Return to Transcripts main page

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Outrage Over Pentagon Photograph Suggesting U.S. Military Missed Opportunity to Kill Islamist Terrorists In Afghanistan; NATO Countries Refuse Reinforcements to Help British, Canadian, U.S. Troops in Afghanistan; Controversy Over 9/11 Resolution; Graf Wins Arizona Primary; Drug Traffickers Operating On California-Oregon Border In National Forests; New National Report Card Shows U.S. Standing Deteriorating

Aired September 13, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, disturbing new questions about U.S. strategy and leadership in the war against terror and radical Islamist terrorists. Did our military fail to kill dozens of terrorists because of unreasonable rules of engagement? We'll have that live report for you from the Pentagon.
And Republicans and Democrats tonight, escalating their congressional battle over the president's conduct of the war on terror, but both political parties failing to tell the American people how they planned to defeat he enemy. We'll be live on Capitol Hill, three of the country's best political analysts join us here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, September 13. Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

There is outrage tonight over a Pentagon photograph that suggest the U.S. military missed an opportunity to kill nearly 200 radical Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan. Reports say U.S. rules of engagement stopped our military from attacking those terrorists, even though U.S. unmanned aircraft was ready to strike.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill tonight are holding a four- hour debate on the president's conduct of the war on terror. Both Republicans and Democrats are trying to win, of course, political advantage. But neither party is saying how this war could be won, nor at what cost.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon tonight on the controversy over what appears to be a missed opportunity to kill dozens of Taliban terrorists. Cal Perry reports from Baghdad tonight on another deadly day of violence in the Iraqi capital. And Andrea Koppel reports from Capitol Hill, on the escalating partisan battle over the war, and the failure of both parties to propose an effective strategy to defeat the enemy.

We turn first to Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the U.S. military prides itself on having high ethical standards. But tonight, some people are wondering if the military is too worried about being the good guys and not worried enough about killing the bad guys.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): The single video frame shows a large gathering of suspected Taliban militants in the crosshairs of a U.S. spy plane. Sitting ducks, except that no one pulled the trigger. The picture first surfaced on a web blog written by NBC News reporter Carey Sanders, in Afghanistan, who says the image was declassified at NBC's request.

According to what Sanders was told, the 190 Taliban members, including top leaders, were at a funeral. And Army officers frustration the group was not attacked. Why?, he wrote. Under the rules of engagement, the U.S. cannot bomb a cemetery. Actually military experts say the U.S. can bomb a cemetery in some circumstances.

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Commanders on the ground usually have a degree of flexibility in terms of how they operate these rules of engagement. But, again, a rule of engagement, which essentially puts cultural and religious sites off limits, that's not unusual.

MCINTYRE: Initially the U.S. military refused to comment on the photo, say it should never have been released. In a later statement, the military says the shows a July gather of Taliban insurgents that it first considered a tactically viable enemy target, but then decided not to strike, because the group was on the grounds of a cemetery and were likely conducting a funeral for Taliban insurgents killed earlier in the day.

Another reason for caution, credible intelligence can be wrong, such as the time in 2002 when U.S. planes mistakenly bombed a wedding party in Afghanistan, killing several dozen civilians.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It could be a missed opportunity. It could be a disaster averted. Again, we have had both.

MCINTYRE: The statement noted that a suicide bomber attacked the funeral of an Afghan provincial governor Tuesday, killing innocent civilians, and it said the U.S. holds itself to a higher moral and ethical standard than its enemies.


MCINTYRE: But, Lou, again that statement issued later today does seem to indicate that the U.S. had a large group of Taliban in its sights and held its fire our of respect for a funeral -- Lou.

DOBBS: How does the Pentagon rationalize the respect for our troops who are being killed and could likely be killed by some of the some of the very same Taliban terrorists that were assembled in that picture?

MCINTYRE: Again, it's not the rules of engagement that prevented this attack. It's the judgment of the commanders at the scene about whether the attack would be justified. They take a lot of things into account. But in this case, it does appear that when they saw that the enemy was burying its dead, they decided to hold their fire and try to attack them at some other time. What's unclear is if they ever got a chance the get this many in one spot, at one time -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

In Afghanistan, radical Islamist terrorists are adopting the Iraqis insurgency's tactics including suicide bombings. NATO says nearly 200 people have been killed in suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan this year. Nearly all of those victims have been civilians.

Meanwhile, Canadian troops are leading a NATO offensive against the Taliban in southeastern Afghanistan. NATO soldiers are striking back after a series of Taliban attacks against Canadian and British troops in the region.

