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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Bush Announces Sweeping Changes On Treatment of Al Qaeda Detainees; Tribunals To Be Held on Infamous Terror Suspects; Janet Murguia Interview; Many Coushatta Residents Furious At Handling Of Allegations That School Bus Driver Ordered Nine Black Children To Sit In Back Bus; Alarming New Report on Crisis in Public Schools

Aired September 06, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.
Tonight, the Bush administration and the Pentagon announce sweeping reversals in their policies of persecution of radical Islamist terrorists. And infamous Al Qaeda terror suspects are being brought out of the shadows to finally stand trial.

And a white school bus driver who allegedly forced black students to sit at the back of the bus, not fired. Now a community in Louisiana is bitterly divided.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. News, debate and opinion, for Wednesday September 6, live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. President Bush today announced a sweeping reversal of U.S. policy in the war against radical Islamist terrorists. President Bush, for the first time, acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons, holding top Al Qaeda terror suspects. The president says the alleged mastermind of the September 11th attacks now sits in a Guantanamo Bay prison, awaiting trial, along with 13 other top Al Qaeda terror suspects.

Ed Henry tonight reports from the White House on the reasons behind this reversal of terrorist policy. Jamie McIntyre tonight reports from the Pentagon on the military's sweeping new overhaul of interrogation tactics. And Dana Bash reports on new moves by Senate Democrats to play politics in the war on terror and a push through a no confidence resolution against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

We begin with Ed Henry at the White House -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, are the president at the outset of this series of speeches on the war on terror insisted he did not want it to get political, but today he revealed some secret information that cast him in a strong political light fighting terrorism.


HENRY (voice-over): President Bush decided to finally acknowledge the existence of secret CIA prisons around the world, just days before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and two months before the midterm elections. Revealing that 14 senior members of Al Qaeda, previously in CIA custody, have been transferred to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay for prosecution.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This program has helped us to take potential mass murderers off the streets before they were able to kill.

HENRY: Among the 14 terrorists in custody are Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah, a field commander for Osama bin Laden, and Ramzi bin al-Shiba, a would-be 9/11 hijacker. Amid international outrage abut the so-called black prisons in Europe and elsewhere, the president insisted the techniques used on the detainees were tough, but legal.

BUSH: I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world, the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it.

HENRY: And the president claimed the intelligence gleaned from the CIA program thwarted terror plots in the U.S., United Kingdom and Asia.

BUSH: Were it not for this program our intelligence community believes that Al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland.

HENRY: But Democrats immediately asked why the president was revealing this now in part three of a series of speeches, framing the seminal issue in the midterms, the war on terror. And Democrats demanded to know why it took so long for the administration to follow the Geneva Conventions.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D), NEW YORK: Their bull in a china shop approach, ignore the Constitution, ignore the rule of law, has made us worse off than we would have been had they gone to Congress originally. The detainees are suing, their status is in limbo. We're worse off than we were.


HENRY: But the president insisted his move was sparked by the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision back in June which, basically held that military tribunals could be used to prosecute alleged terrorists, but only if Congress first sets up a legislative framework. The president today sending up legislation, to the Hill, and he's demanding Congress act before they go home for the year -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed Henry, thank you, from the White House.

And in combination with the sweeping reversals at the White House, the Pentagon in tandem announcing new rules for how the military will handle its war prisoners. The Pentagon is scrapping controversial interrogation techniques that critics had said are simply torture.

Pentagon saying interrogation guidelines will now honor standards set by the Geneva Conventions. Jamie McIntyre reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After more than a year of contentious, internal debate over how much to reveal to potential terrorists about American detention policy and interrogation tactics, the Pentagon has decided to make all procedures conform to the Geneva Conventions.

The new Pentagon directive says all detainees shall be treated humanely and in accordance with U.S. law, the law of war, and applicable U.S. policy. And the details are spelled out in the revised Army field manual, which Congress has made the law, regarding the treatment of prisoners.

LT. GEN. JOHN KIMMONS, ARMY DEP. CHIEF OF STAFF FOR INTEL.: The new field manual incorporates a single standard for humane treatment as was alluded to, for all detainees, regardless of their status under all circumstances, in conjunction with all interrogation techniques that are contained within it. And there are no others.

MCINTYRE: The manual also gives examples of banned techniques, including forced nudity or sexual acts. The use of hoods or duct tape, beatings, electric shock or other infliction of pain, so-called water boarding or simulated drowning; hypothermia or heat distress, mock executions, withholding food, water or medicine, and the use of dogs, except for security.

