinnis. He was providing medical care to marines in Iraq when he was nearly killed. Now, he's made a remarkable recovery and is fulfilling a lifelong dream. Casey Wian has his story.


DEREK MCGINNIS, U.S. NAVY: The goal is to catch three waves.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Derek McGinnis has been surfing for 15 years.

MCGINNIS: But that's the key is just get three waves and have fun man.

WIAN: But in today's competition he's a rookie again. It's been almost two years since he was nearly killed by a suicide driver in Iraq.

MCGINNIS: A lot of injuries: above the knee amputation, the brain injury, the eye, my lung. They put me back together really well. Never thought -- I never thought I'd get injured, but it was just how it goes.

WIAN: His brain was so badly damaged, he had to learn to eat, to walk, to talk again. As he recovered, he dreamt of riding a wave.

MCGINNIS: Since I was hit I've been asking the prosthetics, gentleman, hey, what do you use? What do you use? What kind of legs are you thinking about serving (ph), because I have a surfboard (INAUDIBLE).




WIAN: At Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, he met an American Airlines flight attendant who grants wishes to injured vets.

JANICE ROZNOWSKI, FOUNDER, OPERATION COMFORT: I said, Derek, you want to learn how to surf on one leg?

He said, yes, ma'am, I do.

And I said, well, you know what? If you can find me an adaptive surfing instructor who could teach you how to surf, then I'll raise you the money to take you all there.

WIAN: Using the Internet, McGinnis found Rodney Roller (ph), an amputee who has made a career teaching other amputees to surf.

RODNEY ROLLER, FOUNDER, AMPSURF: I was just so impressed, and I just had to do everything I can to get him out in the water.

MCGINNIS: Out there I was so tired, but I just had to do everything I can to show these guys that it can be done.

WIAN: After a week of lessons, McGinnis and a group of vets joined the Pismo Beach Long Border's Club for a friendly competition.

MCGINNIS: When you go out, you just go out with whatever problems you have and you come back in and they are kind of gone. It's amazing. The culmination of it all is great.

WIAN: Casey Wian, CNN, reporting.


ROMANS: Operation Comfort plans to make the surf camp for injured vets an annual event. Derek McGinnis will graduate from college this fall with a degree in Healthcare Administration and plans a career with the Veterans Administration when he is discharged from the Navy. We wish him well.

Still ahead, more of your thoughts on the war on the middle class. And our democracy at risk.


ROMANS: Unfortunately, due to a little technical problem with our poll tonight, we are unable to bring you those results. We apologize. But will have them for you on Monday.

Time now for more of your thoughts.

Scott in North Carolina, "regarding a Lou Dobbs poll that asks which of the following puts the greatest burden on your family, the answer I would choose is not provided as an option: the government."

Bob in Ohio, "I may not be the brightest penny in the pile, but I do shop for food. The store always gives me hard copy as a receipt. I don't think that the cash register is a super complex computer. Vote, get a hard copy, leave it on a roll, place it in a box, what's the problem?

Sandra in Pennsylvania, "how can this be? I'm a through and through liberal, and I sat here agreeing with almost every point conservative Richard Viguerie made. Why can't we (both ideologies) find candidates who agree to enforce the laws of the U.S., balance the budget, and take a higher moral road? How sad that neither conservatives nor liberals can find people willing to put their country before their personal greed and pursuit of power."

Herb in Texas, "Pluto downgraded? OK, fine. Now let's start worrying about the planet we're on."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at Each of you whose e-mail is read here will receive a copy of the Financial Report of the United States with a forward by Congressman Jim Cooper and a copy of Senator Byron Dorgan's important book "Take This Job and Ship it."

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us Monday. The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, congressman Tom Reynolds, he'll join us to defend the Republican Party and outline its plans for the midterm election campaign.

And the producer of the new documentary film "Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration" will be our guest.

For all of us here, have a great weekend. Good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM starts right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf. The producer of the new documentary film border wars, the battle over illegal immigration will be our guest.