NATO countries today refused to send reinforcements to help British, Canadian and U.S. troops in Afghanistan. NATO's commander has asked for 2,500 more soldiers. But NATO countries say they are unable to send any reinforcements, although Europe had more than 1.5 million troops. Barbara Starr reports.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province is just one place where fierce fighting has erupted in recent weeks between Taliban fighters and NATO troops. It's all beginning to sound like Iraq.

NATO announced that 173 Afghans have been killed this year in suicide bombings, a tactic not seen in the past. Dozens of British and Canadian troops have been killed in the last five weeks. And new questions about whether NATO security force, ISAF, has enough troops.

JAMES APPATHURAI, NATO SPOKESMAN: There is no denying that they are stretched, and more forces would allow all of the ISAF mission to achieve hits objectives, more quickly and at lower risk.

STARR: But in Brussels, a NATO meeting called Wednesday to ask member countries to send 2,500 more troops, failed to win any new pledges.

APPATHURAI: No. I'm not expecting it.

STARR: NATO will try to agree on more troops by the end of the month. Commanders say they also need more C-130 transport planes and attack helicopters. There are currently about 20,000 NATO forces across the country, and perhaps up to 7,000 active insurgents.


STARR: But, Lou, many NATO countries now say they are tapped out with other commitments, and they don't have the troops available to send to Afghanistan. The U.S. says, NATO made the commitment and has to live up to its responsibility -- Lou.

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

In Iraq, two more of our troops have been killed. A soldier was killed by a roadside bomb that exploded south of Baghdad yesterday. And one of our Marines was killed in Al Anbar Province Monday; 30 of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month. And 2,673 American troops have been killed since the beginning of this war.

Insurgents in Baghdad killed 22 Iraqis in two bomb attacks today. Police found the bodies of more than 60 Iraqis. Sectarian killings are continuing despite a security operation in the Iraqi capital, led by 12,000 additional U.S. and Iraqi troops. Cal Perry reports from Baghdad -- Cal.

CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, more insurgent attacks to tell you about today in the Iraqi capital. The target for insurgents on this day, Iraqi police. The first attack occurred at about 8:30 this morning. A roadside bomb, that is an improvised explosive device, exploded killing at least 14 people, wounding some 67 others.

About two hours after that, a car bomb also targeting Iraqi police, eight dead in that attack. At least 17 others wounded. Sectarian violence continuing to be a major issue here as well. Baghdad police telling CNN in the past 24 hours at least 64 bodies have been discovered strewn across Baghdad. They tell CNN these bodies showed sign of torture, some were executed, classic signs of sectarian violence.

We also heard today from Baghdad police that last month, 1500 bodies were discovered across the capital. That is the second highest total this year, second only to July -- Lou.

DOBBS: Cal Perry from Baghdad.

On Capitol Hill today, Republicans and Democrats exchanged blasts against one another on the issue of the president's conduct of the war against terror. Both parties believe national security will be the defining issue in the upcoming midterm elections.

But neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have said just how the war on terror will be won, nor at what cost. Andrea Koppel reports from Capitol Hill -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, what has House Democrats up in arms today is this six-page Republican resolution.

It's not the fact that the resolution commemorates the 9/11 attacks that has them so upset, but rather the fact that in their opinion the Republicans are injecting politics into what should be a solemn occasion, by showcasing the Republican led Congress's legislative accomplishments, including renewing the Patriot Act, and also passing the House-backed immigration bill. Now, the Republican sponsor, of this legislation, New York Congressman Peter King, during four hours of floor debate, warned Democrats against making, in his words, quote, "a shameful partisan decision."


REP. PETER KING (R-NY), CHMN., HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE: I guess with election day less 60 days away, they have chosen to say what was non-partisan two years ago, is extremely partisan today. And I regret that. Because there is a lot that we still have to do as a Congress. But there's much we achieved. I believe it's important for us not just to talk about the horror of September 11, but to chronicle for history what we've done, what we intend to do and let history be our judge.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MINORITY WHIP: The majority presents a resolution that includes extraneous, inappropriate, divisive, self- serving, and in my opinion, politically motivated language. How sad that you would do that in a resolution that seeks to express the unanimous opinion of the representatives of the American people.


KOPPEL: But despite objections voiced by Democrats like Steny Hoyer, in the end, Democrats are expected to support the resolution, Lou, because realistically speaking they know that if they oppose it, Republicans could paint them as being against the war on terror -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Andrea Koppel from Capitol Hill.

For my thoughts on both political parties and the way in which they're playing politics with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you can read my commentary on CNN. Go to

Coming up next, a decisive victory in the primary elections for a congressional candidate who put border security at the top of his agenda. That vote could influence the outcome of the midterm elections nationwide. We'll have a special report.

And illegal aliens are overwhelming many of our public schools. But civil liberties group are threatening to stop those schools from gathering essential information on citizenship, further putting our children's public education at risk. We'll have the report.