KIMMONS: No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon considered, but rejected a secret annex, that would have had additional approved techniques, but decided that would only cause suspicion. But just two hours after the Pentagon's announcement, President Bush said the same rules do not apply to the CIA. Who, he revealed, had been holding terrorist suspects in overseas prisons and using tougher alternative procedures to extract what he said was lifesaving intelligence.

BUSH: I cannot describe the specific methods used. I think you understand why. If I did it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we might need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures are tough and they were safe and lawful and necessary.


MCINTYRE: Human rights groups complain that President Bush is sending a mixed message. While they lauded the Pentagon's new rules, which they said were generally humane and lawful, they decried the continued secrecy about the CIA techniques, saying that that secrecy only invites abuse -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you. Jamie McIntyre, from the Pentagon.

As President Bush changes course in the war against radical Islamist terrorists, a majority of Americans now say they aren't satisfied with the way this war is being waged. And 53 percent of Americans surveyed, in a new CNN poll, say they are not satisfied with how things are going in the war on terrorism; 55 percent say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who has supported Bush administration policies in the war in Iraq. With 58 percent now opposed to that war.

The violence in Iraq continued today at least 50 people were killed in bombings and shootings around the country, including six civilians when this car bomb exploded in Baghdad.

As violence in Iraq intensifies, Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to play politics. Imagine that. They are demanding a no confidence vote against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his handling of the conduct of the war in Iraq. Dana Bash reports from Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, that resolution is being debated as we speak. We expect it to die within the next couple of hours, without even getting a vote. But that's just fine with Democrats because their main goal here was to push an Iraq debate zeroing in on the man they think symbolizes all that has gone wrong with the Iraq war and that is, of course, Donald Rumsfeld.

And the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, who introduced this nonbinding resolution, all but conceded they are using Secretary Rumsfeld as a boogey man of sorts to highlight their main theme this election year. That is, what they call administration mismanagement and incompetence.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: This amendment is bigger than Donald Rumsfeld. This is about changing course in Iraq. And the president demonstrating to the American people he understands America cannot stay the course when the present course is taking our country in the wrong direction.


BASH: Noticeably absent from the Republican response on the Senate floor was a robust defense of Secretary Rumsfeld. Instead, Republicans used the time to talk about what they called Bush successes in the war on terror, and also to try to call Democrats out on playing politics.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R), TEXAS: Our friends on the other side of the aisle talk about a change in direction, fresh ideas, new direction. Those are campaign slogans. They are not about solving the problem. They are not about beating the enemy, defeating the enemy that declared war on us.


BASH: It's not just Democrats, Lou, who are using Rumsfeld as a symbol on the campaign trail. Some Republican candidates like in New Jersey and in Washington state also have said it's time for Rumsfeld to go. Some Republicans think that helps them separate themselves from an unpopular president and an unpopular war -- Lou.

DOBBS: Obviously, the Democrats are playing politics on this issue, as are the Republicans. Why, however, as a matter of strategy have the Democrats chosen to focus on Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of Defense, rather than the generals who have come in for considerable criticism in their conduct and management of the war, and of course, the Commander-in-Chief President Bush, himself?

BASH: Certainly they have been talking about the -- or the president in general, but the bottom line is that they really think that in terms of the way this plays, in a political message, and the perception of the administration really comes down to personalities.

And that personality, for them, the winning personality is Donald Rumsfeld. He's the person who Democrats think really embodies all that has gone wrong with the Bush administration and the Iraq war. And, frankly, Democrats say arrogance within the Bush administration for not admitting some mistakes throughout the Iraq war.

That is really why they are focus on this one man, Donald Rumsfeld. Certainly it is as Senator Reid says, they are trying to make it a broader message about the Bush administration.

DOBBS: Arrogance, in Washington, Dana?

BASH: Go figure.

DOBBS: Impossible. Thank you very much, Dana Bash reporting from Capitol Hill.

Still ahead here -- new evidence that candidates who support amnesty for illegal aliens are in grave danger of defeat at the polls in November. We'll have a special report for you.

And a white school bus driver who forced black students to the back of the bus in Louisiana won't be fired. She won't be disciplined. Residents are outraged. We'll be telling you why. We'll have a live report.

And for a growing number of Americans, the American dream has become unattainable. Our special report on the increasingly elusive American dream. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Illegal immigration and border security are playing a critical role in midterm elections, now two months away. Lawmakers who voted for amnesty are finding themselves fighting for re-election, while supporters of amnesty are fighting for even more rights for illegal aliens. Lisa Sylvester, tonight, reports on a leading Republican who is in the fight of his political life because of his support for amnesty.

And Casey Wian, tonight, reports on the National Latino Congress, which among other things, accuses me of being not anti-illegal immigration, but rather anti-immigrant. We begin with Lisa Sylvester in Washington -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Lou, Republicans who sided with Democrats on immigration reform are finding they may have to pay a price at the polls.



SYLVESTER (voice-over): Steve Laffey wants the nation's smallest state to have the strongest voice in Washington. He's punching the theme, it's time for change.

POLITICAL AD: Washington is going in the wrong direction. Runaway wasteful spending, out of control borders.

LAFFEY: I describe myself as Steve Laffey, who is a populist, who is a reformer, who came back to Cranston, Rhode Island, after a successful business career, and saw my city going bust.

SYLVESTER: The latest Rhode Island College poll shows the Cranston City mayor with a 17 percentage point lead over incumbent Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee in next week's primary.

Chafee has the distinction of being one of the most anti-Bush Republicans. He broke with his party on the war in Iraq, on tax cuts, and on immigration. He was one of only a handful of Republican senators who voted for Senate Bill 2611, that offers citizenship and other perks to millions of illegal aliens. And for that, some GOP voters see it as payback time.

PHIL KENT, U.S. IMMIGRATION REFORM PAC: Chafee has betrayed the base of the Republican Party and also the vast majority of the American people who, poll after poll, indicate they want illegal immigration stopped, period, end of discussion.

SYLVESTER: Chafee makes no apologies for the positions he's taken on the amnesty plan and other issues. His best defense is that he can win the general election and keep the Senate seat in Republican hands.

SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE (R), RHODE ISLAND: Mayor Laffey cannot win. There's no doubt he cannot win a general conservative Republican, just go through history. Does not do well in Rhode Island.

SYLVESTER: But moderates who straddle the line may not be doing much better. The GOP Party faithful may not give him the chance to run in that general election.


SYLVESTER: A party backlash against an incumbent? That may sound familiar. Another moderate senator, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut lost his party's primary. But unlike Lieberman, if Chafee loses next week, he's not planning on running as an Independent -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you. Lisa Sylvester from Washington tonight.

The National Latino Congress is meeting in Los Angeles this evening. Among other things on the agenda a resolution to reject the Senate and House legislation on illegal immigration and border security in their current forms.

That resolution also, through amendment, accuses me of what is termed untruthful propaganda that the Latino Congress says is intended to incite violence against immigrants. Casey Wian reports from Los Angeles.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The four-day National Latino Congreso is bringing elected U.S. lawmakers together with radical open borders advocates and even the anti-American government of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela.

JOHN TRASVINA, PRES., MALDEF: We are the Latino Congreso, in part because the Congress in Washington has failed to act on our issues. Failed to act on immigration reform, and other issues that are important not only to the Latino community, but to all Americans.

WIAN: Among the resolutions the Congreso is considering is legalization of what it admits are 12 million illegal aliens in the United States. Support for a national holiday honoring Cesar Chavez, the U.S. labor leader, who ironically opposed illegal immigration, and a demand that voters be allowed to register to vote on Election Day. It's part of their sputtering effort to register a million new Latino voters. Organizers deny it would invite fraud.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ, SOUTHWEST VOTER REG. EDUC. PROJ.: We think the sophistication, the databases, the computer systems are there -- and also the penalties are there. If you register to vote fraudulently, that's a felony. So that doesn't dissuade us.

WIAN: Though the Congreso is sponsored by mainstream U.S. companies, including General Motors, Starbucks and Southwest Airlines, some Latino groups refuse to participate.

ROBERT DE PASADO, THE LATINO COALITION: Many Americans of Hispanic descent are just sick and tired of these radical elements just hijacking the entire process. These are people that have never been involved in any constructive fashion in the process of trying to solve these problems. They are just taking advantage of an opportunity to become rebel rousers and create an image that Hispanics are radical elements, like they are, and which is completely untrue.

WIAN: One proposed resolution criticizes border security groups, elected officials of both parties, and certain media.

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: They are trying to again, you know, knock the immigrant community and use them as, you know, as scapegoats for other problems.

WIAN: The resolution singles out Lou Dobbs and CNN for allegedly "engaging in untruthful propaganda and vilification to incite fears, hostility and violence directed at immigrants."


WIAN: When we asked organizers about that claim, they failed to cite any specific examples, but they say our frequent coverage of illegal immigration has helped create a climate of hostility toward all immigrants.