And law enforcement agencies smash a huge Mexican drug ring, nearly 1,000 miles north of our southern border. We were there. We'll have amazing video of that. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Voters fed up with this nation's failure to control our broken borders have sent Washington a powerful message. All of this as communities across the nation continue to be thwarted in their efforts to try to control illegal immigration that the federal government won't even attempt. John King tonight reports on a resounding primary victory for a candidate whose top priority is tightening border security. Christine Romans reports on school districts being challenged for demanding even the most basic immigration facts about their students.

We begin with John King in Washington -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the primary for that House seat in Arizona's 8th Congressional District was one of the most closely watched primaries across the country.

And it will continue to be among the most closely watched House races heading between now and November. Why? This is a race that is critical to the question of which party will control the House next year and also critical to the direction of the immigration debate takes, whether the president has any chance at all of getting his guest worker program and other immigration priorities passed when the new Congress convenes in January.


KING (voice-over): The bitter Republican primary over, Randy Graf immediately sought to frame the next round.

RANDY GRAF (R), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This will be a classic Republican versus Democrat, conservative versus liberal type-message. And I'm pretty confident that our message will prevail.

KING: Graf's convincing victory over establishment favorite Steve Huffman is vivid proof that border security first message on immigration has broad appeal to the Republican Party's conservative base. The test now is whether Graf can sell that stance in a district moderate Republican Jim Colby has represented for two decades, and a district that is high on the Democrat's list of November pickup targets.

Gabrielle Giffords won the Democratic primary and says Graf is too conservative for a district she believes is ready to send Washington a message.

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, (D) CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot of bickering and we're not getting the job done. That's why I think the change can't wait.

KING: The Graf-Giffords match up offers contrast on abortion rights, tax cuts, and whether it's time to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. But it is viewed most of all as a laboratory for the national immigration divide. The district is a major crossing point for illegal immigrants. The fall match up here puts two sharply contrasting views before voters who live the issue much of the country is debating this year.

Graf says dramatically beef up border security first.

GRAF: And, like I said, this doesn't stop it, a barbed wire fence. This was obviously cut. Certainly doesn't stop anybody from coming across.

KING: Graf has a dim view of those who say the millions already in the United States illegally should be allowed to stay.

GRAF: Give them status, and then follow that up with citizenship, it just doesn't make any sense to me.

KING: But what Graf calls amnesty, Giffords calls compassion and common sense.

GIFFORDS: For some of those people there should be a path to citizenship. It is really important we have a guest worker program in this country.


KING: Lou, as you know in politics it's funny what winning can do. Randy Graf was opposed by the National Republican Congressional Committee. It was trying to help his moderate opponent in the primary, Steve Huffman.

But now that Graf is the Republican nominee, he will be here in Washington tomorrow. He will get a $5,000 check from the Republican Committee, be introduced to some others who might be able to help with fundraising. And Republican Committee officials are now saying, while a week ago they planned to give up on this race if Randy Graf won the primary.

They now say if they look at the polls a week or two from now and he's competitive, they're prepared to send in some resources, try to keep that seat in Republican hands.

DOBBS: His opponent in that race, John, I'm not clear, does she oppose border security, or does she support it?

KING: She says she is for improving border security. She says she wants to put in new technology, sensors along the border. She doesn't want a fence everywhere, but she says fencing somewhere. But she says her position, Lou, is not amnesty. She bristles if you call it amnesty. But guess what, for the next six or seven weeks Randy Graf is going to call it amnesty.

DOBBS: And my guess is she will be bristling for sometime, because no matter what you call it, it is amnesty when talking about the comprehensive immigration reform legislation passed by the Senate; at least the Democrat senators in conjunction with the House Senate leadership.

John King, as always informative, we thank you and we look forward to your reporting on this very interesting upcoming election. Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

DOBBS: School districts in New Jersey tonight trying to ask their students and their parents important questions about their citizenship for purposes of funding. They are being challenged every step of the way by the ACLU that says the rights of immigrant families, as they put it, are being violated by those questions. And they're winning some considerable support.

Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The way civil libertarians see it, American school officials are on the verge of becoming immigration police. The ACLU says it is illegal for schools to ask certain questions during registration. Like a child's Social Security number, if they were born in the United States, and if not, when they entered. ACLU says asking such information is as good as denying a child an education.

DEBORAH JACOBS, ACLU OF NEW JERSEY: That practice is illegal. It's against our state and federal Constitution and the United States Supreme Court has said that every child in America has a right to go to school.