And, Lou, they also continue to fail to recognize any distinction at all between legal and illegal immigrants -- Lou.

DOBBS: It's incredible. Of course, other groups, others have tried to pose much the same criticism of this broadcast, of me in particular, and never are they interested in facts. And never are they interested in truth. And never are they interested in the national interest.

Casey Wian, we thank you very much. We'll be exploring this issue further in the show. Thank you.

Coming up next here, for millions of our citizens in this country, trying to achieve the American dream is now simply a nightmare. We'll have a special report tonight on the chances our nation's poor have of ever achieving financial success.

And the school board in Coushatta, Louisiana, gives a free pass to a white bus driver who allegedly ordered black children to the back of the bus. The community is in an uproar tonight. We'll have a live report for you.

And failing grades: Under-qualified teachers in our classrooms, just one more crack in the nation's failing school system. I'll be talking to two of the leading authorities about how to solve this crisis. Here next.


DOBBS: The United States has long been the land of opportunity, but the stories of success and in this country could become a relic of our past. Now more than ever before, the chances that the next generation of Americans will do better than the last are quickly, quickly disappearing. Christine Romans has the report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice- over): Abby Stuback (ph) is a mother of two from Boston.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For my kids, I am nervous. I don't know if it's a given they'll be able to achieve their American dream.

ROMANS: She may be right. More than hard work or education, the best way to get rich in America is to be born rich.

ROSS EISENBERRY, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: It is the case that somebody who is in the upper third of income, who scores in the bottom on tests when they are in eighth grade, is more likely to go to college and finish college than a poor kid with the top scores. That's what the working person's children are up against.

ROMANS: The think tank, the Economic Policy Institute, finds it would take a poor couple with two children nine or 10 generations to achieve middle class status. That's about 200 years. The hallmark of American opportunity has always been the ability to do better than your parents. But compared with similar developed countries, the United States ranks fifth out of six for so-called intergenerational mobility.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: If you look at the mechanisms for upward mobility that were so readily available 50 years ago, 25 years ago, they are becoming further out of reach.

ROMANS: Like plentiful factory jobs with good wages and affordable education and healthcare. And white families are twice as likely as blacks to be upwardly mobile. For most people in America today where you end up depends on where you start.

BILL BEACH, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: If you started in the middle income class, you know, about 40 to 45 percent of what you are making now is due to the fact your parents were in the middle income class. The rest is up to you.

ROMANS: He sides with those who believe this economy is creating opportunities for everyone.


ROMANS: But that's little consolation for the millions of people who find themselves below the poverty line and the millions more who are the working poor whose head start on the American dream leaves them painfully far, far away from the middle class, Lou.

DOBBS: To even think that there is so little discussion about the disappearing American dream in this country; it should concern everyone. I can tell you straight forwardly, I'm one of those guys whose both parents worked. My family was poor and because of public education and opportunity, I had an opportunity to succeed in this society. That's something that should be available to each and every American and you don't hear anyone talking about it.

ROMANS: And the Pew Research Center found that more Americans now are concerned that their children will not do as well as they did.

DOBBS: Christine, thank you very much, Christine Romans.

That's the subject of our poll question tonight. The question is: Do you believe your children will have a better standard of living than you enjoy? Yes or no? Please cast your vote at We'll have results coming up later in the broadcast.

Time now to look at some of your thoughts. First, I want to thank those of you that were nice enough to write in and say welcome back after my vacation. Like Jed, in Texas, who wrote to say, "Dear, Lou, you've been gone so long, I thought you had gone the way of our Congress and only wanted to work 122 days a year. It's good to have you back."

Well, let's be honest. That's the first two-week vacation I've had this year. I don't think Congress can say the same.

As most of our loyal viewers already know, I'm not too thrilled with either the Republicans or the Democrats, to put it mildly. But a few folks who are just tuning in are a little confused about my political perspective.

Like Robert, in the Illinois, who said, "Lou, you just cannot accept the fact that the Democrats will do a better job than the Republicans, who are in total control. Shame on you for being so shortsighted."

Robert, I hate to break it to you, but I'm not a Republican.

And Edward, In Ohio: "Lou, I wish all you Democrats bashing the president would stop this political bull -- and think about our country. That's more important than who is in power. The president is doing what's right to keep us all safe. Wake up to reality."

Edward, I don't know how to break it to you, but I'm not a Democrat. E-mail us your thoughts at We'll have more of your thoughts coming up here later.