ROMANS: The ACLU surveyed 224 New Jersey districts and said it found, quote, immigrant students at risk in 57. The New Jersey Department of Education warned school districts last week they cannot ask for Social Security numbers, tax returns, or information relating to citizenship during school registration, saying it might create, quote, "confusion, or a perception of intimidation."

LUCILLE DAVY, ACTING COMM., NJ DEPT. OF EDUCATION: We've said, take all of those requests off your forms and off your Web sites so that parents are not afraid that if they don't have a Social Security number that they can't register their child for school.

ROMANS: Schools have said they are not trying to check immigration status, far from it. They need the data to qualify for $679 million in federal funding available for limited English speakers and immigrant children.

LEAH DURANT, IMMIGRATION REFORM LAW INST.: We feel that basically that the school districts have a right and a responsibility to know who the students are attending their districts.

ROMANS: She's a critic of American immigration policy, but says no one disputes the 1982 Supreme Court decision allowing all children an education.


ROMANS: But, Lou, the state is very clear. It does not want these school districts asking questions that could give any clue to immigration status. And tonight, the schools, many of them, are backing down.

DOBBS: Well, I wouldn't be surprised that public schools would be backing down against the ACLU. They're heavily funded, they are not. I wouldn't be surprise to see state departments of education backing down because they are also in a pop for more money.

And meanwhile the victims are legal students of legal American parents, whether immigrant or native born, who are being forced to endure just an absolutely failing public school system. This is atrocious, it's a travesty. It is -- I cannot believe the communities are not responding with greater, greater vigor.

Christine, thank you. Christine Romans.

Still ahead, there has been another electronic voting machine debacle in this country. We'll have that special report for you.

Also tonight, terror and bloodshed on a Montreal college campus today. We'll have the latest for you.

And up next, we'll take you on a massive manhunt and raid as authorities try to crush Mexican drug rings operating inside the United States. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Mexican drug cartels are operating not only with impunity across the border with Mexico, but with impunity deep within the United States; 800 miles from Mexico, drug traffickers are now operating on the California/Oregon border in our nation's national forests.

Authorities, this week, seized $80 million of marijuana. But officials say the bust was only the tip of the iceberg.

Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just after dawn Tuesday, 100 law enforcement officers meet at a staging area in the Klamath National Forest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our target area over here.

WIAN: They're preparing to raid a massive marijuana growing operation linked to Mexican drug traffickers. These rugged mountains provide perfect cover for huge marijuana gardens, which are overwhelming the tiny Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department. So, it's working with nearly a dozen federal, state and local agencies.

As the operations commander begins a reconnaissance flight, medics get ready.

DARRELL FROST, SISKIYOU COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: The Mexican cartel type stuff, is these folks are willing to protect their marijuana groves and so the potential for trauma from gunshot wounds is high.

WIAN: Deputies head out to set up a perimeter hoping to catch growers before they flee. Then the raid begins. (on camera): Marijuana gardens are located in such remote terrain that sheriff deputies must be air lifted in by helicopter, two at a time on a rope. Another chopper hovers above the garden providing cover in case these growers shoot at the incoming deputies.

(Voice over): From the air, the marijuana is easy to spot. On the ground, it's overwhelming, thousands of plants eight feet tall.

SHERIFF RICK RIGGINS, SISKIYOU COUNTY CALIFORNIA: This is the bud. These plants probably have a couple of more months before they get there. But this is where the money is at.

WIAN: And the money appears headed to Mexico. From the living quarters and supplies, to sophisticated irrigation systems, these gardens bare all the signs of Mexican drug traffickers. The SWAT team pursued about a dozen men though the thick timber.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe you guys should jump over to the next ridge to the (INAUDIBLE). I don't think we've looked in there yet.

WIAN: Though they escaped, deputies seized plenty of evidence, including boxes of .45 caliber bullets, notebooks in Spanish and a cell phone. Investigators are tracking the kingpin.

What we have to do is gather every bit of information we can from in here and the intel that we can and try to put it together to track these guys back.

WIAN: Meanwhile other agents begin cutting the plants. Each one worth about $5,000; 12 hours after the operation began, deputies continue to stack load after load of dope. They cut 12,000 plants the first day. The two-day total, about 16,000 plants with a street value of $80 million.

LT. JIM BETTS, SISKIYOU COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: We've got a rural area, that hunting season is going to be starting in another week. There's going to be a lot of people coming into the woods here. And for the safety of those people, we needed to get this out of here.

WIAN: Eight hundred miles from the Mexican border, Mexican drug traffickers are spreading throughout this and other national forests. But a familiar problem is on the traffickers' side. Federal money for operations like this is scarce.

Casey Wian, CNN, Siskiyou County, California.


DOBBS: Up next, a shooting rampage today on a Montreal college campus. More than a dozen people injured before the gunman was killed. We'll have the latest for you.

The critical midterm elections, now less than two months away, three of the nation's sharpest political minds join us here. And disturbing new questions tonight about electronic voting machines, as if there weren't enough already. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A gunman today wounded 20 students at a college in the Canadian city of Montreal before he was killed by police. Thousands of students and staff from the college fled as heavily armed police officers searched the campus. First reports indicated that there were at least two gunmen. Witnesses say the gunman was wearing a long black trench coat. Police did not speculate about the gunman's motive. They said the shooting was not a hate crime or related to terrorism.

California firefighters tonight are trying to contain fierce wildfires out of control north of Los Angeles. The fires have consumer nearly 39 square miles of brush. They started more than a week ago. There is concern tonight that those fires will jump California's Interstate 5 if they are not contained. Some lanes of the freeway have already been closed because of heavy smoke and approaching flames. A mobile home park also being threatened.

Space shuttle astronauts proving once again just how difficult it is to perform a construction project in space. For the second straight space walk, astronauts lost a construction bolt while attaching a new addition to the International Space Station. It is assumed that the bolt flew off harmlessly into space. Astronauts are expected to complete their construction work on the space station with a third space walk scheduled for tomorrow.

An Australian man is under investigation tonight for allegedly sending as many as $2 billion spam e-mails to computer users around the world. Officials say the suspect rented 35 computer servers from a Holland-based Internet service to send those spam out continuously and it took almost a year. Most of the e-mails promoted the use of Viagra.

Americans unable to keep up with soaring adjustable rate mortgage payments are being forced into foreclosure now at an alarming rate. A new survey, released today, shows the nation's foreclosure rate surging by 50 percent last month, compared to the same time a year ago. More than 115,000 homes across this country entered into foreclosure last month, 24 percent higher than levels reported just the previous month.

The Ohio state legislature tonight taking new action to prevent illegal aliens from working in this country. Proposed legislation, today introduced, would create a new state investigative unit with a specific purpose of investigating Ohio companies hiring illegal aliens. The legislation would also cut illegal aliens from state public assistance programs, including food stamps.

The White House tonight congratulating senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island after his primary win against anti-tax conservative Stephen Laffey. Chafee defeated Laffey by fewer than 10 percentage points in yesterday's Republican primary. Chafee now faces Democratic challenge Sheldon White House in November.

The White House, a former Rhode Island attorney general, the GOP sank more than $1 million into Chafee's primary campaign, despite his opposition to the war in Iraq and the president's tax cuts. The GOP believes Chafee is their only hope of retaining the Senate seat in Republican hands.

Nine states and the District of Columbia held primaries yesterday, the last major day of primaries before the general election on November 7th. One of the big winners in yesterday's vote, Senator Hillary Clinton, who trounced Democratic opponent Jonathan Tasini by an almost five to one margin.

And in Arizona Randy Graf easily beat four challengers to take the GOP nomination in Arizona's eighth congressional district. Graf won on a strict border security platform and was opposed by much of the Republican party establishment, including the National Republican Party, which after his win says they'll support him.

Minnesota state legislator Keith Ellison is closer to his goal tonight of becoming the first ever Muslim elected to congress. Ellison beat out three democratic opponents yesterday in Minnesota's fifth congressional district primary. He now faces challenges from both Republican and independent party candidates in November. But he is the favorite to win in the heavily Democratic district.

The GOP is going all out in its efforts to maintain control of Congress. According to the "Hill Newspaper" the Republican National Committee will spend its entire bank account, or $60 million on the midterm elections. The Democrats, meanwhile, will spend about $12 million. Democrats can count on support as well from their union allies, the AFL-CIO planning on doling out some $40 million ahead of these elections.

Yesterday's primaries did nothing to ease concerns about the dangerous lack of electronic voting standards across the nation. Serious e-voting problems in Maryland yesterday, further evidence that the nation's democracy is at risk. Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Fifty days until the November elections, but Maryland's primary yesterday was a debacle. The entire state was supposed to use electronic voting, Diebold touch screen machines, but the Board of Elections forgot to make sure computer access cards for the majority of the districts would arrive in the morning.

The machines could not work without them, so poll workers told voters to come back later or use paper ballots instead. Lines were long, tempers short, the courts ordered polls to stay open late. In some cases when machines crashed, there were not enough paper ballots.

SHELLEY FUDGE, TRUEVOTEMD: Sometimes the election judges ran out and made xeroxed copies. In other cases, they were using sample ballots and in some cases, they were actually recording people's votes on scraps of paper.

PILGRIM: Maryland has long been a concern among voter activists because electronic voting machines do not have a voter-verified paper trail. The governor tried to fix that, setting aside $20 million to purchase a new system with a paper trail, but the measure was killed in the state Senate.