Next, the largest Latino rights advocacy group is taking issue with Pat Buchanan's comments last night on this broadcast. Pat Buchanan, the author of the best-selling "State of Emergency." Janet Murguia, the head of La Raza, joins us.

And the declining state of our nation's schools. A shocking new report highlighting the crisis that faces this country and millions of our children. Two of the authors of the report join us here.

And black students forced to the back of a school bus? We'll tell you why residents of a Louisiana town are outraged over their school board's response to the controversy. We'll have a special report tonight for you from Coushatta, Louisiana, in this the year 2006. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Citizens of a small Louisiana community tonight are calling for the resignations of the school superintendent and school board president. Many of the town of Coushatta are furious at their handling of allegations that a school bus driver ordered nine black children to sit in the back of her bus.

By a vote of 4-3, the school board late last night voted to accept the bus driver's resignation and give her full retirement benefits. Their decision outraged the families of the nine school children and most of the others who attended the contentious meeting. Bill Tucker has the latest for us from Coushatta, Louisiana. Bill? BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, many if not most of the residents of Coushatta are shocked and outraged that their tax dollars are going to pay for the full retirement of a bus driver whose actions ripped open wounds that many in America assumed had been healed decades ago.


TUCKER (voice-over): The school board, made of four whites and three blacks held their public meeting last night in this building. About 160 people showed up to attend the meeting. Only 49 were allowed inside. Among those locked out were the Mayor of Coushatta and a city councilman.

JOHNNY COX, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: This is not justice. The people were excluded and all these people wanted to be where, all they wanted was inclusion and there they were excluded and that's not right. These people don't deserve that.

TUCKER: The school board could have easily moved the meeting to a larger place to accommodate everyone, but the board rejected the motion to do just that. And the board avoided any specific discussion on the allegations against the bus driver.

ALVIN JOHNSON, COUSHATTA RESIDENT: And neither one of you all went and asked those parents of those kids what happened. You all are just looking at one side of it, and that's not right. That's not right. And as long as it's not done right it's going to always be trouble.

TUCKER: The board voted 4-3, allowing her to collect her full pension. One of the board's black members voted to allow her to collect that full pension. The spokesman for the nine children rejected the decision as unfair and unjust.

PATRICIA SESSOMS, FAMILY REPRESENTATIVE: The Richmond and Williams family are deeply dissatisfied with the decision of the school board to grant retirement to the employee. Further, we are deeply outraged at the actions of the parish members to close the meeting to the entire public based on a fire marshal code.

TUCKER: The school board defended its decision while admitting the expediency.

JON GUICE, SCHOOL BOARD COUNSEL: You know, if there had been some sort of tenure hearing in this matter it would have been well in the future beyond this driver's retirement. It would involve students testifying. It would have been lawyers and an adversarial proceeding. So the board voted tonight to accept the retirement of this bus driver.

TUCKER: The school board did not discuss the allegation of racial slurs directed at the children, nor the charges that the letters KKK were scrawled on some of the bus seats.

MALLORY PARSON, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: The issue about the racial discrimination was not addressed. It is not over. I'm disappointed in the school board members. I'm disappointed in the superintendent. I call for the school board, I call for the superintendent and the bus coordination resignation effective immediately.

KIRBY DEMERY, PASTOR: Each parents, each teacher, each leader of this city need to be heard because we had town council, we had mayor, we had (INAUDIBLE), we had pastors that did not get their chance to speak to the board that they may be heard and let them know that we is not going to accept anything.

WILLIAM CLARK JR., PASTOR: We're don't give up. We're going to keep fighting until we get justice. If we have to take it to the highest court, that's what's going to be done.


TUCKER: Lou, after the meeting concluded, to everyone's amazement, six of the seven board members snuck out the back door and avoided the crowd out front. Only one had the courage to leave through the front door and, as you just heard from Pastor Clark, the issue that has caused this community so much pain is far from over or gone away -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.

Best-selling author and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan was on this broadcast last night. And he said that the United States is witnessing nothing less than a massive third world invasion of illegal aliens, principally from Mexico. And in his new book "State of Emergency" he puts the blame squarely on the Mexican government.


PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR, "STATE OF EMERGENCY": It has awoken to the idea that it can re-annex the American southwest, which it used to hold, linguistically, culturally, ethnically, and socially, not militarily, by pushing all these people in there and creating a gigantic fifth column in America.