KEVIN ZEESE, MARYLAND SENATE CANDIDATE: You spend $100 million on machines where you can't do an independent audit. There's no way to know if the machine is right. And so we've waist wasted all this money on machines that can't do a transparent recount. It's pretty embarrassing.

PILGRIM: Avi Rubin is an election judge and a voter activist.

AVI RUBIN, AUTHOR, "BRAVE NEW BALLOT": In my precinct there were some pretty serious technical problems. The electronic poll books have replaced the sign-in cards that we used and they kept crashing. In fact, we took one of them off-line and then the other two kept crashing.

PILGRIM: Diebold says problems were because of human error and because the machines were operated incorrectly. Adding, there is a learning curve on all of this.


PILGRIM: Now the governor's office said they got more than 100 phone calls from voters complaining about the problems. They called it a systemic breakdown from top to bottom.

DOBBS: Systemic my, I think that the info is right about thing. I think when everyone was blaming this on human error, Diebold, I think you said this, said it was human error, not their vaunted machines. I think it is human error. The error of buying and purchasing those Diebold machines, certainly at least in Maryland. Thank you very much Kitty Pilgrim.

As we reported, Republicans, Democrats today blasted one another on the issue of the president's conduct of the war against terrorism. That's the subject of our poll question tonight. Do you believe the Democrats or Republicans have any idea how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be won and at what cost? Yes, the Democrats, yes, the Republicans, neither. Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later.

Just ahead we'll have more on the battle for Congress. We'll be talking with three of the nation's best political minds. And a troubling new report on the rising, worsening education crisis. Pat Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy, one of the authors of a new report, joins us here.

Stay with us for that and a great deal more, coming right up.


DOBBS: The final round of primaries wrapped up yesterday in the states, setting the stage for midterm elections, of course. And control of Congress in the offing, well certainly it's in the offing, but perhaps a change of control more in the offing.

Joining me now former White House political director and Republican strategist Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, columnist "New York Daily News," Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman. Gentlemen thanks for being here.

Are you shocked that Hillary Clinton was able to pull that out?


DOBBS: Five to one margin.

ZIMMERMAN: Eighty-three percent, but the point is it shows the broad base of support she's got in the state and she's earned it.


DOBBS: No on at the table will argue with you, what sort of a ...


ZIMMERMAN: You're giving me a pass on that one. Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island pulling it out.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, COLUMNIST, "NY DAILY NEWS": Right. I think that the primaries so far are not conclusive. I think it's not clear which way the wind is blowing yet. And, obviously, conservatives are making some inroads in some states and not in others, so I think it's still up in the air which way this election is going to go.

DOBBS: Do you agree?

ED ROLLINS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIR.: I agree. I think the thing in the race yesterday in Rhode Island is the party will stay with Chafee, but there's still 45 percent of Republicans who voted against him, so you've got to bring that base back before you even begin to go after Democrats and independents who outnumber him 3:1, so I would not exactly put Mr. Chafee back in the re-elect column yet.

ZIMMERMAN: But I think there's one pattern that is emerging, whether you look at the Arizona congressional race of the Connecticut Democratic primary, or for that matter, what happened in Rhode Island. Those candidates who stand with the Bush administration are facing either very tough elections, or they're losing. And I think even though Chafee won, the fact that George Bush can hang his hat on a man who wouldn't back him for re-election in 2004.

DOBBS: Wouldn't vote for him.

ZIMMERMAN: Wouldn't vote for him.

DOBBS: That's where we say it where I'm from. DOBBS: OK, wouldn't vote for him, and wrote in George Bush, Sr. The fact that Lincoln Chafee wouldn't support him, and that's who George Bush looks to as his victory.

ROLLINS: Just as my good friend here will be looking at Mr. Lieberman if they need him to make the 50, 51 votes ...

ZIMMERMAN: I'll be the first in line knocking on his door.

DOBBS: You know, we're in full campaign swing when the gentlemen start referring to each other as their good friends.


DOBBS: The idea that Randy Graf, the congressional candidate, was able to overcome the support of the Republican national apparatus and the absolute sinecure that Jim Kolbe thought he had in that district and a handpicked successor, that says something as well, though, doesn't it, Michael?

GOODWIN: Well, I do think that immigration, particularly in Arizona, is a very big deal. And Graf clearly was the one who was closest to I think the sentiment in that state, certainly among Republican voters. And I'm --it's not surprising that the Republican White House believes, as Graf doesn't. But that it surprised me that it put so many chips on the race.

DOBBS: Well, I think what really is kind of fun for me is to look at the Republican National Party sitting there fighting against Randy Graf, supporting Lincoln Chafee. They're so screwed up, they can't see straight.