DOBBS: Janet Murguia, the president and CEO of the National Counsel of La Raza, takes issue with Buchanan's comments and his book. La Raza, of course, is the largest Latino rights advocacy group in the country, a supporter of amnesty for illegal aliens, the Senate bill. Janet Murguia joins us tonight from Washington, D.C. Janet, good to have you here. Why do you take issue with Buchanan's views in his book "State of Emergency."

JANET MURGUIA, PRES., NAT'L COUNCIL OF LA RAZA: Well, I just think he has a lot of heated rhetoric, but nothing is backed by any credible evidence and this notion of re-annexation of the United States by Mexico is just, it's a joke. I mean, to be able to suggest that somehow that there are Hispanics in this country who pay more allegiance to Mexico than to the United States, well that's offensive. I mean, he describes many Latinos in this country as invaders, yet we're not invaders. We are people who have been here for generations. And he paints this broad brush trying to sort of suggest that somehow we're not American enough for him. Well, he's not the judge and jury on that. We love this country. We have a record of great military service and contribution to this country and it's offensive and insulting for him to suggest otherwise.

DOBBS: I have the feeling that you and I tonight are experiencing a very similar emotional reaction to something.


DOBBS: And that is, I am offended when people do not make the distinction between illegal immigration and immigration. I am offended when people obfuscate. I hear you saying the same thing. Am I correct?

MURGUIA: That's correct. Pat Buchanan has blurred the lines here in a very negative and pessimistic way, as it affects the future of America. And I guess I would argue, I agree with you, Lou, the issue, if you want to talk about immigration and, in fact, we have a broken immigration system, that's fine.

But let's talk about it and let's talk about reasonable, practical, sensible ways we can fix it. But to paint this broad brush and really suggest that somehow that anybody who has been here whose parents have been immigrants and certainly painting a negative view that somehow we're not American is very insulting and very offensive.

DOBBS: When you say immigrant, you mean legal immigrant, right?

MURGUIA: I'm talking about citizens. You know, the way you could read that book that Pat has written, he would suggest that, you know, somehow that folks who have been here, born here, who have Hispanic parents or Mexican parents or Latin American people from Latin America are somehow not American enough for him. Well that's insulting.

DOBBS: And it is. You know, I can understand your view. The fact is that both sides of this debate, parts of both sides of this debate, I think, I'm curious, would you agree with me, have been so committed to distortion and obfuscation of the reality that the national dialogue has not been well served.

The American people have not been well served. Cries across the lines of the debate of racism, when what they are really saying is they've run out of arguments, whether you are talking about one side or the other. You talk about the Reconquesta movement as not existing.

You and I both know that there is a small radical fringe that does believe in that, just as there is a small radical fringe on the other side that thinks there shouldn't be any immigration at all into this country. Could we agree on that?

MURGUIA: I think there's some plausibility to that. But that's not what Pat Buchanan is suggesting in his book.

DOBBS: No. The point I'm making, as you and I have an opportunity to talk truth here with each other in this rather demanding bright audience of this broadcast sort of demands that, I just thought we might coalesce around the reality.

MURGUIA: I think that's right and I think, you know, what Pat Buchanan writes in this book is not based on reality though. And I think you are right. We've got folks on the extremes here. We need to be able to deal with the issue of immigration and try to solve it. There are no solutions in Pat Buchanan's book.

DOBBS: Janet Murguia, good to have you with us.

MURGUIA: Thank you.

DOBBS: Thanks. Up next here, three of the smartest political minds in this country, the entire country, will join us and give us their views of what in the world is happening to us all.

And failing grades. The college board says Math and Science teachers in this country are delivering our educational system into crisis. I'll talk with the, two of the authors of this study here next about how to fix our nation's broken schools. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of the sharpest political minds in this country: Republican strategist, and former White House political director under President Reagan, Ed Rollins; Michael Goodwin of the "New York Daily News"; and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman. Thank you all for being here. The president today reversing course on torture, prisons, trials and Geneva Conventions.

What's your reaction?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I am very happy to see him do it. I think it's very important. I wish he would have done it two years ago. I think it's -- at this point, it looks like he's forced into it. It's the correct thing to do, and I think it gives him more credibility to move forward and make this part of the debate as we move forward into the campaign.

DOBBS: Do you concur, Robert Zimmerman?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I have to tell you, he had four months after the Supreme Court decision to make this announcement and the timing of doing it right after Labor Day is no coincidence. And it just underscores both the incompetence of the administration that put us into this bind, and he way they continually try to manipulate the issue of the war on terrorism for politics. And I think it's going to hurt them in the midterm.