ROLLINS: Anyone with an R on the jersey we're going to take.

DOBBS: The Democrats, are they going to take control of either house?

ZIMMERMAN: If the election were held today, they would be well- positioned to take back the House and I think make the Senate very, very competitive. There are five, possibly six seats, that could do it. What's interesting about this election is watching how -- and that's why the polls are so significant.

Democratic voters are mobilized. They're angry. You have more and more independents identifying themselves as Democrats, and Republicans seem very disenchanted, and you're seeing that in these primaries.

GOODWIN: Well, I was going to say turnout, however, was not so large, even in New York state where Democrats are likely to sweep all the statewide offices and turn out -- I think it was something like 17 percent or so among Democratic voters. So that's not a good sign for Democrats if they can't mobilize their voters in a day when they're almost certain to win the seats. I'm not sure how it is across the country. DOBBS: But isn't that a reason that there's low turnout, because they're almost certain to win the seats? I'm just trying to do that strategist kind of political ...

GOODWIN: In the New York City mayoral last year for example, there was a very low turnout because they were going to lose the race.

ROLLINS: The bottom line, and what both these gentlemen understand so well is this midterm is going to be like a presidential election in a sense. Not the same kind of numbers, but the amount of money, the amount of operatives that are in play, from organized labor to what the parties have. And, I mean, every seat is going to -- that's contested is going to be a full scale war and I don't think we're going to know until near the end of this midterm.

ZIMMERMAN: What's interesting watching the strategy play out is as much as the Republicans want to try to make this race about their local issues and local districts, the Bush administration keeps trying to nationalize this selection. And as far as we're concerning as Democrats, that works for us.

DOBBS: Well, the Democrats always taking the high road here. I noticed that in no way have the Democrats attempted to make national security an issue here in these midterm elections and I really respect that -- Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, with all due respect to the distinguished gentlemen in front of me, let me just say that ...

DOBBS: He wants to slap the hell out of me right now.

ZIMMERMAN: Let me be very clear. Homeland security and fighting the war on terrorism is our threshold issue. And our showing the need to fight in competently and separating the war in Iraq which has been a drain from fighting terrorism is the issue.

ROLLINS: Speaker wannabe Pelosi, who comes from San Francisco, one of the bastions of lawlessness in this country is certainly not going to be the one that's going to convince Americans that the Democrats are going to get tough on these issues.

ZIMMERMAN: Our candidates are going to carry that message and Speaker Pelosi is going to put that into effect as speaker.

DOBBS: Which of these candidates -- Michael, you and I as the only objective observers here, which of these parties, Republican or Democrat, do you think has advanced the most intelligent, persuasive plan for victory on the war on terror and the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan and has done the best of communicating the cost to the American people?

GOODWIN: Well, I think Bush's speeches lately, in that last week, were quite good. I agree with you, though, as you wrote in your column today, Lou, that there is no plan right now for victory. The Democrats want to withdraw basically from Iraq and Bush essentially says keep going forward. But I don't think we have a real plan right now. I think we need one because I do think Iraq matters, and that's where ...

DOBBS: Do you realize that we're sitting here, grown men, with 130,000 of our troops in Iraq ...

GOODWIN: Forty -- 140.

DOBBS: ...20,000 in Afghanistan, 2,700 people dead, 300 dead in Afghanistan, and we're listening to partisan politics about a war in which neither party is advancing or articulating clear statements of the cost we can expect to bear or the way in which the enemy will be defeated?

ROLLINS: Well, it's the absurdity of the picture today on the front page of the "Post" of where they have 200 al Qaeda at a funeral, and the CIA has then all lined up and they can't get permission to shoot. To me, they all wanted to go to the Holy Land. That was a perfect opportunity to send 200 more of them right there with whoever was on the ground, and that's the absurdity of this. We always fight these wars with certain rules and handcuffs.

ZIMMERMAN: But you know something, Ed? I think it's important to point out this midterm election should be a debate about how to competently and aggressively fight the war on terrorism. I'd have to respectfully disagree, Lou. Democrats have called for an up or down vote on the 9/11 homeland security agenda. They have advocated focusing back on Afghanistan, taking on the Taliban, and they have in fact talked about a different strategy in dealing with Iraq.

DOBBS: You get the last word. Robert Zimmerman, Michael Goodwin, Ed Rollins.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

DOBBS: Gentlemen, thank you, as always.

Up next, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

Calling for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Congressman John Murtha joins us in "THE SITUATION ROOM" and responds to allegations that Democrats want to protect terrorists more than Americans.

Also, drugs, terror and the Taliban. We're live from Afghanistan. Find out how the heroin in your city is fueling war thousands of miles away.

And former President Jimmy Carter -- find out why he's lost confidence in Senator Joe Lieberman and doesn't want him reelected.

And Condoleezza Rice and a handsome foreign minister -- the diplomatic rumor mill that's running on wishful thinking. All that, Lou, coming up right in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf. A reminder to vote on our poll tonight. The question, do you believe the Democrats or Republicans have any idea how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be won and at what cost? Yes, the Democrats as Robert Zimmerman suggests. Yes, the Republicans as no one seems to be suggesting tonight. Neither. Please cast your vote at We'll have the results here upcoming.

Still ahead, a disturbing new report in the state of this country's higher education system, as if public education K-12 weren't in bad enough shape. We'll be telling you about that. I'll be talking with Pat Callan. He's the head of the national Center for Higher Education. Stay with us.


DOBBS: A new national report card out tonight showing America standing as the world leader in higher education deteriorating and deteriorating rapidly. The report says affordability and access to higher education for our middle class is simply plunging. It's new evidence that this nation's deepening education crisis will have lasting and profound effects on our nation's future. Pat Callan is the president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and he joins us here in New York tonight. Pat, good to have you here.


DOBBS: Let's start with ninth graders going to college. The chance of a ninth grader being enrolled in college four years later is less than 40 percent. Those are just not very good odds.

CALLAN: Well they're especially not good odds in a world where the rest of the world is really accelerating its ability to get people in, to and through college.

DOBBS: The idea that this other finding, only two thirds of the students in four-year colleges and universities complete a bachelor's degree within, not four or five years, but within six years. College completion in this country internationally, we rank 16th. That's abysmal.

CALLAN: That's another place where it's always been the Achilles Heel of American higher education, that we did better at getting people in the door than we have at having them finish. And as you point out, among the countries that we can compare with, we rank in the bottom half.

DOBBS: We rank in the bottom half. But the affordability of college, and this may certainly -- would seem to me play into the ability of students to finish school. But since 1982, the cost of a college education has risen 375 percent. The number of states receiving a grade of F for making their colleges affordable rose from 36 to 43 in the course of your study. How can that be?

CALLAN: We're continuing to -- this isn't -- college universities and the states are both culpable here. And we're continuing to put, as you point out, enormous pressure on the middle class with tuition increases. During that period where tuition went up 375 percent, inflation went up 95 percent. And family income went up 127 percent.

So you can see what's happening. And so we haven't closed the gap between the college attendance of low income groups and others at all in the past 25 years. And we've continued to put this squeeze on the middle class, which is resulting in a lot of high levels of borrowing. A lot of students...

DOBBS: ... And that's another part that you point out, that the college educated students, those who are walking out of college with their degrees and setting themselves up for a productive role in our society and our economy, they are burdened with such debt now that it's bone crushing.

CALLAN: So every graduating class, more students have borrowed and more students owe the amount they owe is greater. And so we want to get these people to do things like become school teachers. Well how do you go and pay back a debt -- you marry someone who also has debt and work in a field that's not highly remunitive, but it's rewarding and society needs folks to do that.

DOBBS: Well the great news is that you and your organization focusing on these problems and coming up with solutions. The bad news is that our elected leaders are not doing so. We hope that that will change quickly and that solutions will be at hand. Pat Callan, we've got to run. We thank you for being here. We appreciate your efforts.

CALLAN: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: Still ahead, we'll have more of your thoughts, the results of tonight's poll. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight, 75 percent of you saying neither party has any idea how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be won or at what cost.

Let's look at some of your thoughts. Charles in Illinois saying: "I would like to nominate Michael Ware for Rumsfeld's job. He ferrets out what's happening in Iraq and has guts enough to report it. Great CNN reporter."

And we agree with you.

Marge in Pennsylvania: "Dear, Lou. President Bush keeps saying it's better to fight the terrorists over there than here. You won't be able to say that much longer with his blind-eye, open-door border policy."

We hope you're wrong, we fear you're right.

Dave in Texas: "Lou, what's wrong with this picture? While driving through the 4th largest city in the United States, I saw several help wanted signs that said 'must be bilingual.' Has Texas exercised its right to secede?"

It may not be necessary, unfortunately.

And Mike in Illinois: "Does assimilate mean everybody must look and act like white, Anglo-Saxon, Christians? How about a mosaic instead of a melting pot?"

How about a melting pot? That's what this country is.

And Dale in Michigan: "It's a shame we in the U.S. can't get inexpensive prescription drugs from Canada, but we can cheap labor from Mexico."

Shelly in South Carolina: "All I want to say is, will the last American please bring the flag?"

We'll keep it flying, no matter what. It just may take a little while longer to win this. We appreciate your watching tonight. That's the broadcast for tonight. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.