DOBBS: Michael Goodwin, you wrote in your column that you believe the president has given a compelling picture, a view of the global conflict. But you also say "he has allowed our positions in Iraq and Afghanistan to deteriorate. The performance failure, not the policy, explains why public support is falling." How so?

MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well, I think if things were going well in Iraq, if the photos on television and newspapers were not of mayhem but really of order and stability and security, I think the public would be supporting the war, despite the flawed intelligence that got us there in the first place. I think it's the failure of the policy, the failure of the execution of the policy, that's led to the falling support and put him in this predicament.

DOBBS: Democrats trying to assert it's all about the war in Iraq. Republicans trying to assert it's about the global war on terror. Is this midterm election at the Congressional district level going to be about both either or none of the above?

ROLLINS: Well, first, it should be about both. And, secondly, what I hope at the end of this campaign -- which is probably going to be as vicious as any I've seen in my 40 years -- is there something left that we can go back because we have two more years, at least two more years to be in Iraq and certainly terrorism is going to be around for a long, long time.

If we go out and destroy each other and one party wins by a small margin and declares victory and you can't put the coalitions together to basically have bipartisanship, then I think that whoever wins this thing is going to have a long, hard ...

ZIMMERMAN: I think it's very much on target. This administration is running its midterm campaign by making it about the issue of patriotism and challenging those that differ who them, except for Republicans who are deserting them, for being unpatriotic or somehow being -- supporting al Qaeda types. And the real issue here is that Iraq has become a symbol for a whole range of issues.

DOBBS: I take your point. But at the same time, the polling -- Rick Sloan at the Machinist Union study today talking about the microeconomic issues that are really moving voters and they expect will do so this midterm, little things like mortgages, gasoline prices, the standard of living in this country, financial security and suggesting that those so-called microeconomic issues that are macro if it's your household, are going to dominate in this election. What do you think?

GOODWIN: Well, I think it's always two issues. It's always peace and it's always prosperity. And right now we don't have very much of either. I mean, we have a tenuous peace in this country and we have prosperity that's very uneven and very uncertain.

So I think both of these issues are working against the incumbent party, which is the president's party. And I think it's going to make it very difficult in both cases. He keeps trying to change the subject. He keeps trying to sort of spin it the best possible light, but I think it is still a very uphill battle for most people the way they feel.

ROLLINS: The critical waving of the flag that bothers me the most as a Republican is on the immigration issue. We've talked long and hard about this.

And for them to basically say we're not going to get it done this year, we're not getting anything done this year, I think gives Democrats more of an advantage because I think if the Republicans would have forced their colleagues in the Senate, Republicans, to at least pass a security part to be funded and then you come back as we've said over and over and try to do something next year.

But to give up on that issue especially when you are trying to talk about terrorism and homeland security, is nuts.

DOBBS: Robert Zimmerman, how in the world are the Democrats -- because as we were reporting tonight, what polls are showing, and as you know, a lot of candidates, Republican and Democrat, who supported amnesty look like they are in real trouble on that one issue alone.

How are the Democrats going to deal with it because this White House, as I detailed in my column on today, there is this axis of amnesty between the Senate Democrats and the White House and both are being rejected.

ZIMMERMAN: I think it's being trumped by the axis of incompetence between the congressional leadership and the president.


ZIMMERMAN: And I think the point is a very important one because the fact is Democrats have to make it clear because it's a threshold issue that border security and port security and homeland security is the issue they can most effectively address.

And now, I can give you eight examples where Democrats have voted for important border security funding and have been outvoted by the Republican. That's message is not getting out there strong enough.

GOODWIN: Well, if I could though, I think on the question of amnesty, the Democrats are viewed nationally as the party of amnesty. Some Republicans clearly were involved in the Senate, why which is why we're going nowhere. But the Democrats are the party in both houses who wanted amnesty.

ROLLINS: And equally important, the overall impression is that aren't strong. They're weak on national security. They are weak on the war. And I think that's not a good place to go.

DOBBS: I know you want to talk about the list of eight.


DOBBS: We'll talk about it later in the week. And I will declare it a draw between the Democrats and the Republicans. No, I won't. I'll let everyone figure that out. Come November, we'll have an actual count. Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate it, as always.

Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

Coming up, President Bush playing a potentially pivotal role in the upcoming midterm election. We're going to show you how he could impact both Democrats and Republicans, and what each side is doing about it right now.

Also, Senate Democrats targeting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with a no confidence vote. We're going to show you what happened.

Plus, disturbing reports Pakistan may be offering -- get this -- amnesty to Osama bin Laden. We'll talk about it with the country's ambassador to the U.S. All that coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Lou.

DOBBS: We don't like amnesty on this broadcast, certainly for either illegal immigrants or that fellow bin Laden who has been resurrected at least in terms of policy speeches by this White House.

Thank you, Wolf.

Coming up next, another look at your thoughts on the crisis in our public schools. A troubling new report details how our school system is failing our children. And the authors of that report join with our co-authors in offering solutions.

Stay with us for that and more, straight ahead.


DOBBS: An alarming new report highlights the worsening crisis in this nation's public schools. According to the College Board, 30-to- 40 percent of our middle school students are being taught by unqualified science teachers. Fewer than 50 percent of our high school graduates are prepared for college level math and science.

Two of the authors of this important new report join us here tonight. Bob Kerrey, he's the president of the New School and Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board. Gentlemen, good to have you with us. This is a remarkable dismaying report, and at the same time, we've been watching this happen for so long, why has there been so little action?

GASTON CAPERTON, PRESIDENT, COLLEGE BOARD: Well, I happen to believe that people don't feel it as much as they should feel it and that education takes a long time before the failure of it is really visible. And today we really have a crisis. And we've got to do something about it.

But you suggest some solutions. What is, in your judgment, the No. 1 solution among those you tender that would move us in the right direction, the quickest and most profoundly.

BOB KERREY, PRESIDENT, THE NEW SCHOOL: Well, I think you need a combination of things. First of all, I think you do need a big federal partner. But not in a way that just says the federal government throwing money at the problem.

You have to do it in a way that's -- whether feds come out and say we'll put X amount of dollars in, but it's got to be matched by the states and it's got to be matched by the locals because that's where you can get real accountability.

I think you've also got to -- you've got to break this problem where, in many school districts, it's difficult for the principals and administrators to get the kind of accountability that they need. So you've got to have performance as a requirement for the teachers. Otherwise it's very difficult to manage that. And in some cases, the unions are very strongly against that.

DOBBS: You mentioned unions. In the public sector, unions, unlike the private sector, are inordinately strong. There's really no countervailing influence to their power in our public school system because they are dealing with individual school districts or states, rather than national. Do you really believe that the teacher's union, the NEA, the other union are going to look at your report and say, we're going to join hands and do something about it?

KERREY: Well, yes, I'm optimistic that if you did it correctly, which as I said, we'd have to create a pretty substantial federal trust fund. And the problem there is, back to something you talked about greatly.

People have to really see a connection between making change happen in our primary and secondary schools and expanding our middle class. It's not the only thing you've got to do. But they've got to see that connection because otherwise they're not going to ask for the kind of resources from the feds that you need and they're not going to ask, particularly at the local level, for the unions to give a little bit in order to get something that they've been asking for.

DOBBS: Gaston, you in this report point out that in five years we've got 50 percent of our teachers leaving the profession, within five years. It's a lousy way to run a business, a horrible way to expect that we'll have any kind of the tenure and by tenure I mean time and service, when the most productive is teachers. What are we going to do?

CAPERTON: Well I think first of all, you've got to pay teachers fairly. If you look at what students coming out of college get paid, teachers are at the very bottom of the list. They should be at the top. There's not a more important job in America than teaching.

DOBBS: I certainly agree. Maybe we can -- it would be great just to double that pay and know we're getting the teachers who it will have them be capable of earning that pay. It's such a critical job, as you say. Are you gentlemen confident we're going to see the leadership?

KERREY: We're talking to members of Congress, trying to find a Republican and Democrat to come together in both the House and the Senate to introduce legislation that would move this forward.

DOBBS: Gaston Caperton of the College Board, we thank you very much. Bob Kerrey, thank you very much.

Still ahead here, the results of our poll, another look at some of our thoughts, including your continued frustration with this country's worsening illegal immigration crisis and its leadership. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Now the results of tonight's poll: 86 percent of you responded saying you don't believe your children will have a better standard of living than you enjoy now.

More of your thoughts.

Lori in New Jersey wrote to say: "I need to check whether to see if it's snowing in Florida, I'm agreeing with Pat Buchanan. Kind of."

Mary: "Mr. Dobbs, our president says we are a nation of laws, so why does he want to give amnesty to the illegal aliens who crossed our borders and broken our laws?"

Send us your thoughts at Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of the "Financial Report of the United States," a copy of Senator Byron Dorgan's important new book, "Take This Job and Ship It." Thanks for being with us tonight, please join us here tomorrow. Good night from New York, "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf?